The Beginner DJ Blog
What Is The Best DJ Laptop? A Simple Buyer’s Guide
I was recently asked what my thoughts were on choosing the right laptop for DJing.
I thought – what a great subject to talk about! Laptops are the staple piece of equipment needed when you’re a mobile or digital DJ so what better way than to touch on this subject (hell, I’m a geek anyway so this is right up my alley).
Before You Buy
Before you rush out to buy a laptop, I would first see if you’re current setup is fine. People go gadget crazy sometimes and replace gear that’s still perfectly good but the hype of a new piece is enough to make them drop tons of money on new equipment.
Additionally, I would recommend asking around amongst your friends, family and even going on sites like Craigslist to see if anyone if offering up their laptop. You may catch someone in the same boat where they need the new toy despite their laptop being only a year or two old.
DJ Laptop Computer Specs (To Consider)
It’s been a year or two since I’ve been actively hunting down laptops but when buying a computer it always comes down to a few core elements, explained below:
CPU – CPU is the processor; the faster it is, the better you’re off because it will be able to handle all the processes. I would recommend to get at bare minimum a Pentium 4 dual core or quad core processor although if you have the extra money the latest Core i7’s are pretty boss.
RAM – Ram is your memory; again, you want lots of ram because running DJ programs on your laptop is going to be very taxing – aim for about 2gb to 4gb of ram; any more and you’ll be set but that may be pushing it a bit if you’re hitting 6gb or even 8.
HDD – The hard drive is your storage. I wouldn’t really look at the overall size of the hard drive because you can use other externals for storage and pull songs you want to play onto the hard drive before you’re on. One thing you should look for is the RPM – most hard drives spin at 7200 rpm but if you can one that’s 10k it’ll be able to read/write much more proficiently.
Video Card – Video cards in laptops have come a long way since only being integrated (or none at all, ugh). Unless you’re going to be doing visuals with your mixes you don’t have to really go top of the line here but I would recommend getting an Nvidia or Radeon mobile card that way you’re all set to go.
Operating System – The OS is up to you – I’m running Windows 7 now but still prefer XP. If you’re on MAC or Linux than you’re already set. Just make sure your programs and digital systems work for your OS.
Screen Size – I have a netbook which I’ve tried mixing on – it’s not fun. Screen size does matter a bit because you’ll want to be able to see what you’re doing.
Expansion drives/bays – Chances are you’re going to just use USB to transfer files back and forth but if you need, make sure that your CD/DVD drive is fully functional and there.
Durability – This is probably overlooked all the time but remember that you’ll be DJing so there’s a possibility that someone can knock over your setup (damn drunks!); if the laptop falls than you’ll probably want to make sure it can hold up.
DJ Laptop Buying Tips
Before I make any suggestions, there are a few things I’d like to mention before you buy a laptop for DJing.
- Check the warranty – If you can, pick up your laptop with a credit card because you an get extra protection and warranties.
- Return policy – check to make sure you can return your laptop in case something breaks before the warranty is up.
- Bundled software – hey, if you can get extra stuff thrown in for free that’ll be straight – extra printer would be great for printing out flyer’s, ya know?
It really comes down to your buyer protection; make sure your warranty is there and other than that you don’t have to worry about much else.
DJ Laptop Recommendations
I’m going to break this into three little groups: entry, mid-level and high-end. Each laptop will be specced and priced accordingly to their level. Remember, just like DJ gear, if you can hold out an extra week or so for that extra $100 – $200 bucks you could get the next level up that will last you much longer and be better overall – just keep that in mind.
Entry-Level: Acer, Dell or Compaq
I actually really like Acer’s computers – I’m using one right now with no complaints. Dell has been hit or miss with me as well as Compaq but you can find their computers fairly cheap between $300 – $400 bucks. This doesn’t mean they’re not great, it’s just personal experience on my end when working with these computers.
Mid-Level: HP, Toshiba or ASUS
I’d say go for the later Toshiba models; I never had a problem with them in the past and my old one held up quite well. You’ll be looking to spend somewhere between $500 – $700 at this level which should put you at more than enough to DJ properly with a laptop.
High-End: Apple, Alienware or “Gaming”
At this level of $1000+ you’re getting a lot of brand so there’s going to be a little overhead but that’s not to say these aren’t sweet machines. The specs when you hit $1000+ are more than enough to handle really anything you throw at it. By the way, I say ‘Gaming/Design’ because that this level you’re running high end video games and graphics heavy programs – just to put that into perspectiveve.
Note: I can’t really make the decision for you because it’s your budget, I can only recommend brands. Use the little guide above about choosing specs to dig through each laptop you find and compare – emphasis on compare. Don’t be quick to buy because a week later there could be a discount or price drop; buy when you actually really need to.
Extra: DJ Laptop Stand
In a previous post, I told you how you could build your own DJ stand for under $30 using a door and come cement blogs (hella cheap!). However, laptops are a bit different because you’re not really going to need the same table setup as if you were using tables (since it wouldn’t be shaking around from touching the decks).
Over at DJTechTools, they’ve wrote a great post about making a cheapskate laptop stand which I would recommend reading if you’re the DIY type or just a little strapped for cash.
If you want to drop some money for a stand, here are a few suggestions and links:
There are others that can cost you upward of $100 or more but I mean, c’mon, it’s a laptop stand – most of you will probably just set it down on the table anyway, amiright? However, laptop stands will help you avoid that occasional ‘oh damn, beer spilt on my laptop’ moment.
If you’re a digital DJ you’re in real luck because over the last few years laptop prices have continually fell. As computer manufacturers get better at what they do and parts providers bring out new wares you’ll benefit in the end as we’ll probably see those higher end laptops running for under $500 in the next year or two.
If you have any suggestions into buying a DJ laptop be sure to let us all know in the comment section below; would love to have an outside opinion – lemme know if you disagree (without flaming please) – hope this helps.
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BDJ Current Gear Picks
1. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2
The NI Traktor Kontrol S2 is an incredible digital DJ controller that comes packaged with Traktor PRO. Those that want to get started with DJing should definitely consider the S2.
Learn More: Traktor Kontrol S2 on Amazon
2. Numark Mixtrack Pro DJ Controller
The Mixtrack Pro DJ controller is perfect for those on a tight budget; it has everything you need to get started with digital DJing and continues to drop in price every few months.
Learn More: Mixtrack Pro on Amazon
3. Hercules DJ Console MK4
If you're really itching to start DJing and don't want to spend a whole lot than the MK4 is for you. You'll have complete control over your mixes plus it's packaged with Virtual DJ.
Learn More: Hercules MK4 on Amazon