You can run a program like FL Studio on most laptops available in the market today. Even a machine with an outdated processor and 4 to 6 GB of RAM will get the job done. However, if you want to run multiple plugins and have somewhat of a heavier workload, a low-end laptop will not deliver a smooth production experience. The concept is true for running any modern DAW such as Ableton Live, Garageband, Pro Tools or even the Logic X Pro. You are going to need something a bit more powerful.
Depending on how you use FL Studio, the program can be pretty CPU and RAM intensive. A 6 core/12 thread processor, along with a minimum of 8 GB of RAM will get your foot in the door. Depending on your workload, how many extras you plan to use and your budget, you may want to upgrade to an 8 core CPU with 16 GB of RAM.
The clock speed of your CPU is also important, but if you can get a high core count processor with a lower clock speed then that is a much better option for audio production. The Mixer Track can only use 1 core at a time when the audio is routed through, that’s why having a higher core count will work in your favor.
Additionally, we would also recommend having 500 GB – 1 TB of storage space either on board or on an external storage device. Even a regular mechanical hard drive will do, although having an SSD saves a lot more loading time.
In our testing, about 1 GB of space is taken up by a minute’s worth of audio. This is just an estimate as there are several factors that affect how large an audio file is. Not to mention the program itself, along with the downloaded plugin, will also take quite a bit of space. Many music producers even opt for cloud storage, since that is much more convenient.
Finally, you also want to consider the ports available since you will most probably be connecting an Audio Interface to use with FL Studio. Most modern audio interfaces run on USB and Thunderbolt. Make sure to check that before you make your final decision.
Before we dive into the laptop selections, let’s quicky review the minimum system requirements for FL Studio as provided by Image Line
Minimum System Requirements for FL Studio
|Size||1.05 GB||1.08 GB|
|OS Version||Windows 8.1, 10, 11 or later||macOS: 10.13.6 (High Sierra) or later|
|Diskspace||4GB free disk space||4GB free disk space|
|RAM||4GB of RAM||4GB of RAM|
|CPU Details||The more powerful your CPU, the more instruments and effects you can run Intel and AMD CPUs. ARM not supported||The more powerful your CPU, the more instruments and effects you can run Intel or Apple Silicon CPUs|
Best Laptops for FL Studio Reviews
Apple MacBook Pro M1
The MacBook Pro is a popular choice for music producers. The latest model, equipped with the M1 chip, has been especially well received by all kinds of audiences. What truly sets the new 13-inch MacBook Pro apart from its predecessors is the M1 chip, which is Apple’s own Silicon CPU. The M1 is an 8-core CPU, with an 8-core GPU and a 16-core neural engine. In our tests, we would estimate it to be approximately 50 to 60 percent faster than last year’s Intel MacBook Pro and this is noticeable right away in an actual work scenario such as when you’re rendering a track in FL Studio.
We noticed better thermal performance right away. This machine is really quiet! We did not hear the fan even once and that is because Apple has included a feature where the fans don’t turn on if the CPU remains under the 50 degrees Celsius threshold. Even when putting the machine under high load, the M1 was not only quieter, but there was no thermal throttling at all. We couldn’t say the same for its Intel counterparts. Even when compared to bigger laptops with supposedly “better” cooling solutions, we noticed the M1 MacBook Pro to remain cooler, quieter and thus perform at its maximum capacity for longer.
The MacBook Pro comes with 16 GB of DDR4 RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage. While the RAM will be more than enough, you may run out of storage space over time with raw audio files. We would highly recommend getting an external hard drive or an SSD if you don’t have one already.
You also get a best-in-class 13.3-inch Retina display with 500 nits of brightness and it gets plenty bright! It covers the P3 color gamut which has 25 percent more colors than the sRGB, so you are getting a highly color accurate display. While a good display is not a requirement for running FL studio or audio production in general, it is nice to have since you interact with the screen the most. We found it an absolute joy to use and it sure did enhance our production experience.
Unfortunately, most MacBooks launched in the last decade have a lackluster port selection. For instance, the MacBook Pro lineup has only had 1 headphone jack and 2 Thunderbolt USB-C ports. This can be a major problem if you have an external monitor and SSD connected because then you won’t have any other ports to connect other devices such as an audio interface. A simple solution to this is buying a port docking system which will not only give you additional USB-C ports, but also access to USB-A and Ethernet. We think that this is a must have if you want a complete audio production system with the MacBook.
Some other noteworthy features of MacBook Pro are its speakers, trackpad and backlit keyboard. You also get the touch bar, which is a small touch screen on top of the keyboard. The use case for us was to have it as the function key and we used it to control the brightness and volume settings. It is especially useful for FL Studio users as you can bind certain keys to act as a shortcut so that you have quick access to them.
