Nowadays, we use laptops for a variety of purposes. This is because the common laptop has come very far in its 30-plus years of history; as a matter of fact, many portable laptops offer the same type of function as many of the top-of-the-line desktops. Additionally, since the advent of digital media, many people seek out strong laptops that can manage the multimedia formats that we use daily. I’m something of an amateur videographer; I film weddings and get-togethers, so I often find myself seeking out a laptop that I can work with on-the-go for my multimedia files. So, which are the best multimedia laptops? Let’s take a look at some key features to think about.
Why Would Anyone Want a Laptop for Multimedia Purposes?
First, laptops are inherently portable. If you are a videographer, then having a quick-to-start system to check out footage is absolutely amazing. This is just as effective for those who produce music because when you create your beats or do your recordings, it’s very handy to have a powerful machine to use to quickly check out the new media files that you’ve created. This means that you won’t have to have a bulky desktop computer to do this type of work.
Features That You’ll Need
As this is a multimedia laptop, you can’t go without some good sound quality, right? This has a couple of different applications, so let’s hit on a couple of must-have features.
- Speakers – Of course, the chief consideration is the ability of your laptop’s speakers to convey a high-quality sound experience. This comes in several flavors. First, you want your speakers to be able to convey the highs, the lows, and the mids. This means that the best laptops will have a built-in subwoofer and a tweeter.
This will ensure that even an audiophile will be satisfied with the sound output from their new multimedia laptop. Remember, even the great multimedia notebooks can do with a pair of portable, dedicated speakers because larger-sized subs will equal deeper bass performance.
- Sound Processor – The built-in sound card of any new laptop is sufficient enough for working with audio. For multimedia professionals, especially if you need to record audio to your laptop – I suggest buying an external audio interface. Then you can connect a few more devices and you get a few extra knob controllers to play around. For that, make sure you’re buying a laptop with multiple USB connections. A laptop with USB 3.1 Type C w/ Thunderbolt III controller is even better. It can be used to connect a FireWire audio interface.
- (Optional) Multiple 3.5mm jacks – if you get a laptop with multiple 3.5mm OUT connections, you’ll have a few more options if you want to connect an external audio interface.
For a true multimedia experience, your new laptop should have excellent video quality. This means that the display should have the highest possible resolution possible so that all of your recorded media can have the best possible playback. If you’re planning on purchasing one of these for the simply playback of films and shows, then this can be very helpful as well. Personally, I like to play my films and shows through my laptop but send the video feed out to my 4k HD TV. To do this, make sure that your new machine has an HDMI 2.0 out port so that you can quickly plug one end into your laptop and the other into your HDTV.
Hard Drive Capacity
With those who like to store movies and shows on their laptops as well as those like me who do their own videography, it’s important that your laptop has plenty of storage space. Digital media has one drawback: for higher resolutions, you’ll need gigabytes of storage, which means that you’ll really need terabytes of space to store those videos and sound files. Though, these days most of the video is streamed through NetFlix, Hulu and Youtube. They won’t occupy any hard drive space.
Processing Power & RAM
Video editing, music DAws and DJing software need a powerful machine in order to deliver true quality. There was a time when you would be automatically relegated to having to use a desktop computer. Fortunately, these days good multimedia laptops will easily be able to do the job. Look for a processor that is at least equivalent to an Intel i5 CPU, though I would recommend looking for a machine that has a powerful performer like an i7 7500U, which has 2.7GHz of processing power. For ram, I would suggest looking for at least eight gigabytes, though more is always preferable.
The final feature that you should look out for is portability. Your new multimedia laptop should be small enough to fit in a bag so that you can take it with you. Just remember not to sacrifice performance for smallness. Personally, I like a larger screen so that means that I typically go for laptops with at least a 17-inch monitor so that I can view my videos. While this cuts the portability some, larger screen sizes mean more details, especially when you select a model with a higher resolution.
Not everyone wants to produce video or create music on their multimedia laptops. For those who are looking into a portable computer primarily for the sake of video playback and sound production, then the Lenovo Ideapad 100 makes for a very economical option. While its processor isn’t a workhorse, the i3-5020U provides more than enough computing power to seamlessly playback the majority of multimedia file formats.
This is far and away not a gaming PC, so I find that the Intel HD 5500 is a nice option for those looking for a very video-friendly low-cost PC; you can even get some work done on this laptop. The resolution is 1366 x 768, which doesn’t provide a whole lot of pixels, but it does get the job done and is slightly better than 720p. In my estimation, this is the perfect laptop for a student who wants to complete their work, but also needs a device to watch TV/movies on; it even has an Ethernet port for people who prefer a more stable internet connection. PC World has a great in-depth review of this model of budget laptop.
Asus is a bit of a miracle worker when it comes to crafting low-cost PCs that have a lot of premium components. This is why this particular laptop is so impressive; it goes for less than $600 but still manages to throw in a decent sized SSD, an i5-7200U CPU, and 8 GB of RAM. It doesn’t shine too brightly for gaming, but you’ll definitely get a stellar performance out of most casual multimedia applications.
I particularly like the inclusion of a matte display. Many laptops suffer from over-reflectiveness, especially touchscreens, so it’s nice to see a display that you can watch without worrying about glare. This makes it perfect for watching movies, even in a well-lit room. I also like the inclusion of one of the latest versions of Bluetooth available; this means that when you connect your peripherals, there’s much less of a chance of lost reception.
The HP Pavilion series is one of HP’s flagship ranges of laptops. This is the first product that is perfect for most multimedia applications including production. This is because of its i7-6700HQ processor packs in a lot of power for the power user. This CPU has four cores, which means that this is a very high-performing laptop PC.
For playback, this laptop also performs well. Its screen is designed with IPS tech, which means that you’ll have more available viewing angles as well as brighter and more vivid overall colors. Once again, this product uses an Intel GPU, but this is okay considering that IPS displays can cause some ghosting in gaming applications anyway. This is a great student PC because it packs in a full-sized keyboard that grants a higher degree of convenience than smaller laptops. Add to this that it’s also upgradeable using a dedicated SSD and extra RAM, and this can be your perfect laptop.
This is the first laptop in this guide that can work well for modern gaming. This is because it actually packs in a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5 graphics card that performs well in most games. While its processor isn’t top-of-the-line, the i5-6300HQ is more than powerful enough to run the majority of multimedia applications.
For storage, the device uses a 250 GB SSD, which is good for most images, videos, and sound files, but some of the more dedicated multimedia professionals like myself might want to install an additional HDD or SSD. The weakest feature of this laptop is its very middling battery life; you’ll only get about four hours of power when unplugged.
The final entry in our guide is a PC made by MSI, which is a company that has garnered a name for being one of the premiere manufacturers of gaming and multimedia PCs. With this sort of functionality in mind, this laptop has a great graphics card – the GTX 960M, which is one of the better mobile graphics processors from the last generation. The display is matte to reduce reflections and has a native 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is 1080p.
If you want to utilize a larger display for your multimedia video files, this laptop has an HDMI port that is perfect for playback. Additionally, the hard drive of this laptop runs at a crisp 7200 RPM, which is significantly faster than the standard 5400 RPM models. All of this being said, this laptop; unfortunately, has a very sub-standard battery life of just under three hours.
Wrapping it Up
In closing, any good multimedia laptop will be able to be used in a myriad of ways so that you can playback your music, movies, edit them at your will, or simply enjoy the pictures that you took on your last vacation. I think all of the products that I’ve featured here are great for the majority of laptop users, but if you have questions about a specific model, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to respond with help.