5 things to consider when buying a New DJ Laptop

small__408673425You knew the time would come, your dj laptop is getting slow, the screen won’t shut anymore, the WI-FI connection drops more than it should, there are vibrating noises that shouldn’t be happening and you’re at the end of your 2nd batteries life. Technology is jumping further and further ahead making your computers start up procedure feel like you’re in quicksand.

Being in this situation is bitter sweet! You love your computer, it’s been with you for years and is your friend. You don’t want to say goodbye, but on the other hand, you’re getting a new computer!! Awesome, how exciting! But then what about moving all your files and which computer do I get? Yes, as I say, it’ bitter sweet, but a guaranteed process at some point nonetheless. In this article I will be guiding you through some minefields of buying a new Mac laptop, or notebook as they have started calling them in recent years. Although the article leans towards Apple, it still contains some important considerations for those PC shoppers out there.

Where to Start when shopping for a new Computer?

There are a number of factors to consider when buying a new computer, the most important categories I feel (in no particular order)are:

  • Speed
  • Weight
  • Screen size
  • Storage and
  • Connectivity (ie. what ports does it have?)

These are all important, but it is likely that one of these categories is more important to you than the other. They all overlap in some way, but getting them in order of importance is key. Then of course one has to consider the price, at which point you may need to scrap all your calculations and start again!

How would you use your DJ Laptop?

In other words, what will the machines most important task be? – As many of you reading this are DJ’s it is likely that playing music to a room full of people is the answer to that question.  All the other stuff, takes a back seat for now. So what tasks are under the umbrella of ‘playing to a room full of people’?  You are going to be:

  • storing files,
  • moving files,
  • connecting audio interfaces and controllers and
  • carrying your computer around quite a bit.

You are most likely going to be installing Traktor aswell, so maybe the first thing to do, is check the system requirements to make sure you at least have those bases covered. If we take a look at the Native Instruments website we see the following minimum requirements for Traktor 2.6 software.


We are focusing on the Mac right now, so hold those specs in the back of your mind, most computers these days should have those specs, but it is always safest to check and make sure. (NB:If you are wanting to produce music, using Ableton, Logic, Reason or any other DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) it is wise to check their specs too as they may be higher than Traktors requirements.)

Researching your new machine

Now you know your minimum requirements for the software you want to run, we can get stuck in to the good stuff (without forgetting about the 5 categories from the start of the article).

MacBook Air

large_2263096501As this is for DJ’ing and will be travelling a lot; the weight and size are very important. DJ’s often have a great deal of gear to cart around, so making it as compact and lightweight as possible will be a noticeable benefit. The smallest and lightest would obviously be the Air 11″, weighing in at a mere 2.38lbs or 1.08kg, it would not be much of a burden in your DJ bag and would be fantastic for using on plane journeys, busses, in the car or even to just whip out in a coffee shop.  You may even be able to fit it in a large jacket pocket as it’s under a footlong and only 7.5 inches wide. If you wanted to add 2 inches of screen real estate with the 13″ Air, you would only be piling on an extra half a pound (0.27kg) This extra weight is hardly going to put your back out and the larger screen opens up the possibility of putting the computer that little further away from your DJ position should the DJ booth be a little awkward and demanding, not to mention being more suited towards more screen hungry applications.

The Air’s, as standard, do come with a slightly small hard drive size, starting at 64 and 128 GB, but with the options to upgrade at a cost. Hard drive size is important, but some money could be saved if you were willing to store music on an external drive.  I have the luxury of having my desktop computer and some external drives for the lions share of the data, so my laptop wouldn’t need to hold everything. In this case the 128GB flash drive would be a comfortable size, but would not leave much room for expansion. Figuring out the minimum hard drive size is my foundation in this exercise. Using your current hard drive size as a guideline is a good place to start, but if you are planning on streamlining and using your new computer for DJ stuff only, then just knowing the size of your music folder will suffice (not forgetting to leave room for all the operating system and apps).  Many people have HUGE music libraries but obviously you’re never going to play all the music in one night out, so consider organizing your libraries, pruning your collection and maximising your capacity by changing the content of your hard drive now and again.

If, like me, you do move large files about now and again (or lots of files such as music), you might not like the fact that the Air’s are not sporting an ethernet port or a firewire port either.  They do however come fitted with a thunderbolt port and the new USB 3 ports.