A major advantage of the MacBook Pro over its competitors is that it packs all this performance in a very portable package. Its dimensions are 14.75 x 11.25 x 4.25 inches and it only weighs 3 pounds. While there are no improvements to the design, we think it is something tried and tested so there are really no complaints there, but it is more of a matter of personal preference.
As for battery life, Apple claims about 20 hours of usage which we found to be pretty spot on during our testing. Its predecessor was offering about 8 to 10 hours of battery life, so we were initially skeptical of their claim, especially considering the battery capacity had not increased. This is one of those rare times when a company’s claim to battery life actually holds up in real world usage. In our usage, we only had to charge the laptop every 2 days, and it even managed to last a few hours into the third day.
Finally, we can’t review an Apple product without talking about the software. You get all the great features with macOS that we have come to love such as Air Drop and iMessage.
At launch, the new Apple silicon laptops didn’t support many applications natively, FL Studio being one of them. You would have to use a local program called Rosetta to emulate such applications, which resulted in a slight performance loss. Luckily, it was soon announced that FL Studio will be natively supported on the new silicon architecture, however, many third party plugins aren’t yet supported. You could still run the program on Rosetta with a slightly choppier performance and access to all plugins. Luckily, this is an issue that can easily be fixed with a software update in the future.
Apple MacBook Pro M1 Benefits
The machine has an excellent cooling mechanism. The fans don’t turn on until the CPU remains under the 50 degree C threshold. We found the machine to be really quiet throughout our testing.
It has many small nice-to-have features such as a lightweight and portable body, excellent screen and great keyboard.
MacOS can have many perks if you’re already tied into the Apple ecosystem.
Apple MacBook Pro M1 Drawbacks
The storage is only 256 GB. You will have to look into getting an external drive to store your audio files since they are quite large in size.
Lackluster port selection: you only get 2 thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack.
The M1 hardware can’t run third party plugins natively, so you will have to use the Rosetta emulator to run them which sacrifices a bit of performance.
Lenovo ThinkPad T15
ThinkPads are reliable machines offering a plethora of features. The newest model is the same tried and tested formula done really well and with updated internals. The ThinkPad T15 comes with an Intel Core i5-1135G7, which is a 4-core processor with Iris Xe graphics. We put it to test against the MacBook and noticed it was slower, but not something you will notice when performing your day to day tasks. Quicker rendering time by a few seconds isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Compared to its predecessor, which had an Intel Core i5-10310U, you get an overall 7% performance boost, while that’s a good statistic, it’s not something that makes a huge difference. However, the newer model has a 20% faster multicore speed which definitely increases the longevity.
We noticed the fan turning on even during light tasks such as browsing the web, which was a bit annoying especially since we started on this right after reviewing the MacBook. When using FL Studio with multiple plugins, the loudness of the fan remained the same which indicates that this might be an optimization issue and can be fixed with a future BIOS or driver update.
There are multiple memory options going all the way from 8 GB to a massive 40 GB of DDR4 RAM. Even the storage can be configured anywhere between a 256GB SSD and a 2 TB SSD. In our experience getting the 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB SSD model is the sweet spot, providing enough storage to store all your raw audio files, along with any plugins or additional programs. Although you can choose a lower or a higher tier option depending on your usage and if you already have an external storage device.
The T15 has 15.6″ Full HD 1080p 60Hz IPS Display, with 300 nits of brightness. While the display quality won’t blow you away, it isn’t a bad panel by any means. We used the laptop in direct sunlight and found the content on the display to be visible, but the text was blown out a bit. What might be a bit problematic are the large bezels.
When comparing the front design to its predecessor and even ThinkPads from a few years ago you will notice that Lenovo hasn’t shrunken the bezels even a bit. You don’t get the traditional bezel-less designs found in modern ultra-books, but they still aren’t as thick as the ones on some classic ThinkPads from a decade ago.
In classic ThinkPad fashion, you get all the necessary ports like 2 USB-A 3.1 Gen1, 1 HDMI, 2 Thunderbolt 4 Type-C, Micro SD Reader, Smart Card Reader and a Headphone Jack. Both USB-A and USB-C audio interfaces are supported, and even after that you will have ports for additional accessories like a wired mouse or external storage drive. This is especially useful if you are using different kinds of audio interfaces since you won’t run into any connectivity issues.
A major advantage of the T15 compared to older models is the support for Thunderbolt 4. As compared to its predecessor, the ThinkPad T15 has twice the data transfer speeds at 32 Gbps when using the USB-C port and it can support an 8K display or 2 4K displays. Transferring files using Thunderbolt 4 shocked us! We found that it took less than a minute to transfer a 60 GB RAW audio file from an external SSD.
