If you’ve ever tried to buy a laptop for music production, it’s likely that you know how frustrating the process can be. The sheer number of choices can be daunting.
However, if you know the factors to consider, choosing a laptop can be an enjoyable process. Following are four things you ought to consider when selecting a music production machine.
Will the laptop be able to run software that may come out in the next three to five years?
This is a key factor to consider because music production software tends to get bigger and demand more system resources with each new version that comes out. So it’s essential to plan for the future, knowing what to expect before buying is key to avoiding disappointment when choosing a laptop.
For instance, if the current version of your DAW requires a minimum of 2GB RAM you should avoid buying a laptop with that exact specification. Instead, you should buy something with 8GB, 12GB or even 16GB of RAM.
This ensures that you’ll be able to run the newer, more resource-heavy software on your laptop and you won’t have to upgrade your hardware in the foreseeable future.
Technical specifications that need to be considered include:
- RAMsize/speed: more is better
- CPUtype/speed: faster is better
- Storage technology (HDD or SSD) & capacity: SSD beats HDD
- Physical durability: a plastic laptop is more likely to last a shorter time than a metallic one.
- GPU size/speed: only necessary if you plan on rendering video for your songs.
Does the laptop have all the ports you need on-board?
Most external sound devices connect to a laptop via USB or FireWire. You may want a computer with more or fewer such ports depending on the number of devices you’d like to connect simultaneously.
The number of USB ports can be expanded by purchasing a USB hub but that’s something extra to carry, and some hubs don’t provide adequate power to some larger devices. So that’s something to consider.
It’s also important to note that FireWire ports are not present in all laptops so if you plan on using FireWire devices you have to ensure the ports are available on the machine.
What DAW Do You Use?
The type of DAW you plan to use is a key determinant of the kind of laptop in which you should invest. DAWs such as Logic Pro and GarageBand only work on Mac OSX whereas Acid Pro and a few others run only on Windows.
Do You Plan on Performing Your Music Live?
Once the production phase has been completed, you may want to perform it live. If you plan on using the same laptop for production and performance you need to choose your machine carefully.
You need to find a really responsive machine to perform live because a slight glitch in the performance makes all the difference.
Mac laptops are loved among live musicians due to their stability in live situations, and they’re easier to replace since they come standard.
E.g., if you use a 2017 MacBook Pro and it dies, you can easily buy another one with the exact hardware and software specs and get on with your music. The same is not as easy on a Windows machine.
That same process is more difficult with Windows machines, especially if they’ve undergone some level of customization. The process is even more complicated with Linux machines.
Laptop prices drop moderately fast, so as long as a machine meets your needs and you’re happy with it then you should go ahead and purchase it.
You don’t necessarily have to get the latest machine; you can find older high-performance laptops at a lower price a year or so after their release.
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