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7 Top Budget Laptops For Music Production Under £500

budget laptop, music production

There has never been an easier or better time to set up that home music-studio you’ve dreamed of. And with some great music-tech products on the market, you can kit out your studio for a decent price. But with so many laptops on the market, it’s difficult to know what is good value. No-one wants to get their new piece of tech home, only to realise that its just not fit for purpose. And you are a busy person right? You don’t have time to trawl through product specs to find your match made in heaven. Allow us to assist you with our run-down of the best budget laptops for music production.

We will weigh the specs essential for great music production. Analysing ram, processors and processing speed, graphics, battery life, and so much more. But first, what are the keys that make a decent laptop for music production?

budget laptop music production
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Can you use any laptop for music production?

Like with any laptop, they have certain features that are great for some people, and some which others find totally useless. It all depends on what you want to use your laptop for. A basic office laptop for admin tasks will handle differently from one meant for higher-demand graphics and software based usage.

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Most music producers will attest that your chosen laptop will need a couple of features. Intel Core i5 or multicore AMD and a recommended minimum of 8GB memory (RAM). This is essentially to help your chosen production software work better. This is especially important when using multiple plugins with your software.

In short, your laptop needs to be able to multi-task fairly well.

Aside from the internal workings, the laptop has to be the right fit. The way the keys feel under your fingers, how the track pad operates, and how intuitive it is to use. These all make for a much smoother ride when making music. Everything needs to flow.

Read on below for a concise and definitive list of the best budget laptops for music production!

And all for a price that will be music to your ears.

budget laptop music production
Photo by Gabriel Barletta on Unsplash

 

7 Best Budget Laptops for Music Production

When you are thinking of getting a budget laptop with music production in mind, the best option is one that supports your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)—the powerhouse that sits at the intersection of all your music tech. You want it to run as smooth as silk, with little to no lag. This is why you need the very best hardware you can purchase. Lets delve into just what you can expect for your money.

Dell Inspiron 15 3000

The Dell laptop is known to be used by both professional producers to record on the fly in a make-shift studio, whilst also being a great starter for budding musicians. This generation of Dell Inspiron certainly has a great deal of desirable features of the best budget laptops for music production.

With an Intel Celeron Processor 4205U (giving faster memory bandwidth increasing responsiveness with memory-based tasks), and an Intel UHD Graphics 610 card, its operating speed is apt to be pretty decent amongst similarly priced laptops. It houses 4GB ram, plus 4GB DDR4 and 1TB hard drive storage. Similar to the HP Jaguar, the 7th generation Intel i5 core is a decent mid-range option with dual core processor. as discussed, it promotes faster operating speeds whilst using high-functioning software such as decent DAWs.

The screen resolution of 1366 x 768px is mid-range, and can be quite grainy when viewing high-spec video. It is suitable for running DAWs, however, just don’t expect to be able to watch 4K video on it! It also has a solid battery life, with the Li-ion battery giving you around 6-8 hours medium to heavy duty usage. If running a DAW with plenty of plugins expect to get around 6 hours per charge.

The Inspiron 15 3000 comes with one USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot and an HDMI port. So fairly decent on connectivity ratings with a generous amount of faster USB speed ports. Great for connecting gadgets and sample libraries.

Whilst the front facing speakers, mounted on the base of the device, are extremely basic and lacking in depth of audio output, there are plenty of others features that will encourage music production.

The standard keyboard is spill-resistant (but we wouldn’t suggest ever getting it wet!), but the keys can emit semi-loud clicking. The trackpad has multi-gesture controls, and seems fairly accurate overall. Another note on noise: the Inspiron’s cooling fan can get pretty loud when performing a multitude of tasks at once. This can get pretty annoying if you are recording at the same time.

Product Features

  • Intel Celeron 7th Generation i5 dual core processor 4205U
  • 6-8 hours battery life with mid to heavy use
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • 1TB hard drive

Lenovo ThinkPad X280

This is decent for the price. Its 15.6 inch screen size redeems its bulkier weight. And the 180 hinge on this model is great, allowing the screen to lay flat alongside the base.

