I’ll often listen to music or watch TV on my laptop and, although it’s doable, I’m definitely not getting great audio quality. With the trend for ultraportable models and thinner laptops, isn’t it likely to get much worse?
The space needed to create a rounded sound experience is just not available on laptops.
Is it time to admit defeat, and realise that if you care about the quality of what you’re listening to, you must bite the bullet and plug in some speakers?
Of course, you could use a pair of headphones – slightly more antisocial and you’d have to be sitting in one place – but our laptop testing generally shows far improved sound when listening through this method than with the built-in speakers.
Different sounds for different reasons
I suppose it’s all a matter of convenience, personal preference, and what you’re actually listening to. If you’re Skyping a friend or watching a short TV show, the built-in speakers are likely to be fine. But if you’re listening to music or watching a film that tinny sound is going to grate after a while.
You might think that the whole point of having a laptop is to have a portable computer that you can use wherever you like, without having to tie it down to a separate speaker set. And you certainly wouldn’t be wrong.
And what about laptops with branded audio, like the ones that claim to have Harman Kardon or Dolby speakers? They might have the sticker on their product but, as our laptop testers at our lab recently pointed out, it’s not always clear what difference this actually makes in practice.
No hope for laptop sound quality?
Even though sound quality varies between models, I’m not blaming the manufacturers – even the best just can’t compete with a full surround sound external speaker experience. And to be fair to them, the technical limitations of built-in speakers on laptops mean it’s just not possible.
What do you think? Are you happy with the sound quality of the built-in speakers of your laptop for what you want to use it for? Would you be willing to plug in an external solution or are you happy to take a drop in quality to keep it portable and reduce hassle?