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Advice on buying a specific, affordable laptop for DAW use?

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by chris m., Apr 10, 2019.

  1. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've been running Reaper, Linux edition, on an old Dell PC that I have set up to run Linux. It actually works pretty well.

    However, I am thinking about buying a new PC or Mac mainly because I want to also run other software that is only available on PC or Mac, not Linux. It will be a laptop, not a desktop. But if I buy a new computer I want it to also work well with a DAW such as Reaper.

    Looking for your advice on a machine to consider. For example, there are "gaming PCs" out there that have a bigger, faster graphics card, but I am thinking that what really matters is the sound card, not the graphics card. Macs cost more, and at a given price point you get a lower speed Intel CPU than in the PC world. However, it's my understanding that Mac OS tends to run faster with less overhead so that a Mac with a nominally slower processor may still clock faster performance than a PC running Windows with a faster CPU. Windows 10 is basically many layers of crud on top of crud but somehow it works.

    I am comfortable in either Windows world or Mac OS world, although in some ways I find Windows world preferable. I hate the way Macs always try to babysit me and do everything their way. On the other hand, this freedom on PCs means there's often more tweaking of settings required on a Windows box.


    I am not doing anything crazy. Recording one track at a time, editing and then listening to maybe 8 to 12 tracks. So probably just about anything will work. Suggestions?

    I'd like to spend under a grand. For example, Lenovo Legion Y530 is a gaming computer that is around $899 and might perform pretty well. Gets a great review from PC World. But maybe I don't need the graphics card and therefore could get something that's a better fit for my purposes at a similar price.
     
  2. BryMelvin

    BryMelvin Friend of Leo's

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    Plenty of memory, reasonably fast and Linux with a low latency kernel.

    There is NO low latency kernel for Windows.
     
  3. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    What do you mean that there is no low latency kernel for Windows? That latency isn’t a problem? Or that it’s not adjustable?
     
  4. Deeve

    Deeve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    This is a Great Thread.

    I've concluded that the first laptop I bought (used) for my daughter when she was a middle schooler (now @ University) is certainly out of date.
    Even though there's room in the drive for Presonus One or Audacity, the ram on-board is only satisfactory for preparation of text documents (its original work purpose).

    I would be okay w/ buying a desktop, if it would be easier to get the daw-friendly specs.
    Speak up, geeks!

    Peace - Deeve
     
  5. drewblue

    drewblue Tele-Meister

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    Ive used about everything i was pro tools certified used reaper a bit. and having the ability to start a project seamlessly on my phone in garage band and import it to logic or garage band on my mac is so handy. Ive got to the point where garage band does 90% of what i need using a audient id22. Logic does the rest but im not doing 500 track edm. I use em like a tape recorder for classic country americana type stuff
     
  6. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think in general a faster cpu coupled with 8 gb RAM should be adequate. Also a solid state drive can really make things go faster. But I would still love recommendations. Bigger screen has more real estate for showing more tracks, too, but there’s a weight tradeoff.
     
  7. wildschwein

    wildschwein Tele-Afflicted

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  8. matrix

    matrix Tele-Meister

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    I am watching this thread avidly for more insight. On the bigger screen side - I prefer laptops, but I have a really big external monitor on my desk at home. That way I can keep my laptop size under control, but still can use the big screen (or two screens) when it really makes sense. Something to consider.
     
    jvin248 likes this.
  9. RLee77

    RLee77 Friend of Leo's

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    You definitely want an SSD as your main drive. I’d also recommend a minimum of 16g memory. I always use an external audio interface (Focusrite currently), so I disable any internal sound devices.
     
  10. bluzkat

    bluzkat Tele-Holic

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    Try and find a laptop with at least a quad core CPU (Intel i7) with at least 8 GB of RAM (16GB if you are running alot of VSTs). Preferably an SSD for the OS and programs (256GB), for the audio drive a large (512GB-1TB) standard hard drive is fine.

    You don't need the greatest video card (unless you are also gaming). Also don't worry about the audio card, get a solid audio interface instead.

    Reaper will run fantastically on a system like this, so will most other DAWs. This maybe more laptop than you were planning on, but I think you will be happy with the result.

