Should you use a laptop or a PC for music production?
Every choice has its pros and cons. In this article, you will find a list of reasons why I think both are viable.
- Easily transportable (duh)
If you ever have to take your music with you (for example on vacation, or to next studio session) you can feel free to do so. In most cases you will be able to pack up your mobile setup within minutes and it will all fit in a laptop bag.
- Not much space required
You don’t need a monitor (even though I’d recommend it since most VST plug-ins tend to be rather cluttered with knows and stuff). With a laptop as your music production setup of choice you could technically work anywhere you can sit – even at the kitchen table – trust me, I tried it already. Also, all peripherals are built-in already.
- Lower energy usage
Because a laptop has way less components, less electricity is needed for them to work.
If you care much for your environment, this also might be an important difference for you.
It might not be as big of a difference as it used to be, but Laptop tend to be quite expensive. For most music production software you will need quite a lot of RAM which will increase the price for pre-built laptop-configurations significantly. As a matter of fact: you will definitely have to pay more for a laptop with the same specs than for a PC.
- Limited upgradability
Upgrading your laptop after a few years of service will require a massive investment on your part. In most cases only the RAM and the hard drive are upgradeable. Sometimes it might be a good decision to go for a new laptop right away.
- Limited ports
With a laptop, you will eventually run out of ports to use. If you are trying to ad more peripherals like a MIDI-Controller, mouse, keyboard, external hard-drive and so on you will have no choice rather than adding an usb-port hub or 2. This will hinder the main pro, the portability, as you will have to unplug everything for transport and plug it back in on arrival.
- Unlimited customizability
The amount of different components for each PC really is overwhelming. It also makes comparing different models very hard if you are not an experienced PC user. If you got the know-how you can really customize every detail and built your own PC from the ground up. This will give you the option to tailor a PC completely specific to your needs, which is of course awesome.
Like already mentioned in the laptop section, a PC with the same specs will always be less pricey than an equally powerful laptop. And with the above-mentioned customizability, you will be able to specify the expense for every part used. If you are able to assemble the pieces by yourself – even better.
- Higher specs available
Desktop-PCs can be incredibly powerful and there are generally higher specs available compared to what is available for laptops.
- Easier to upgrade
In most cases, upgrading your PC is pretty simple and really a matter of watching a YouTube tutorial. Also, most parts are easy to upgrade/swap.
- High power usage
A Desktop-PC with high specs will use pretty obnoxious amounts of energy. If it’s a custom-built PC you can try and go for eco-friendly parts but with all the cooling going on you will never get close to the effectiveness of a pre-built laptop.
- Decent workspace needed
With a Desktop-PC you will need a (studio-)desk. Period. There is just no way around it.
- You will need (at least) one monitor
Which monitor(s) to buy for music production really is a hard choice by itself. It also means additional costs and more space needed. I will cover different monitors in one of the next blog posts.
Conclusion – Laptop or PC for music production
If you ask me your decision should really depend on what you are trying to do with your setup. If you absolutely need the possibility to work on the fly then the laptop will of course be the obvious choice. Maybe a little too obvious. Be warned. I went the laptop route but I’m actually using it more like a static workstation. Because of this and the considerable difference in price, I’d strongly suggest the PC route for beginners as I think focusing on improving your craft at home will yield the best results for you. And the good thing is, once you have improved and developed a workflow you can add a laptop to your setup and connect the two via dropbox.com or google drive. All while still being able to constantly upgrade your PC-setup.