In today’s world technology has changed how we do practically everything and the world of DJing is no different. When you set up your home DJ studio one of the most important components you need is a DJ computer.
The question that often comes up though is whether you should use a desktop or a laptop for DJing, unfortunately, this isn’t a black and white answer. There is a lot to consider when selecting a desktop or a laptop.
When setting up your home DJ studio it’s likely that what you currently have will be fine, to begin with. If you’re looking for an upgrade though this guide is for you. In this guide, we’ll break down the benefits and drawbacks of both desktops and laptops. We’ll also cover everything you need to know before upgrading your DJ computer setup.
What Specs Does a DJ Computer Need?
Before we dive into the differences between desktops and laptops there is one main thing to consider. No matter whether you choose a desktop or a laptop you need to know what you’ll be using the computer for. If you plan on using the computer to only run DJ software you’ll not need a lightning fast computer. If you’re planning to also make your own music you’ll need a more powerful computer. The more powerful your DJ computer is the easier it will be to run the software you’ll need to create some killer tunes.
CPU & RAM
When it comes to pure power all you need to worry about is CPU and RAM. These two combined are the heart of your DJ computer. The CPU handles all the calculations. The better the processor the quicker it can handle information. RAM is your computer’s memory which is essential for running multiple programs at the same time.
Luckily most DJ software is light when it comes to requirements. You will only need an Intel Core i5 or equal AMD processor and 4GB of RAM to run most of the big name DJ applications. Having said that I do recommend at least 8GB RAM. If you do plan on creating your own music try to get as quick a processor as you can afford and 16GB or more RAM.
Check out the links below to find out the recommended system requirements for some of the most popular DJ software platforms.
Next on the hit list is the hard drive. This is the storage area of your DJ computer so the more the better. All those awesome tunes you will be downloading need to be stored somewhere. As your collection grows you are going to want plenty of space, especially if you plan on using Lossless or WAV music files instead of your average MP3.
The other thing to consider getting is an SSD (Solid State Drive). These drives don’t have moving parts and are much quicker than standard hard drives. If you want maximum performance from your DJ software it is worth considering getting an SSD. Loading music into your software and analysing your tunes will be lightning fast. Keep in mind SSD’s are more expensive than HDD’s. While SSD’s are fantastic there is no reason you can’t get started with a regular HDD. If you are interested you can learn more about the differences in the video below.
This may seem like an odd inclusion to rank so high but trust me when I say you want as many USB ports as possible. If you buy a starter DJ controller it will likely connect via USB, once you add an external hard drive, keyboard and mouse you will find yourself running out of USB ports fast.
Also, keep an eye out for the speed of the USB ports. USB 2.0 is common but aim for USB 3.0 where possible. The quicker transfer rate is great when accessing music from a hard drive. It also allows your controller to get information to your DJ application at instant speed with zero lag.
A good sized screen is important when selecting your DJ computer. DJ software displays loads of information and on a small screen, it can be difficult to navigate and read. You’ll be wanting to spend as little time looking at your screen as possible while DJing. When you do need to look at your screen you don’t want all that information squashed onto a tiny screen.
Most computers come with large screens these days but there are many small screen laptops out there. While on the surface an extra inch may not seem like much it will play a big role in your comfort levels when using DJ software.
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Most DJ controllers come with an in-built sound card. If you’re planning to play your music via your desktop or laptop speakers you’ll need a sound card in your DJ computer as well. The default sound cards that come with computers tend to be fine. If you plan on moving into music production down the line you may want to consider investing in a higher quality sound card. You’ll also need to know whether you’ll be opting for studio monitors vs speakers. Make sure the sound card has the appropriate connection options for both. Many DJ speakers with built in amplifiers require connections that many soundcards do not support. At a minimum, it should be able to support an external audio interface.
Other Connection Options
It’s also worth checking the other connection options that are available. If you plan on using wireless DJ headphones you’ll want wireless built-in. Likewise, if you opt for Bluetooth DJ headphones. If these are built-in from the outset you don’t need to buy additional adapters. It will also save you from using up additional USB ports.
This is the one area that luckily you can skimp on. For a DJ setup, you don’t need a high-end graphics card. Any stock desktop or laptop graphics card will be able to handle DJ software with ease.
Now that we know what we need let’s break down the difference between desktops and laptops. There are many benefits to having a desktop for DJing. There are also some notable drawbacks as well.
- Generally Cheaper
- Higher Specs For A Lower Price
- Larger Screen Sizes
- More Ports
- Can Be Noisy
- Not Portable
Desktop PCs offer more bang for your buck when it comes to specs.
Desktops do tend to give you more value by offering much higher specs than laptops in the same price point. A desktop is the way to go if you’re on a budget and want the best possible specs for your money.
There are many brands and configurations to choose from. This gives you heaps of choice to customise the computer to your needs. You can also upgrade specific components down the track. This will save you money since you won’t have to buy a whole new desktop computer.
They also tend to have many USB ports which as I mentioned in the specs section is important. Add to that the vast choice in screen sizes. These benefits make desktops an attractive option for your home DJ studio.
