Best Laptops for Pro Tools [2021 Reviewed]

An Overview of the Best Laptops for Pro Tools

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In a rush? That’s okay! No need to the read the entire article, we’d like to let you know that we’ve chosen the MacBook Pro with the M1 Chip as the best laptop for Pro Tools! If you’re a budget and if you also prefer windows machines then the Lenovo ThinkPad E595 would be the laptop for you!

Introduction

If you’re a music producer or are looking to get into the production world, then you’ve most likely heard of or already used Pro Tools. It’s one of the oldest and highly praised software for both Mac and Windows users. Even high-end production studios prefer to use this Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), due to its sophisticated user interface, and amazing feature set. It does have a high skill ceiling for complete mastery, but the payoff is certainly worth it.

It’s only appropriate that such a Professional tool would require the best computer hardware to run on. This article will help you choose the perfect setup for running Pro Tools without any issues!

As you may have guessed, unlike FL Studio, Pro Tools is a CPU intensive program. The minimum required specifications to use it is an i5, however, we would recommend getting an i7, or maybe even an i9 or equivalent processor if your budget allows.

Having an older or weaker processor may cause a lot of performance stutters that’s why it’s highly recommended to opt for a powerful laptop. Luckily, Pro Tools isn’t graphically intensive, so even an integrated GPU will work perfectly well. Although, if you have other use cases like gaming or graphic designing then you can definitely go for a model with a GPU.

Another thing a lot of people are confused about is whether they should buy a Mac or Windows machine. Windows laptops will have more bang for your buck, while Macs provide a smoother and less problematic experience since they don’t have any driver problems. Due to this, a lot of people choose to use a “Hackintosh” which is a windows computer running macOS, but we do realize that not everyone is willing to put in the effort to set up a Hackintosh.

Therefore, you should choose the operating system that you’re used to and prefer. We have included both Mac and Windows options on our list so there is a little something for everyone. If you have a use case for running both, then you can always leverage virtualization and have a dual OS setup.

System Requirements for Pro Tools First Software Version 2020.9

 
Mac
Windows
Processor
Intel® Mac with macOS High Sierra (10.13.6), or macOS Mojave (10.14.5), or macOS Catalina (10.15.6) Note: OS X 10.15.4 is NOT qualified, find out more. Intel® i5 processor or higher
Intel® Mac with macOS High Sierra (10.13.6), or macOS Mojave (10.14.5), or macOS Catalina (10.15.6) Note: OS X 10.15.4 is NOT qualified, find out more. Intel® i5 processor or higher
RAM
4GB RAM (8GB or more recommended)
4GB RAM (8GB or more recommended)
Monitor Resolution
Minimum 1280 Horizontal Monitor Resolution
Minimum 1280 Horizontal Monitor Resolution
Storage
Minimum of 15GB disk space for installation
Minimum of 15GB disk space for installation
Ports
USB-port, FireWire-port or Thunderbolt-port for CoreAudio-supported audio device
USB-port or FireWire-port for ASIO-supported audio device OR install ASIO4ALL to use Pro Tools First with your PC’s built-in audio I/O
Additional
Internet connection for installation Supports Marketplace in-app purchased AAX plug-ins in Pro Tools | First PACE hard disk authorization (no iLok required)
Internet connection for installation Supports Marketplace in-app purchased AAX plug-ins in Pro Tools | First PACE hard disk authorization (no iLok required)

Source: Pro Tools First System Requirements Official Page

Best Laptops for Pro Tools [Reviews]

MacBook Pro

As previously mentioned, a lot of people like to use Macs when using Pro Tools. If you’re one of them, then you’re most likely looking to get the MacBook Pro. We will be specifically talking about the M1 equipped one that was released in late 2020. This review will help you determine whether the MacBook is the right choice for you.

The M1 processor is certainely the highlight of this laptop. It performs in equal footings to or sometimes better than the i9 processor found on the last generation Intel laptops. Those were, and to some extent still are one of the best CPUs found on any laptop, and it’s pretty impressive that the M1 can keep up with them. It’s especially impressive considering that this is a first-generation product and that ARM processors aren’t meant to be that powerful. These processors are usually more power-efficient, and that’s something the M1 does perfectly. You can expect to get up to 20 hours of screen on time which is absolutely insane for any laptop. It’s safe to say you won’t have any issues with the M1 processor.

