The laptop is one of the essential bits of kit in the modern DJ and music producer’s arsenal. Music production is no longer confined to very powerful desktop PCs; laptops have gotten more powerful and now have more excellent connectivity than ever before, allowing you to connect speakers and other USB peripherals easily.
If you are a beginner music producer or a DJ looking forward to a promising future, then your laptop will be your best tool.
In this guide, we’ll point out the things you should prioritize when choosing the best budget laptop for music production, along with offering some recommendations to get you started.
Of course, as a beginner, you must be pretty restrained in terms of your overall budget.
Therefore, in this article, we will only look at the best laptops for music production under $500.
Lenovo Ideapad 330
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 is a big-screen budget laptop that delivers a bright 15.6-inch display, a comfortable keyboard, and enough horsepower for daily productivity work — and even a bit more.
The IdeaPad 330 range is available in three screen-size variants (14, 15.6, and 17.3-inches), giving you the flexibility to configure one based on your needs.
This runs on an AMD processor that makes it cheaper than many Intel laptops, but this processor is still easily powerful enough to run the DAWs here. From a cost-effectiveness perspective, it’s more than a worthy rival to Intel processors.
One added advantage is that this comes with AMD R5 graphics, giving it a good advantage over Intel processors of similar CPU power.
This laptop is light and sports a good screen, an SSD – which is relatively standard in slimline laptops – you will need an external HDD if you want to store lots of samples or music, etc.
It has a battery life of up to 5 hours which is pretty good, even though it isn’t a patch on the Acer Aspire 5.
It does have a rapid-charge function, too, which allows you to give it up to 2hours of battery life in just 15 minutes. This laptop is very comfortable to use, and it is well ventilated, perfect for the stuffy warm DJ booth!
- It has a storage of 256 SSD
- It has a 7th generation AMD processor
- Attractive and slim profile laptop
- AMD processor keeps costs down and performance up
- Battery life up to 5 hours is good
- You will need an external HDD for storage
Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
Though it cost slightly more than $500, this laptop is such a great deal that we could not have possibly left it out from this list.
It offers the upgraded version of the Intel Core i5-8250U processor for starters, i.e., the Intel Core i5-8265U.
The performance difference between the two variants is more noticeable when operating on a high load. The Core i5-8250U and the Core i5-8265U processors both have the same base clock speed of 1.60 GHz.
However, the Core i5-8265U has a maximum frequency of 3.90 GHz compared to the Core i5-8250U with a max frequency of only 3.40 GHz.
When running heavier loads, the Core i5-8265U will have a far superior performance.
In the end, compared to the previous generation same series processors, the i5-7200U or the i5-7500U, the i5-8265U processor is about 30% as powerful.
Besides an excellent processor, it also offers 256 GB of SSD. While the capacity is not as large as 1 TB as seen on HP Pavilion 15 above, a true pro would choose SSD over a conventional HDD over a heartbeat.
Just as everything benefits from a faster processor, it also benefits from faster storage. As such, SSDs are some of the fastest hard disks and, therefore, well worth it.
Besides that, it offers an average of 8 GB of RAM. This is also upgradeable, but for music production, it should suffice.
Other than that, it offers a beautiful Full HD IPS display. Unlike the HP pavilion 15 above, the screen here isn’t touch-capable.
- 97 lbs lightweight design makes it easy to carry around
- 8th Generation Intel Core i7 8565u processor offers powerful multitasking
- A smooth trackpad helps in easy and fast navigation
- Decent 1080p display
- Above-average battery life
- Handy fingerprint scanner
- Outdated design
- Stuttering performance
- Spongy keyboard
ASUS VivoBook 15 Thin and Light Laptop
Asus certainly knows its way around the laptop market, with its ROG line of gaming laptops proving hugely popular thanks to its relentless pursuit of sheer performance.
The Asus VivoBook 15 Thin continues that lineage but with more of a ‘creative pursuits’ vibe. Indeed, while the Dell XPS range is often seen as the go-to brand for non-Apple fans, we’d point the more discerning user towards the VivoBook range.
The Asus VivoBook 15 Thin looks amazing, has more than enough in the way of performance to keep up with intermediate-level production tasks, and certainly justifies its inclusion in this list.
It might cost more than what you’d normally associate as a budget laptop, but for us, the VivoBook is worth pushing the boat out for.
It is relatively slim and lightweight. It has a thickness of 18.9 mm and weighs around 1.6 Kg. This makes it easy to carry and never feels too bulky.