USB 3 Ports

These ports on the new Macs at first offered me a little concern; will my USB 2 cables and devices work? The answer is yes, all USB 2 devices will connect to the USB 3 ports, however, they will continue to operate at the USB 2 transfer rate of 480 Mbps. The new USB 3 ports are said to transfer at a rate of 5 Gbps per second, which is a huge jump in transfer rate. The devices that utilize this functionality will have different connectors on the device end than the USB 2 counterpart.  As all traktor devices are currently USB 2, there is nothing to gain from, or worry about, with these USB 3 ports.

MacBook Pro – Retina

small__3206216434The Retina display models also all come with Solid State Hard Drives, which would speed things up a little, this also reflects rather heavily in the pricing structure.  Neither do they have the matching requirements for screen resolution.  The Retina Display has been causing some issues for some people as it is making many programs and apps look very pixelated as many companies have not yet updated their software to function at such high resolution. Traktor certainly works and looks fine on the new retina displays, but it has not been given the new makeover treatment yet. (if any readers are using this we would love to hear your views in the comments below or forum) Admittedly a high screen resolution would be sweet to see in Traktor, but it certainly isn’t necessary. The entry level price for the Retina Pros is $1699US / £1449GBR, which I feel is a little too high at this stage of the game, especially when it means you get no ethernet or firewire port.  One thing to watch going forward though is, the power cable, known as magsafe adaptor.  This has changed too, so be sure you always have yours with you and the days of borrowing the other guys’ may be changing). For a few reasons I state here, the retina option is out of the equation, at least for me, for now. That is not to say it’s not amazing machine, it’s just beyond what I need to fulfil my requirements.

MacBook Pro

Switching our attention then to the non-retina version we are greeted with a $500/£450 cheaper price tag, we get our ethernet and firewire ports back, our original magsafe adaptor and a 500GB Hard Drive. We do loose 4GB of RAM, but unlike the Airs, we are able to upgrade the Pros at a later date, with after market RAM. 4GB can be picked up pretty cheap these days if you shop around, but Apple even offer it at a reasonable $100/£80. The only issue that is puzzling me here is the weight.  If you are hoping to drop the weight, then plumping for this model isnt going to be your favourite choice. We have quite a porker on the scales at 4.5lbs.  That 2.12 lbs heavier than the 11″ Air and 1.54lbs more than the 13″ Air. It is even a shade heavier than the 15″ retina Macbook Pro who slips in under the mark at 4.46lbs. So this brings us back to our 5 selection criteria. What is more important to you?  Maybe we should look at the speeds…..

Bench Mark Test

Geekbench is a speed tester that is used to benchmark computer speeds so that they may be compared to one another.  It will quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance of your computer and is available for download from Primatelabs. The following tests have been completed by Primatelabs and tell us how the various models compare.
screen-shot-2012-12-04-at-3-55-39-pmIf we look at the i5 chipset (there is an i7 option that adds more cost), the 13″ Pro scores faster than the 13″ Air, but not by much. Is the performance worth the extra weight?  They are both carrying 4GB of ram and they are both the same price. Both are upgradable to 8GB of ram (the Air only at time of purchase), so they can achieve faster.  If you went with the Pro and over time found it being left behind, you could later upgrade the hard drive to a solid state drive, which would increase the speeds for you. I would probably say though as technology improves, instead of making adjustments to your existing computer you may just change it out for new one anyway, so choosing the Pro for the possibility of upgrading it later, may not be the best path. You could add 8GB of ram to the Air at time of purchase for $100/£80 and you’ll likely have better performance from the start. If that’s your choice, then you have saved the weight, you’ve got the power, but you’re lacking in certain connectivity possibilities and hard drive space.

I decided to run a geekbench test on my current DJ computer to see how it compared to the newer models. I have a 2006 2.33Ghz intel Macbook Pro, running with its ram at maximum capacity of 3GB. I know that my current computer can run Traktor 2.6, with an F1, S4 and
screen-shot-2012-12-05-at-8-21-50-am-150x150Audio 8 connected to it, whilst also running a screen recording application for tutorials and recording the audio in Traktor. The latency is great, but I know when I push it with some effects I am starting to get a few hiccups. The CPU meter is showing pretty full.  So I was nicely surprised to know that my Geekbench score was 3183; almost half of the new computer. This means, that any of the computers mentioned in the article will manage what you need, even the Macbook Air 11″ fires out a score of 5436.


