If you ever ask for a laptop recommendation for music production, you’ll be bombarded with questions about how many virtual instruments you plan to work with or what kind of DAW you will use. As a beginner, you might not have a definite answer to these questions, and it can get challenging to determine how powerful your machine needs to be.
Luckily, most popular DAWs, such as FL Studio, Ableton, Pro Tools and such, are not always very demanding. You will easily be able to run them on any modern entry level laptop, even if it only has 2 cores. However, we would still recommend getting a 4-core processor, as not only will it future proof your device, but you will also be able to perform more demanding tasks such as rendering or running multiple plugins at once.
RAM is also an important thing to consider when looking for a laptop. In the past, we have produced music on laptops with only 4 GB of RAM, however we recommend going for at least 8 or 16 GB. You will likely not use any more than that if you stick with a few basic plugins and instruments. Although, we would still recommend looking for a laptop that gives you the ability to upgrade your memory in case your workload becomes more demanding in the future.
As a beginner, you will likely not use a lot of plugins and instruments, nor will you have a lot of RAW files. Hence, going for 512 GB of storage should be enough. Even 256 GB might work, but it can fill up really quickly, even before you are fully committed towards music production. Just like RAM, you can upgrade your storage in the future. You won’t necessarily have to look for a device that allows you to increase its internal storage, as external solutions do exist. In fact, almost all professional music producers, use external hard drives or SSDs because of their convenience.
Another important aspect a lot of beginners overlook is the port selection. If you want to hook up a mic or record with external instruments, you will use an audio interface which connects all your other accessories like studio monitors and mixer to your laptop. The audio interface connects to your laptop via either a USB or a Thunderbolt port. Therefore, it’s better to look for a laptop with both of these ports.
Best Laptop for Music Production for Beginners
Acer Aspire 5 Slim
The Acer Aspire series is among the best that offer the most value for your money. The Aspire 5 Slim comes with an AMD Ryzen 7 5700U which is an 8 core 16 thread processor with a maximum frequency of 4.3 GHz. It is a big upgrade over the Ryzen 7 3700U found on its predecessor as not only does it provide 4 extra cores, but also manages to perform about 43 percent faster. It even compares well enough to its Intel counterpart by providing about the same level of performance.
The Acer is a very quiet machine. The fans barely made any noise under basic workload, and even when we tested it using a much more intensive workload, the fans were really silent. What was even more surprising was that the temperatures were maintained very well. The outer laptop casing did get a bit warm, but the internals never exceeded more than 81 degrees. We also barely encountered any thermal throttling, which just goes to show how good the cooling on this device is. This is a big upgrade over its predecessor, which although stays very cool, makes a lot of noise.
Our test unit came with 16 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1 TB SSD. This is a sweet spot for those who are looking to get started with music production without wanting to overspend on memory or storage. 16 GB is more than enough to run multiple basic plugins and instruments without any issues. We barely encountered any stutters or crashes even when running some high-end plugins in a professional DAW. 1 TB of storage is also enough space for your DAW, instruments and plugins while also having some left over for your RAW files. The best part is that both the storage and RAM are user upgradeable so you won’t ever have to worry about these in the future.
The 15.6″ Full HD 1080p LED-backlit IPS display is not the strong suit of the Acer. It did get sharp enough, but the colors didn’t have enough contrast which made images look a bit bland. The viewing angles were acceptable in indoor conditions, but once you step into a well-lit environment, you won’t be able to look at the display at an angle. We could also barely use the display under direct sunlight, because of the 250 nits of brightness. Fortunately, the matte coating did help the outdoor visibility a bit. We wish that Acer had included a brighter panel, but it’s still comparable to a lot of other displays in this price range.
The port selection on the Aspire is pretty standard with 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 Ethernet RJ-45 port, 1 AC charging port, 1 HDMI and 1 headphone jack. We were hoping that the Type C port supported an external display or charging, but sadly that was not the case. The only other port we missed was an SD card slot. This is the exact same port selection as its predecessor, although we had hoped that Acer had added support for USB-C charging in this model. Having both a USB-A and USB-C port means that you will be able to connect all kinds of audio interface, as well as accessories such as an external storage device.
