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Tim Haslett

Looking for new laptop

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Hi All,

I am looking to buy a new laptop. I will be using CbB on it with VSTi plugins to play live and do some recording.

I have an Alesis Strike Pro SE that I will be using to trigger Steven Slate Drums 5.5, and may eventually also get Superior Drummer 3 as well. I have an Edirol UA-1000 for my interface. It's a bit old, I know, but I did manage to get it working with Windows 10. Eventually I hope to replace it with a nice FocusRite or somethin else that can handle 8 i/o and MIDI/USB.

I'm new to the world of DAWs and triggering. In fact, I'm new to e-drums, just having gotten my kit in May. I've done some MIDI stuff in the past, so I have some limited knowledge there.

Now, I am assuming that it's more the interface that counts when trying to reduce latency, but I wanted to ask here to make sure. I plan to get a 1TB SSD drive and at least 16GB  RAM. Will a quad-core i5 CPU be good enough? Should I really go to an i7? I have a more than capable desktop that I would use for any mixing/mastering, so that's not really a concern for me.

Thanks all!

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Really, almost anything fairly recent will work fine for most things, but I'd suggest if you want the best performance and getting the parts that you really want to prioritise for audio rather than gaming, either have a chat to @Jim Roseberry to either build or consult with to make a dedicated LAPTOP or go the Clevo route (I use Metabox custom laptops myself,  who are a Clevo reseller).

You'd want 2 drives in there, preferably - one for system, and one for your sample libraries. This is getting less of a thing now that there's super fast M.2 drives now, but I always prefer to split things up between drives regardless.

I'd personally go at least an i7, but if you're just triggering stuff, I think you'd be able to get away with a speedy i5. That said, definitely consult with a specific laptop DAW builder like Jim - you'll get the best advice there.

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The old forum had a dedicated sub forum for computers. But back then there was more to know. Now computers are sort of beyond talking about. Glad those days are over. I did notice the price of Laptops has certainly not gone down! Yicks. I was going to buy a new one and quickly changed my mind. 

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Look out for as many of the old-style USB ports as possible. You will be wanting to connect interfaces, keyboards, controllers, a thumb drive or external hard drive... Hubs often cause issues with DAWs.

Also decide how your setup will be arranged and where the ports should be - mostly left, mostly right, or back?

The trend is toward fewer ports and USB 3, but music gear is moving rather slowly and USB 3 is not yet common.

And yes, two internal hard drives is desirable.

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5 hours ago, Lord Tim said:

I'd personally go at least an i7, but if you're just triggering stuff, I think you'd be able to get away with a speedy i5. That said, definitely consult with a specific laptop DAW builder like Jim - you'll get the best advice there.

This here is not really good information. You can't compare i7s and i5s across the board like that. Realize that a 65W i3 is faster than a 15W i7, realize that a modern i3 is faster than an i7 from 7 years ago at the same TDP.

First off, THE most important part of getting low latency is picking the right interface. The fastest i9 with a USB Focusrite is gonna have worse latency than an i3 Surface Pro with a ZOOM UAC2. Really the only affordable interfaces with truly low latency are MOTUs and the ZOOM UAC series.

Secondly, the type of device you get determines the power envelope a processor gets. Ultra Portables have 15W or even lower, gaming laptops are much better for less money. A modern i3 or i5 full size laptop is faster than an ultra portable i7.

That said, after disabling ACPI Battery Control Method in Device Manager, my i5 Surface Pro 3 runs amazingly at low latency, even more so while using the built-in sound, but also with my UAC2. I've done many gigs with it running Ableton Live, hosting Addictive Drums 2, Lounge Lizard, Trillian, Kontakt, Dimension, Rapture all running in real time ALL NIGHT at 64 samples buffer size. Just about any computer you're gonna buy today is gonna be substantially faster than that machine.

R

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@Rico Belled My point there was I was generalising and that a dedicated DAW builder would give tailored advice for that specific task.

