Laptop for live keyboards

I’ve been using a macbook pro with mainstage since 2012 and it with usual upgrades (ram, ssd) it’s still holding on well but lately experience old-age mechanical problems (connectors etc).

So I’m looking for a PC laptop solution that would be first and foremost optimized for live keyboards with Cantabile.

Audio interface is RME Fireface UC (usb!), not planning on switching.

Most intensive plugins used are Ravenscroft, Omnisphere, u-he diva&repro, Acoustic Samples B5 and some others not so cpu-intensive. Needs to handle multiple layers and splits easily. No sequencing/backing tracks on stage, only live keyboards playing.

What I’m looking for:

  • lightweight and portable but durable at the same time
  • preferably 13-14", i7 (or maybe i5 would be enough?), 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
  • reliable hardware and drivers
  • works fine in winter (sub 0°C) and summer (35°C) outside
  • good thermal design to avoid cpu throttling that would affect plugins
  • low audio latency

Based on my research I’m leaning towards Dell XPS 13" but not decided/convinced yet. Price range of xps would be about right. Would fancy a bit lower price but definitely not higher.
Has anyone done a recent research / tests and would share some experience?

Thanks and best regards,

In my business we have bought lots of XPS 13" laptops the past 4 years. They hold up well and don’t seem to have cooling issues. 16GB 512 SSD is good. They are the high end of what we spend on a laptop.

It’s very compact for the size of its screen.

Probably wouldn’t be a problem now but I have an older model that maxes out at 4GB making it pretty useless at this point.

I’m using Dell XPS 15 (9570) with 16 GB and 512 MB SSD. I’m using similar plugins ( CFX Grand, Pianoteq, Omnisphere ) and it runs quite smoothly. Only thing is the Realteq wifi and audio chip which sometimes could cause interrupts I don’t want. I‘m disabling wifi during live performance and I have uninstalled the realtech audiodriver since I’m using the MOTU 624 interface (thunderbolt/usb).
Running with power scheme High Performance everything works fine, in my experience.


Thank you very much. However recently I’ve read a bit too much about coil whine and especially DPC latency on the XPS models so I’m a bit scared…

How about HP elitebook 840 g5? Anyone with it? It’s even cheaper than the XPS…
Thanks and best regards,

I have good experience with Asus Vivobook series.
It is already the second I bought, a third for a friend.
I am using a 15" of three years ago, with i7 processor, I extended RAM to 16 giga, plus a 1 Tera SSD NVMe
I am fully satisfied. From USB plugs resistance too.
My previous Vaio was working well, but USB inlet started to have problems.

Here in Italy Asus can be found with aggressive prices if compared with Dell or HP.
I am afraid it is a local situation: many offers from big electronics shops.


I play C3 using a Dell Inspiron 5559, with i7-6500U, 16GB RAM, 512 SSD & 1Tb HDD

The SSD is essential for fast start up times, programs and sample libraries such as Omnisphere.

512Gb SSD is tight though; I have ran out of space already, and need to keep some stuff on D:/1Tb HDD. Works fine, but my next upgrade will include at least a 1Tb SSD.

16GB RAM is fine for now. I can play a setlist with 30 Cantabile songs with it (not too complicated setups), but I am getting to 14Gb RAM usage at the moment. So, also there my next upgrade will go to 32Gb RAM

CPU speed is important as well; mine is ok, but needs an upgrade i.m.o. Check a benchmark site such as
to see which the performance of your choice, or if you want something better. My i7-6500U is listed to have a CPU mark of 4429. Guess it’s better to have something 8000+

Sure, it will depend what your needs are: size and the complexity of your setlist, and the number of demanding VST’s such as Omnisphere, Keyscape, Electri6ity…

Hi Matej,

my weapon of choice:
Thinkbook T440p (i7, 16gb)
rock solid, not sooo light-weight, no thermal throttling even under high temperatures (open air stages without shade are no problem)
the best thing:
you can buy these used for ca 400€


I recently bought a bto, got advices by some forum member here. And i love it!
You can configure your machine online.
9th Gen i7, 6 core, 24gb ram, 256 ssd, 1tb hd,… It’s a beast. Also not heavy weighted.

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i would definitely recommend ANY of the Ryzen 3 chipset. They should be hitting the market soon with Thunderbolt 3 capability. Im building custom machines for music production and video editors. The price and features will give you the most bang for your buck!