Best budget laptops for music production 2024: cheap laptops for home recording and mobile music makers

Lady records guitar and keyboard into her budget laptop
(Image credit: Getty/Cavan Images)

Recording music on a laptop has never been easier. There is all manner of software enabling you to do everything from replicating a guitar amp through to full multi-track sessions with total creative control over recording, mixing and mastering. These days, even the best budget laptops for music production possess enough in the way of performance to get you going without having to hand over huge wads of cash.

Laptops have come on in leaps and bounds since the days of heavy machines that were light on processor power. You can now make complete tunes on the train or bus with machines that not only cost less than the laptops of yesteryear, but also weigh less, are much more powerful and have longer battery lives. We've included all of the specs you need with each machine in this buyer’s guide so you can see how each machine compares. These figures include the computer's memory size, hard drive and SSD storage, processor speed and connectivity. You’ll want to look out for USB connectivity in particular, for music making.

If you want to know what you need to consider when buying a cheap music laptop, head down to our buying advice section near the bottom of this article. 

A quick note on our selection. These are all current models and there are no Mac laptops included as they are more expensive machines - often worth it, but you wouldn't consider them a budget option. Nor have we included iPads or other tablets (bar the type in a 2-in-1 laptop) as they live in separate buyer's guides.

Best budget laptops for music production: Our top picks

Acer makes some fantastic laptops at very decent prices. The Acer Aspire has been our top budget laptop choice for a while now and still doesn't disappoint. As with other brands, there are a few models in the Aspire range so we've presented the range of specs you can choose from, although of course, the bigger the spec you choose, the higher the price. 

The ASUS VivoBook Flip is another solid recommendation. It does cost that little bit more but delivers a lovely 2-in-1 touchscreen experience. Samsung steals the budget crown, though, with its Chromebook 4+. This is a great laptop that will get you making music for just $/£300 (the base model anyway).

Best budget laptops for music production: Product guide

Best budget laptops for music production: Acer Aspire 5 A515

(Image credit: Acer)

1. Acer Aspire 5 A515

The best budget laptop for most producers

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i3 to i5
RAM: 4GB to 16GB
Storage: 128GB to 512GB SSD
OS: Windows
Screen: 15.6” Full HD
Connectivity: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB-C

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of power
+
USB-C

Reasons to avoid

-
Base processor speed isn’t earth-shatteringly quick

Taking into account the holy trinity of music production laptop specs – CPU, RAM and storage – the Acer Aspire 5 is a great choice for the vast majority of people on a budget. The Intel i5 processor will chug along nicely, while 8GB of RAM means you can be reasonably expansive with your arrangements.

Adding in a USB-C port means you can take advantage of faster data transfer speeds, although its 512GB SSD is a real bonus at this price point. You’ll struggle to find a better Windows machine for under $500/£500.

Best budget laptops for music production: Asus VivoBook 15 X512DA

(Image credit: Asus)

2. ASUS VivoBook Flip

The best budget 2-in-1 laptop with everything you need

Specifications

CPU: Ryzen 5-5500U
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB-512GB SSD
OS: Windows 11
Screen: 14” Full HD Touchscreen
Connectivity: microSD card reader, Audio I/O jack, USB-C, USB 2, HDMI

Reasons to buy

+
Looks amazing
+
Great value package
+
Decent processor

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen collects fingerprints

ASUS has plenty to offer in the mid-range market, but we’ve opted for the ASUS VivoBook Flip. While it might look a bit gimmicky, essentially what we’ve got is a nicely specced convertible laptop/tablet, which runs full Windows 11 and has a decent baseline spec for music production. 

Using a touchscreen to control a DAW like Ableton does come with its benefits - and occasional drawbacks - but for the budget-conscious producer who likes to leave the studio every now and again this is a solid, versatile entry-level option.

Best budget laptop for music production: HP Victus 15

(Image credit: HP)

3. HP Victus 15

The best gaming-spec laptop for musicians

Specifications

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-12700H or AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4 3200 MHz
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
Display: 15.6" FHD 1920x1080, up to 300 nit and 144Hz refresh

Reasons to buy

+
Great performance with settings tweaks
+
Great price

Reasons to avoid

-
OK design
-
Not the greatest battery life

We're throwing a bit of a curveball in now with the Victus 15 range. They aren't so much music laptops but designed by HP as budget gaming machines. Games require a lot of grunt, though, as does music, so you are getting a lot of power packed in here which will come in handy for your music number crunching. 