I've done huge recordings on a dual core i7 from a decade ago, and successfully used it for live triggering without an issue. Do I recommend that? Absolutely not, you'll get better performance from almost anything these days. But "almost anything" can mean a wide variation in quality and gotchas on lower end gear especially. It *can* work grunt-wise, especially compared to far more powerful machines of yesteryear, but it's a crap-shoot as to what kind of quality you'll get, which is why I suggested the headroom.

I think we're agreeing here ultimately, though. Choose/build your machine wisely to save yourself a bunch of headaches. :)

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So much great info here to digest!

I'm having some trouble finding laptops that will support dual drives, other than the Clevo ones that @Lord Tim suggested. Since I'm in the US, that doesn't seem to be an option.

I'm not too concerned about the USB ports. The USB 3 ports are backward compatible, so that shouldn't really be an issue. I figure I'll need three at most, which most of the ones I've looked at have, if you include the C ports. But, it is a good point to not forget to make sure that they are there. It is something that could be easy to forget to check.

I was not very familiar with the TDP rating of CPUs. I read up on it a bit, and I guess that it can be used to see how powerful the CPU is. I haven't seen any laptop makers list the TDP ratings, but it seems that Intel lists it on the ark.intel.com specs page for the processors, so it's a bit of a pain to get it, but it's out there.

I was really hoping to get 2-in-1 laptop/tablet like a Lenovo Yoga, mostly because it seems that it would be easier to integrate into the drum kit, not to mention look cool. It doesn't seem that would be a good choice, though. Their CPUs all seem to have a TDP rating of 15W.

Thanks for all of the tips. I feel much better informed now and can make a better choice.

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I bought a fairly cheap Asus gaming machine with a 45W Ryzen and a GTX 1050, was easy to add a second SSD and 16GB of ram, the whole thing cost me $700 or so.  The thing FLIES and is even reasonably quiet.

R

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Yeah, low(ish) spec gaming laptops are usually decent for audio work. You're not going overboard on high end GPUs but you'll normally get a pretty decent lot of hardware and options like extra drives.

Really, like I said before, if you get a good laptop that only has a single drive, any moderately fast SSD will likely be up to the task these days, even if you need to rip out the stock SSD and throw in a Samsung 980 Pro or something for the extra speed and lifetime.

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For live recording i us an Asus i5 ROG laptop. I added more ram and it can cope with 16 tracks via a Soundcraft MTK 22 full usb audio mixer. I record onto its HD then when we have a pause, i transfer to a usb drive to free up space. 

its now 3 years old. It does what its supposed to, latency is good. I’m a happy camper

Jerry

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Well, in my searching, I found that in my price range, the best TDP I could get was 45W. I found a 15" Lenovo Yoga C940 with a 6-core/12-thread  i7 that has the 45W chip, so I have ordered it. It was actually a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I think it'll be worth it. Lenovo actually categorized it as a gaming laptop. The only thing it doesn't have is dual hard drives, but it does have a 1TB M.2 drive, and I'll likely do some tweaking to get system events as low as possible, so I'm hoping I'll be good. I'm looking forward to getting some testing done on it in the coming weeks, although I probably won't receive it for about 10 days or so.

The great thing about getting it now is that Lenovo assumes it that it could be a gift, so the restocking fee is waived and it can be returned until some time in January.

Once I can get it configured and tested, I'll report back with the results.

Fingers crossed.

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On 11/3/2020 at 11:13 PM, Jeremy Oakes said:

For live recording i us an Asus i5 ROG laptop. I added more ram and it can cope with 16 tracks via a Soundcraft MTK 22 full usb audio mixer. I record onto its HD then when we have a pause, i transfer to a usb drive to free up space. 

its now 3 years old. It does what its supposed to, latency is good. I’m a happy camper

Jerry

Well I do the same thing with a 2008 Sony Laptop that has I think 2 GB RAM and a Duo core 2.5 processor. I does have a SSD drive however. Recording audio doesn't use a lot of CPU or memory. 

From another thread were on board audio is in discussion people are reporting that Real Tech audio on board seems better than most. So might be a feature to watch for if you plan on using the laptop without an interface sometimes.  

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