If you’re looking for the best DJ laptop, you’re in the right place with our expert guide. Laptop DJing setups can come in a variety of different formats, depending on which piece of DJ software you intend to use and which of the vast multitude of DJ controllers you intend to pair with it. But whether you opt for Serato, Traktor, Virtual DJ, rekordbox, Ableton or any other solution, there’s one constant – the laptop.
No matter what kind of setup appeals to you, you’ll need a computer to run your DJ software and host your music. While setups themselves can vary wildly, the requirements for a good laptop for DJing are pretty consistent across the board.
Eagle-eyed readers might notice a fair amount of crossover between our list of the best laptops for DJing and our guide to the best laptops for music production. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the qualities that producers look for in a machine aren’t all that removed from those found in DJ laptops. In fact, you may well be in the market for a single machine that can handle both roles, and many of those listed in this guide will happily do so.
There are some key differences though, in terms of what to prioritise when looking for a DJ laptop compared to one for studio use. We’ll dig into all that in detail in our buying advice below. But first, here are our very top picks among this year’s best DJ laptops…
Best DJ laptop: MusicRadar’s Choice
For their stability and simplicity we like Macs for DJing, and the 13-inch MacBook Air is our pick of the current line-up. The impressively powerful new M1 chips are more than up-to the job of running your favourite DJ software without breaking much of a sweat. For those spending time on the road or hanging out in green rooms, the Air benefits from being more lightweight than its Pro counterparts. Plus, it’s several hundred $/£ cheaper.
The Mac vs PC debate certainly isn’t clear cut though. Macs are lacking when it comes to connectivity ports. They’re also mostly pricier than equivalent PCs. Ultimately whether you go Mac or PC for DJing will come down to personal taste as much as anything else.
If you do opt for the latter route, Acer’s Swift 3s are lightweight, convenient and offer DJ-level specs at a good price. Alternatively, Dell’s latest XPS 13 is a well-priced MacBook Pro alternative that will see you right whether in the DJ booth or studio.
Best DJ laptop: Product guide
When it comes to a balance of power, reliability and portability, Apple’s latest generation MacBook Air hits the sweet spot for DJ use. While not quite as powerful as the more expensive MacBook Pro models, the base level of 8GB RAM and new M1 chip – with 8‑core CPU, 7‑core GPU and 16‑core Neural Engine – is more than up-to the job of running any major DJ app.
Several major DJ applications already run natively on the M1 chip, including Serato Pro and rekordbox DJ, and those that aren’t yet updated can make use of Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation tool. We’ve used a variety of music-making tools in both formats and found things generally seamless and stable in both situations.
For touring DJs and musicians, the best selling point of the MacBook Air is its slim profile and light weight. The battery life – up to 18hrs – is impressive too, which is handy for travelling DJs spending a lot of time in airports, on trains or hanging out backstage.
The MacBook Air’s most significant downside is its lack of ports, as it comes with just two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, one of which is needed for power. If you plan on using a single controller with a built-in interface this shouldn’t be a problem, although you may need to source a USB 4 cable if your DJ controller doesn’t include one in the box. More complex setups might require an additional hub/adapter.
The base level Air is a little lacking in storage too, starting at just 256GB. We’d highly recommend investing in an expanded SSD, which can be upgraded up-to 2TB, as the lack of ports can make external storage a hassle. If you’re looking for the best DJ laptop and at a reasonable price too, the MacBook Air is it.
Read the full Apple M1 MacBook Air review
Acer’s ‘budget ultrabook’ is often referenced as a windows alternative to the MacBook Air, which we’d say is a fair comparison – at least to the pre-M1 models. As with Apple’s slim machines, these are lightweight and highly portable laptops that pack some surprisingly powerful specs under the hood.
The main point of difference lies in the price point – the Swift 3 comes in a variety of configurations with 11th gen Intel i3, i5 and i7 chips, between 8GB and 16GB of RAM and upwards of 256GB SSD space. Whatever you think is the best option for you, you’re getting more for your money than with Apple’s counterpart. The inclusion of a varied mix of ports – USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, USB 3, HDMI – is a major plus too.
There are areas where this isn’t as slick as an Apple machine, notably in the display and onboard sound, but neither of these are factors likely to hinder you in the DJ booth.
Dell’s XPS range has been highly regarded by creatives of all kinds for years now, and with good reason. This windows laptop boasts specs that can rival the pre-M1 MacBook Pro, albeit at a more affordable price, making it the best DJ laptop for the money.
As with its Mac rivals, there’s more than enough power here for DJing purposes – with an 11th Generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB RAM. In fact the XPS is a great choice for production duties too.
It does suffer from some of the same downsides as the MacBooks though, including a shortage of ports. There’s just two Thunderbolt/USB C ports, which means you may need an adapter to use more than one piece of external gear at a time. The addition of a Micro SD card port does add an extra option for external storage though.
The latest generation MacBook Pro uses Apple’s new M1 Pro or M1 Max chips (depending on how you spec up the machine when purchasing). These offer a notable step up in power compared to the Air, above.
