Best Windows Laptop for Music Production [2022 Reviewed]

Introduction

Everyone has their preferences for one operating system over the other, and that’s probably the reason why you’re looking for a Windows machine. Without a doubt, Windows laptops provide the best value for your money. If you are curious whether paying a premium for mac over Windows is worth it, or if it really does offer a better experience, then keep on reading!

When choosing a windows laptop for music production, you’re stretching your dollar to get the best processor, RAM, storage and overall configuration. You always pay a premium for Apple products, since you can get the same performance on a Windows machine that is relatively recent. However, mac does have its own perks such as more native support and fewer bugs.

The Windows laptop market is also quite competitive, which is why you get awesome features at better prices when compared to macs. Not to mention, with Windows laptops you can also upgrade the RAM and storage. Then there are plugins which are only compatible with Windows.

In the past, Windows didn’t have great stock audio drivers for more demanding tasks such as multi track recording or real time response. Windows users relied on ASIO or other tailored drivers. That is not the case anymore since modern interfaces are either plug and play or come with drivers that provide zero latency and make things work without any issues.

In our experience, audio on Windows has only ever been problematic if you’re using built-in drivers. If you route your interface properly and use the right drivers along with the software provided by your manufacturer, then you shouldn’t run into any problems at all.

People blame Windows for their latency issues. The truth is that latency is a result of buffer and sample size settings so it can happen on any platform. Adjusting the settings appropriately for recording and editing can easily fix the issue. Windows devices are now just as stable as macs given that you take good care of your system. In fact, many large producers have switched to Windows, which they wouldn’t do if there were any concerns.

Every operating system works in the same fundamental way. If you understand the basics then the rest just takes a bit getting used to. Both mac OS and Windows provide a similar experience when working with audio. There are benefits and drawbacks to using both. Some DAWs naturally work better with mac while some lend themselves more to Windows. At the end of the day, you should choose whatever you are more comfortable with but more importantly choose the one that will help make you a better producer.

Best Windows Laptop for Music Production Reviews

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

8.6Average Score
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Price to Performance
7
Processor
9
RAM
9
Storage
7.5
Connectivity
9
Additional Features
10

The ThinkPad series is known for its unique feature set and reliability. The X1 Carbon is powered by an 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1185G7 which is a 4 core 8 threads processor with a 4.8 GHz Turbo boost frequency. In our benchmark tests, the X1 carbon scored about 30 percent higher than its predecessor. We ran it with multiple DAWs like FL Studio and Pro Tools, and the ThinkPad managed to hold up its performance without any issues at all.

You get a massive 32 GB of DDR4 RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage. The high RAM capacity helped the ThinkPad exceptionally perform memory reliant tasks. We didn’t have any trouble with multitrack rendering or working with multiple plugins at the same time. 512 GB is a bit low when it comes to storage. It’s good enough for getting started and working with projects, but if you’re going to work on multiple large projects at once then you’ll have to be a bit careful. We recommend getting an external storage device to store any additional samples and raw files/archive projects.

The ThinkPad comes with a 14.0″ FHD+ IPS display, while it is really sharp and produces accurate colors it has subpar viewing angles. The image gets distorted unless you’re looking at the laptop head-on, but this is something most people won’t notice. While the outdoor visibility was decent because of the 500 nits display and anti-glare coating, the multi angle visibility was poor and more pronounced. Unless you have a mobile rig or plan on using the laptop on the go, this is not something to worry about.

A big upgrade of this model over its predecessor is that you get a 16:10 aspect ratio, which means that the bezels are very thin and finally on par with the competition. This was a complaint that we had with the previous model, as well as some current ThinkPad models, but we appreciate Lenovo finally shifting away from those outdated thick bezels.

The port selection is very strong on the ThinkPad for an ultra-book. You get 2 USB Type-C Thunderbolt 4, 2 USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, a Headphone jack and an HDMI 2.0. The only thing missing was an Ethernet connection, but that’s very rare to see on a laptop this thin and light. The inclusion of both a Thunderbolt and USB-A port means you can use any kind of audio interface you want and still have ports leftover.

We believe the laptop could benefit with having more cores to take advantage of its high clock speed, but the speed it provides currently is well beyond what you would need to run any DAW programs. One thing we’d like to highlight is that the laptop was a bit louder than what we would have liked. Even with a low workload there was a faint noise. Under high load, the fans would spin to maximum throttle and would be very loud. You should really consider this if you’re interested in live recording, especially if you do not have separate booths or a good 6 – 8 feet distance from the machine when recording vocals or mic’d instruments. Under sustained load, there was somewhat of a performance drop, but the Lenovo still managed to perform well enough.

