More choice is of course a great thing, but it also adds tons more factors to the decision-making process, some of which can easily be overlooked, leaving you with a laptop that simply doesn’t cut it for Pro Tools or music production in general.
Not to worry, though, music maker. After weeks of research, I’ve managed to make a five laptop-long shortlist of your best options when it comes to producing with Pro Tools.
Arriving with 16GB RAM, the 2019 MacBook Pro is capable of running the latest iterations of Pro Tools in an efficient and seamless manner.
With an ultra-fast 1TB SSD, it also facilitates split-second load times, so you’re not waiting around when inspiration strikes.
At the heart of this music production masterpiece, we have a hyperthreaded, octa-core Intel processor, ensuring all applications run in a buttery smooth manner.
The I/O includes a thunderbolt 3 port, enabling low-latency, precision recording, reducing time spent in post fixing inaccuracies.
And finally, the screen…it’s a 16”, 3072 x 1920 beauty that displays all Pro Tools details with clarity.
Gaming computers are, shall we say…accidentally optimized for programs like Pro Tools. Just look at the ROG G17’s specs…
We have 64GB RAM (4 times the amount we need to run the latest Pro Tools software), 2TB NVMe SSD storage for light speed file acquisition, a multithreaded octa-core Ryzen 5900HX CPU ensuring you can run multiple plugins simultaneously, and the 17.3” 1080p display takes the strain off our eyes during those long stints behind the desk.
And all of this could be yours for less than the 2019 MacBook Pro — pretty sweet, huh?
With only 8GB of RAM, the Asus VivoBook isn’t suitable for the very latest versions of Pro Tools, but it’s an incredibly capable and affordable way of getting the most out of an older variant.
The 512GB SSD storage is efficient and sizable enough to store all your music files as well as any sample libraries you feel like downloading.
An Intel i5-1035G1 takes care of the heavy lifting with four cores and 8 threads, just enough to support multiple plugins and music files at once, and the 15.6” display ensures all Pro Tools menus are clear and digestible, although it’s a little dull for my tastes.
The screen may only measure 15.6 inches across, but that just means the condensed 4K UHD display is even more exquisite. You can stare at it for hours without picking up eye fatigue, and the ultra-thin bezels offer more screen real estate for your money.
Arriving with 32GB of RAM, it’s capable of running the latest Pro Tools at the full potential with no latency whatsoever, which means uninhibited workflows and greater productivity.
It also has 1TB of NVMe storage for snappy file retrieval and saving, a huge time saver if you’re tackling multiple projects a day.
Putting the cherry on the Pro Tools Cake, it supports Thunderbolt connectivity, so you can record music without any perceivable input lag — woo!
If you like to hit the road with your laptop to record at friend’s houses or just do some tinkering on a train journey or flight, the LG Gram is the one for you. Weighing just under 3 lbs, it’s exceedingly light, not to mention super thin.
But that’s not to say it shirks on the essentials. On the contrary, it boasts 16GB RAM – the current Pro Tools standard – 1TB of SSD storage, Thunderbolt 4 compatibility, and the battery lasts for a whopping 19.5 hours on a single charge!
There is so much other expensive gear involved in making music, it can be difficult to hone in on exactly what the computer itself needs to be capable of, which is why I’ve made this brief yet informative buyer’s guide.
RAM is a computer’s fast-access memory, and it’s essential for seamless computing, especially for media editing software such as Pro Tools or Photoshop.
When you don’t have enough RAM, your computer will be sluggish and unresponsive, which, needless to say, is not conducive to a good workflow.
The CPU is the brains of your computer. It’s made up of multiple cores that are sometimes split into sets of two threads.
There’s no need to worry too much about how they work; it’s far too complicated to cover here. All you need to know is that generally speaking, more cores and threads make for a quicker CPU.
You can think of storage as your laptop’s long-term memory, while RAM is its short-term memory.
