Laptops come in all shapes and sizes, and can be customized down to the smallest detail to fit your needs. One size does not fit all - a laptop designed for graphics would have different needs from a laptop designed for music production. This guide will break down the components essential to come up with your dream music-producing laptop - yes, even if you are on a budget.
- Basic purpose. What exactly will you be using the laptop for? Yes, yes, to make music. But what kind? Will you be mixing tracks? Make radio commercials? Record music? Your laptop quest starts here, because your basic purpose will dictate what your laptop minimum specifications.
- Hardware. List down all the hardware you have (speakers, controllers, etc.), or what you will need, for your Basic Purpose. See how it will interface with your laptop - how many connectors do you need? USB Ports? Firewire? Most laptops come with only 2 ports, so if you have a lot of hardware you may need to purchase a USB hub.
- Software. Your software choice will be guided by your answers to the first two items above. Once you've listed your software choices, it's time to do some more research on forums and discussion boards to search for possible software conflicts (some software just don't see eye to eye) or any other reported bugs. Read reviews. Better yet, go to a computer shop and ask advice from the people there - they'll be more than happy to share their vast founts of knowledge.
- System minimum requirements. Music production involves a lot of multi-tasking processes. Check the minimum system requirements of your software and put together a system that's a step above the minimum. Here are some basic guidelines:
- Processor/CPU: This is the heart of your system, so choose carefully, as these are hard to replace or upgrade. The most commonly used Processor for Music Production is the Intel Range, particularly the Core 2 Duo processors.
- RAM/Memory: Most laptops come with 1Gigabyte of RAM, but it's best to have at least 2. Check what Brand your laptop supports - you can always get a similar compatible Brand at a more affordable price later on.
- Hard Drive: 500 Gigabytes is the minimum recommended size. You can always expand your memory with external hard drives, but it's best to have your most important files within easy reach. Pay attention as well to the speed of your hard drive, measured in RPM (revolutions per minute), as this determines how fast your drive can access data. Go for a 7200 RPM drive.
- Size and Weight: This will depend on how you plan to use your laptop. Remember though, that the smaller and lighter laptops will see a corresponding decrease in power. The 14-inch laptops will normally give you the best balance between portability and performance.
Take all of these into consideration when building your dream laptop. It can be difficult, especially when you're on a budget, but think about the future benefits a well-designed laptop can give you. Make sure to check out warranties, and if possible, test-run your top candidates in a computer store. You'll be writing music in no time.