There are quite a few machines in the Victus range though, and with varying specs. Make sure you get one kitted out with the all-important extra ports for music making, but otherwise you won't get this much power for your dollar in many other laptops. 

Best budget laptops for music production: Samsung 4+ Chromebook

(Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Chromebook 4+

The best budget music laptop under $300/£300

Specifications

CPU: Intel Celeron
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 32GB eMMC Flash
OS: Chrome
Screen: 15.6” Full HD
Connectivity: 1 x USB 3.0

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Limitations inherent to Chrome OS

Bit of a curveball, this one. 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 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. On the Play Store there is a slimmed-down version of FL Studio which works a treat, 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, but for anyone content to play around with loops and virtual instruments it’s definitely worth investigation.

Best budget laptops for music production: HP Pavilion x360

(Image credit: HP)

5. HP Pavilion x360

The best for portability and versatility

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i3
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB SSD
OS: Windows 11
Screen: 14” Full HD touchscreen
Connectivity: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB-C

Reasons to buy

+
Good I/O options
+
Compact

Reasons to avoid

-
We’d prefer a better CPU over the touchscreen

As one of the bigger names in computing, it’s reasonable to expect HP would have a decent offer in the low-to-mid range. The HP Pavilion x360 fits the bill, serving up a nice set of base specs which would suit anyone learning their craft. The non-music headline comes in the shape of the touchscreen; fold the Pavilion back on itself and it becomes a tablet device. 

Realistically, other than as a party piece, the touchscreen doesn’t immediately jump out as being useful to a producer – your mileage may vary – but if the device is going to serve other purposes than music creation then the Pavilion x360 is a sound choice.

Best budget laptops for music production: Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Acer)

6. Acer Swift 3

The best for processing power

Specifications

CPU: up to Intel Core i7-1165G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS – 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080)
Storage: 512GB HDD

Reasons to buy

+
Superb keyboard and trackpad
+
Excellent performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks a little plain

Our sister website TechRadar describes this as 'the best budget laptop in the world'. And while we have chosen the Acer Aspire 5 A515 for the top spot over this one, the Swift 3 does still deliver a lot for your cash. You get a great set of specs including one of the best processors in this round-up, plus decent memory and storage.

The Swift 3 has an aluminium and magnesium-aluminium alloy case, and is not the most exciting colour. But there are some other under-the-hood upgrades, including a boost in battery life.

If you're after a dependable laptop that can handle day-to-day tasks (without feeling too cheap), then the Acer Swift 3 really does measure up as one of the best cheap laptops you can buy.

Best budget laptops for music production: Dell Inspiron 15

(Image credit: Dell)

7. Dell Inspiron 15

This budget laptop is the first port of call for many bedroom studios

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i3 to i5
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 1TB HDD and 128GB SSD
OS: Windows 11
Screen: 15.6” Full HD touchscreen
Connectivity: 1 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0

Reasons to buy

+
Two types of storage
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
No USB-C
-
Limited CPU

The Dell Inspiron range has been the first laptop many bedroom producers use to start them on their recording journey. Packing in some respectable spec, and the peace of mind that comes from using a trusted brand like Dell, the Inspiron range is definitely worth a look. 

The model we’ve opted for features 8GB of RAM, which can be upgraded in the future quite easily, and a dual storage method that provides 1TB of HDD storage with 128GB of solid-state offering the best of both worlds. We’d have liked a USB-C port, as that’s the way the world’s going, and the Intel i3 isn’t what you’d call a powerhouse, but you can’t go far wrong with the Inspiron.

Best budget laptops for music production: Buying advice

Man records his red guitar with a budget laptop

(Image credit: Getty/Jose Luque/EyeEm)

What should I look for in a budget music laptop?

Laptops used with music production in mind tend to focus on three key features; CPU, RAM and storage. Where gamers or video editors prioritise graphical and visual elements, for audio we need only focus on how fast the laptop processes things (CPU), its short-term memory (RAM) and its ability to access data quickly (storage):

The CPU is what powers the laptop as it processes commands. In music terms, this dictates how many virtual instruments you can run at the same time, or how many effects you can add, or how quickly you can export your finished tracks. Intel and AMD have the monopoly here, and you get what you pay for. For audio and music production we would recommend looking at Intel’s i5 line, or AMD’s Ryzen 5 line, although the lower-end CPUs will suffice if budget is a sticking point – you might just be staring at progress bars a bit longer.