This is no easy race, there are many things to consider.  As Native instruments ‘recommends’ 4GB of ram, I am confident that all the Apple computers will run Traktor comfortably, which brings the decision down to weight, screen size and connectivity. The connectivity issue can be fixed by a couple of adaptors, which is fine so long as you don’t mind swallowing the cost of those (approx $30/£25 each). The 13″ Air has an SD card slot, something the 11″ does not. I am thinking that the 11″ is lacking in screen real estate, although the portability is very appealing. I feel that after looking at it from all angles there is one option that takes the middle ground here in somewhat achieving all goals: the MacBook Air 13″ with 8GB ram. It cuts down on your weight, it offers you speed, it’s screen size is decent and 128GB hard drive is big enough for any DJ, so long as your main record collection is kept on an external.  After all, we never used to take all our vinyl to the club!

Do you use any of the computers mentioned here? We’d love to know some pros and cons, tell us your experiences and help other Traktor users with their Traktor experiences.

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photo credit: Éole & nathan makan & iklash/ 


37 thoughts on “5 things to consider when buying a New DJ Laptop

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  2. Hi there, thx for this forum..
    Anyway i run Macbook pro 17″ a1151, intel core duo 2.16 GHz, 2GB RAM, (2006 model)
    Pretty old machine, but still solid to use traktor stratch 2 with audio 4 dj with new mk2 control vinyls, and x1 controller.

    i had some problem with processor speed and RAM, what cause cracking mainly when i was scratching, and slow loading..so a have to do clean install of snow leopard, than update to 10.6.8, than was problem only with RAM and as u wrote the ram is mainly for fx so i had to delete some in aplication support and now its run flawless even scratching like ill ‘] BUT after all good, macbook getting overheated so i must all the time use ultra fan, set temp to 64 degree even after i put new thermal paste..and fans run at max speed when play traktor or watching utube videos. sometimes i got vertical lines cross display so probably grafic card is dying..dont know why…i bought it new in london..never got liquide inside..just some hits.. so now very happy for those years with mac, who never let me down im thinking buy new one..im poor artist now..not more rich hardworker so no money to buy new one.. your post confirm me that i dont need any new staff from apple to play live gig..my vintage mac is the prove too..’]

    The good point is if u using mac or prob any pc for some “fussy” software is good to have it just for it without any useless aplicationsfiles..etc. on it…music stored in external, conected thru firewire or thunderbolt or put in just that u want and let traktor straight to analized them before u go is great is well if u not running the newish beast..’]
    All what o wrote is based on my experience, reading other forums…im not skilled geek..just music fan sharing experience..if im wrong in anything please let me know..i do anything to change my mind better ‘]

  3. First of all and writing from my new MBP retina! good post! 🙂
    I have just a short question, How can I install the new traktor without CD?
    I know that buying a external CD reader would be the fastest answer…

  4. you only compared mac to mac..how about other brands and platforms…keep in mind with a mac you are stuck with itunes…

    1. I haven’t used a PC for a long time, except at work. It always pains me when I do. I understand that not all people want to use mac, or can afford to go that route as it is unnecessarily expensive, however as I have very little experience with PC’s it would be unwise of me to write an article about this. Perhaps if there is someone out there that would like to write something like this for Traktor Tips, they can get in touch.

      As for being stuck with iTunes, this is not necessarily true. There are other 3rd party players you can use. But with Traktor you don’t even need iTunes, you can simply manage the music manually.

  5. I’m looking at a 13″ 2009 Macbook (not pro) 4gb of memory and 2.0ghz Core 2 Duo – as I feel the need to finally convert to the dark side – this should be perfect for me or not?

    1. It should be fine – you ‘might’ get some lag if you are running effects and 3 or 4 decks and recording all at once. If you buy it I’d definitely do a clean install of the operating system. Also, check what operating system the computer is able to run as you might find it can only run a lesser system than required for traktor…. I’m guessing it’s this one – http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/macbook/specs/macbook-core-2-duo-2.0-white-13-early-2009-nvidia-specs.html

      1. Good article. I appreciate your honesty regarding PCs. I’ve been an IT geek for the better part of 2 decades and tend to look at it like a tech. Having said that, OSX OS platform has proven to be very stable, but the hardware is still too pricey.

