$500 for a laptop doesn't sound much, right?
When you think of the specs you may get you won't be playing the latest games or anything like that.
Most people also think that for $500 you also wouldn't get a laptop suitable for music production.
In the past, music production laptops had to be high-end.
A massive hard drive.
Tons of RAM and a cutting-edge CPU.
These all combined to ensure that you could produce tracks and mix samples without issue.
There is no need to spend $5k+ to get into music production.
While there is still some gear required, the laptops these days are much smarter and faster than before.
This article will explain how you can find the best laptops for music production under $500.
All right, let's get to the article now:
What Makes A Cheap Laptop?
Well, sorry to break it to you.
But you won't be finding any new MacBooks here.
You also won't find any gaming or DJing laptops either.
But that doesn't mean you won't find a great computer to make music with.
First, all these laptops are mainly running Windows.
No Ubuntu or Chromebook machines here.
Technology has progressed now to the point of offering great production laptops at highly affordable prices.
You will need a laptop that can handle quite a lot of what you throw at it without stress.
Music production is all about samples after all.
And whilst you won't get a high-end machine at this price if you decide to pick one that is used you can still get a win.
Try Shopping Used
If you shop around, you can still get an older machine for around $500.
This can be a case of older being better.
Sometimes getting a newer machine for this price means that you skimp on specs.
Look at places like Amazon or eBay.
For a used laptop, get one with the most RAM and hard drive space and fastest CPU.
This might not be that easy and you may have to do some more research.
But, if you want to go for a new machine instead for music production, let's look through some.
When it comes to Acer, I recommend the Acer Aspire E 15.
Acer Aspire E 15.6
It comes with a 3.4GHz eighth-generation Intel I5 CPU.
An Nvidia GeForce MX150 with a 2GB RAM video card.
A 1920 x 1080 widescreen display and 8GB RAM.
It also comes with a 256GB SSD drive.
The laptop has a DVD writer (a rarity now), webcam, and runs Windows 10 Home.
Now you also need a good battery life.
This will last you up to ten hours.
It also features Bluetooth so you can instantly connect to your Bluetooth devices.
That means it's great for connecting to USB or MIDI instruments.
You can also upgrade the RAM.
And the CPU is fast enough to handle navigating and using your DAW and plugins.
Using multiple plugins is a cinch.
It's rare that the first laptop in a review is often the best.
But on paper and in reality, this Acer E is one of the best laptops for music production under $500.
HP isn't usually known for music production laptops.
Instead, they tend to focus on the business market.
But I had to include the HP Business 15.6 Touchscreen laptop.
HP Business 15.6 Touchscreen
HP machines are well respected by businesses and are reliable and built solid.
For a business laptop, the HP Business 15.6 Touchscreen has specs that you wouldn't usually expect.
With a 3.6GHz Quad-Core AMD CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive.
The CPU and RAM won't let you down, but not having an SSD is one area to improve.
In saying that, the 1TB hard drive is more than enough for samples, project files, and most production apps.
It also works great with graphical plugins, thanks to the RAM, CPU, and AMD Radeon R7 graphics card. It runs Windows 10.
But now this is where the HP TouchSmart gets clever.
The touchscreen. Most of the best laptops for music production under $500 won't have this. But this one does. And it makes a difference.
Many people may think a touchscreen is a gimmick. But being able to touch the screen and interact with it takes music production to a whole new level. You feel as if you are using faders and knobs working on your tracks.
The downside to this laptop is the hard drive. The more stuff you install, the slower it gets. If only HP had opted to include an SSD instead. But, for the price, you can't complain, and did I mention the touchscreen?
Also, this machine may actually be a little more over $500. Give or take $50 or so. So, shop around online and you'll be able to pick it up for a great deal.
This leads us to the second offering from HP – the HP Jaguar 15.6 Touchscreen.
HP Jaguar 15.6 Touchscreen
With an Intel i5 CPU clocking at 2.5GHz up to 3.10GHz, 8GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive.