RAM is a bit more straightforward. It dictates how large the arrangements you can create are, and how many audio files you can work with at a given time. A laptop with 4GB of RAM will technically allow you to open music production apps like Garageband or Ableton Live and create short, basic arrangements, but you’ll quickly run into a wall where the laptop can’t cope with what you’re asking it to do. Look for a minimum of 8GB here.

Storage will come down to one of two options; HDD or SSD. Hard-disk drives are cheaper and can hold large volumes of data, but are typically slower which means streaming sample libraries isn’t ideal. SSDs, on the other hand, are lightning quick but do cost more.

The one other essential non-laptop component for music production is a USB audio interface; this effectively outsources the laptop’s sound card and allows you to record electric guitars, microphones and other instruments into the computer, as well as hooking up a pair of studio monitors or studio headphones to listen back to your work.

What are the non-essentials?

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If you’re buying a laptop for general use, with a bit of music production thrown in occasionally, then you will likely have other factors to consider. The size and resolution of the screen, for example, or the battery life. These are all worthy considerations and shouldn’t be discounted, but bear in mind that the more non-negotiable things you have on your wishlist, the higher the cost will be. If the laptop is being bought with music production, and only music production, in mind then you should keep your focus on performance over aesthetics. 

Many Windows-based laptops come stuffed with non-essential software and apps – known as ‘bloatware’ – which you’ll want to discard. And, while it might sound strange in an article about music production to tell you to ignore the laptop’s speakers, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. For watching YouTube videos or holding video calls, laptop speakers are fine but for audio and music production they’re not going to give you the results you want (whatever you spend). So, while it might sound appealing to have B&O or Beats speakers in your laptop, in reality they aren’t going to have much of an effect on your music production so don’t make them a deal-breaker.

Person records a keyboard into a laptop

(Image credit: Getty/Manuel Breva Colmeiro)

What are the ‘nice-to-haves’?

As your recording career progresses, you may find you want to add to your studio with extra gear like MIDI keyboards, home studio mixers, drum machines and more. Most kit these days connect to your computer via USB, so you’ll want to ensure you have a decent number of USB ports. Increasingly brands are looking to incorporate USB-C into their gear so look out for these ports where possible too. This is also useful when using an external hard drive for music production, where the combination of USB-C and an external solid-state drive (SSD) makes light work of large audio or sample files. 

Another ‘nice-to-have’ element is the option to upgrade components in the laptop yourself in the future. This won’t be possible on every laptop, but having the ability to chuck in a couple of extra sticks of RAM can have a significant impact on overall performance.

Start small, start clever

Realistically, not everyone can afford the latest M1 Apple MacBook Pro or Dell XPS. Hence, we all have to sometimes make compromises in what we want versus what we can afford. It would be great to have a touch-enabled 4K screen, all-day battery life, plenty of horsepower, and all those other headline features. But we have to cut our cloth accordingly, right?

That’s not to say music production can’t be done on a budget laptop. It absolutely can, as we’ll outline in our recommendations in this guide, but just be aware that certain concessions may have to be made. Start small, before working your way up. This way, when you reach the skill level where you are making 72 track arrangements featuring a symphony orchestra, you’ll know the equipment inside out and have a handle on what’s really important from a music production laptop. 

Conclusion

Put simply, a decent budget laptop for home recording will focus on power, performance and speed above anything else. If you can park those desires for shiny features and other pointless-but-quite-cool elements, you should end up with a machine that will serve you well as you take your first steps into music production.

How we test budget laptops for music production

The criteria for testing a budget laptop for music production differs slightly to how we’d test higher-spec machines. At the entry-level end of the spectrum, small tweaks to a laptop’s internal spec can have a huge impact on its ability to perform. Rather than becoming a jack of all production trades, budget laptops tend to be better chosen when they have an end goal in sight. 

For example, if your setup involves using lots of loops and samples, then the speed at which the laptop can grab them from your external storage will be paramount. For users with lots of MIDI tracks in their compositions, CPU is king. Using any DAW, we are quickly able to build template sessions which test a variety of real world situations, and from there can assess the suitability of a machine for a particular user group. 

With it being a laptop, there are other factors which may come into a buying decision, so we look at these too. Things like battery life, and screen viewing angles or brightness levels, are all easy to test so we take those into consideration when making our recommendations.

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World, Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar and bass gear, to synths, microphones, DJ gear and music production hardware.

With contributions from