Normies don’t realize how delicate music is from a production point of view. Each take is a unique artifact that can never be truly replicated. So when you capture a slice that has that something special, that wow factor, you need a reliable computer to take care of your sound baby throughout the digital phases of music creation.
Production software such as Ableton Live may not be a massive drag on a laptop’s resources, but if the hardware isn’t all that, you’ll get hit with lags that lay waste to your workflow, eye strain, crashes, and possibly even lost files — I’m shuddering just writing about it.
But don’t let the fear win out, my musical compadre. I’ve been working around the clock to find the best laptops for Ableton Live, and I’m happy to share my shortlist with you right here, right now!
Reviews of Laptops for Ableton Live
Best Overall – 2020 Apple MacBook Pro
I know you probably saw this coming, but I can’t ignore the latest MacBook’s suitability for making music with Ableton Live.
It may only have 8GB of RAM, but that’s 8GB of unified memory, which means the RAM is physically attached to the CPU, giving it zero-latency access to the data required to run Ableton in a silky smooth manner.
And speaking of the CPU, it’s none other than Apple’s octa-core M1 chip masterpiece, providing a 3.5% performance boost across the board when compared to the Intel chips found in other MacBooks.
We also have 512GB of superfast SSD storage, so file acquisition times are at an all-time low, allowing you to get down to business quicker than ever.
Topping things off, the 13.3” Retina Display with a 2560 x 1600 resolution is incredibly easy on the eyes, staving off headaches during long stints in the studio.
- M1 Chip – Very efficient system.
- 8GB Unified RAM – Seamless Ableton functionality.
- 512GB SSD – Snappy software and file loading times.
- 3lbs – Nice and portable.
- 2560 x 1600 Resolution – Reduces eye strain.
- Compatibility – Needs Apple’s Rosetta software for compatibility.
- Price – You know what Apple be like.
2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip (13-inch, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD Storage) – Silver
- Apple-designed M1 chip for a giant leap in CPU, GPU, and machine learning performance
- Get more done with up to 20 hours of battery life, the longest ever in a Mac
- 8-core CPU delivers up to 2.8x faster performance to fly through workflows quicker than ever
- 8-core GPU with up to 5x faster graphics for graphics-intensive apps and games
- 16-core Neural Engine for advanced machine learning
Best Value for Money – 2021 Acer Aspire 5
As long as you don’t mind stepping out of the Apple ecosystem, the Acer Aspire 5 will blow your musical mind! I just can’t believe how affordable this laptop is considering the tanked-out hardware.
16GB of DDR4 RAM ensures that no matter how hectic your workflow gets, Ableton will run seamlessly, facilitating a streamlined workflow and greater productivity.
On the storage front, we’ve got a mammoth 1TB SSD to chew on, which is ideal considering how hefty Ableton file sizes can get after lots of edits have been made. You won’t have to bring in an external HDD for a long while.
The display has a 1080p resolution, which is a little underwhelming, but the IPS panel technology offers pristine viewing angles, reducing pressure on your eyes as you move in front of the screen.
The one downside is it only has a Ryzen 3 processor, but seeing as it’s multithreaded, it will support a typical Ableton session with no problems whatsoever.
- 16GB RAM – Zero lag.
- 1TB SSD – Quick file acquisition.
- 15.6” Display – Reduces eye strain.
- Price – Great value.
- Ryzen 3 CPU – Ryzen 5 would be more suitable.
2021 Newest Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop, 15.6 inches Full HD IPS Display, AMD Ryzen 3 3200U (up to 3.5GHz), Vega 3 Graphics, 16GB DDR4, 1TB SSD, Backlit Keyboard, Windows 10 in S Mode + Oydisen Cloth
- 【15.6″ Non-touch FHD Display】15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display,
- 【AMD Ryzen Processor】AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual-Core Processor 2.6GHz with Precision Boost up to 3.5GHz (Up to 4MB L3 Cache),
- 【16GB RAM and 1TB Storage】16GB DDR4 Memory, 1TB Solid State Drive, Back-lit Keyboard,
- 【Operating System and Ports】Windows 10 Home in S mode 64-bit, English (Free upgrade to Windows 10 Home); 802.11ac Wi-Fi featuring 2×2 MIMO technology (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz), 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 port), Bluetooth 4.0, Back-lit Keyboard, HD Webcam (1280 x 720), 1 – USB 3.1 Gen 1 Port, 2 – USB 2.0 Ports, 1 – HDMI Port with HDCP support, Lithium-Ion Battery, Up to 7.5-hours Battery Life, 3.97 lbs. | 1.8 kg (system unit only)
Premium Pick – Dell XPS 9310 OLED
If money’s no object, your search is over. Not only does the Dell XPS 9310 come with 32GB of RAM for a limitless and lag-free performance, it also comes with a 2TB SSD for storing days upon days of music files.