Other important features of the ThinkPad include a fingerprint scanner, Windows Hello facial recognition, a backlit keyboard and the infamous TrackPoint. It is worth mentioning that the keyboard on the ThinkPad is one of the best that we have tried so far, and if you type a lot then you will appreciate how comfortable it is. In fact, we loved the keyboard so much that we used it to write this review!
The rest of the classic ThinkPad features will feel very familiar if you’ve already used a ThinkPad before. Otherwise, it will be a welcome addition since not a lot of modern laptops provide the versatility of the T15.
The size of the ThinkPad is pretty standard as compared to its competitors coming in at 9.76 x 14.4 x 0.75 inches and its lightweight at 3.9 pounds. The ThinkPad really surprised us during testing with how sturdy, yet lightweight it felt. In fact, we sometimes even forgot we had the ThinkPad in our bag pack because of how light it is!
You do make a sacrifice in the form of the design of the laptop to get this kind of durability. The T15 has a similar design as some of the ThinkPads from 2016, which is the reason it has thicker bezels than the competition.
Lenovo claims that the battery of the ThinkPad will last up to 10 hours. From our testing, you can expect a comfortable 7 to 8 hours. Other than the new Apple MacBooks, this is pretty consistent with other ultra-books, and should easily last you through the entire day. We often noticed the battery of the ThinkPad being drained faster when it was in sleep mode. The problem was fixed once we shut down the laptop, but it’s something to take note of if you often put your laptop into sleep mode.
Lenovo offers its latest laptops in Windows 10, but they are upgradeable to Windows 11 as well. You should be cautious with upgrading your operating system, since Windows 11 is fairly new and there have been reports of computability and performance issues for music producers.
Some FL Studio plugins are also not compatible with Windows 11. Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be supported all the way till 2025 so you might want to hold a bit longer till all the bugs have been sorted out. However, if you have already decided on upgrading then there are many useful features to take advantage of such as being able to select a default audio device with one click.
Lenovo ThinkPad T15 Benefits
The Lenovo ThinkPad T15 has many storage and memory options to choose from.
Awesome port selection. Thunderbolt, USB-C both options excellent for connecting different types of audio interfaces.
Lightweight, compared to predecessors this is a welcomed improvement especially if you are planning on moving around and have the laptop in your backpack.
Lenovo ThinkPad T15 Drawbacks
The processor is not the fastest but is good enough to run FL Studio smoothly.
While the design offers great durability, it is a bit outdated (similar to ThinkPads from 2016) the reason why it the device has thicket bezels when compared to other modern competitors.
The fan turns on quite a bit, a common thing with ThinkPads since they are made for high performance and do heat up quite a bit. Not a big issue if you are using the machine on a desk though.
The HP 15 has the same Intel Core i5-1135G7 as the ThinkPad T15. Both the laptops have virtually identical performance. You can also downgrade the HP 15 to an 11th Generation Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor, although we wouldn’t recommend it due to it having a lower 6 MB cache size. Compared to its predecessor, which had the Intel Core i5-10310U, you’re getting a major performance boost. The older i5 is more similar to the 11th Generation i3 due to its lower cache size and slower core speeds. HP has optimized the i5-1135G7 really well as we saw a 23% performance gain, which means rendering audio tracks with FL Studio was a breeze!
There are multiple storage and memory configurations to choose from all the way from 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage to a massive 64 GB of RAM and 2 TB SSD. Getting somewhere around 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB storage would be ideal, but you can get a lower or higher tier model depending on your workload.
HP 15 also has a 15.6” 1080p 250 nits, anti-glare display. This might seem pretty similar to the ThinkPad on paper, however in our testing, we noticed that it had blown out colors and poor outdoor visibility, despite the anti-reflective coating. We could not see anything with the laptop in direct sunlight or even in a well-lit environment.
Previous models of the HP 15 have also had a TN panel, which was much worse than the current IPS one found on the newer model due to the sub-par viewing angles and terrible outdoor visibility. In the past, we found it impossible to use the older model unless looking at it a straight angle. While you will definitely appreciate the upgrade, it is nowhere near the quality offered by other competitors.
The ports on the HP 15 are also on par with its competitors with 1 USB-C, 2 USB-A, 1 HDMI, 1 microphone jack, 1 RJ-45 Ethernet port and an SD card reader. The ThinkPad did have more ports, but the HP 15 will still work with all your audio gear due to the inclusion of both a USB-C and USB-A port.
Some other noteworthy features include a fingerprint scanner and smaller bezels which are missing on the ThinkPad. The front design is even comparable to that of the MacBook Pro. Despite being more affordable, we found the HP to have good build quality and design.
