I have been working with computers and audio for almost ten years now. For the past 3, I have been studying computer science full time. During this time, I have come to understand the requirements for an enjoyable and productive computing experience. Unfortunately, the computers I have used have been at times, geared towards the wrong capabilities which make it hard to run larger DJing platforms that demand a lot of memory. Fortunately, I have learned from my experience and thus, you won’t make the same mistakes that I did.
There are many requirements for a solid audio workstation. However, there are some specifications that are more necessary than others in an attempt to optimize your audio experience. In order to better understand each specification, I will go over them and explain the significance from an audio standpoint.
Knowing Your Audio Tools
The first aspect of acquiring the best laptop for DJing will be choosing your software. There are many programs that provide a great DJing experience, here are some of the best known:
Every piece of software maintains different hardware requirements. At the same you shouldn’t look into them seriously. For example, Serato needs 4 GB of RAM which can be found in $300 laptops and trust me, I wouldn’t want to perform with only 4 GB in my PC. Also, some requirements can range widely on your own budget and preferences. The best method of choosing the correct laptop is to have a lot of hard drive space (for your music and software), have at least double the RAM requirements of your chosen software, and ensure you have a processor that can keep up with the program.
What Is Crucial And Why?
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish with a computer, if the processor cannot handle the programs or tasks you utilize, you will need to acquire a new machine. The best DJ laptop will come with a state-of-the-art processor because new DJing software is becoming more and more taxing on computers as they acquire new capabilities. Think about it this way, your computer must handle the processing on the computer, the songs you are using, the transitions, any third party hardware, and any other applications you may have on your computer at the same time. Without a modern processor, it will be tough to run all of this, let alone modern operating systems.
As a reference, you will want at least an Intel Core i5 processor for any audio production. And I wouldn’t even recommend all of the Core i5 chips. You should look for i5 HQ CPU (i5-7300HQ) or any Core i7 processor. An i7 processor will come in two forms, H-series or U-series. The U-series processors are better suited for working on the road – they have a much better battery life to performance ratio. Alternatively, the i7 H-series CPUs are more powerful thus if you want maximum performance you should opt for the i7-6700HQ, i7-7700HQ or even i7-7820HK. Lastly, if you have an unlimited budget, you might look at Intel Xeon CPUs, however, they are quite rare and they are generally not found under $2000.
Recommended processors: Intel Core i5-6300HQ, i5-7300HQ, i7-6500U, i7-7500U, i7-7700HQ (+some in-between models)
Random Access Memory
As you open more programs on your computer, the RAM acts as the “holder” of each program. If you move from your web browser to the DJing software, your web browser contents will still be available due to the RAM. In an audio application, it is likely that you will have multiple instances of audio signal processing, multiple audio files, and the DJing software itself.
Based on this, you will need several gigabytes of RAM in order to keep everything running smoothly, around 16 GB. You can opt for higher amounts of memory, however, do not go any lower if you can afford it. If you want to ensure this computer will last you many years, opt for 32GB to 64GB in RAM. It will cost you an extra $1000-$3000, however, at this point you are paying several thousands of dollars for a machine, why not ensure its longevity?
Under any circumstance, do not go below 8 GB RAM. 16 GB is recommended and it is the standard starting at ~$900 line. 32 GB can be found once in a while starting at $1,350, though it is not necessary.
Every audio professional understands the importance of storage space. It seems that even the largest storage devices become filled up within a few months of use, making storage another central decision when considering the best laptop for DJing. As a DJ, it is likely that you will not only learn about the intricacies of DJing, you may want to experiment with creating your own music. If that sounds intriguing, you will want to buy a laptop with an extensive amount of space for your DJing applications, your music, samples and any VST plugins.
Storage comes in 2 types: SSD or HDD. SSDs are much faster than HDDs, in fact, adding an SSD to an older laptop will increase its speed drastically. An SSD is much faster (but also more expensive) than an HDD hard drive. This will not only improve the speed of your day-to-day tasks, it will improve the speed of your audio needs. Many audio programs like Serato and Pro Tools take longer than most applications to initialize. When you use an SSD, the initialization time will be much faster. Alternatively, an HDD is a great alternative if you need large amounts of space.
