Laptop Vs Desktop For Music Production

Laptop vs desktop for music production has always been a hot topic of debate. Deciding between a desktop or a laptop can be difficult for music production. In this article, I am sharing with you considerations that you should make when deciding between a laptop or a desktop for music production.

Should You Buy A Laptop Or Desktop For Music Production

Both laptop and desktop have their advantages and disadvantages when used for music production. There is no right or wrong here. Whether you buy a laptop or a desktop, it should be powerful enough, reliable and suitable for your needs to produce music. The choice between a laptop or desktop for music production completely depends upon the needs and requirements of a music producer/artist.

desktop vs laptop for music production (infographic)

Things To Consider When Deciding Between A Laptop or Desktop For Music Production

There is no one clear winner when it comes to laptops or desktops for music production. It comes all down to individual needs and requirements. So here are a few more considerations to help you decide:

  1. What Is Your Long Term Goal?
    Consider your long term goals before investing. Studio vs Live Performance is one of the main considerations here. Vision your future as a music producer. If you are buying as a hobbyist, make sure you factor in other tasks that you will be performing with your laptop or desktop.
  2. Power over anything else
    Whatever you buy, think of it as an investment. Invest in a powerful machine. If you buy a laptop just for portability, but if it is not powerful enough to meet your music production needs, it will be a pretty useless machine.
  3. Spend Wisely
    Consider your other studio equipment requirement like audio interface, microphones, monitors etc. before spending. You need to plan your budget before investing.

To decide between a laptop and desktop, try to answer the following questions:

Do you perform live or plan to perform live music with your computer?

If you are a performing DJ/Artist and a music producer, you probably are going to need a laptop. You will require a powerful and reliable laptop that can be used in live gigs. Going with a MacBook Pro is your best bet as a performing producer/artist.

Do you have any studio setup where you sit and produce?

If you have a home studio or any small studio where you prefer to work and produce, you can opt for either a laptop or a desktop. The machine you buy should powerful, silent and fulfil your need and purpose in your studio.

Are you on a limited budget?

Just like video editing, music production is a CPU resource-hungry task. To produce music efficiently without glitches, you will need a powerful machine with ample CPU power, RAM, fast Storage devices and low noise. Getting powerful laptops can be expensive. Can you afford all the power on a laptop? If so, buy a laptop. If you cannot, build a desktop.

If you are on a budget, building a desktop will be your best choice for music production. You will be able to build a powerful desktop for half the price of a powerful laptop. Desktops are also easy to upgrade and configure according to your exact studio needs.

Do you prefer portability and freedom to write and compose, or do you prefer a workplace where you can sit and compose every day?

If you are among the few who can compose anywhere from cafés to aeroplanes, buy a laptop. Most beginner music producers feel that they will write and compose music all the time, but that rarely is the case. People who have practised enough in their studio are only able to produce consistently outside the studio.

For producers like me, to produce, I need to be in my studio. I have my desktop, which I use every day to write and produce. I rarely ever try to produce any music outside my studio. If I am ever making music outside my studio, all I am doing is writing. For that, a pen and paper are my best friend. If you are like me, a desktop will be your go-to choice.

Why not get both Desktop and Laptop?

As you grow as a music producer. You will soon realize that having both a laptop and a powerful desktop is the need. Most professional music producers and artists have both a desktop and a laptop. But it costs money to get both. This will only be feasible if you are a professional music producer or artist.

Laptop vs Desktop: Which One Is Better For Music Production?

Here is a head-to-head comparison of laptop and desktop for music production and recording needs: -

Laptop Vs Desktop — Comparison Category

Category Winner

Processing Power Draw
Storage Space Desktop
Live Performance And Portability Laptop
Upgradability Desktop
Silent Operation Desktop
Reliability Draw
Budget-Friendly Desktop
Life Span Desktop
Aesthetic Laptop
Hardware Connectivity Desktop
User Continuity Laptop
Additional Cost Draw

 

Processing Power

Both Laptop and Desktop do exceptionally well when it comes to processing power. Getting powerful laptops will cost you a lot more than building them on a desktop. But with the recent growth of modular laptops, one can also opt to build their laptop, checkout framework laptops.

In Mac, you get Intel Core i processors and M1 Processors. Both are powerful processors for music production use. In Windows, you can opt for Inter Core i processors or AMD Ryzen processors. Both Intel and AMD Processors will do a great job.

This category is a draw. Both laptops and desktops offer powerful machines for music production and recording.

Storage Space

Desktops offer more storage space and storage upgrade options at an affordable price. You can add several SSD, HDD and still have more slots for adding storage in future.

Most laptops on the other hand offer integrated storage that cannot be upgraded.

You can easily add more storage to a desktop than a laptop.

Desktops are a clear winner in this category.

Live Performance, Compact and Portability

If you perform live, a laptop is a way to go. You can opt for tablets as well, but they are still limited in capability when producing music.

Desktops are bulky, require space and are not portable at all.

Make sure you have a reliable and powerful machine if you perform live. You do not want a machine that might get bugs or run out of CPU power during a live performance. Powerful MacBook Pros are your best bet as a live performer.