Some notable features of the ThinkPad include the TrackPoint, speakers tuned by Dolby Atmos which provide a 3-dimensional sound stage and an excellent backlit keyboard. The surround sound speakers are great and give your audio some more depth. However, you will most likely use monitors or studio grade headphones but it is nice to have something else for referencing.

The X1 carbon, being Lenovo’s premium laptop series, is very thin and light coming in at 12.4 x 8.72 x 0.59 inches and weighing only 2.5 pounds. Despite its portable design, we found the X1 carbon to be very well built, although not as sturdy as some classic ThinkPads. Not to mention, it did not miss out any key features. It is made of a carbon fiber and magnesium alloy, which makes it durable and feels premium. The only problem is that it picks up fingerprints very easily, but it’s still a bit better in this aspect than some of the older X1 models.

Lenovo managed to pack a pretty strong battery that ended up lasting close to about 10 hours. In our testing, we never had to charge the ThinkPad before a full day of use. The only problem we encountered was that the battery would drain very quickly when it was in sleep mode. After some research we found out that it was a common issue and to fix it we just updated the BIOS, you may even disable the trackpad BIOS. Overall, the X1 Carbon is an awesome windows machine that is excellent for music production.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Benefits

It has a massive 32 GB of RAM which managed to significantly boost the performance, especially during tasks that require a lot of memory.

You get both Thunderbolt 4 and USB-A ports which are useful for connecting any kind of accessories and audio interface.

The ThinkPad has a very portable and light design as it only weighs 2.5 pounds, but it still manages to pack 10 hours of battery life.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Drawbacks

The laptop has loud fans, even under idle load. This could be an issue if you are not at a distance from the machine when recording with a mic.

The display of the X1 Carbon has somewhat poor viewing angles, but it’s barely noticeable indoors.

LG Gram 16T90P

8.2Average Score
LG Gram 16T90P
Price to Performance
8
Processor
8.5
RAM
7
Storage
7.5
Connectivity
8.5
Additional Features
9.5

The LG Gram series is known for its light and portable design, while also providing great features without making too many sacrifices that you typically see with a thin and light device. The laptop comes with an 11th generation Intel core i5-1135G7, which is a 4 core 8 thread processor with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.2 GHz. It’s about 5 percent faster than the 10th generation i5 on its predecessor. When we ran benchmark tests, we found the performance of the LG to be significantly lower than the i7 on the ThinkPad, even though on paper it should only be 2 to 3 percent slower.

You get 16GB of LPDDR4X 4266mhz RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage. Unfortunately, the RAM is a low powered variant of the regular DDR4 which means that it’s soldered on and doesn’t perform as well. Luckily, 16 GB should be enough to handle high workloads, as we didn’t notice the LG’s memory usage to exceed about 70%. 512 GB of storage can be a bit limiting, so we recommend getting an external hard drive or SSD or even cloud storage to store your plugins, instruments and RAW files.

The 16” WQXGA IPS display is the highlight of the Gram. It produces excellent colors and is very sharp. Not to mention, it gets bright enough to be used in outdoor scenarios, but not under direct sunlight because of only having 350 nits of brightness and a reflective screen. The best part of this display is that it supports touch which makes it easier to navigate through the interface. You even get a stylus included which makes using the touch screen easier. We found the stylus to lag a little when compared to dedicated stylus for tablets, because of the display only being 60 Hz.

All the important ports are included in the LG Gram, despite its thin design. You get 2 USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, 1 USB-A port, a headphone jack and an SD card reader. We would have appreciated better connectivity such as more USB-A ports, HDMI or an Ethernet jack. As long as you get both a USB-C thunderbolt port and USB-A port to connect an audio interface, the rest are excusable, especially considering the thin form factor.

Some other notable features of the LG Gram include a 720p webcam and the inclusion of both a fingerprint scanner and Windows hello facial unlock. The only issue we had with the LG Gram was the amount of bloatware installed into the operating system such as McAfee. Having a lot of unnecessary third party application is excusable for low end laptops, as they need a means to subsidize the price of their device, but we expected better from a somewhat premium laptop like the Gram.