Again, no SSD.
It's close to our previous HP model.
It has enough storage space and speed.
And the touchscreen supports 10 finger multitouch.
It'll also play nice with your Bluetooth and USB devices.
It has a full-size keyboard and island-style trackpad.
This laptop you should be able to get for under $500 if you shop around.
But you will need an SSD in it if you care about speed.
You don't want to be in the middle of laying a track, only for the laptop to freeze because of slow disk access times.
Our Asus offering is the Asus Vivobook X541UA.
Asus Vivobook X541UA
Compared with the other laptops I have looked at so far, this one is the most portable.
That's great if you want to produce on the road.
It can handle your plugins and the DAW of your choice with ease.
It's designed for multimedia.
Featuring a touchscreen, and an Intel i5 2.5GHz CPU which you can overclock to 3.10GHz, thanks to its Turbo mode.
With a 15.6-inch screen, a 1TB SSD, and 8GB RAM, this is a production powerhouse.
You even have the option to increase the RAM up to a massive 32GB.
Asus do have one of the best laptops for music production under $500 right here with the Vivobook X541UA.
It also features Bluetooth and USB, including support for USB-C devices.
The only downside would be the Intel HD graphics card.
Intel aren't known for high-end graphics cards.
This will handle video rendering and graphical plugins.
But I think that adding a Nvidia or ATI card instead would have been the better choice.
It could be that Asus didn't do that to keep the costs low.
This is a great music production laptop that you can get for a little over $500 if you shop around online.
Paying the extra $50 or so is worth it for the SSD drive and the touchscreen.
Lenovo's offering to this table is the Lenovo Ideapad 330.
Lenovo IdeaPad 330
This is an inexpensive laptop, with low-to-middle specs, which focuses on value.
So, you will get a great deal, and you won't do so at the sake of much performance loss.
It features a 15.6-inch HD screen.
An AMD Radeon R7 graphics card. A 2.7GHz AMD A12 Quad Core CPU.
8GB of RAM, which you can upgrade to 12GB, and a 256GB Solid State Drive.
When you compare it to the laptops, I have already looked at you can see that the specs are not that high-end.
Especially the CPU, which is a little on the slow side and whose speed cannot be Turbo increased.
But it does have support for USB, HDMI, and Bluetooth.
So, all your MIDI devices should work fine.
It also includes a built-in HD webcam with microphone.
One thing I do like about this laptop is the full-size keyboard.
That even includes a numpad section.
You don't see that on many laptops because manufacturers remove it to save space.
This laptop made the list because of Lenovo's build quality and pricing.
It'll handle your DAW of choice, and all your plugins, with no complaints.
It is still one of the best laptops for music production under $500, and that's why it made this list.
Dell aren't going to not be on this list.
Let's be honest.
They are well known for making business laptops at good prices.
They also make affordable personal laptops.
But do they make laptops that are good for music production?
Dell Inspiron i5378
First up, I have the Dell Inspiron i5378 2-in-1 laptop.
The main benefit of for music production is that you get two form factors in a single device.
That's useful for producers who travel a lot.
If you want an affordable hybrid device, then this had a lot to offer.
Imagine you are working on a track.
You want your client to be able to see how you've laid it all out and to listen to it.
The Inspiron is great for this.
It's portable, but it can also hold its own one of the best laptops for music production under $500.
This is thanks to its specs.
Featuring an Intel HD 620 graphics card, and a Waves MaxxAudio Pro soundcard.
It's no slouch when working with your samples or your chosen DAW.
It runs on a 7th generational Intel i3 CPU.
It comes with 4GB RAM, which you can upgrade to 16GB RAM in total.
And it has a 1TB hard drive.
There are several potential bottlenecks here with the base configuration.
The amount of RAM.
The graphics card.
Compared to other laptops on this list the Inspiron i5378 2-in-1 looks the weakest.
But in my testing, I was happy with the performance.
I didn't experience any slowdown or lag when I threw samples at it using my own DAW.