You will not miss any necessary feature on the Acer Aspire 5 Slim. It has included both a fingerprint scanner and facial unlock, a pretty decent full sized backlit keyboard and a Kensington Lock. It should be noted, that while the typing experience on the Acer is decent, we did notice a considerable amount of deck flex, which cheapens the user experience a bit, but isn’t a major deal breaker.
The Acer is a bit on the large side as its dimensions are 14.31 x 9.86 x 0.71 inches and it weighs 3.88 pounds. We were still able to easily carry around the laptop in our backpack. However, the build quality on the Acer wasn’t the best. Just after a few days of testing, there were many scratches on the device and the metallic coating on the armrest had started to fade away. Many users had reported a similar problem, so you should be extra careful when using this device. When testing the predecessor of the Acer, we didn’t encounter this problem, despite both the devices having a similar finish.
The Acer Aspire 5 Slim managed to last about 7.5 hours on a single charge, which is a similar battery life as its predecessor. It was difficult to use the laptop for an entire day without needing to charge. We hoped that Acer had improved the battery life but considering how they have a much more power-hungry CPU, we can excuse this.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim Benefits
An excellent Ryzen 7 5700U octa-core processor for the price which handles all kinds of workloads we threw at it.
High-capacity RAM and storage, which is also upgradeable, giving the user more expandability.
Inclusion of both a USB-A and USB-C port so you can connect any kind of audio accessory without an issue.
The Acer doesn’t miss out on any important features such as a backlit keyboard or fingerprint scanner.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim Drawbacks
The display is mediocre for the price as it doesn’t have great colour reproduction, nor does it get bright enough to use properly outdoors.
The build quality isn’t great as we could notice scratches and other damages during our testing period.
Asus VivoBook 14
The Asus VivoBook provides excellent features and performance for the price. It is equipped with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 which is a 4 core 8 thread processor with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.2 GHz. It performs about 15 percent better than the 10th generation i5 on its predecessor and even manages to beat last generation’s i7 processor. Due to having 4 fewer cores it’s about 29 percent slower than the Ryzen 7 5700U in multicore performance, but still manages to beat it in single core performance. That being said, for basic workload, we found both these processors to perform identically as both of them handled all basic music production workloads with ease.
In all our music production testing, the Asus VivoBook remained very quiet. The fans were silent under basic workload. However, we found the laptop to be extremely loud when subjected to high workload. If you are considering getting into live recording in the future then this is definitely a factor to consider. We would recommend switching the performance profile to whisper in the MyAsus settings. It will make your laptop noticeably quieter at the cost of performance, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you aren’t going to push your laptop to its limits.
You get 24 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512 GB SSD. The RAM is a bit overkill, considering we were not able to exceed 50 percent memory usage during our testing, but it will be useful for those looking to open many programs or applications in the backgrounds. According to our experience 512 GB of storage is perfect to get started, although it might seem a bit restrictive after some time when your audio library expands. At that point, you should consider getting an external SSD or cloud storage.
The 14-inch Full HD LED panel on the Asus was smaller, yet very similar in quality to the display on the Acer. It also had washed-out colours and poor viewing angles, which made the it difficult to look at the screen. Not to mention that it was also not that bright, which meant using it under direct sunlight was a bit difficult. However, this is a common issue for laptops in this price range, as seen by the similar quality panel on the Acer and the exact same panel on the VivoBook’s predecessor.
The port selection is almost identical to that of the Acer as well. You get USB-C 3.2 Gen 1, 2 USB-A 2.1, 1 USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, an AC charging port, 1 HDMI, 1 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-SD card slot. You don’t get support for Thunderbolt with the Asus as well, but that’s also excusable for this price range. You do get an SD card slot, which was missing on the Acer, even though it isn’t a full-sized SD card slot. However, you miss out on an Ethernet port, which means you can only use the WiFi. Sadly, the VivoBook only supports Wi-Fi 5 which provides slower speeds than Wi-Fi 6, a problem we had with its predecessor as well, which is something to take note of if you have a Wi-Fi 6 router.
Asus also managed to include all the basic features that we would expect in this price point with an inclusion of both a fingerprint scanner and facial unlock, a backlit keyboard and a pretty decent webcam. It should be noted that the keyboard on the Asus was inferior to the Acer as it felt much more mushy, had uneven backlighting and didn’t include a number pad.