Whilst many people have been baffled by this feature, it can prove useful. If space in your studio is at a premium this can pay dividends. Also when connecting to an external keyboard, this function saves space. It also heightens the level of your screen—great if you are prone to neck-ache! Or, if wanting to improve your posture whilst working long hours!

The screens LED display and R7 Graphics are one of the device’s poorest features. While colours are sharp, the resolution and overall quality of the image let it down. It is however very functional with static images, and will work well in conjunction with any DAW software. Especially given its 8GB of RAM as standard, and 256GB solid state drive (SSD), though for large amounts of data (i.e using a sample library etc.) you will want to use an external hard drive. The 2.7 GHz Quad-Core processor is pretty fast, allowing for the multi-tasking which is often desired in production.

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Although the front mounted speakers are fairly loud, the Lenovo has poor overall sound quality. It feels somewhat two-dimensional. Bluetooth capability is decent, however, so wireless headphones are perfect. Additionally, a headphone jack sits alongside the USB ports.

The ThinkPad features a decent set of ports on one side. One HDMI and two USB 3.0, also one speedy USB C port and SD card slot. It also has a CD drive, which is fairly uncommon these days but can prove useful. The overall quality of the product is good for the price point, though there have been some minor negative reports. The trackpad has issues with sensitivity, and the keyboard can feel rather loud and clunky to some.

If an item is posited as ‘decent for the price’, it can feel like damning with faint praise. But there are some decent features inside the sometimes clunky exterior. Ram and processor alone are supportive enough for a good value home setup, and little to no lag time. But some of the clunkier elements could throw it out of the running for one of the best budget laptops for music production.

Product Features

  • 8GB of RAM and 256GB solid state drive
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • 180 degree hinge
  • Large 15.6 inch screen

Asus VivoBook X541UA

With its dual core Intel Core i3 processor (6006U), 1TB Hard drive and 8GB of DDR4 RAM, the initial specs are pretty good. It’s great screen resolution and zero lag time means that it is often championed by videographers and photographers. At least if you are on a budget. This is what makes it a runner for best budget laptops For music production.

The laptops has a large 15. 6 inch HD screen, and is also LED backlit with an anti-glare coating. this gives users a device you can use pretty much anywhere, in most lighting. We’ve all fallen foul of those ultra-glassy screens in the past! It also has a Intel HD Graphics 620 graphics card, which is great for applications and plugins that use plenty of graphics.

This is one of the best products on the market under £500. The best thing about the VivoBook is the 3W SonicMaster audio speakers, with a 24cc sound chamber. In terms of best budget laptops For music production, this is pretty great! Front mounted under the screen, just above the keyboard, and a transition line dedicated to bring you rich bass and clearer vocals. Asus, it seems, have designed this line with audiophiles in mind. The whole system is designed to bring you a home audio set-up on the go. It wont blow you away, but it will be the better audio you will find coming from any budget laptop out there.

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The device is pretty decent in terms of connectivity, and comes with one USB 2.0, USB 3.0 a USB C port, and HDMI input. The battery life is fairly decent, with around 9 hours light usage running very few programs, and 5-6 medium usage using larger programs. Running a heavyweight DAW on this device, with other features, is likely to give around 3-4 hours battery life before recharging. Similar to the Acer and Lenovo though, this comes with a Li-ion battery, so you can charge it at any time without effect the overall life of the battery.

The whole device is sleek, at around 1.1 inch thin, but is a little on the heavier side of 2.2 kilos. Though with features as above, this is forgivable. It also has a brushed metallic finish, which gives it an expensive finish. There Are some drawbacks. Similar to many budget laptops the trackpad, whilst equipped with multi-gesture capability, is a little laggy. It is fairly large, allowing for greater range of movement, but can often need little adjustments with point and click.

Product Features

  • SonicMaster 3W speakers
  • One USB C port
  • LED backlit screen with anti-glare coating
  • 1TB Hard drive, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM

HP Jaguar 15-bs070wm

The HP Jaguar is a touchscreen laptop that operates like a more expensive product. Its Intel Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB RAM and 1TB hard drive sets you up for a decent ride off the bat. Great if you want to run many plugins on your DAW, and have a couple of items connected via USB too.