HP 15 has a portable design at 19 x 9.52 x 0.7 inches and it weighs only 3.74 pounds. Despite the portable design it still packs a 41 WHr lithium-ion battery, which for us lasted up to 8 hours. The endurance of the HP 15 compared to its predecessors is a 1-hour battery life improvement, mostly due to the more efficient intel processor and the amazing optimization by HP. We never had to charge the HP during the day.
Just like the ThinkPad, HP 15 also comes with the option to choose between Windows 10 and 11. The same rule applies here as well. Getting Windows 11 at this point in time has its risk, so it’s better to wait a few months. The Windows 10 that comes with the HP has S mode enabled which doesn’t allow you to download third party software. This means that FL Studio will have some driver issues and won’t be able to run properly. Luckily, the solution to this is as simple as disabling S mode from the regular Windows setting.
HP 15 Benefits
A modern and attractive design, which makes the HP 15 feel much more premium than its price point.
Great storage and memory options along with good expandability.
HP 15 Drawbacks
The display can look blown out under harsh sunlight, so it can only be used in dimly lit environments.
It doesn’t have the fastest processor, but still manages to perform well enough in FL Studio.
According to our scoring model, you can see the greatest variance in the Processor and Connectivity categories. The powerful and revolutionary M1 on the MacBook helps it score a perfect score, in performance. When it comes to Connectivity, the MacBook falls short because it only has two USB-C ports, which limits the type of audio interfaces you can connect. Both the ThinkPad and HP 15 score similarly in both of these categories, because of their identical processors, and very similar port selection, where the ThinkPad manages to edge out the HP in Connectivity because of the additional USB-C port.
The ThinkPad T15 has a stable score throughout all the categories, which helps it have the highest average score of 8.5. It has the highest score in RAM and Connectivity, due to the sheer amount of memory expandability and port selection it offers. It does score relatively low in the Price to Performance and Processor categories, due to the i5 not being as powerful as the M1 found on the MacBook. You also pay a bit of a premium for the ThinkPad for the additional features it offers, which doesn’t compare well with the shockingly amazing value for money deal of the HP 15. That being said, the ThinkPad still did perform really well in our testing, and it should not have any performance issues for the foreseeable future.
HP 15 has a slightly lower average score than the ThinkPad by a variance of 0.2. It offers a very similar experience with the exact same processor, similar port selection, and RAM and storage options. It could be a good second option if you’re looking for the best price to performance, while not sacrificing on other key features.
Based on our testing and scoring model, the ThinkPad T15 is the best laptop for FL Studio. There are a few key aspects in which it is a cut above the rest. It managed to impress us with the sheer amount of features offered such as an excellent build quality, amazing keyboard and inclusion of both a finger print scanner and facial unlock. Not to mention the great port selections and performance which enhances the audio production experience. The best part is that the ThinkPad doesn’t have any major flaws which makes it a killer option for FL Studio!
Frequently Answered Questions
Why are the Minimum System Requirements for FL Studio in some aspects lower compared to the Laptops you have suggested?
While the official specifications are a lot lower than what you’ll find in the machines we recommended, you should know that those specs are the bare minimum. When you really start using FL with multiple plugins and have a lot going on in general, a low-end machine will end up crashing and have performance issues. A powerful machine will allow access to more tools and effects. It won’t hold you back, giving you a better music production experience. Lastly, your laptop will be much more future proof. With new updates, programs become much more resource intensive and having powerful hardware will ensure that you don’t encounter any hiccups for the foreseeable future.
How do I decide if I should get a mac or Windows laptop for FL Studio?
Both windows and macs have their own perks. While the recent issues with the Apple silicon macs that we mentioned can be problematic, they are just minor inconveniences that shouldn’t hinder your decision on which operating system to use. We generally recommend going for whichever you’re comfortable with and used to. Both of them will work just find!
Does my laptop come with FL Studio Installed?
Both Windows and Macs don’t come preinstalled with FL Studio. It is a third-party program that needs to be downloaded. If you wish to learn how to download it then click on this link: https://support.image-line.com/action/knowledgebase?ans=108
Will I be able to run future versions of FL Studio on my laptop?
All of the recommended machines are powerful enough to run FL Studio comfortably, atleast for the next 5 years. You will probably be fine for much longer after that, although you may not have the best production experience if you choose to not upgrade.
Will my laptop be compatible with my other Audio gear?
This will entirely depend on whether your audio interface connects via a regular USB-A or Thunderbolt USB-C port. If your laptop doesn’t have either one of those you can buy a dongle to expand the connectivity. The rest of your audio gear such as the mixer and studio monitors are connected to your audio interface so you won’t have to worry about them.