Asus has not made any compromise on the ports. It has two USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 (both Type-A), a USB Type-C 3.1 (Gen1) port, HDMI, a headphone and microphone combo port, Gigabit Ethernet, and a full-sized SD card slot.
The stereo speakers are decent. It is loud. But the quality is not excellent. Coming to battery life, for our usage, it lasted around 4 hours.
There is fast charging option as well. As per the claims, it charges the battery 60% in just 49 minutes. In our usage, It got a very close result to this.
- Features ergonomic backlit keyboard with a fingerprint sensor for easy accessibility
- Frameless 4-sided Nano Edge display boasts an ultra-slim 5.7mm display
- AMD Ryzen 5 processor with discrete AMD Radeon graphics offers high performance
- Slim and Lightweight.
- Decent display panel.
- Good performance.
- Friendly pricing.
- No backlight keyboard. No indicator for Caps Lock.
Samsung Chromebook 4 15.6″
The Samsung 4+ Chromebook won’t run regular digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Ableton Live, Cubase or Pro Tools.
It doesn’t have banks of the power to draw from. But it does offer a glimpse at what the future might look like for computer-based audio production.
With Chrome OS, you are essentially limited to apps that can be found in Google’s Play Store or run via a browser – assuming you don’t want to go down the Linux route, that is.
There is a slimmed-down version of FL Studio that works a treat on the Play Store, while online, you’ll find services like Audiotool and the Spotify-owned Soundtrap, which give tech-savvy beatmakers the chance to produce tracks directly through a cloud-based browser interface.
Chromebooks aren’t going to be the first choice of most producers, particularly those recording and working directly with raw audio. Still, for anyone content to play around with loops and virtual instruments, it’s worth investigation.
The display’s low brightness gives you images that manage to look pale and dingy at the same time, with weak contrast.
All that said, the screen’s petite size makes it appear sharper and more bearable than the 15.6-inch expanse of the Samsung Chromebook 4+.
It’s subpar but not horrid. When browsing websites and batting out, emails feel cheap and compromised, but not like a punishment, in the way that the big, and literally bad, 15.6-inch panel did.
- Cheap and compact
- Comfortable keyboard
- Respectable battery life
- Dull, fuzzy display
- Poky performance
- Only one USB-C and one USB-A port
HP High Performance 15.6″
HP High performance comes fifth in our list though slightly above our budget but worth it. Just shy of $600 may seem excessive for a ‘budget’ laptop, and it’s something we’re aware of. Still, we’re of a mind to keep it here simply because it’s worth highlighting the jump in overall performance capability you get when you wander north of this price bracket.
The HP 15-ef0023dx offers 12GB of RAM, making it ideal for large arrangements or tracks using a lot of recorded audio.
It has a speedy solid-state drive for accessing files, and the Ryzen 5 CPU performs consistently well under testing.
Yes, it costs a bit more, but the increased spec means it could end up serving you far longer than some of the other cheaper models on test today.
- Long battery life
- HP Imagepad
- 3 USB ports for tech connections
- Loads of power
- Snappy storage
- The fan seemed overly loud
There are a lot of great laptops out there that will do well with running music production software. While looking for a budget laptop, make sure to never skimp on RAM, CPU, and a hard drive or solid-state drive. Here are factors to consider
The laptop relays important information to you. If you can’t see it because the screen is too small, you’ll never be comfortable DJing with it.
Remember, laptops are really designed to be sat right in front of, not stood back from and glanced at as DJs do. Bear this in mind, especially if you’re a glasses wearer like me
Number of USBs
If you have an external sound card, a pad controller, and a DJ controller (not a particularly rare set-up), you’re going to need three USBs. Some PCs only have two, so it’s USB hub time for you.
Things start to get complicated here, but you can prevent the issue by predicting how much DJ equipment you are likely to want to plug into your laptop and buying one with sufficient USB sockets in the first place.
Screen size is one thing, but actually, screen resolution is vital and often overlooked. Most 13″ laptops are 1280 x 800. That is OK for Serato, not too bad for Virtual DJ, but actually quite poor for Traktor, which does not make particularly good use of screen real estate.
Move up to 15″, and while some remain at 1280 x 800 (so good for glasses wearers like me – see point 1!), other resolutions come into play like 1440 x 900, for instance, that gives you more space to play with – but of course, everything gets “smaller” again.
Bear in mind that you can always set a bigger screen to display at a lower resolution if you want to
Solid-state or normal hard drive?