In general, 500GB is sufficient for most users. However, in audio it is generally good practice to have 500GB SSD on your computer and an external HDD of anywhere from 2TB to 4TB for different mappings, songs, recordings, mixes, etc.
At least 256 GB SSD and a laptop with multiple USB ports for external storage. Ideally, you’d want 0.5-2 TB SSD + 2 TB HDD right in the laptop, though it’s very hard to find.
Things To Consider For DJing
The basics of what makes the best DJ laptop have been stated, however, there are more specifications that will make this laptop last and prove valuable for applications other than DJing.
For every great venue out there, there are venues that do not care about the talent as well. If you plan to use this machine for extensive DJing (touring, collaborating, etc.) it will be crucial to have a larger battery. Building on this, many audio applications are demanding. This means that most applications will make your expected battery life cut in half.
Every other component like the GPU, monitor, etc, can be based on your desired. Things like the sound card can be considered however, many DJs will utilize a third-party audio interface and USB dongle in order to accommodate any third-party hardware.
The Best Laptops For DJing
The Lenovo ThinkPad E570 is one of the best laptops you can buy for any applications. Since the beginning of personal computing, the ThinkPad series has been considered a powerful machine for business professionals and thus, for personal use. The ThinkPad E570 contains an Intel i7 7500U processor which will get the job done in most applications. Furthermore, the computer contains a large 16GB RAM chip which will exceed the need for almost any DJing situation. Unfortunately, this laptop will only give you 250GB of SSD storage therefore, you will probably have to buy an external hard drive for your audio files and plugins. Lastly, the ThinkPad is said to have approximately eight hours of battery life (which may ultimately translate to four to six hours when using audio applications) which is decent for a DJing laptop.
The HP Envy 15t can be considered a portable workhorse. Holding 32GB of RAM, this computer will handle all of your tasks and then some. The HP contains the same Intel i7 7500U as the ThinkPad but weighs almost a whole pound less than the Lenovo. A great aspect of this laptop is the touchscreen accessibility. This can be incredibly useful as a beginning DJ. If you do not want to buy all the third-party hardware, you can utilize a touchscreen DJing application to see if DJing is for you. According to Laptop Magazine, the 15t contains great audio and Beats technology which results in a great audio experience. This proves this laptop can be a great standalone audio workstation. Unfortunately, this computer only lasts about four hours, meaning you will need to carry the charger with you at all times.
If you want a great all-around computing experience, the ASUS GL502VM-DB71 is perfect for you. This computer boasts an assortment of great specifications. A specification that truly stands out is the integration of a graphics card. This separates this machine from most of the other options on this list. Also integrated into this machine is 2 TB of memory. One SSD card that holds 1TB and an HDD card that holds another TB. This is the optimal environment for an audio computer as you can store the applications you need onto the SSD card while things like audio plugins can be held on the HDD card. The largest drawback for the ASUS is the measly three-hour battery life.
Dell has always created great quality computers. Their flagship XPS model has always been considered top-of-the-line for many business applications. Relying on this computer for DJing is a great option. With an Intel i7 6700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, 500GB SSD, a graphics card, and a five-hour battery life, this computer will handle almost everything you require. The SSD and RAM will create a fast and smooth environment while the graphics card will ensure any graphically intensive applications (like Serato) don’t drain the battery life.
According to the Audiomentor, Mac products are a great way to start in audio. Not only are Macs utilized in most professional recording environments, many industry standard applications are designed for the Mac environment before Windows. Furthermore, the MacBook Pro boasts an eight and a half battery life which will easily last you an entire day and the span of multiple gigs.
I’m linking to the 256 GB SSD version without their new Touch Bar. But if you want, you can go for 512 GB SSD (+$300) and a TouchBar (additional $300).
Unfortunately, there is no clear winner as to what laptop a DJ should purchase. However, these are great options and as computers become more powerful, the options will expand as well. Each of the products I reviewed will be excellent for a wide assortment of computing applications and overall portability.
Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions or audio concerns and I’ll get back to you with a machine that’ll fit your laptop needs. I’m sorry if I don’t reply ASAP — on some days I’m getting more comments than I can keep up with! Also, don’t forget to check the laptop guide on FL Studio.