        The one thing we can’t get away from in this world is perception. The last thing a DJ needs is to be perceived as amateurish just because there’s no apple logo on the front of the laptop. It sucks, I know.

        I just started DJing on Miami Beach and believe me, everyone has an opinion about what is professional grade. So here’s the bottom line. While I must bow to other DJs with far more experience than me, I doubt that any of them have my technical background. I’ve seen PCs crash hard and I’ve also seen MACs crash hard. Difference for me is that I can recover a PC more easily. Now, I understand that not everyone has a Microsoft Certification; so when a DJ has a tech issue, he goes and finds a tech. But lets face it, if you’re going to be a digital DJ, it pays to know the system you’re working on well, MAC or PC.

        So… Beginners and those with a budget, .. go for the PC, get the fastest processor you can find, store your music on an external drive and worry not about the space on your laptop. Hell, there are 30 GB memory sticks for cheep as well.

        If you have the cash and you worry about how you’re perceived, get the MAC. Funny, I always thought that a DJ should be judged on his performance and skill rather than what hardware he or she walks in with. But lets face it. In the entertainment business, its about sight and sound.

      2. Excellent points Al. I am in no way promoting Apple on the basis of ‘appearance’, but unfortunately, my experience of PC’s is they crash and my experience of Mac’s, is they don’t.
        This is the simple filter I use for my choice of system. I have to use a PC at work and I loathe every minute of it. Windows 8 is ridiculous and it seems they’re trying too hard to make it cool, but failing miserably.

        The only thing that matter, as you say, is that the user is comfortable with their system and knows it inside out and how to fix an issue or how to manage a failure.

        I feel that owning a PC means you need to learn more about the computer than you do with an Apple system. With apple, the computer disappears into the background so you can simply focus on your task, with a PC, it makes sure you know it’s there by telling you all the time and popping up dialogue boxes with yes no decisions for things you don’t know how to answer.

        I want a computer that is invisible and allows you to immerse yourself in the task at hand. I want to be a DJ, not a computer tech.

      3. Haha….. I appreciate your time posting on here! Happy DJ’ings! Hope to see you around more! Cheers Al…….. Al. 😉

  6. One thing that I wanted was USB3 ports for fast transfers from an external USB3 drive however my Traktor Kontrol S2 will not run on a USB3 port on my HP DV6. I love the laptop, It’s very fast, I have no speed or latency issues with the quad core processing, and I have both USB2 and USB3 ports. Also, be aware that using an external USB hub may limit your transfer speed depending on the type of hub used and what USB port type it is plugged into. The HP DV6 series also offers lighted keyboard options which is great. Before you do anything to a laptop, do a full disk image backup of the restore partition out of the box in case you ever have to rebuild the system. That partition may be hidden so you have to unhide it with the Windows Explorer options. Keep up current backups of your music collection(s) especially if you ran the key tagging feature on Traktor or updated your MP3 Tags.

  7. I just can’t make up my mind what to do, largely because having bought a MB pro (I daredn’t yet take it out of the box!), I feel I can’t justify the price I have paid (my gf definitely can’t!). I’m only going to use it once a week and I’m a beginner dj, without the bells and whistles of even an average music guy, although I want to find ways to use it more; video editing, photos etc. I think the pro is still light enough not to be a problem but with 4G ram, I’m worried it’s not enough in the long term. The processor speed is good at 2.5ghz but I read somewhere that that’s not important for djing; is that so? I use an old Compaq currently and, embarrassingly, it has been freezing up mid set. I feel it’s over-extravagant to pay so much but is a decent PC really as good, or better, than a mac? Should I take it back and get an 8G ram MB Air? I need help, although performing tomorrow, I think I will have to make up my own mind before any of you guys can reply.

    1. I am sure you made your mind up by now! Either computer will do you well, making the move to Apple is a great chocie (in my opinion) no matter what computer you get. The Air will be good enough, but if it is your main computer, then a Pro will have a bigger hard drive and can be used for other things too, such as music production. What did you decide in the end!?