    Enjoy.
     
  11. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Doctor of Teleocity

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    I went for this feature combo:

    i7 processor
    8GB of RAM (16 be better - might be upgradable)
    250Gig SSD (you NEED one of these for Windows and programs)
    1TB harddrive

    I use a 24-4 Soundcraft Desk as the 24 way audio interface or a small Yamaha MG10XU and route all audio in and out through those, so sound card is really only secondary. Latency is not really an issue.

    There are plenty of good audio interfaces. Mine doubles as a live mixer but I would have gone for a Focurite with at least 8 channels otherwise.


    Did not look at graphics card as I have a PS4 for games and I don’t think many music apps harness the extra processing.


    I also run a 16:6 ratio ultra widescreen ASUS monitor as a second screen when at home which is incredibly useful and lets you see the whole structure of the song or loads more faders in mixer mode.

    Windows platform has masses more free plugins out there to mess around with too.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019
  12. 8livesleft

    8livesleft TDPRI Member

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    Any current gaming laptop with an intel processor should be enough.

    Make sure Ram is upgradeable.

    Sent from my ASUS_X01BDA using Tapatalk
     
  13. suthol

    suthol Friend of Leo's

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    I use a Win 10 PC & Laptop both with i5, 8 gig of RAM on the PC and 4 on the laptop.

    No noticeable latency issues with live monitoring unless I'm using an amp sim ( Kuassa Vermillion ) when recording guitar parts and then the latency is almost low enough to be bearable, but I generally DI the guitar or mic an amp

    And yes more than plenty of free VSTs and VSTi for the Win platform
     
  14. TokyoPortrait

    TokyoPortrait Tele-Afflicted

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    Hi.

    I second the core thing with the processor. I'd go 4-core minimum on a laptop, 6-core if you can. With a Mac, I am pretty sure that means the 13 inch MacBook Pro Touchbar model, or better.

    Edit: on the bright side, GarageBand is included and Logic Pro X is only $200 if purchased at the same time.

    Pax/
    Dean

    Edit: removed my mistake about having to upgrade the MacBook Pro Touchbar to get quad core. You don't.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019
  15. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm pretty much computer ignorant so I just buy well regarded but cheap gaming laptops with a larger memory. Been using a Lenovo i7 something or other with 17 inch screen for about 4 years now with no problems.
     
  16. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    I only know the OSX world.

    If you are just laying down tracks and doing minimal processing any mac laptop will be more than adequate. If you want to get into using a lot of sample libraries and doing a lot of processing in the mix, then you want an SSD and as much ram as possible.

    For example I did most of my audio work on a 2011 IMac. It's way too slow now. I have "Superior Drummer 3," which is fantastic, but all that quality comes at a high price. I have to set up the track and then "freeze" it to do any other processing. If I'm using a good third party sample library, like "neo soul keys," then again it quickly chokes up.

    My understanding is the problem is accessing the samples and retrieving the information on the fly. So SSD and more ram are more important that CPU cycles. But don't take that to the bank.

    You can now set up Logic so all the sample libraries are on a separate SSD drive, which can help a lot
     
  17. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Get the laptop for portability and a huge stand alone monitor for desk studio work.
    More ram and ability to add more later. SSD is a toss up... often Windows is 'booting' from a sleep-like mode and so the spinning platter does not feel that slow. you may want the silence of SSD though.

    Don't use this machine for Internet surfing, that is the virus and speed problem source. You can install Virtualbox then a Linux guest like Debian with LXDE because it's fast, to do all your protected garden web surfing. If it gets a problem then spin up a new guest. Do any downloads there and transfer to Windows after.

    External USB HDD for music work backups.

    .
     
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  18. Scottz

    Scottz Tele-Holic

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    If the most resource intense is the DAW, you can always dual boot Windows and Linux.
     
  19. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Great advice guys, thanks and keep it coming.
     
  20. 8livesleft

    8livesleft TDPRI Member

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    A big factor is also the interface. It MUST have compatible ASIO. If your setup relies on windows generic usb processing, then it's bound to mess things up.

    Sent from my ASUS_X01BDA using Tapatalk
     
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