Desktop computers do take up a fair bit of space. If you don’t have much room for your setup having a bulky desktop tower will make your workspace cramped. This issue is compounded once you have your DJ gear on your desk as well. Even the smallest DJ controller needs some breathing space around it for comfortable use.
They can also be noisy. This may not be a huge issue though if you’re playing your music loud but it’s still worth considering.
The biggest drawback for desktops is portability and the reason why many DJ’s prefer laptops. Got a friend who is holding a party and wants you to play some killer tunes? You’ll find it a challenge to move your entire desktop computer as well as your DJ equipment. You’ll then also need to find enough space to get everything set up. Desktop computers are not designed to be moved from location to location. Keep this in mind if you think you’ll be moving your setup on a frequent basis.
Many of the benefits of a desktop computer tend to be the drawbacks of laptops. They do offer some very important benefits though that for many DJ’s make them the better choice.
- More Expensive
- Lower Specs For The Price
- Screen Sizes Can Be Limiting
- Degradation Of Power Supply
- Fewer Ports
- Difficult To Upgrade
Laptops make listening to and preparing your DJ sets more convenient and portable.
There are also plenty of choices when it comes to laptops. If budget is not an issue you can get a laptop that is as good if not better than a desktop computer. The main benefit of laptops over desktops is that they’re portable and compact. If you don’t have much room a nice compact laptop will give you more space for your equipment. Having the ability to move it around or even place it on a dedicated stand will make your DJ workflow much easier. Additionally, you can take your laptop anywhere. You can hunt down the latest tunes for your next set or even organize your collection on the go. If you do plan on taking your DJ setup with you to a friends house a laptop will make your life a lot easier.
But that is where things can start to get expensive. You’ll have to pay more for the same specs as a desktop computer so keep this in mind. Also be careful and make sure the laptop has at least 3 USB ports. A laptop won’t be any good to you if you can’t plug everything you need into it!
Screen size is also a factor. If possible try to get the biggest screen you can afford. Trying to decipher what is happening on a cramped screen is tiresome. You’ll end up dreaming of more screen real estate down the track.
Laptop power supplies can be troublesome as well. Over time the internal battery won’t hold charge the way it used too. Similar to how a mobile phone battery degrades over time. You may find yourself having to cart your power pack with you everywhere you go. There is nothing more stressful than when you realise your laptop is about to run out of battery in the middle of a set. Be sure to check out reviews on the battery life of any laptop you are considering buying.
Laptops are far more difficult to upgrade compared to desktops as well. It isn’t as simple as opening a tower and slotting in some more RAM. Keep this in mind if you’re on a limited budget and don’t want to buy a new laptop every few years.
Even with these drawbacks laptops tend to be preferred by DJ’s due to the convenience and portability they offer. Consider the drawbacks but don’t let them prevent you from getting a laptop.
Apple VS Microsoft
So now you know what specs to look for and the benefits and drawbacks of both desktops and laptops. There is one decision left, Apple or Microsoft. I’ll be honest and tell you it doesn’t matter. This decision comes down to personal preference. If you’re already familiar with one and prefer it over the other I’d suggest you stick to what you know. You’ll already be spending a lot of time getting familiar with your DJ equipment and software. You may not want to also be learning a whole new operating system.
Having said that there are a few things worth mentioning. Apple products tend to be more expensive than Windows-based computers. They are known for great build quality and durability so you do get what you pay for.
Unlike computers, you can’t tinker with the inside of a Mac. Keep this in mind if you want to be able to upgrade your DJ computer over time.
When it comes to Apple the options are limited. For some, this may actually be a benefit. Having to go through the specs of two dozen computers and trying to figure out which is best for you can be a daunting task.
Another thing to keep in mind is compatibility with your hardware and software. Luckily most of the big name companies support both. It is still worth double checking.
Despite all the above, it does come down to personal preference. There are supporters of both and they’ll forcefully defend their position. If that is you that’s fine but if you’re on the fence know that both will be able to do what you need.
There is one more topic I’d like to cover that often gets overlooked and that is your peripherals. A quality keyboard and mouse can go a long way to making your home DJ studio even better. While not the most important component of your setup it is worth considering.
A wireless keyboard and mouse gives you greater flexibility when setting up your DJ studio.
Whether you end up getting a desktop or a laptop I recommend you look into upgrading to a wireless keyboard and mouse. In a desktop computer setup having the freedom to place the keyboard and mouse in any position without worrying about cables is a huge quality of life improvement. It’s also a great way to keep your home DJ studio setup looking neat and clean. When it comes to laptops one of the trickiest parts of navigating DJ software is trying to use the trackpad. When you’re frantically looking at different tracks to line up your next mix you want to save as much time as possible and it’s quicker to use a mouse.
One other thing to consider is a keyboard with backlit keys if you plan on mixing in low light or dark conditions. Having the keys illuminated will save you time. It also allows you to return your attention back to your DJ equipment as quickly as possible.
So Which One Is Best for a DJ Computer?
So after all that you may still be wondering whether a desktop or a laptop is better for a DJ computer. Unfortunately, there is no clear cut winner. If you are starting out and you’re on a budget I recommend you use what you already have. If you’re ready to upgrade you should have a good idea of what to look out for now. There are some amazing options out there for both desktops and laptops so find one that you love and go for it!