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Vergecast Conducts “Stress Test” of Laptops’ Built-In Microphones in Times Square


With online voice calls and Zoom meetings being the norm today, a laptop’s built-in microphone has an important role to play more than ever. Have laptop manufacturers finally been able to crack the code on how to improve the audio quality of their built-in microphones?

The people of The Vergecast took it upon themselves to test out the built-in microphones of six different laptops through a stress test in Times Square, New York City. Their senior reviewer, Monica Chin, ventured on to the chaotic tourist hotspot where she held the laptop in front of her to make a voice call.

Spoiler alert: most of the laptops did surprisingly well considering past experiences with a built-in microphone.

Laptop #1: 16-inch 2021 MacBook Pro

Is your Laptop's Built-In Microphone Good Enough for Voice Calls?

Starting with the best-performing laptop, the 16-inch 2021 MacBook Pro is the winner of them all. Considering how noisy and crowded Time Square is, the built-in microphone of the 2021 MacBook Pro gave the most “realistic” sound while impressively zoning in on Monica’s voice.

Although one can still hear a bit of wind and background noise, the built-in microphone of the 2021 MacBook Pro was able to make Monica’s voice distinct enough from the outside noise.

Laptop #2: Dell XPS 13

Is your Laptop's Built-In Microphone Good Enough for Voice Calls?

Although not as good as the built-in microphone of the 2021 MacBook Pro, the Dell XPS 13 did pretty well in its own right. Monica’s voice can be clearly heard in front of the audio recording, but the background noise was also getting picked up.

The boost in the higher-end frequencies is also noticeable. If anything, one can say that the built-in microphone of the Dell XPS 13 is effective in picking up sounds all around, but this can get quite distracting if you want to focus on one sound source.

Laptop #3: Gateway 14.1″ FHD Laptop

Is your Laptop's Built-In Microphone Good Enough for Voice Calls?

The $400 Gateway laptop perhaps performed the poorest amongst all other laptops on the list. The recording sounded muffled, pushing close to what a grounded microphone would sound like. The wind noise was also getting picked up, may it be from Monica or the actual wind breezing through. Certainly, the built-in microphone of the Gateway laptop still needs a lot of improvement.

Laptop #4: Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Gaming Chromebook

If you don’t mind having your voice sound a bit higher than it normally is, then the Lenovo IdeaPad 5i can cut it. The built-in microphone of this laptop may not give you perfect audio recordings in terms of quality but it certainly does the job!

Monica’s voice was prominent enough to be heard despite the high end and distortion that is slightly audible. Nevertheless, amongst all the laptops, the microphone of the Lenovo made Monica’s voice the loudest without boosting the street noise.

The Lenovo gave the widest dynamic range between the speaker’s voice and the background noise.

Laptop #5: ThinkPad X13

Is your Laptop's Built-In Microphone Good Enough for Voice Calls?

The go-to work laptop, the ThinkPad X13, unfortunately, did not do so well. One would think that the microphone of a business laptop would perform better given that most working professionals conduct regular online voice calls and conferences, but this is not the case.

The audio of the microphone has less processing and tuning to the voice, which leads to the background noise and ambient sounds getting picked up more than the one speaking to the mic. Such was the case that the test recording of Monica could almost pick up the conversations of other people in Times Square.

Laptop #6: M2 MacBook Air

The audio recording quality of the M2 MacBook Air’s built-in microphone was great, but not as impressive as the 2021 MacBook Pro. It was still clear and loud, but one can tell that the hardware used for the M2 MacBook Air microphone was not as top-of-the-line as the 2021 MacBook Pro.

Regardless, the microphone can still pack a punch and can give quality and clear audio recordings may you be inside a quiet room or a busy coffee shop.

Final Word

Ultimately, it seems like laptop manufacturers are paying more notice to the quality of their built-in microphones. As hybrid school and work setups become the norm, a laptop with a great-performing built-in microphone is now a must-have feature.

If you don’t have the budget to upgrade your laptop now to any of those on the list, then here’s how you can get the best sound from your current computer microphone.

Naomi Feller

Originally from the East Coast, Naomi started singing as young as 3 years old. In her early teens Naomi made some embarrassing YouTube videos before settling on a love for Podcast editing. When she's not pouring over endless amounts of audio, she lends her expertise to us here at Shout4Music with her crystal clear and finely tuned microphone reviews.

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