But I would recommend that if you do choose this laptop, upgrade the RAM and get an SSD.
You'll thank us for it and the power and speed increase is worth it.
The main draw of this laptop is the fact that you can use it as a laptop or tablet.
It also has a touchscreen.
So, you don't need to think about buying a separate iPad to control your DAW in recording sessions.
This model is also great for producers who often record live sessions.
If you like to be hands-on and not chained to a desk whilst you produce, this is definitely a good choice.
It allows you more freedom to work and to get more stuff done.
We recommend this because of the 2-in-1 form factor.
But you most likely will have to upgrade the base configuration.
For the price point, it's worth a look.
It'd make a great choice for people who are new to music production as a starting machine.
And it makes a worthy addition to my list.
The second Dell on this list that I recommend is the Dell Inspiron i3567.
Dell Inspiron i3567
This laptop has the business slant that Dell is known for, but its specs still make it worthy of this list.
Powered by a 7th generation Intel i3 CPU, running at 2.4GHz. 8GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive.
This is the definition of modest specifications.
Graphics-wise, it uses an Intel HD 620 graphics card.
As you have guessed by now, this graphics card isn't as cutting edge as others on this list.
But it will handle your DAW, visualizers, and video creation without breaking a sweat.
It features clean and crisp audio, thanks to the Waves MaxxAudio soundcard.
It has plenty of USB ports for your devices, as well as Bluetooth and HDMI support.
It also doesn't feature an optical drive.
There isn't any real need to add one anymore.
And eliminating this from the specification makes the machine lighter and more portable.
This laptop doesn't make the top of my best laptops for music production under $500 list, but it’s a worthy addition.
It is great for producers who are new and are starting out.
If that sounds like you then this laptop could be a solid choice for getting started.
This is because you don't need a machine that's high speed and with all the latest bells and whistles.
Used Apple MacBook Pro
We know the main gist of this article is the best laptops for music production under $500.
But I had to include this (note that I said you wouldn’t find any new MacBook’s; I didn’t mention used ones).
If you shop around online, you should get a refurbished MacBook Pro for around or a little over our $500 mark.
Older MacBook Pro models can still hold their own against the laptops on this list.
But when you shop around, don't go for something that is super old.
Make sure you get one with plenty of RAM and hard drive space.
A fast-enough CPU and support for the latest version of macOS.
As an example of what you can get if you shop around.
Try a 2011 MacBook Pro. With an Intel i5 2.4GHz CPU, running macOS El Capitan, a 500GB hard drive and 4GB RAM.
Even though these specs are not as good as the other laptops on this list, they still let you produce great music.
A MacBook Pro with those specs will handle your samples, plugins, and DAW requirements.
As a bonus, you may also be able to get one for under $500.
It may be quite a bit under $500, say $400 or so.
So, you also save money as well.
The only downside is the lack of upgrades.
You may be able to upgrade the RAM based on the model you choose.
And upgrade the hard drive.
But the CPU and the OS are things you may be stuck with.
That's worth considering.
What Laptop to Choose?
So now I have gone through the list of the best laptops for music production under $500, which one is the one for you?
It's all down to the specs.
You need a fast CPU and enough RAM.
You don't want to turn on your machine and must wait minutes for it to boot up.
You also don't want to be in the middle of producing a track and you click an option in your DAW and the whole thing halts.
Having to wait for it to unfreeze can interrupt your workflow and creative process.
This is usually due to a slow CPU and latency. Similarly, a slow hard drive can mean your plugins take longer to load or even crash.
And even though I already said it, don't underestimate older computers.
Especially Apple, which is why the MacBook is on my list.
Having a computer that can perform is why choosing one with the best specs is the most important.
We would recommend not going for any that don't have an SSD or at least 8GB RAM.
But the CPU is also important.
New producers should be fine with the lower-end machines here to start with.
But seasoned producers who know the score must make sure they get value for money.
They will get that with any of the machines on my list.
Last update on 2021-01-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API