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  • Recommendations for new laptop?

    Anyone have any recommendations for a new Windows laptop, which will occasionally be used for music? Probably the most demanding application would be recording 16 tracks via USB (probably using a TASCAM US-1800 (or US-2000 if I can find one), for live band recording for demos. I'd also occasionally use it at home for softsynth applications. And mixing, of course, with Reaper. All this amateur, with no heavy penalty if something goes amiss. My wife may also use it occasionally where the most demanding application is autocad. She also requires a large display (which is fine with me) at least 15".

    What's the budget? Not sure really, but I would like to stay under $1K.

    I don't need killer CPU power. I've been doing recording and mixing and using softsynths since the early 2000's, and I know what CPU power is needed. I'm confident an i5 would be fine, though my wife would prefer an i7. Dual or quad core. I've done fine with far less!

    My biggest unknown is whether a 5400-RPM hard drive is sufficient. Back in the day, a 7200-RPM drive was important, to get the data storage rates required for multi-channel recording. The products I'm looking at tend to have 5400-RPM drives. With today's densities (e.g. 1TB drives) is 7200 RPM still necessary? My suspicion is that it isn't, because storage rates are high enough due to density, so high RPM isn't required.

    I'd be interested in comparing results with anyone who's willing to run and post results from Jose Catena's dskbench, which I've used for years to get a quick assessment of my latest laptop. The numbers printed by that application aren't directly mappable to actual recording results, but I believe that the numbers are useful for comparison purposes.

    [ DskBench.exe - using a command window (Start -> Run -> Cmd), cd to the drive you want to measure (e.g., "cd C:") and run the program. Copy the output from the cmd window.]

    Also, I have a MOTU 828 with Firewire. Is there a Firewire-to-USB adaptor? I doubt I'll find Firewire support, and I have reasons to believe the old 828 may not last long either, so I don't want to plow a lot of money into keeping it in use. I'm more likely to get an interface like the Tascam and use the 828 when I need extra mic preamps (if it continues to work -- unfortunately this model won't work "headless" like mkII and later models.)

    Any other suggestions or recommendations?

    Oh yeah: where's a good guide to compare Intel with AMD processor speeds? I know what a quad-core i7 can do (it's what I have now, but will be losing soon). I also understand the importance of front-side-bus speeds, but I'm not up to speed on what's typical these days and how these speeds compare with what I'm currently using.

    Thanks!
    Jeff
    Last edited by JeffLearman; 10-05-2014, 08:54 AM.
    learjeff.net

  • #2
    Do you really need a laptop? Just yesterday, I bought a Dell small format tower computer that's about the size of two laptops stacked one on top of the other that would do all of your audio jobs, and probably most of your wife's jobs except perhaps for heavy AudoCAD work. It cost $20. Second-hand of course, and I had to install an operating system on it.

    If you have to take it out in the field, it's maybe one more trip back to the car for a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. In the house, you can use a real keyboard and monitor of any size you want and it won't take up any more space than a laptop. There's even a place to add a skinny Firewire PCI card.

    There is no Firewire-to-USB adapter other than one that provides power to charge a camera. The data transfer protocol is different enough so that it's not cost-effective for the industry to design an adapter. They can sell you a whole computer for about thes same cost, given the small demand.

    Every time I say that there are no more new laptops with a Firewire port or expansion card slot, someone comes up with a link to one, but I'll tell you that if you need Firewire, that'll really limit your choices. Thunderbolt is the new Firewire and there are a few Windows laptops with a Thunderbolt port but they're slow in coming and the couple I know of are above the $1000 class. There's a Thunderbolt-to-Firewire adapter that's cheap (about $30) and works fine, so there's a migration path there once you decide to buy into it.

    A laptop is good for someone who can justify it based on portability and the need for more power than a phone or tablet, but a tabletop computer is much more flexible and easier to upgrade, modify, or repair so it'll last you longer before you need to replace it.