The only small problem with ARM-based MacBook is that they don’t support a lot of programs natively, including Pro Tools. To circumvent this issue, Apple has provided an emulation program called Rosetta 2. It’s similar in concept to the original Rosetta which was used during the transition from Power PC to x86. That just goes to show that similar problems will arise whenever there is a change in architecture. Running an emulation does mean that you have a bit of performance drop, but even despite that, it manages to perform on an equal footing when compared to an i7 running it natively.

You get 8 GB of the fastest LPDDR4x RAM at 3733 MHz clock speed. For a regular Windows laptop, we would’ve liked to see 16 GB of RAM, but since macOS has incredible RAM management we think that it won’t provide any problems. Bundled with that you get either 256 GB or 512 GB SSD. We recommend upgrading to the 512 GB since you’ll be using up a lot of storage to store the RAW uncompressed audio files. Sadly, neither the storage nor RAM is upgradeable, so if you run out of space, you’ll have to resort to using an external device.

The display on the MacBook Pro is absolutely stunning. The 13.3 inches, 2560 by 1600-resolution Retina panel is pretty much the best in the market. Not only that, it has amazing color accuracy as it covers 25 percent more than the sRGB Color Gamut. Color accuracy doesn’t matter that much when using Pro Tools, but if you plan on doing Graphic Design on the sideline then this can be really useful. It also enhances the overall user experience.

A major disadvantage that MacBooks have is their lack of ports. While previously on the MacBook Pros, there were 4 USB-C ports, this year they have downgraded to only 2, although these are high-quality since they can be used for charging as well as attaching external displays. This is probably because they don’t have that much space inside, but it still hinders productivity. If you wish to use more ports, then you’ll have to buy an external dock.  

There are a few additional noteworthy features that are exclusive to the MacBook which you may find useful. Firstly, they have the best trackpads on any laptop, as it is large and has very precise tracking. The keyboard is backlit and feels pretty good to type on. You also get the option to instantaneously wake up your device from sleep, which is something that was introduced this year and is only found exclusively on the M1 models. Lastly, MacOS in itself has many amazing features like seamless integration with other products from the Apple ecosystem.

The dimensions of the MacBook Air are 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches and it weighs 3 pounds which makes it a really thin and light device, perfect for portability. The design of this laptop is a bit monotonous since it’s the same one that’s found on a 4- or 5-year-old MacBook. Despite that, the build quality is excellent and Apple will most likely change the design next year since their hands were tied up making sure the M1 processors run perfectly.

What We Like
  • Excellent performance
  • Amazing battery life
  • Stunning display
  • One of the best trackpads
  • Good backlit keyboard
  • Portable
  • Sturdy and premium build
What We Didn’t Like
  • Expensive
  • Not user upgradeable
  • Only 2 ports

Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop

If you’re looking for a good MacBook competitor running Windows, then look no further than the Razer Blade 15. It provides you a lot of similar features like an amazingly thin and light design, as well as top of the line components. It also has a GPU, which isn’t a requirement for any DAW, but it will be really useful for gaming or graphic designing.

This laptop is powered by the Intel 10th Generation 6-core Core i7-10750H. It’s slightly less powerful than the one found on the MacBook Pro but still powerful enough to get almost any task done. Modern processors have become so powerful, that you might not even notice any differences. As for the GPU, you get multiple choices based on your usage. You can either equip it with a GTX 1660 Ti, which is a mid-ranged but still powerful option, or you can have the RTX 2060, which is the lowest-end RTX cards but still outperforms the GTX series. Lastly, you can get the RTX 2070 Max-Q which is the most powerful GPU featured on our list. Your choice will depend on your own personal usage and budget, however, if you would want our recommendation, then we recommend going for the GTX 1660 Ti. Since you won’t be primarily using this as a gaming device, therefore it’s better to save money and go for the GTX 1660 Ti. However, if there is a particular task that you know is really graphically demanding then you can choose to go for the RTX series cards as well.

