DJing laptops don’t require high-end specs, and most of us already own a reliable laptop that can run a DJ software smoothly.
Most of the specs you’re going to be looking relate to DJ software requirements. But, there are also a few non-related things we’re going to cover, including HDD vs. SSD, screen size, and the standard deciding between Mac and Windows.
In quick summary, the minimum laptop specs for DJing are:
- Intel Core i3 processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 64-bit operating system
- 1280 x 720 screen resolution
- 256GB of internal storage (HDD or SSD)
And recommended DJ laptop specs are:
- Intel Core i5 processor or faster
- At least 8GB of RAM
- 64-bit operating system
- 15-inch display
- At least 512GB of internal storage (HDD or SSD)
The Most Popular DJ Software System Requirements
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REKORDBOX ver. 5
REKORDBOX ver. 6.5.3
SERATO DJ PRO 2.5.7
TRAKTOR PRO 3
|OS||macOS 10.15, 10.14, 10.13, 10.12 (All updated to the latest version)
Windows 10, 8.1, 7 (64-bit, The latest service pack)
|macOS Big Sur 11 (Versions later than 11.2 – Updated to the latest version)
macOS Catalina 10.15 (Updated to the latest version)
macOS 10.14 (Updated to the latest version)Windows 10, 8.1 (64-bit, The latest service pack)
|macOS 12 Monterey
macOS 11 Big Sur
macOS 10.15 Catalina
macOS 10.14 MojaveWindows 10
|macOS 10.15, 10.14, 10.13, 10.12
Windows 10, 8.1, 7 (64-bit, The latest service pack)
|MacOS 10.10 Yosemite
MacOS 10.11 El Capitan
MacOS 10.12 Sierra
MacOS 10.13 High Sierra
MacOS 10.14 Mojave
MacOS 10.15 Catalina
MacOS macOS 11 Big SurWindows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7
|CPU||Intel® processor Core™ i7, i5, i3||Intel® processor Core™ i9, i7, i5, i3
Intel® processor Core™ i9, i7, i5 for video function
AMD Ryzen™ 1000 series or later
|Intel: i3, i5, i7, i9
|Intel® processor Core™ i9, i7, i5||Intel® processor Core™ i9, i7, i5|
8 GB for video function
|Display||1280 × 768||1280 × 768||1280 x 720||1280 x 800||1280 x 720|
What CPU do I need for DJing?
Recommended – At least i3 dual-core processor, but optimally i5 dual-core.
You’ve likely caught expressions such as “dual-core” and “quad-core” or “i3” and “i7” spread around but without any definition of what they mean. I will do my best to describe it without confusing you more.
The computer processing unit (CPU) is probably the most critical thing to get right when looking at laptop specs for DJing.
I choose to think of the processor as the computer’s ‘brain.’ Being the brain, it is hence responsible for completing estimates and conducting out actions, but most importantly, operating programs.
When there was only a single core, only a certain amount of tasks could be run out at one time. When we are running DJ software with multiple tunes, this is likely to exhaust a single core.
Thankfully that is why we now have computers with dual or even quad-core CPUs. A dual-core is actually two processors on a single chip rather than just one.
As you may assume, adding extra gives you extra. With more CPU power, your laptop will be able to execute more tasks at once, which is crucial when DJing.
Another interesting factor to look for in a CPU is frequency. This is the speed of the CPU and is measured in gigahertz or GHz for short.
The frequency was the most critical factor to look at when all computers had just a single core. And it does still create a difference. In some examples, a very high-frequency dual-core could outperform a lower-frequency quad-core.
I would recommend a frequency no lower than 2.0 GHz, but the higher, the better, so see can you extend the budget.
i3 vs i5 vs i7 vs i9
The numbers i3, i5, i7, and i9 apply to different models of CPU produced by the corporation Intel. And indeed, they improve in capacity as you go up the numbers. With the i9 being the top processor Intel provides.