At the heart of operations, we have the 11th gen i7-1185G7 with 4 cores, 8 threads, and a max clock speed of 4.8GHz, which translates to a truly silken performance, no matter how many plugins you’ve got running simultaneously.
Now let’s talk about that display…good lord, it’s breathtaking. The 13.3” scale keeps everything nice and portable while the 4K resolution offers up insane picture acuity, so all of Ableton’s little details are clear as day.
My singular gripe (other than the price tag) is that it only offers Thunderbolt connectivity, so you’ll have to use an adapter for USB peripherals.
- 32GB RAM – Seamless functionality.
- 2TB SSD – Storage for days.
- 4K Display – Ultimate clarity.
- i7-1185G7 CPU – Effortless multitasking.
- 2.8lbs – Portable as they come.
- No USB Support – Requires an adapter.
- Price – Perhaps it’s best not to look.
Best Gaming Laptop for Ableton Live – ASUS ROG Strix SCAR III
Sure, the Scar III is designed to be the ultimate in portable PC gaming, but from the lag-eliminating 16GB RAM, to the music file-ready 1TB SSD storage, it seems almost tailor-made for a studio setting.
Doing the heavy lifting, we have the 9th gen i7-9750H, a hyperthreaded, hexa-core CPU capable of supporting literally any creative workload. Seriously…this is the Dwayne Johnson of laptop processors.
I’d prefer something better than 1080p for the money, but the 15” scale does take a load off the old peepers after a long day of tweaking tunes. The only issue is that it’s a little unwieldy, so it’s perhaps not suitable for producers and DJs that have to travel to a lot of clubs and party destinations.
- 16GB RAM – No lag here, folks.
- 1TB SSD – Large, fast storage facilities.
- i7-9750H – Serious CPU muscle.
- Thermals – No noisy fans to worry about.
- Price – I hope you’ve been saving.
- 5.67lbs – Kind of bulky.
ASUS ROG Strix SCAR III (2019) Gaming Laptop, 15.6” 240Hz IPS Type Full HD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070, Intel Core i7-9750H, 16GB DDR4, 1TB PCIe Nvme SSD, Per-Key RGB KB, Windows 10, G531GW-DB76
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 8GB GDDR6 (base: 1215 MHz, Boost: 1440 MHz; TDP: 115W)
- 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750h Processor
- 240Hz 15.6” 1920×1080 IPS Type Display
- 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM | 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD | Windows 10 Home | Gigabit wave 2 Wi-Fi 5 (802.11AC)
- ROG intelligent cooling Thermal system with dual 12V fans, Triple radiators, anti-dust technology, and adjustable fan modes
Most Portable – 2020 Apple MacBook Air
We’ve come around full circle back to Apple. Historically, the Air didn’t have the muscle to support creative workflows, but with that spicy M1 implant, the 2020 iteration is a marvel of music-making potential.
16GB of RAM guarantees this machine can keep up with your creativity, and the 256GB SSD storage is pretty neat too, loading software and files in record time. However, I would recommend investing in an external HDD eventually.
It also has the same 2560 x 1600 resolution as the full-fat MacBook Pro, taking the sting out of those monster, coffee-fueled sessions, and as it only weighs 2.8lbs, ferrying it from studio to studio is a total breeze.
- M1 Chip – Load up on plug-ins, pard.
- 16GB RAM – Enjoy buttery smooth Ableton.
- SSD – Fast loading times.
- 2.8lbs – It might float away if you don’t hold on.
- 2560 x 1600 Res – Crisp and clear display.
- Bezels – They form an ugly frame.
Best Laptops for Ableton Live: A Buyer’s Guide
I know what you’re thinking…why don’t you just check out Ableton Live’s system requirements and use those as a buyer’s guide? Well, while I fully condone giving them a read, they’re not going to really explain what features you should be prioritizing and why.