The storage will also depend on which graphic card you get. With the GTX 1660 Ti, you get a 256 GB NVMe SSD and with the RTX series, you get 512 GB. Based on this only, we would recommend getting one of the RTX series. Unlike the MacBook, however, you can upgrade the storage, so going for the GTX model won’t be a big problem either.

As for the RAM, you get a plentiful 16GB DDR4-2933MHz (8GB x 2). Luckily, this is also a high performing dual-channel memory. Moreover, like the storage, the memory is also upgradeable to 64 GB. 16 GB should be more than sufficient for anyone using this laptop, but if you ever feel the need to upgrade your RAM to get some extra performance, then you have the option to do so. It also means that your laptop will be more future proof.

The display itself is a 15.6-inch 144Hz Full HD, 1920 x 1080 panel, which takes up 100 percent of the sRGB color space. The highlight of this display is the 144Hz high refresh rate, which makes your entire perceived experience much smoother. You also get an extremely color-accurate display, that will be useful for people looking to use it for tasks like Graphic designing or video editing. Moreover, with the RTX 2070 Max-Q, you also get the option to upgrade the display to 4K and OLED. This means that your display will be much sharper and also turns off the screen whenever displaying black pixels, therefore it makes your display produce deeper blacks, better colors, while also using less energy. However, despite the obvious advantages, we don’t recommend upgrading as it will cost significantly more while having very little benefit when it comes to audio production.

A lot of thin and light laptops skip on essential ports, which makes them less functional. Luckily, Razer has not skipped on this aspect and has included a good mix of ports. These include Gigabyte Ethernet, 2 USB-C Thunderbolt ports, 3 USB-A, microphone/headphone jack, and an HDMI. As you can see, all necessary ports have been included, while also keeping your laptop relatively thin. Some other useful features include an individually lit RGB keyboard, with Razer Chroma software for absolute customizability, which makes it one of the best RGB on any keyboard. Webcam with Windows Hello facial recognition and an amazing aluminum unibody chassis.

The size of this laptop is 0.78″x9.25″x13.98″ and weighs about 4.7 pounds. While this laptop is certainly thin, it weighs slightly more than a regular Ultrabook, but that’s because of the powerful components being used, as well as the sturdy aluminum build which does make this laptop durable. The battery life on this machine is pretty good for a gaming laptop as you get approximately 6 to 7 hours, which isn’t even close to that of the MacBook but is still pretty respectful for a regular Windows thin and light gaming laptop.

What We Like
  • Amazing performance
  • Good selection of GPUs
  • Upgradeable RAM and storage
  • Excellent port selection
  • Amazing display
  • Great build quality
  • One of the best RGB keyboards on any laptop
What We Didn’t Like
  • Average battery life
  • Slightly expensive
  • Low storage for the GTX 1660 Ti variant

Lenovo ThinkPad E595

The last entry on our list is the Lenovo ThinkPad E595. If you’re looking for a durable and reliable machine then the ThinkPad E595 should be perfect for you. In stark contrast to the MacBook, it’s one of the best user-serviceable laptops out there, which ensures that it will last a really long time.

With the ThinkPad, you get a Ryzen processor which means that all three of these laptops have CPUs from a different manufacturer. Ryzen processors have gained a lot of popularity in recent years since they provide amazing performance for an affordable price, which is why many choose to use these over Intel’s. The one found on this device is the 3.70 GHz Ryzen 3500U, a Quad-Core processor, with Up to 3.70 GHz clock speeds. It sits in between Intel’s 10th Generation i5 and i7 processor which makes it a really good deal considering that this laptop isn’t that expensive. The included Vega 8 graphics should be more than sufficient enough for any kind of tasks you throw at it as well.

Bundled with that, you get 8 GB of fast DDR4 RAM and a 256 GB M.2 SSD which provides high read and write speeds for a much snappier experience. While it’s not a ton of storage, we are willing to let that slide considering how they have high-quality storage and memory, as well as a really easy to upgrade design. That means that you can use this device as it is for the first 2 or so years, and then choose to upgrade to a higher storage variant if you so desire.