You’re better off with large capacity storage to hold all your music files, but capacity isn’t strictly what’s important in this scenario.
What is important is the speed at which your DAW can access the storage to load and save music files. As such, you should be looking for a laptop with SSD storage rather than HDD storage.
Graphics aren’t at all important when it comes to music production software, but a large screen and crisp lines absolutely are.
Music production completely devours time, most of which you’ll spend staring into your laptop’s display, so anything a screen can do to make things easier on your eyes is well worth the price hike.
I’d suggest the following specs as minimum display requirements:
Now let’s check out the required specs a laptop needs in order to run Pro Tools.
The latest iterations of Pro Tools require a Mac to have either Catalina or Big Sur OS.
The new M1 processors from Apple are amazing, so any of those will be fine, but if a laptop has an Intel CPU, it needs to be an i5 or better.
You can get by on the latest Pro Tools with 16GB of RAM, but ideally, for a really smooth ride, you should go for something to the tune of 32GB or more.
Okay, so Avid says you need a minimum of 15GB disk space to install Pro Tools, but when it comes to storage, the more the merrier, especially as Mac OS updates usually hog a lot of your memory.
You don’t necessarily need ports to run Pro Tools, but you will need a USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt port to connect up your mixer or recording interface to the laptop.
The latest versions of Pro Tools needs Windows 10 Home, Pro, or Enterprise to run.
Anything i5 or above is ideal for running Pro Tools, but I say that with emphasis on “above”. The faster your processor is, the more fluidly Pro Tools will run.
If you want to use Pro Tools Ultimate, you’ll need an i9 or Xeon CPU, or better yet, something from AMD.
You’ll need a minimum of 16GB of RAM for the latest Pro Tools software, but if you can afford more, I highly recommend it — we’re talking 32GB +.
Same as the Mac, you’ll need at least 15GB of storage space, but as you’re going to be stacking up music files left and right, you’ll appreciate a larger storage capacity.
Ditto on this count too. Some sort of peripheral port is essential for hooking up your recording and mixing equipment to your laptop.
Macs are incredibly expensive, and Apple makes them difficult to fix and upgrade, so they’re not exactly futureproof. However, they are hardy machines. I’ve had mine for about 7 years now, and besides a few small problems with storage space, it’s still going strong.
I’d recommend a Mac if you’re…
Laptops that run Windows OS are typically more affordable than Macs while offering more in terms of RAM and storage space. They’re also easier to fix and upgrade, but they’re not always built quite as well as Macs.
I’d recommend a Windows laptop if you’re…
Before we go our separate ways and you begin or continue your production career, let’s run over some FAQs, just to make sure you get all the info you need.
The main things you should be looking for in a laptop to optimize Pro Tools are high RAM capacity and speed, a powerful CPU with fast single and multi-core performance, fast SSD storage, and a big, beautiful display.
Yes, as long as it covers the system requirements, you can absolutely run Pro Tools on an HP laptop.
Pro Tools doesn’t have a native OS, so it doesn’t prefer one operating system over another. The things that do affect Pro Tools are the RAM, storage type, and CPU of a computer.
Pro Tools is considered the Industry DAW of choice for its deep features, while Logic is beloved for its user-friendly interface and single-fee price. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference.
16GB RAM is the minimum requirement for the latest few versions of Pro Tools, so I’m happy to report that, yes, it’s enough.
If I had the money to pick out a new laptop for my studio right here, right now, I’d definitely choose the 2019 Apple MacBook Pro; however, the Asus ROG Strix G17 is a lot more computer for slightly less money, which is tempting to say the least.
Due to budgetary restrictions, I know those two aren’t a realistic option for everyone, which is why I wanted to shine a light on the wonderful ASUS VivoBook 15.
Alternatively, if you’re something of a wandering soul, the LG Gram 17Z90P won’t weigh you down, and if you have sensitive eyes, let the MSI Creator 15 ease their burden and improve your productivity.