The bloatware is a quick fix though, it’s not hard to get rid of but at this point we just did a fresh windows install which took about 30 minutes of our time. Once that was done the laptop was good to go! We recommend doing a fresh install for most laptops that come with bloatware, it is often more time consuming to actually pick each of them one by one and sometimes the windows installer won’t let you get rid of them so you need to use a special program. Either way, we don’t hold this against the machine since it’s something very minor that can easily be remedied.

Although, the cooling solution on the gram is a bit subpar. The good thing is that the fans are super quiet even under high loads, however, they don’t do the best job at keeping the system cool. As a result, LG has optimized their machine to sharply drop its CPU frequency when under high load, and we observed the performance drop on the Gram, which was a tad bit more than we actually expected. This is a problem that was also prevalent with its predecessor and is the same with other Gram models.

The entire selling point of the LG Gram is its thin and light design. Its dimensions are 14 x 9.8 x 0.67 inches and it weighs only 3.3 pounds or just under 1.5 kilograms which is really light for the 16-inch laptop. We didn’t have any problems carrying it in our backpack either. However, this is not really meant to be a portable device since it’s too large to move around with but it is good that the option is available if you choose to do so.

What’s impressive is that LG managed to pack a pretty hefty battery into the Gram which easily lasts around 10 hours of usage. We never had to charge the LG Gram before the day ended, and it even managed to last well into the second day if we were mindful of our usage. Overall it is a really good machine with a few drawbacks that you’ll find in every other laptop.

LG Gram Benefits

The LG Gram has one of the best displays in the market, which works really well even in outdoor conditions.

You get all the necessary ports, despite the thin and light design, with the inclusion of both a USB-A and USB-C ports.

The LG Gram has excellent battery life, lasting well over a full day of usage.

LG Gram Drawbacks

Due to the thin design, LG couldn’t manage to pack a very substantial cooling solution so the LG had to lower its performance by a lot.

There is a lot of bloatware installed within the operating system which cheapens the user experience. You can easily get rid of it with a fresh windows install or you may uninstall the additional programs.

MSI Modern 15

8.8Average Score
MSI Modern 15
Price to Performance
10
Processor
9
RAM
9
Storage
9
Connectivity
9
Additional Features
7

The MSI Modern 15 laptop comes with an Intel Core i7-1195G7, which is an 4 core 8 thread processor with maximum turbo frequency of 5 GHz. It is pretty much the same processor on the much more expensive ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but with a high turbo frequency which means that it performs about 5 percent better. We didn’t notice any significant performance difference in real world usage, but we still appreciate the excellent performance offered for the price. It also performs about 10 percent better than the 10th generation i7 on its predecessor.

The MSI came with a 32 GB of DDR4 RAM and 1 TB of SSD Storage. The 32 GB of RAM is more than enough to handle memory intensive workloads such as working with multiple plugins, tracks, rendering and so on. What sets the MSI apart from the other 2 devices is that it comes with double the storage at 1 TB. That will not only be enough to get you started with music production, but you will also be able to store all your samples, as well as work on multiple projects at the same time, without running out of storage.

The port selection on the MSI is also excellent with 1 Thunderbolt 4, 2 USB Type-A 3.1, a headphone jack, 1 HDMI, a charging port and a Micro SD card reader. With access to both a Thunderbolt and USB-A ports, you will be able to attach all kinds of audio interface and any kind of accessory you want.

The MSI comes with a 15.6″ Full HD 1080p display. While it has decent colors and is fairly sharp indoors however, it doesn’t fair well in outdoor conditions. We found it difficult to use when we had a bunch of lights on because of the low brightness and the glossy screen. Another random issue that came up on one occasion was that the screen went completely blank, however, after a minute or so it turned back on. This happened because the laptop doesn’t go to sleep when you close the lid and it overheats. To solve this problem, we just let the laptop cool down. Upon further research, we learned that this is a well-known issue so we recommend always properly putting your laptop into sleep mode.

The MSI gets very hot under load as we measured the internal temperatures at about 91 degrees Celsius, but the cooling solution is very good so there is little to no thermal throttling. Unfortunately, because of that, the fans do get very loud and we found them very distracting especially during recordings. Luckily, you can change the performance profile to “office mode” which will decrease the performance but will result in a quieter machine. The good thing about it is that you can switch between profiles easily and only go for the quieter version when using mics.