The i9, for example, has a more extensive ‘cache’, which allows it to deal with repetitive tasks more promptly. Repetitive tasks are saved in the background and then, when needed, can be carried out almost immediately.
With enhanced performance comes an increased price, however, so have that in mind.
In January 2021, I ordered this Asus Zenbook 14″ i5 (Amazon link) for work and to use it occasionally for DJing. I’m astonished by how good it is really. Not a single bug for almost 2 years, and it runs everything smoothly, including DAWs like Ableton. I thought I needed to get myself an i7 because of the complicated graphic programs I work with, but no-no, this one was more than enough! I highly recommend Asus!
AMD processors for DJing
With other creators of processors such as AMD, as with Intel, be aware of the frequency and amount of cores, and if the DJ software you want to use supports that CPU.
The Pioneer support on their official forum said there are no plans for making Rekordbox DJ more compatible with AMD processors in the future.
And they’re not the only ones. Serato DJ also doesn’t support AMD processors.
How much RAM do I need for DJing?
At least 4GB, but the optimal would be 8GB or more. You can never have too much RAM!
RAM implies ‘Random Access Memory.’ Rather than the long-term memory (which I’ll define below), RAM is the short-term ‘working’ memory.
It is much faster for the laptop to utilize the RAM to quickly access the information it requires rather than obtaining it from the hard drive every time.
RAM is similar to a wallet full of cash. Whenever you want to pay for something, you can immediately look into your RAM wallet to grab some money.
The hard disk is more like a bank. It saves things that are not needed quite so promptly.
You have to visualize that you live in a dangerous neighborhood, and every time you place your RAM wallet down (i.e., shut your laptop down), all the cash from it disappears.
Whereas the bank is friendly and safe (hopefully) even when closed (shot down).
So even though these are both sorts of memory, they are not used interchangeably. 4GB of RAM is okay, but 4GB of hard drive storage would hardly be enough for a couple of mixes with multiple tunes.
DJing requires a lot of this quickly accessible memory, but not as, let’s say, music production or video editing.
For this reason, I would say to ideally have no less than 8GB of RAM in a laptop for DJing. I chose to go for 8GB of RAM in my newest laptop, and it runs as fluidly as anything.
32 vs. 64-bit OS
It’s not that necessary to know the difference between 32 and 64-bit operating systems aside from 64-bit is more latest and better. It can gather more data and is like relating a motorcycle to a bike in terms of speed.
As I said before, the more RAM, the better, but it is worth keeping in mind that a 32-bit operating system is only competent to run up to 4GB of RAM. If you desire to have more than that (which is hugely recommended), you will require a 64-bit operating system.
Odds are, with modern laptops, you will be running a 64-bit operating system. With Windows, if you are operating anything later than Windows 7, odds are it is 64-bit. With Macbooks, anything more modern than a 2009 Macbook Pro will be 64-bit.
So it probably won’t be a problem if you are buying a brand-new or little-used laptop, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
How much storage do I need for DJing?
Minimum 256GB internal storage (HDD or SSD), but optimal would be 512GB or more.
Hard disks were one of the specs I noticed most confusing when buying a laptop.
One thing that may surprise you when you start DJing is the crazy amounts of storage space a music library can consume! If you are used to just saving a few tracks or documents on your laptop, prepare for a mind-blow! We are talking in the GB here, not the MB.
So as you will probably figure as with processors and RAM, the larger the number, the better. But what is the minimum? And what is optimal?
You will want a fair amount of memory to guarantee you can smoothly run your DJ software and plugins, but if you’re not using video functions, you don’t need to go too crazy with size. I would suggest going for at least 512GB of internal storage, but 256GB may be acceptable for the following reasons:
Use an external hard drive for tracks and mixes
If you own a high-spec laptop, you won’t have a problem storing tracks and mixes on the internal hard disk, but if you want to ensure you have no problems with it, then an external hard disk is well worth buying.