    Think about it. Me, I've given up looking for a new laptop. I have a small netbook (screen about the same size as a tablet, and a real keyboard. I've used it to record 16 tracks through USB with no problems. It cost about $300.
    --
    "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
    Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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    • #3
      Hard disk size is important to me. I like Win 8.1. But I'm not sure what's compatible with it.
      I love these little hybrid computer/tablets. But their SSB drives are way too small for serious
      DAW work and storage.
      He has escaped! Youtube , ‚ÄčMurika , France

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      • #4
        Thanks, folks.

        Good point Mike that perhaps I shouldn't limit myself to a laptop, but I doubt my wife will be happy with anything else.
        My son has a small old tower and I have enough hard drives lying around to stop all the doors in the house; it'd be pretty cheap to just get a MOBO and slap in a drive and go with that. This is somewhat of an "interim" computer in any case, due to job changes on both our parts.

        But I'm still interested in laptop solutions, and especially whether 5400 RPM is still a no-no. For one thing, towers are too noisy. And like I said, I'd be sharing it with my wife. Of course, I have an external 7200 RPM drive, so now that I think of it, that's not a showstopper at all. Thanks for your point Etienne which made me realize I'd probably be using an external drive anyway.

        Also, thanks for pointing out that Thunderbolt is coming to Windows. I had thought that it was a Mac-only thing. Delighted to hear it's not. But I think it'll be a while before there's a budget 16-channel Tbolt interface! In any case, I won't be tossing my old Firewire MOTU 828 in the trash, or letting it go for peanuts. What I should probably do with it (in the long run) is rewire it so it's just a set of 8 mic preamps!

        Regarding tablets, keyboard players are already beginning to use them as softsynths. I bet it won't be terribly long before we can use them as field DAWs! But yeah, they'll need lots more (and faster) storage.
        learjeff.net

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        • #5
          My netbook has a 5400 rpm drive and I can record 16 tracks at 44.1 kHz, 24-bit with no glitches. Recording is pretty easy. Mixing is a litle harder since you'll probably have crossfaded edits which means that there needs to be two files playing at once for a short time, but still it's no big deal. The original design for the Mackie HDR24/96 hard disk recorded used a 5400 RPM drive, because that's what was commonly available at the time. The design tests were with a 5400 RPM drive, though by the time the product was ready for manufacturing, 7200 RPM drives were becoming common, so that's how nearly all of them were shipped.
          --
          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

          Comment


          • #6
            I use a small netbook for traveling, and it is great, but I don't do audio on it. It's an Asus that runs Windows 7. I know netbooks are yesterday's thing, but it suited all my needs and scarcely cost more than US$300. It works very well.

            I have access to a Macbook Pro and it's a little heavy, but it works really well at everything I throw at it, and I know that this can record audio without any issues. This has Thunderbolt, but no FW.

            Dunno if this helps at all.
            Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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            • #7
              Thanks, Mike! That confirms my suspicion. I've been using laptops for quite a while, but for the last 10 years they've all had 7200 RPM drives, thanks to my former employer. Back in 2003/2004 when I first got started, folks said that 7200 was important, and my limited experience corroborated that (things got better when I got my first 7200 RPM drive). The most I'm likely to do is 16 channels at 44.1Kb/24 bit, so that's exactly what I needed to know. Of course, there are countless other possible problems thanks to chipsets, but audio is no longer the supercriticial application that it once was, thank goodness!

              For mixing/playback, I know lots of tricks in case I'm not getting the throughput I need. Of course, it's nice not to need the tricks! Playback is far less critical anyway, since you get a "do-over" if you get dropouts. No such luck for live recording!
              learjeff.net

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              • #8
                Additional data points never hurt, Ustad. Thanks :-)
                learjeff.net

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                • #9
                  Actually, I don't think a MacBook is anywhere close to being under $1000, so no, that was pretty much useless.
                  Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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