Some notable features of the MSI includes a pretty nice backlit keyboard, a webcam and Windows Hello facial recognition. This laptop was definitely lacking in the features department as compared to the other laptops, but that’s excusable considering the low price point.

The MSI is on the heavier side coming in at 14.05 x 9.2 x 0.67 inches and weighing 3.53 pounds, which is a bit heavy for a laptop of this size. However, because of this, the MSI is built like a tank as it has an aluminum alloy outer body that gives it a premium and durable feel.

Despite being the heaviest machine, the MSI has the smallest battery life. It only managed to last 7 hours on a single charge, which means that you will have to most likely plug it in before the day ends if you’re a heavy user.

MSI Modern 15 Benefits

You get one of the most powerful processor for this price, which can even be found on much more expensive devices.

You get 32 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD which ensures that you will not run into any memory or storage related issues.

You get access to both a USB-C Thunderbolt and USB-A port to connect any kind of accessory and audio interface.

MSI Modern 15 Drawbacks

The display on the MSI is subpar, as it is difficult to use in brightly lit environments.

You do not get a lot of additional features with the MSI as it aims at providing the best performance for the price, so it has to cut down on a lot of “nice to haves”.

Verdict

Based on our scoring model, you can see the highest variance in the Price to Performance and Additional features categories. Both of these categories are actually inversely proportional, as the MSI scores a perfect score in the Price to Performance category while the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has the lowest score of 7 and the exact opposite is true for the Additional features category. That’s because the MSI aims to provide you with the best performance at its price range, even if it means cutting down on a few “nice to have” features while the ThinkPad provides you all the features you can ask for while charging a premium.

The MSI performs well in almost all categories other than Additional features scoring a 9 or higher. Although it scores the highest in the Price to Performance and RAM categories, it ties with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, since they both come with the same configurations but the MSI is a lot more affordable. The reason it only scores a 7 in the additional features category is because MSI cut down on some of the fancy features that you would see in other laptops. They did this to keep the price down, but made sure the laptop did not miss out on any major features.

We would also like to point out that the ThinkPad performed really well and finished really close to the MSI with only a 0.2 variance. The laptop has excellent features which is why it gets a perfect score in the Additional features category. You can never go wrong with a Lenovo machine! ThinkPads are built like tanks, and they are highly sought after because their performance is second to none! But in the end the ThinkPad fell short and finished second.

With that beind said, with an average score of 8.8, the best windows machine in this line up is the MSI Modern 15 . While the other two laptops do stand out on their own, the MSI just offers a lot more for the price. The machine comes with an i7 which is again excellent for the price. More importantly, we did not see any major performance hiccups. The port selection is also amazing for a modern laptop, you won’t have to think twice when connecting any type of audio interface or accessory. It also has the most amount of storage and memory out of the three laptops we tested, which just goes to show the great value you get with this device. While it does have some minor issues such louder fans, if you can look past that considering the price, the MSI is a solid option, it is highly recommended!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Windows Laptop better than macOS for Music Production?

Both Windows and Macs work equally well for music production. Both of them have their own pros and cons. For example, Macs usually have a more intuitive and native environment for music production, while Windows provide better specifications and performance for the price. It all comes down to which of the Operating Systems you prefer and are used to.

How should I choose a Windows Laptop for Music Production?

Ideally, you want a device with the best performance. Get something with at least 8, but preferably 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM, as well as a modern processor with 4 or more cores. Having a greater core count is important for audio production especially, if you work with multiple audio tracks. Another thing to look towards is getting a lot of storage. We recommend going for a minimum of 512 GB SSD, but getting a 1 TB or more will serve you better in the longer term.

Will I face higher latency or audio driver issues with a Windows Laptop?

Latency occurs because of a buffer and sample size setting. Which can occur on both a Mac and Windows. Adjusting the settings for recording, editing and downloading the appropriate drivers will fix any latency issue.  You also want to make sure you have proper drivers installed if your audio interface comes with those.

Will a Windows Laptop be compatible with my Audio Gear and DAW program?

The only audio gear you need to connect to your laptop is an audio interface. It can connect via either USB-A or USB-C Thunderbolt. As long as your laptop has the corresponding port, you will be able to connect it. All the rest of your gear like your studio monitor or mixer can connect with the audio interface. Almost all the DAWs work on both Mac and Windows, other than some which are specific to a certain operating system such as Garageband which can only be used on MacOS.