That will enable you to only use the internal hard drive for running the operating system, software and plugins. At the same time, any tunes, mixes, and samples can be kept separate on the external disk.
I personally suggest getting an SSD external hard disk (see below for the difference between SSD and HDD). I have this one from Toshiba. The more GB, the better, of course, but even 1TB will last you ages! Don’t throw loads of cash on an expansive one unless you plan on recording a ridiculous number of mixes.
I have another external hard disk only for backing up and archiving old mixes. You don’t want to lose all those hours of mixing, do you?
Do I need an SSD for DJing?
No, it is not required. As with all this stuff, it is a luxury to have if you have money, but an HDD will do for most young DJs. I’ll try and explain why:
There are two principal models of hard disk; SSD, which means Solid State Drive, and HDD, which is a Hard Disk Drive.
A solid-state drive operates in a comparable way to a USB drive but is built into the laptop and much larger. Rather than a hard disk drive, it doesn’t have any moving components. Information is stored on a group of microchips.
On the other hand, a hard disk drive may be close to you as the whirring noise you get in lots of laptops. That whirring sound is produced by a disk spinning very fast. As the disk rotates around a mechanical arm, it reads the information of it.
A solid-state drive is similar to having bookmarks in a book on the pages you want to locate. In contrast, a hard disk drive is like needing to flick through a book to read what you are looking for.
That suggests SSD is better than HDD but, of course, comes at a cost, being the more reliable technology.
I still use an HDD drive. You can get so much more for your budget than with SSD. The truth is that the bulk of data will be stored on the RAM. So having much RAM is much more valuable than possessing an SDD.
Best Laptop Screen Size for DJing
Suggested – at least 14 inches
Display size depends on how portable you want to be. I decided on a 14-inch screen as I felt the 13-inch was too small to see the software elements, and the 17-inch was a bit too heavy to move. When I am in my bedroom, I will connect it to a much bigger monitor (or even TV) to make mixing more enjoyable.
Some DJs find even a 14-inch screen too small for working in DJ software but I don’t mind it. This one is a personal preference actually. Go to a shop and see a few to find out what you can work with.
I would recommend no less than 14 inches as it will be much, much harder to work with the controller, at least until you figure all the pieces.
Also, avoid touchscreens. They add 100-150 USD to the price of a laptop.
Why do DJs prefer Macbooks?
The reason people choose a Mac is not based on cost. It’s because it has a Linux flavor, produced on a UNIX core, so you get stability. The specs are generally decent enough, they’re hardy, enduring, and exceptionally well-supported. The audio drivers are amazingly well-built and established.
It’s a professional laptop explicitly created for creative professionals, whether you’re an artist, producer, DJ, architect, etc.
I can’t tell you how common threads I see online where someone has a driver problem, and it’s because they’re on a Windows laptop every single time.
I’m not saying that there aren’t people running machines on Windows just fine, but that’s why MacOS dominates the market. It’s specially designed to manage what you are looking for a laptop to do, and most folks would rather not bungle around attempting to find just the right device that works flawlessly with Windows.
All of the hardware in a Macbook Pro is designed to work in tandem with the OS. It’s not a third-party merchant building a laptop from random suppliers and striking a Windows OS on top.
According to most creative pros, the Macbook Pro (it’s at a discount on Amazon for the end of 2023) is the best choice for all kinds of creative fields, including DJing. With the loudspeakers and upgraded keyboard, you can be sure you won’t have problems with any DJ software.
Just like all of Apple’s gems, this one is also thin and fast as ever. With this, you get the extra benefit of the HD display with the best elements to enhance your experience while DJing.
In the end, it’s just what you prefer; PC laptops are better valued for money, but Macs (arguably) are “simpler” to use and are more stylish. All in all, it doesn’t make any difference. I’ve seen both Windows and Mac-based laptops go wrong on DJs. In general, neither is more durable or secure than the other.
That being said, if you’re prepared to deal with not having such an easily accessible support staff, a Windows laptop is distinctly cheaper.