Like the VivoBook, this HP device carries an Intel HD 620 graphics card, great for those graphics-heavy plugins, and for playing 4k video! But, this guy also houses a 7th generation Intel Core i5-7200U dual-core processor. Its processing speed of 2.4GHz is slower than some but with little to no lag supported by the supreme additional features above.

The 15.6 inch screen is large enough for displaying multiple windows if needs be. All in all, a perfect multi-tasking tool, and great for when you are out and about. With a weight of around 2 kilos, it is in the same ballpark as most of these budget options. It also has a Li-ion battery, and a battery life of around 4-5 hours with regular use. Not the best on the market, but this is not a problem if you are planning to house it in your home studio! The keyboard also pretty is decent, with keys that are responsive and don’t echo when you type.

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The Jaguar features two USB 3.1 ports, one USB 2.0, and HDMI port, bluetooth for those wireless headphone. And of course the audio jack for emergencies.

A couple of caveats. The stereo speakers are about as good as you can expect on a laptop of this price, but it is the overall look and feel of the screen that lets it down a little. The display is 1366 x 768px, giving it a low-rent feel, and while touch-screen, it lacks the wow-factor we are used with other touch devices. It also lacks the IPS technology other laptops of this calibre have, which aids responsiveness amongst other things.

Product Features

  • Intel Core i5 7200U dual core processor
  • Two USB 3.1 ports
  • 1TB hard drive, and 8GB RAM
  • Intel HD 620 graphics card

ACER Aspire 5 A514-52

at 1.7 kilos, this is a fairly light laptop, even with its aluminium top! It boasts an 180 degree hinge, allowing you to lay the screen flat on the desktop. The 14-inch IPS screen operates at 65Hz. Not quite 75Hz, but the image is decent, with great contrast and vibrant colours. Speakers mount the bottom corners below the screen, and front facing in the base, and the quality is pretty decent. The Aspire also has bluetooth 5.0, so is perfect for using wireless headphones too. The trackpad is substantial and has a fingerprint reader in top right hand corner, for ease when logging in and out! Great feature if using to create music live or on the fly.

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With an Intel Core i3 dual core processor and speeds between 2.1 and 4.1GHz, the operation is fairly smooth. It also has an allcore boost activated around 3.9GHz, and a resting rate of 800MHz. This helps maintain the battery life for longer when not in use—great when you are out and about! Expect to get around 5 hours maximum with heavy use. Most laptops use a Lithium Ion (Li-ion) battery, which means you can recharge whenever you like without affecting overall battery health. The Acer is no exception!

The device has 4GB of internal storage, but also comes with a 256GB Kingston memory board, which again can be easily replaced. Great if you need to boost your internal storage, and without deleting files. This can be done by unscrewing the back of the device. Not overly easy, but not too difficult if you are into customising laptops!

With 4GB ram, it could fall foul of optimum speeds if you are running multiple applications. This is up for debate, however, and many musicians still operate on a 4GB ram hard drive with very few issues. Alas, the optimum of 8GB is still desirable to most, and if you can get this on another device for a similar cost, why wouldn’t you?

For connectivity, the Aspire is fully kitted out with one standard USB 2.0, but also one USB C ports. The latter is great for delivering greater data speed and power. The device is also equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, delivering faster speeds, and one HDMI port. A great addition to your home studio!

Acer devices tend to come with a lot of apps already installed, but these can be removed via factory reset to clean up the hard drive and allow for higher operating speeds. All in all, this is a very worthy adversary at a very reasonable price. Perfect for multi-tasking or running high-end DAW software with additional plugins.

Product Features

  • Intel Core i3 dual core processor
  • One USB C port
  • 256GB Kingston memory board (replaced easily for extra memory)
  • Allcore boost at 3.9GHz

Lenovo IdeaPad 320 15.6″ HD Notebook

A great feature of the IdeaPad is the matte screen display, allowing for use in a variety of light settings. Say goodbye to annoying glare! The AMD Radeon R7 graphics, which is traditionally a signal of better graphics for gamers, does achieve a decent range of movement onscreen. Having said that, the lack of LED backlighting that is present within the Asus VivoBook gives it an inferior overall look. Also the colour and angle display leaves a lot to be desired. It does come with 2.7GHz AMD A12 Quad-Core processor and 8GB RAM. This means operating multiple programs and decent DAWs with multiple plugins will be pretty smooth, which is ideal.

