Laptops are more popular in music production than ever before, with many producers switching out bulky PC’s in favour of laptops. I’m currently in the market for a new laptop for both music production and playing games and have wondered whether a laptop can do both. So, are gaming laptops good for music production?
Gaming laptops are good for music production as they are designed with high-performing hardware that can handle the intense demands and multi-tasking capabilities required by both gaming and music production software.
If you’re looking for a laptop for gaming and music production, then a gaming laptop is a great choice. If you’re looking to produce music only, then you may want to consider a regular laptop. I’ve discussed this and more below!
Why gaming laptops are good for music production
Gaming and music production software both share similar requirements, such as needing to complete complex calculations quickly to ensure a smooth and hassle-free performance. It means that gaming laptops are great for both!
Here’s what makes gaming laptops great for music production:
- High Performance Processors
- High Clock Speeds and Overclocking
- Solid-State Drives (SSD’s)
- Plenty of RAM
Let’s look into the each of these features, and why it’s beneficial for music production!
High Performance Processors
Music production software can require a lot of processing power, mostly from processor-hungry plugins such as effects and virtual instruments. In fact, most modern music software requires a minimum of an i5/Ryzen 5 quad-core processor to run effectively.
A good quality processor, or “CPU”, is essential for music production if you want to avoid choppy recording and playback, and potential software crashes. It’s also one of the only parts of a laptop that you can’t upgrade. That means you’re locked in with what you buy.
I visited a few online stores that specialise in gaming laptops, and the majority come with either an Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor. These processors were also all quad-core, which is great for software with high-processing requirements. Generally speaking; the more cores, the better!
I recommend future-proofing your laptop by buying one with a processor that is above the minimum requirements. Not only will you get a faster performance initially, it also means that it will take longer to become obsolete. Some extra money paid now may save you from having to upgrade your laptop again in a couple of years.
Top tip: You’re more likely to see a company called “AMD” when looking at gaming laptops. They’re a hardware manufacturer that make processors, like Intel. All major software can work with either AMD or Intel, so I recommend using a benchmarking website to compare which processor in your budget performs better!
High Clock Speeds and Overclocking
As well as bigger processors, gaming laptops also tend to have higher clock speeds. This is the rate at which your processor measures and processes information. As they’re designed to crunch numbers quickly, they will be able to handle multiple software instruments and effects with ease.
Gaming laptops are also designed with better processor cooling capabilities than regular laptops. This means that your processor will work more efficiently, as excessive heat from processing over long periods of time can slow or damage your processor.
In addition, the added cooling capabilities means that gaming laptops are better equipped for “over clocking”.Overclocking is the process of increasing your processors clock speed, making it faster. This generally also makes it hotter. As a gaming laptop can cool down your processor faster, you will be able to over clock with better results!
Top tip: Over clocking isn’t needed with music production software most of the time, but if you’re hitting around 80% CPU usage and can’t find an obvious problem, then overclocking may be right for you!
Solid-State Drives (SSD’s)
In most cases, gaming laptops will come with a Solid-State Drive (SSD). This is because SSD’s can load information faster, which improves system booting and game loading times. This is great for music production software as virtual instruments, effects, and samples will be loaded quicker.
They also tend to come with larger storage drives as well for storing libraries of games, with sizes starting from 256 GB. This is good for producers who intend to record a lot of songs at larger bit depths, and also for those who have large collections of sample libraries and plugins.
If you’re using your laptop for both gaming and music production, I’d recommend buying one with an SSD of around 512 GB, though these can usually be upgraded later (double check though!).
SSD’s are also better than their Hard Disk Drive (HDD) counterparts for stability, which will give you peace-of-mind that you’re not going to lose your precious recordings!
Top tip: Some gaming laptops may have an SSD and HDD. If this is the case, I recommend saving your DAW and Plugins onto your SSD as you’ll see much faster load times!
Plenty of RAM
Think of RAM like your laptops short term memory. Gaming laptops utilise it to get fast and responsive performance from games by temporarily storing files there as opposed to your hard drive. This makes the files readily accessible for your laptop to load.
An entry level gaming laptop will come with 8GB RAM, whereas higher-end gaming laptops will come with 16GB or 32GB RAM.
For music production, having more RAM is great for producers working with large sample libraries, as the files will be quicker to load during playback and recording. For most cases, 8GB should be enough, but 16GB or 32GB would be advisable if you’re planning on large orchestral productions.
Top tip: A lot of gaming laptops have the ability to upgrade parts at a later date. This means that if you need more RAM or a bigger drive, you can swap them out. Makes sure to always check what the manufacturer says before purchasing!
As you can see, gaming laptops are more than well equipped to handle the demands from music software, but definitely come with a price tag to match. If you’re in the market for a laptop that can do both, like I am, then a gaming laptop will be the right choice for you.
When you’re shopping, pay attention to the processor (including cores and clock speed), hard drive type and size, and RAM.
I recommend that the minimum specification for a laptop being used for music production should be:
- Processor: Intel i5 (Quad Core) or AMD Ryzen 5 Processor (Quad Core)
- Clockspeed: 2.4GHz
- Storage: 256GB SSD
- RAM: 8GB
If you’re using the laptop for gaming as well as music production, then increase this to a 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM minimum. Also, make sure it has a GTX 1650 GPU minimum (but check which GPU works best with your favourite games!)
Be sure to use a benchmarking website to compare the performance of all the hardware in your chosen laptop against others within your price range.
Should you get a gaming laptop for music production?
This is a question I’ve thought about a lot while looking for my next laptop. In my opinion, you should consider a gaming laptop for music production only if you plan to use it for both.
If you will only be using your laptop for producing music, then you may be able to get more for your money by buying a regular laptop.
This is because gaming laptops come with expensive Graphics Processing Units (GPU) used to render images quickly for games. When you’re producing music, you don’t need this level of visual processing power, and therefore may be able to get a laptop with a better CPU.
I always recommend using a benchmarking website to look at the difference between laptops before purchasing!
How much does a gaming laptop cost?
The price of an entry level gaming laptop that can also be used for music production will be around $885/£650. For this price, you can expect an i5/Ryzen 5 processor, 256GB SSD, and around 8GB RAM, which will be enough for music production. I recommend always recommend buying higher specifications where possible, and getting a laptop with more storage if you intend to use it for both gaming and music production.
Do you need a GPU for music production?
You do not need a dedicated GPU for music production. A GPU is used to processes graphics, and will only be needed in music production to display the user interfaces of plugins within your DAW. These processes don’t require much power at all, so you can comfortably use the laptops integrated graphics.
Conor is a music producer, multi-instrumentalist, and all-round enthusiast from the UK with over 15 years of experience. He’s the founder and sole-content creator for the roundtable audio blog and YouTube channel. He wrote this in 3rd person!