The VivoBook was almost the same size as other similar laptops coming in at 12.81 x 8.50 x 0.78 inches and weighing 3.42 pounds. It was a bit lighter and smaller than the Acer, although both of them were just as portable as each other. We did not notice any durability issues with the VivoBook like we did with the Acer.
The battery life on the VivoBook was surprisingly worse than the Acer coming in at close to 6 hours of screen on time during our testing. We almost always had to plug the laptop in before the day ended during our testing. In fact, you get better battery life with the VivoBook’s predecessor which provided about 7 to 8 hours of screen on time.
Asus VivoBook Benefits
Excellent performance for the price despite only having a 4-core processor.
You get a lot of RAM at 24 GB which means that there will be little to no issues when running many programs simultaneously.
The presence of both a USB-A and USB-C port means that you will be able to connect any kind of audio interface you want.
The Asus included all the basic features that one would want such as a fingerprint scanner and backlit keyboard.
Asus VivoBook Drawbacks
The screen is mediocre as it has washed out colors and poor outdoor visibility.
The battery life is below average providing only 6 hours of screen on time, which is worse than it’s predecessor.
The VivoBook does not have an Ethernet port nor does it have support for WiFi-6 so the internet speeds are a bit slow.
The HP 15 laptop comes equipped with an Intel Celeron N4020 which is a dual core processor with a maximum boost frequency of 2.8 GHz. It performs about 120 percent worse than the i5 on the Asus. We compared it to a similar HP laptop, with the model number 15-ac018ca, which was a few generations old and came with an Intel Celeron N3050. The N4020 managed to provide close to twice the performance which just goes to show how powerful processors have gotten in recent times.
In our testing, the performance was acceptable for basic usage, where you don’t use many demanding plugins or instruments on a basic DAW like Serato Lite. Once you switch to more intense workloads, the HP struggles a lot with many stutters and crashes. It’s perfect if you want to casually start music production, and then move onto a more powerful machine once you get more serious.
The advantage of having a weaker and less power-hungry processor, is that the HP managed to remain very cool and quiet. Thermal throttling was pretty much non-existent on our model, and the fans did turn on occasionally, although they didn’t make a lot of noise. This makes it one of the best entry level machines for music production, if you are also looking into live recording.
A major advantage of the HP is the high memory and storage. You get 32 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1 TB SSD. Having the high RAM capacity means you will be able to multitask easily and run many programs that aren’t demanding on the CPU. It also helps in boosting the performance a little during audio production. Unfortunately, the slow CPU bottlenecks performance, which means you won’t be able to run multiple demanding programs at once. But a beginner might not be looking for that so it’s excusable. The older HP laptop we reviewed couldn’t even be upgraded to a 32 GB RAM model. The high storage is also appreciated as it means you will be able to store all the RAW files you want, along with your DAW, plugins and instruments. Having an SSD is a major upgrade over the HP 15-ac018ca as it only came with a slow mechanical hard drive.
The 15.6″ HD 1366 x 768 WLED display on the HP was about what you would expect from this price range. It was not as sharp as the other two displays because of not being 1080p, but still managed to produce slightly better colors and had better viewing angles. It also struggled in outdoor environments because of the 220 nits of brightness and lack of a matte antireflective coating. This is one aspect of the laptop that hasn’t changed from other budget HP offerings from the past.
The port selection on the HP 15 was also standard as it came with 1 SuperSpeed USB Type-C, 2 SuperSpeed USB Type-A, 1 AC smart pin, 1 HDMI 1.4b, a micro-SD card slot, 1 RJ-45 Ethernet and a headphone jack. Just like the other laptops on this list, the USB-C port didn’t support Thunderbolt, nor could you use it for charging or connecting an external display. Other than that, we were very pleased with the port selection. Having both a USB-A and USB-C port meant that you don’t have to worry about what kind of audio interface to go for. The previous HP 15-ac018ca we looked at didn’t even have a USB-C port so we are grateful that HP included that with this model.
We were pleased to see that HP didn’t miss out on many features such as a fingerprint scanner, facial unlock and full copy of Windows 11 out of the box. When starting testing, we realised that we couldn’t download any DAW from their website. Turns out it was because S mode have been turned on in Windows by default which means you will not be able to download a lot of programs, including many DAWs, from a third part source. Luckily, turning it off as simple as changing your Windows settings.