Laptops are a clear winner.

Upgradability

All Desktops offer you the flexibility to upgrade your components with time. This makes desktops affordable as well. You can add remove storage, peripherals according to your needs.

Most laptops on the other hand offer no or very limited upgrade options. You can buy modular framework laptops and get the advantage of upgradability, yet there is so much more you can do with a desktop.

Desktops are still winning in this category for music production.

Silent Operation

You require your machine to be silent when recording with sensitive microphones. No one likes a machine hiss and fan noise in their recordings.

Desktops can be made quiet and silent for studio purposes. You can use silent cabinets along with liquid cooling to make your machine silent even when performing resources intensive tasks.

On the other hand, when combating resource-intensive tasks, most laptops tend to heat up, which leads to high RPM fans and noise.

Desktops are winning in silent operation capability.

Reliability

Both Desktops and Laptops can be reliable. Reliability completely depends upon the build, make, and manufacturer.

This category is a draw.

Budget-Friendly

Desktop is a clear winner. Powerful Desktop builds are pocket friendly when compared to laptops. Desktops also offer upgradability, more peripherals and ports, which also saves cost.

Life Span

Desktops last longer than laptops. Desktops can also be upgraded easily. This gives desktops a much longer life span than laptops.

Aesthetic

Laptops are compact, easy to set up and use. They are built to be more portable and aesthetic.

Desktops on the other hand require a lot of wires, additional hardware like monitors, mice, keyboards to be functional.

The laptop is a clear winner in this category.

Hardware Connectivity

Another area where desktops excel is hardware connectivity. You can connect all sorts of hardware from MIDI devices to External Monitors without the need for any additional connectors.

Most laptops have limited peripherals and ports. They require additional connectors, which also adds up to cost.

Desktop is a clear winner.

User Continuity

The laptop offers a great ecosystem and user continuity. you can take them along with you to any place and continue what you were working on.

Desktops require you to be in your workplace to work.

Laptops are a clear winner.

Additional Cost

You will need a lot more hardware to get started with a desktop but still, most desktops will end up costing less than a powerful laptop.

On the other hand, laptops are ready to go straight out of the box. Yer at times for music production, you will need to spend on additional connectors like HDMI ports, USB ports etc.

This category is a draw as both laptops and desktops require additional overhead costs.

Pros And Cons Of Using Laptops For Music Production

Pros of Using Laptops For Music Production

  • Live Performance and Portability: Laptops are lightweight, compact and ready to use straight out of the box. Laptops are easy to carry around and produce from anywhere. You can use laptops for performing live music.
  • Ease Of Use: Laptops come with everything you need from the keyboard, mouse, camera, microphone, speakers, graphic cards, etc. You can start producing music with a laptop without the need for much technical knowledge required for setup and getting started.
  • Compact and Aesthetic: laptops are compact and aesthetically built. Laptops occupy less space. This means your music production desk or table will have more real estate for other studio equipment. There are fewer chords, so less hassle.
  • Works On Battery: Laptops can operate easily on a battery. You can work without power for hours.

Cons Of Using Laptop For Music Production

  • Costly: Powerful laptops are costly to get started with when compared to desktops.
  • Not Upgradable: Most laptops offer integrated hardware like ram and storage that cannot be upgraded. You will need to buy a new laptop with technology change.
  • Makes Noise: Most laptops will get noisy for a recording studio standard.
  • Not Durable: Laptops have moving components like scree. This makes them less durable than desktops.

Pros And Cons Of Using Desktops For Music Production

Pros of Using Desktops For Music Production

  • Budget-Friendly: - Building a powerful desktop on a budget is an easy and affordable solution for music production
  • Low Noise: - You can add silent cabinets and liquid cooling to desktops and build desktops that will have very low noise, making them ideal for recording situations
  • Upgradable: -All components of a laptop can be upgraded. You need not start with a new build every time technology advances. You can also upgrade and add components as your studio grows.
  • Long Life Span: - Desktops lasts for a longer period when compared to laptops.
  • Hardware Connectivity: - You can add a lot more peripherals and ports to connect with a laptop.

Cons Of Using Desktops For Music Production

  • Bulkier: - Desktops require a lot more space for real estate in your studio than a laptop.
  • Additional Hardware: - You will need to add additional monitors, a keyboard and a mouse to get started
  • Technical Knowledge: - Getting started with a desktop will require you to build it and set it up or get some technical assistance.
  • Power Source: - Desktops require a power source to operate. They can operate on a UPS battery for a few minutes only.

I hope this article helped you conclude. For most of us, a desktop is an ideal choice to start with. Still take into account all your factors as a music producer and make your own choice. As Brittany Murphy Said:

Life presents you with so many decisions. A lot of times, they’re right in front of your face, and they’re really difficult, but we must make them.” ~Brittany Murphy

In the next article, learn How much RAM does your machine need for Music Production.


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Udeeksh Sood on

Udeeksh is an Audio Engineer and Co-Founder of learnmusicproduction.in. He loves to produce music, research music gear, play guitar, go on treks and road trips.