The display is another important aspect of a laptop. It’s the component you interact with the most which means that a great screen can make or break a laptop. Luckily with the ThinkPad, you get a good looking 1080p IPS anti-glare panels. You won’t be blown away by the quality of it or anything, but audio production doesn’t require a great screen anyway. The display gets plenty bright at 250 nits, which, along with the fact that it has an anti-glare coating, means that it can be used under even harsh sunlight.

Since the ThinkPad series is productivity-focused, so Lenovo made sure to not exclude any essential features. A common trend in modern laptops, such as the MacBook, is that they remove ports to make their devices thinner. Luckily, with the ThinkPad E595 you get a good variety of ports including 3 USB-A ports, supporting either 3.1 Gen 1 or Gen 2, 1 USB-C Thunderbolt port, as well as an HDMI, SD card slot, headphone, and microphone jack as well as ethernet. One major advantage of having a wide variety of ports is that you can add external storage devices, instead of upgrading the internal ones. Some other features include a webcam and a really good keyboard, which sadly isn’t backlit. There are many ThinkPad exclusive security features like the Kensington® lock slot, which are essential in this day and age of privacy.

The dimensions for the laptop are 14.50 x 9.90 x 0.80 inches, which is pretty good considering the number of ports you get. It weighs 3 lbs which is lightweight for something so powerful, yet not so expensive. The battery is claimed to lasts for 13 hours, however, in real-world usage, you can expect to get about 6 to 8 hours. It will comfortably last you throughout an entire day and is up to the standard of other Windows laptops like the Razer Blade.

What We Like
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Amazing performance for the price
  • Easily upgradeable RAM and storage
  • Thunderbolt port
  • Excellent security features
What We Didn’t Like
  • Low storage
  • No backlit keyboard

Final Words

We reviewed some amazing laptops at different price points. Each of them provides a unique experience. Therefore, choosing the perfect laptop for you comes down to your own opinion. However, for those who are still not sure about which one is the best for them, we have summarized the good and the bad of each of these laptops and why one might be interested in going for either one of them.

The first laptop we reviewed was the Apple MacBook Pro. The two main selling point of this device is the M1 processor and macOS. You get CPU performance that rivals even full fledge desktop PCs. That is more than enough of a reason to buy this laptop. But on top of that, macOS makes using Pro Tools easy and smooth, that’s why we had to keep it on the list. If you are an Apple user, then this laptop should be a no brainer for you.

Next comes the Razer Blade 15. While being a gaming laptop, it still manages to hold its own against the other competitors when it comes to Audio production. You get top of the line performance with the i7 processor, as well as an amazing design and build quality that all users can appreciate. It even has a good port selection, which is one of the main reasons why one would want to choose this laptop over the MacBook. It’s an amazing all-around laptop and it should definitely be on top of your priority list.

Lastly, we talked about the Lenovo ThinkPad E595. As a laptop that’s targeted towards productivity enthusiasts, we thought that it would be a sin not to include it here. It doesn’t provide you any of the flashy features that the others offer like the customizable RGB keyboard on the Razer Blade or the instantaneous awake of the MacBook. What it does provide you is a consistent and reliable laptop experience with amazing features, that everyone can love.

The best laptop for Pro Tools, in our opinion, is the MacBook Pro. It checks all the boxes for what a laptop for music production should have. The amazing performance, as well as great features, makes this a desirable laptop for all. What really takes the cake is that macOS just runs Pro Tools better. If you’re looking for the smoothest experience with the least amount of problems then the MacBook is the way to go.

The Razer Blade could’ve taken MacBook’s spot if it wasn’t for the fact that it runs on Windows. However, it will still provide an amazing experience and can be a viable option for anyone who also wants great graphic performance for gaming and other tasks. It even has a solid port selection, which is missing on the MacBook. The ThinkPad can be another great choice. It’s already a popular laptop and for the right reasons. We can easily recommend it to anyone who is on a budget and wouldn’t mind sacrificing a bit of performance and some non-essential features, for a killer affordable laptop.