People go on about making sure your laptop has good quality components, so it stays reliable, but the truth is that the only thing ever likely to fail on a laptop is the hard drive.
It is going to fail – it’s always just a case of when. Unless that is, you have a modern solid-state hard drive (or “SSD”).
These have no moving parts, neither are extremely reliable against traditional hard drives.
They cost more and are available only in lower capacities, but for reliability, they’re unbeatable. Worth considering if you can afford one big enough for your needs
This specifically applies to those DJs who play daytime gigs. If you do, you’ll know that laptops and sunshine don’t mix.
It can become fiendishly difficult to see the screen at all in bright daylight or sun. In my experience, MacBooks have nice bright screens compared to most PCs, but it’s worth lining the laptops up in the shop and turning the brightness on full to check which performs best. Also, bear in mind that some DJ software now offers “daytime” settings.
Two reasons. Firstly, it’s truly liberating to whip your laptop out miles from any outlet electricity, plug in some battery speakers and DJ.
After all, what’s the point of having all your gear in a backpack if you can’t DJ anytime, any place, anywhere every now and then? Plus, the ability to sort, cue point and analyze your music on a plane, for instance, can mean the difference between being prepared for a gig and messing it up.
But secondly, sometimes you forget your power lead, or you can’t plug in or other such emergencies – with decent battery life, it needn’t be the end of the world.
Size and weight
A laptop may not seem like it weighs too much, but add it to a DJ controller, its own power pack, your headphones, a few cables, and now add on the weight of the bag you put it all in, and it starts to become an issue.
If you travel with hand luggage on planes, the limit can be as low as 10kg. Just bear in mind what it weighs and the dimensions if you are a regular economy traveler or carry your gear by hand to gigs because you’ll thank yourself for the consideration later.
We’ve already identified that apart from the hard drive, it tends to be that “components are components, “but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss build quality entirely.
A cheap plastic case with poor hinges and catches won’t last as long as a well-designed and put-together laptop.
You may drop the thing, it may take knocks as you’re setting it up and tidying away, and so there’s a link between build quality and reliability.
Use your instinct here – if something looks so flimsy that you’re scared to open and close it, it probably isn’t a good choice for Djing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 8GB RAM enough for DJing?
The 8th generation 1.6GHz dual-core Intel i5 processor is a good enough choice for DJing. While 8GB RAM is also sufficient, keep in mind that it can also be upgraded to 16GB. An important thing for a DJ is a large and fast hard drive disc.
How much RAM do I need for DJing?
You need to have at least 4GB of free RAM (You should only leave that 4GB left for your DJ software alone). It’ll avoid your system bottleneck all its resources.
If it does run out of RAM, it’ll use the storage drive as extra RAM, then slow down like a turtle and finally crash all of a sudden, and now you’re homeless.
Why do DJs use laptops?
DJs use laptops in their DJ sets in their set-ups and in the live gigs they play. Technology has evolved to the point now that DJs can plug in a laptop to a Digital Vinyl System, which is where DJs can still use record vinyl to control the music featured on the laptop running the DJ software.
Can I DJ with just a laptop?
While it’s possible to DJ with just your laptop and some DJ software, as shown in this piece, it’s just a lot more intuitive and fun to spin on an actual DJ controller.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to know how to mix using just your laptop’s keyboard and trackpad for those gear emergencies.
What brand of laptop lasts the longest?
The most durable laptop brands are Apple, Lenovo, HP, and Dell. Why are these so durable? Because of their build design, software updates, and some brand customization options.
Apple and Lenovo lead the market on durability while making sure the other things like specs are more than OK.
With rapid technological innovations for both software and hardware in the modern world today, the markets are loaded with numerous PCs and laptops offering a wide range of choices for users.
We have researched and discussed the best laptops under $500 to help you achieve your music production goals.
All of them have a minimum and more of all the recommended specifications for a music production laptop.
Having a fast, capable processor will enable you to work efficiently and save you from waiting several minutes just to start your computer up and get things running. RAM allows for more plugins to be used in your DAW and works hand in hand with your CPU.
If your processor isn’t fast enough, you’ll get issues like latency while recording, and if your RAM isn’t big enough, you’ll get problems like your plugins running slowly or crashing. This is why having a good computer is so essential.
That being said, don’t forget to look at older computers, especially ones from Apple. They can be just as good as newer computers, and you’ll be able to save much more money if you buy something that’s been refurbished or used. We hope our post was helpful to you. Feel free to share.