The Best Laptops for Recording Audiobooks 2018

Do I need a new computer?

The purpose of this article is to discuss the best laptops for audiobook narration, but if you’re asking yourself whether or not you need a new laptop to get started recording audiobooks, the short answer is, “No.” The laptop you have will most likely meet your need. And with all the money you save, you can upgrade other equipment or take acting classes to improve performance.

If you’re like me, however, you’ve been clutching to an ancient laptop for years, coaxing it along like a twenty-year-old basset hound with no hind legs. If it needs five minutes to whine before it opens a browser window, you practice Zen and give it the time.

This might be okay if you’re using your laptop as a glorified typewriter, but when it comes to the demands of audio production, you’re going to want something a little more up to date. After all, you’re going to be spending a whole lot of time on your computer, recording and editing work, and the last thing I want is an unreliable machine.

So, what’s important?

 

Sound Cards

It stands to reason that if you’re working with audio you’d want to have a quality sound card, but after doing quite a bit of research, I’ve found that the sound card doesn’t make any difference.

In order to record high-quality audio, audiobook narrators use an audio interface to connect their microphone to their computer. The audio interface has a much higher quality sound card than any sound card you’re going to find in a laptop and when you plug it into your USB, the computer will recognize the external hardware and use that instead of the one onboard.

Choice: It doesn’t matter.

Hard Drives

In the beginning, the projects you’ve recorded are not going to take up much room, but as time progresses, you’re going to need some space. Audio files are fairly large.

That being said, external drives are cheap, reliable, and have capacities in the terabyte range. With an external hard drive dedicated to your audiobook recordings, it could take years before you fill one up. As far as your computer itself is concerned, anything over 200gigs would probably be overkill (plenty of room to store your current projects before you move them to an external for safe keeping).

One thing I do feel is important for audiobook narrators is the amount of sound your hard drive makes. The last thing you want to do is to throw hours of recordings because you can hear your laptops hard drive whirring in the background.

In today’s computing world there are two main types of hard drives, Solid State Drive (SSD) or Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Hard drives are basically a little box with a cd in the middle of it. In order to read data, it spins the disk. This can be loud, especially after the drive degrades over time. SSDs, on the other hand, don’t have any moving parts. This makes them completely silent. For our purposes, SSDs are a better bet.

Choice: SSD + External Hard Drive

RAM

Random Access Memory (RAM) is sometimes confused with hard drive space, but what RAM actually is, is a part of the computer that stores information temporarily. By doing so, the information can be retrieved at a much faster rate. RAM is what allows you to have a whole bunch of programs running at the same time without bogging down your computers speed.

Working with audio uses quite a bit of RAM and for this reason, it’s recommended that you don’t go with anything less than 8GB. More is better.

Choice: 8GB+

CPU

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is basically the brain of your computer. It sends out signals to the other hardware and tells it what to do. The faster these signals are sent, the faster everything happens.

Obviously faster is better, and I wouldn’t go below 2Ghz, but having a lot of RAM and an SSD is more important than processor speeds for our purposes.

The most popular processors right now are AMD and Intel, but truth be told, either of them is going to get the job done, but it is worth noting that Intel processors run cooler than their AMD counterpart. Running cooler means less reliance on a cooling system (fans) and therefore less noise. Having an AMD processor isn’t a death sentence, but it might sway my decision one way or another.

Choice: Faster is better. 2Ghz+. Intel preferred.

Fans

We want something that isn’t going to make a lot of noise. Granted, most laptops these days are very, very quiet, but it is worth noting the amount of sound they make when researching specific models. If you want to go crazy with this aspect of the build, there are fanless laptops, but in my research, they may not be up to the task in other areas.

Other Considerations

Operating system

Windows 10 Home or Professional editions, or Apple OS X 10.12.3 are the standards right now in operating systems. Personally, I’ve always leaned towards Windows machines over Apple OS, but this is personal preference. Either system will run the necessary audio recording software needed to produce audiobooks.

The main disadvantage of Apple OS, in my opinion, is the cost of the machines that run it. Similar builds running Windows tend to be far less expensive. For this reason, I’m going to be looking mostly at Windows machines, but I will throw in a MacBook for comparison.

Graphics

As far as the screen and graphics cards are concerned, I don’t do a lot of gaming or other work that requires state of the are graphics processing, so I’m not too worried about this aspect of the hardware. I’m also going to be reading manuscripts on my kindle paperwhite rather than directly from the computer screen, as this is my preferred method of reading. If you want to use your laptop for gaming or other graphics-intensive projects, you’re going to want to take this part of the hardware into more consideration.