      1. Sorry to break in here. Having recently bought Traktor Kontrol S2, I have been stumped on using this with a Dell Inspiron with Windows 7 and 4GB etc. The problem is that when I scroll down my 3800 songs, the computer bombs out / crashes with an error message everytime. Also, the “load” inexplicitly goes into the red after about 30mins. I have read all the blogs and adjusted all the settings. It is clear to me that I need to upgrade to an Apple.

        Looking at: Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (Intel Dual Core i5 2.5GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, HD Graphics 4000, OS X Lion)… I am going to be disappointed? Will I regret buying Traktor and the Apple?

        In the meantme, do you have advice on solvng the Dell problem?

  8. I currently use a late 2011 Mac book pro 15″ with 16gb of
    ram and an i7 quad core processor. I have found this set up
    flawless along side Traktor and a Denon MC 3000 controller. 8 gb of
    ram would be more than adoquate but I would recommend that a mac is
    a better option if only due to the face that it has better in built
    midi controller options, although the cost is a little off putting.
    A PC is a fine option but just make sure it’s a good spec. i5
    minimum with at least 4 if not 8 gb of ram and either will
    surffice. Thanks

  9. I have a MacBook Pro and it’s a great computer, but I’m thinking about using Ableton Live with Traktor Pro (and I’m already running into configuration headaches), but I was thinking “I don’t need the keyboard as much as I do a second monitor” and then I saw this Acer Iconia 6120 which seems to fit the bill nicely. I am aware that PCs need more care when it comes to turning off unused tasks, but how would one of these rank against your Mac Laptops?

    1. I’m sure there are many suitable PC alternatives to the Mac, however, I personally have had zero experiences with a PC since I moved to Apple in 2006. If there are any other readers out there that can offer a helpful answer I’m sure you’d make some people happy. Thanks.

  10. Good article but can’t believe you’ve not listed any touch screen laptops. I want my next laptop to have touch screen like the Vaio Duo or HP Envy X2, they also double up as tablets

  11. I use a Macbook Retina 15″ with Tractor Pro and have found it to be a great choice, but yes expensive.
    I found I couldn’t afford to get the larger drive so with 256Gig my music collection soon ate all the space up, but i have brought it back under control by keeping part of my collection in the Cloud.
    Performance is good and thunderbolt, I expect will, eventually, be the standard interface for external drives and controllers.

  12. I have a HP pavilion dv7. With Intel i9 quad core, beats, and terabyte hard drive. It works like crap for some reason. I am not really computer savvy, so I have no idea how to fix it. I run Traktor with an S4, and it frequently glitches up, and right now both Traktor, and the S4 are not working properly. I need help!!!! Lol. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi DJHomeless. Has this laptop always performed like this with the S4? Did you have another machine on which it worked fine?

      When you say it doesn’t work, is it clicks during playback or is it general functionality?

      There’s a few threads highlighting possible issues of audio clicks etc so I don’t know whether or not you’ve checked any other forums on how to solve your problems?


      I’d ask around. Have you any mates who know about Traktor and it’s best configuration?

      Also try contacting Native Instruments support. I had a few audio problems when the 2.5 came out and they were very good with support


      Good luck

    2. i have the dv6….. it’s the HP power manager that hinders your performance. right click the battery in the bottom right corner of your screen. HP power manager > click high performance… also turn off all beats audio! it sucks

    3. Have you used the diagnostics in the S4 control center, you may need to lower your latency!!

  13. Love the site, great idea and some great stuff, however, please consider that not all DJ’s use Apple Macs or should I say Notebooks?

    “Although the article leans towards Apple”. Why not rename the article “5 things to consider when buying a New Mac”?


    1. I completely understand that not all DJ’s use macs and feel upset that you have been annoyed by this article. I personally have used apple computers since 2006 and therefore wanted to create an article to help people search for a new Mac. As I didn’t want to leave anyone out I wanted to at least show some considerations that everyone must take when buying a new laptop. These things also apply to any laptop purchase. Thank you for your point of view I always appreciate feedback. I hope I can minimize annoyance of my readers going forward. Thank you.

  14. An excellent alternative to a Mac is HP envy series. I use a 14″ beats edition with i7, 8gb ram and 500HD. To be honest it’s idling most of the time and I’m able to maintain 4.2ms latency on TP 2.5.1. Its solid and looks great (also important of course!)

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