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The IdeaPad also comes with two USB 3.1, one USB C port, and an HDMI port. As with the Lenovo ThinkPad, it also comes with a CD drive. With faster USB ports, you are able to create greater connectivity and make better music with all your systems running in synchronicity. Whilst the screen may not be top of the class, zero lag time gives you all you need to make music seamlessly.

The speakers are fairly loud in terms of laptop spec, but are front mounted on the bottom of the laptop. the sound does lack a little depth, but with bluetooth and a headphone jack, you are covered with your higher-quality headphones.

One area that really lets this product down, however, is the battery life. While medium usage will give you around 3-4 hours, intense usage is likely to give you around 2 hours battery. If using in your home studio, this wont be problem, and the Li-ion battery as we know is the best for recharging anytime. As with the ThinkPad, it is a decent enough mid-range laptop for the price.

Product Features

  • AMD Radeon R7 graphics
  • AMD A12 Quad-Core processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • One USB C port

HP Pavilion 15-cw1004na 

The touchscreen with this device is a great feature. It allows you to make more intuitive adjustments on the screen. It can often feel a little more precise. The gloss finish on the screen can be a little frustrating however. The glare and smudgy fingerprints could drive you mad.

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Unlike some other standard laptops, it has a 130 degree screen angle, meaning the laptop keyboard sits at a slight sloping angle towards you. Its a nice touch, but not overly noticeable in truth.

With an 8GB DDR4 and a 256GB SSD, it handles larger programs well and should handle high-end DAWs with ease. The AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor is apt to bring you higher responsiveness and faster speeds than the Intel HD i5 processor, though the latter is admittedly better at handling multi-tasking and additional software plugins. The Pavillion’s AMD Radeon Vega 6 integrated graphics beats the Intel HD Graphics 620 card in terms of overall screen quality. In a nutshell, Vega technology is built for streaming large amounts of data with a high-bandwidth cache. Making the graphics sharper and optimising data speed.

In terms of battery life this product is middling, with around 5 hours life between charges with mid to high use. With fewer hours if running lots of software. If you are strapped for time, it does have a fast charge option, though this will only give you 50% within 45 minutes or so.

The audio quality is a little different here. With an audio interface made up of a set of triangle-pattern speakers set into the base of the laptop just above the keyboard, it actually holds its own. Overall quality is fairly rich. Just don’t expect much in the way of base tones. For general purposes and Netflix viewing, it will do the job. The headphone jack and bluetooth capability are there for all your quality audio needs. General connectivity is decent, with two USB 3.1, one USC C, and SD card slot and one HDMI port.

As with some of these best budget laptops for music production, the keyboard is a little clunky, and the trackpad can be a little lacking in sensitivity. Still, it has a multi-gesture feature which is useful, and is in line with many other laptops in the range. As with the Inspiron, the internal fan can be pretty loud even when on but not in use.

Product Features

  • AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor
  • AMD Radeon Vega 6 integrated graphics
  • 8GB DDR4, and 256GB SSD
  • One USB C port
best budget laptops For music production
Photo by garloon

 

Which are the best budget laptops for music production?

The results are in! When it comes to producing music, you need all your equipment to function right. You want your laptop to run in symbiosis with all your other tech. You want decent connectivity, high processing speeds and decent enough resolution that you can see precisely what you are doing.

That’s why one of the best budget laptops For music production is the HP Jaguar 15. Whilst it is lacking in the IPS technology, it more than makes up for it with Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive. Its touchscreen technology gives it an edge of versatility, and overall connectivity and battery life make for a decent all-rounder.

The Asus VivoBook gets an honourable mention. Not only does it carry the same amount of memory as the Jaguar, it also has anti-glare screen coating and superior SonicMaster 3W speakers. Sadly it was let down a little by the Intel Core i3 processor.

We hope you have found this review insightful. Let us know what you found the most useful! And remember, when searching for your next laptop for music production, its important first and foremost to get the best amount of memory you can, and a decent dual or multicore processor. This will help your DAW run smoothly, and aid the use of multiple plugins.

Happy shopping. And happy producing!

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