So, to give you a more complete idea of what you need your new laptop to be capable of, I’ve composed this brief yet detailed alternative guide.
RAM is basically your laptop’s short-term memory. Ableton (and all software) relies on this fast-access memory to run smoothly. If the RAM is overloaded, your CPU has to travel to the storage facilities to find the required data, amounting to laggy performance
You’ll need 8GB of RAM as a bare minimum for smooth performance, but if I’m being perfectly honest…16GB is a much safer option, especially if you engage in a lot of computational multitasking.
Storage – HDD vs SSD
Storage is your computer’s long-term memory, where all your music and program files will be kept, and as you’re going to be banging out the hits, it needs to have an impressive capacity.
However, it’s not just the sheer size you should be keeping an eye on; you also need to consider the memory format. Should you go with HDD or SSD? Trick question…the answer is both.
The HDD will give you the space to store lots of large music files, while the SSD will give you low latency access to projects you’re currently working on.
Unfortunately, dual storage formats are rare, so you may have to settle for one, and bring an external drive into the fold after the fact. If that’s the case for you, always choose SSD. It’s more energy-efficient, reliable, and quiet than the HDD format.
The CPU is the brains behind the whole operation. It defines what a laptop is capable of and, to a large extent, how smoothly it runs.
The two big names in the industry are Intel and AMD, but Apple recently hit the market with their groundbreaking M1 chips too.
If you go with an Intel laptop, Ableton Live requires a core i5 3rd gen processor at the very least, but you’ll get better performance out of a 7th or 10th gen i5 or i7 CPU.
For an AMD system, a Ryzen 5 CPU or above will be perfect, but if a laptop’s other specs are decent, you might get away with a Ryzen 3 processor.
You may start out making a few beats in your bedroom, but as you progress as a musician and producer, you’ll need to stop composing in a vacuum and meet up with other musical folks at their place or in studios across town.
As such, a compact laptop that won’t break your back over the course of a short walk is preferable to an absolute monolith.
Display Size and Resolution
Okay, so I know I just said portability is key, but going too small with the display can have a drastic impact on your ocular health, especially if you’re going to be working office hours behind the desk.
Choosing a larger screen with a higher resolution (no lower than 1080p) will take the pressure off the old peepers, which will be conducive to great work!
If you already have a recording interface and mixer, you’ll want a laptop that has compatible ports, so you can hook your hardware up without the use of adapters.
Frequently Asked Questions
That was some serious ground we just covered, so let’s cool down with a brief Ableton Live laptops FAQ section.
Are Gaming Laptops Good For Ableton Live?
Gaming laptops may have all the beefy hardware to run Ableton Live like an absolute charm, but here’s the thing…beefy hardware requires a beefy enclosure, amounting to a full-on slab of a laptop, which isn’t ideal for small studio spaces or in terms of portability.
You also pay out for boosted graphics facilities that you really don’t need to run Ableton.
What Laptops Are Compatible With Ableton Live?
Tons of laptops are compatible with Ableton Live, as the basic system requirements aren’t really all that jacked, but the ones on this list are especially great for producing in Ableton.
What OS Do I Need For Ableton Live 10?
Ableton Live 10 requires Windows 7 SP1 or above, or if you’re more of a Mac person, OS X 10.7.
How Much RAM Do I Need For Ableton?
The minimum RAM requirement to launch the Ableton software is 4GB, but if you want to avoid laggy performance, you need to stick with 8GB or above.
How Many Computers Can I Put Ableton On?
An Ableton license is for one computer, but if you contact them and explain your situation, they might grant you permission to use your license on two computers, as long as they’re never used simultaneously.
Well, that was a whole host of magnificent machines. Any one of them could take your Ableton Live skills to the next level, helping you to create better, more nuanced music.
As a member of the Apple congregation, my top pick is the MacBook Pro, but if I had the money, I’d ditch the MacBook Pro for the Dell XPS 9310 in a heartbeat — it’s that good.
If you’re not looking for a dedicated music station, I’d recommend something along the lines of the Strix SCAR III, as it kills in the gaming arena, but otherwise, I’d save some money and stick with something like the MacBook Air.
Alternatively, for beefy specs on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Acer Aspire 5, but you’ll have to put your multitasking on a leash to accommodate the dual-core CPU.