Keyboard & Mouse

As a writer, I spend a lot of time typing, so I want to have a full-sized keyboard. I’ve had smaller keyboards in the past, and I’ve hated them. If you’re not planning on writing on your computer, I’d imagine the size of the keyboard is much less important, and you may even opt for something like a Surface Pro which has no keyboard at all.

I also don’t like using the touchpad on laptops when I’m working on things like audio editing, so I use a wireless mouse. Again, this is totally up to you.

Laptops that meet my specifications:

 

Dell Inspiron 15.6 Inch HD Flagship Edition Laptop

The cheapest computer that meets all my specifications is this Dell Inspiron. For me, however, it’s a little too clunky and the bare minimum specifications mean I’d have to upgrade sooner rather than later. Still, with a price tag of just $399.00, this could work.

CPU: Intel Pentium N5000 Quad Core Up to 2.7Ghz
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display: 15.6’’ Intel UHD Graphics 605

 

Dell Inspiron 15 5000

This upgraded version of the first computer on the list is far superior to the first, and at $750 I feel this laptop would be well worth the price. Having a 1TB HDD and the 128G SSD does cause some concern over the noise it would make, and I’ve also come across a couple of reviews that specifically mentioned fan noise. Maybe, maybe not. I’d have to look closer at it in person.

Display:15.6 inches
Operating System: Windows 10
CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U Processor
RAM: 8GB
Storage: Dual Drive (1TB+128GB SSD)

Apple 13″ MacBook Pro, Retina Display, 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core

As you can see, this is not really that much of an improvement over the Dell Inspiron 15 5000, yet it costs more than twice as much ($1400 at the time of this writing). I’m absolutely sure that I would like this laptop and it would do exactly what I needed it to do, but I think I can do better for that price tag. If you’re a diehard Mac fanatic, I understand, but I think you can get a better bang for your buck else-ware.

Display: 13.3 inches
Operating System: Mac OS X
CPU: 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD

Asus Zenbook Pro 15 Thin & Light Ultrabook Laptop

I tend to like Asus computers. I’ve owned several of them over the years and they have all been reliable, well-made machines. This one not only exceeds my specifications, it looks damn sexy doing it, but quite a few of the reviews note a loud coil whine which, for our purposes, makes this machine unusable.

Display Size: 14 inches
Operating System: Windows 10
CPU: 7th generation Intel i7-7700HQ Quad Core 2.8 GHz Processor (Turbo to 3.8 GHz)
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD

Asus FX53VD Premium Gaming Laptop PC

This Asus is quite a bit cheaper than the last, coming in at right around $800, and again, it meets my specifications, but again the reviews are riddled with complaints about sound. The computer, like most gaming laptops, is also hideous in my opinion.

Display: 15.6 inches
Operating System: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Quad Core i7-7700HQ Processor (2.80GHz, turbo boost up to 3.8GHz, 6MB Cache)
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD

Eluktronics Pro-X P950HR Ultra-portable

Jumping all the way up to the $2000 range. The Eluktronics Pro-X P950HR is a pretty sick computer. The fourteen-year-old gamer in me would like to drop the cash on this thing, but the adult in me says it’s overkill and I don’t have time for countless hours of gaming I would do with this thing. That being said *whistles*.

Display: 15.6 inches
Operating System: Windows 10
CPU: Core i7
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 512GB SSD

My Top Picks:

2018 Premium Flagship Dell G7

Although this is also a gaming laptop, I like the appearance much more than other’s I’ve seen and there are no complaints I can find regarding noise. The RAM can be upgraded and all my specifications exceeded. The only disadvantage I find is that it currently sells for $1350, more than I wanted to spend.

Display: 15.6 inches
Operating System: Windows 10
CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8750H (9MB Cache, 2.2 GHz up to 4.1 GHz)
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 256GB SSD

HP 13-d040wm ENVY Laptop

Costing just over $700 this computer is much more in my price range and the reviews are quite good.

Display: 13.3 inches
Operating System: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5 GHz, up to 3.1 GHz, 4 MB cache, 2 cores) Dual-Core Processor
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD

Acer Swift 7, 13.3″ Full HD

Billed as the worlds thinnest laptop the Acer Swift 7 might just be the laptop for me. Coming in at $799, this completely fan-less machine is known for being quiet. All of the specifications meet my requirements. The only disadvantage I see here is that the RAM is not upgradable, so what you see is what you get.

Display: 13.3 inches
Operating System: Windows 10
CPU: 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7Y75 Processor 1.3GHz (Up to 3.6GHz)
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB SSD

Final thoughts:

 

When the time comes to make my purchase, it will most likely be one of these final three. If you have any questions or comments or have a recommendation for the perfect audiobook recording laptop not listed here, please let me know!

Thanks for reading and come back next Wednesday when I take a look at Microphones!

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