The HP, being a budget 15-inch laptop, is on the larger side. Its dimensions are 14.11 x 9.53 x 0.78 inches, and it weighs 3.86 pounds. It has a very similar body size and weight as the Acer which means we could carry it in our backpack, although the weight distribution wasn’t as good. The build quality of the HP also felt a bit cheap, which is to be expected from a laptop in this price range. Luckily, due to the heft it was fairly durable, as we once accidentally dropped the laptop during our testing but did not suffer any major damages.
As previously mentioned, the Intel Celeron N4020 is a very power efficient CPU. That means that the battery life on this laptop is also excellent. We managed to get about 9 hours of battery life during our testing, which was just shy of the 12-hour battery life claim of HP. It was also slightly better than the HP 15-ac018ca which provided us about 7 to 8 hours of battery life. Luckily, this means that you will easily be able to use the laptop for an entire day on a full charge.
HP 15 Benefits
Excellent thermal performance which means that the laptop doesn’t suffer from thermal throttling, thus the fans don’t have to run at full throttle which means that you get a very silent machine, perfect for live recording.
You get 32 GB of RAM which means that multitasking is a breeze.
The battery life was excellent as we got 9 hours of usage on a single charge which lasted us the entire day of testing.
HP 15 Drawbacks
The Intel Celeron N4020 CPU provided mediocre performance, which is acceptable if you’re just a beginner.
The display wasn’t that great as it was not 1080p and only had 220 nits of brightness.
Based on our scoring model, you can see the highest variance in the Price to Performance and Processor categories. The HP, being the most affordable option, has the least powerful CPU. It scores a 6.5 and 6 in these categories respectively. In contrast, the Asus VivoBook, which is slightly more expensive than the HP, manages to score a 10 in Price to Performance because of its amazing value. The Acer Aspire, which is the most expensive, therefore more powerful, option manages to score a 9 in Performance because of its octacore Ryzen processor.
The Acer Aspire 5 manages to remain stable in all the categories, scoring mostly 9s. Its lowest score is in the RAM and connectivity categories where it gets a solid 8. It has 16 GB of RAM which is more than enough for not just beginners, but also for some professional music producers. However, when compared to the other laptops, it does have the least amount of RAM, which is why it ended with an 8 in that category. As for connectivity, all the other laptops also had the same score because none of them supported Thunderbolt or the ability to charge via the USB-C port. Considering that this is reserved for more premium laptops, we can let it slide, although some of the other laptops in the same price range as the Acer do include it.
The Asus VivoBook is also an excellent alternative, as it only loses to the Acer by a total average score of 0.2. It manages to beat the Acer in Price to Performance and RAM scoring a perfect 10 and 9 respectively. It even has the same score of 8 in the Connectivity category. The fact that it performs almost just as well as the much more expensive Acer makes it an enticing option. Although it does not have the same number of premium features, which holds it back.
According to both our scoring model and testing, the best laptop for music production for beginners is none other than the Acer Aspire 5. Having an octa core CPU in this price range is unheard of, which gives it some of the best performance we have seen. While this much performance might be overkill for beginners, it will ensure that if you ever want to pursue music production professionally then you won’t be limited by your laptop. Moreover, it has expandable RAM and storage as well which further boosts the longevity of your machine making it one of the most future proof devices on the market. Lastly, the Aspire also has some premium features which will provide you an excellent user experience, that’s why you should go for this laptop without any hesitation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are Windows laptops better for Music Production for beginners?
Windows and macOS provide the same functionality. However, since Windows laptops generally provide more performance for the price, those are more recommended. However, if you have the funds and prefer MacOS then you can go for them as well.
What are the considerations when purchasing a Beginner Laptop for Music Production?
The most important consideration is the laptops price to performance ratio. It’s important to find the most powerful laptop for the price, so your device remains future proof and can handle all kinds of workloads. Additionally, you should look for a device with plenty of RAM or storage.
Will my laptop come with a DAW already installed?
Laptops do not come with a DAW program already installed. It is not part of the stock software. You have to purchase or download and install it separately. It’s a fairly easy process and you can find YouTube videos that will show you every step of the installation process in detail.
Will my laptop be compatible with my other audio gear?
All your audio gear connects to the audio interface which then connects to your laptop via either a USB or Thunderbolt ports. As long as your laptop has the port corresponding to your audio interface, it will be compatible with your laptop. Everything else then plugs into the interface.