In all honesty, this is more power than you need purely for DJ purposes, and you certainly pay for it, with prices starting at $2,000/£1,900. However, if you want the best machine to cover all of your DJ and production duties, or handle complex visuals to accompany your set, this might be the way to go.
There are other benefits to these new MacBook Pros too, such as an increased number of ports – there are three Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, plus separate HDMI and SDXC card ports. What’s more, even the base model ups the SSD storage to 512GB and can be expanded all the way up to a whopping 8TB.
While the Pro is noticeably bigger and heavier than the MacBook Air, at 3.5 pounds/1.6 kg it still won’t break your back between gigs.
Read the full Apple M1 MacBook Pro 14" review
Asus’s VivoBook laptops are generally pitched at home use rather than creative, but these Windows 10 machines provide plenty of power for straightforward DJing purposes.
There are other reasons to recommend them as a basic laptop for DJing too, primarily their ultra-slim but sturdy build, which is great for touring. There are plenty of ports for connecting controllers or external storage too.
Lack of dedicated graphics means these machines would struggle with visuals, and aren’t great for more advanced creative tasks or gaming. The base level RAM and SSD storage can be upgraded though, to 16GB and 1TB respectively, while still keeping the price down in the reasonable mid-range level.
We’re yet to be convinced by the idea of using one of Microsoft’s 2-in-1 Surface devices for DJing purposes, but the brand’s pure laptop counterpart makes for a solid mid-priced option.
These machines come in a variety of configurations with Intel or AMD chips and at least 8GB of RAM, meaning whatever you go for you should be able to comfortably run all major DJ software. The main thing to look out for is storage space – the cheapest models have just a 128GB SSD, which is likely to get full of music fairly rapidly.
Microsoft devices have a great build quality, stylish design and come in at a pleasingly light weight. I/O isn’t the most extensive that you’ll find, but there are both USB-C and USB-A ports here, plus a separate Surface Connect port. Oh, and it’s touchscreen too, which is far from an essential feature for DJs yet still nice to have.
Razer are best known for their gaming laptops, which tend to boast powerful specs and often feature eye-catching RGB lights. The Blade 15 Studio Edition is a slightly classier-looking laptop aimed at crossing over into the creative market.
These Windows machines come in a variety of configurations, but they’re powerful across the board, with 11th gen Intel i5 or i7 chips and at least 16GB of RAM. Even the most basic iteration has a 1TB SSD onboard, plus graphics capabilities that outstrip most machines in this round-up.
There’s certainly more here than most standard DJs need – and you certainly pay for that power. However, if you’re after a PC laptop that can handle the DJ booth, studio and also some serious gaming in the green room, then this is the best DJ laptop for you.
Samsung’s Galaxy Books combine a lightweight design with a decent level of power and some Apple-like flourishes, such as Dolby Atmos capabilities and fingerprint scanners (although neither of those will exactly come in handy in the DJ booth). They integrate nicely with other Samsung gear too, which is a bonus if you already own a Samsung phone.
There’s a decent mix of ports here: Thunderbolt 4, UBS-C and USB-3. In-built storage ranges from 256GB to 512GB depending on the configuration, but can be expanded via a microSD slot, which is a nice feature.
Price wise, these machines go directly up against or, in some cases, come in more expensive than their Apple counterparts, which sit at the top of our best DJ laptops guide.
Best DJ laptop: Buying advice
What to look for in the best DJ laptop?
So, what makes a good laptop for DJing? Digital DJ setups can vary wildly, depending on the software and style of controller used. Fortunately, the laptop requirements for any DJ setup remain fairly straightforward in most cases.
We’re making a few broad assumptions in this round-up. Firstly we’re basing spec needs on those required for the three most popular DJ software applications – Serato DJ Pro, Traktor Pro and rekordbox DJ. If you intend to use a different application, it’s worth looking up the system requirements before buying, but in general the demands of most DJ applications are at roughly similar levels.
Most of these applications ask for a minimum of 4GB. However, when you’re in the booth and playing to a crowd, reliability and stability are key, so we’d recommend not risking playing out with anything below 8GB. That said, DJ software on the whole isn’t as demanding on the CPU as a complex music production setup involving numerous plugins, so you can certainly get away with a little less power if you’re not also planning on using your machine in the studio.
The portability factor
If you’re using your DJ laptop away from a home setup – regularly travelling to bars, clubs or festivals – then portability becomes a significant factor. Battery life may play a role here too, particularly if you’re likely to spend time in transit preparing for your next set, or simply streaming videos or music to keep yourself entertained on the road.
Storage and connectivity considerations
The other major considerations when choosing the best DJ laptop for you are storage and connectivity. While streaming is becoming slightly more common within DJ software, realistically if you’re serious about DJing you’ll likely end up with a hard drive full of downloaded tracks – in larger, higher quality file formats – so a decent sized SSD is a must.
If built in storage is lacking, you can overcome this through USB or SD card ports for external storage. Bear in mind though that you’ll need at least one port to connect a DJ controller or interface. It’s worth planning your setup in advance and making sure your chosen machine has the space and connectivity to cover it.