What can you expect from a $100 MIDI controller? It’s small. It’s “mobile,” you could say… it ought to be. It’s more plastic than metal, that’s a given.

But the Arturia MiniLab 3 is made by Arturia, and that counts for a lot. There is a lot of engineering packed into their controllers, including low-budget models like the MiniLab. With the 3rd version, the MiniLab gets some small but useful upgrades that make this one of the best buys of this type.

First some additions. Arturia has swapped half of its encoders for sliders. The keybed feels good, and the pads make this an instrument of choice for a lot of beatmakers. The built-in chord mode is still the hotness — one finger can play huge sounds, very useful for those who can’t play keys that well — and it’s joined by a built-in arpeggiator, and Arturia has fine-tuned DAW integration with Ableton and FL Studio.

What’s still good though is the price and size. There aren’t a lot of keyboards you can put in your lap when you’re lying on the couch and not worry about when the MIDI or USB connection cords are going to trip you up. I don’t know how well the MiniLab 3 holds a pint but if someone does dump something here, a $100 controller is a better sponge than a laptop or almost any other gear.

Belaboring the point here, I know, but you can really beat the shit out of the MiniLabs. Take it everywhere and leave it in the boot if you want to. It’s a powerful piece of equipment for the price, good if you need to travel and carrying bits of kit with you, and good as the first piece of hardware for a beginner.

⚪️ Disclosure Statement

5 Mag publishes disclaimers with any product we review, indicating whether money or favor exchanged hands. Neither 5 Mag nor the reviewer were paid anything by (and have never spoken to) Arturia or any representative for this article, which they were not aware was being published. This article contains affiliate links; 5 Mag stands to make a small percentage if you buy anything from them.

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