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PC or Mac laptop
Old 9th September 2011
Here for the gear

PC or Mac laptop

So I know there are a bunch of threads on this kinda thing already, but they seem to be a bit old and not really relating to my situation.

Right now, my main DAW is an iMac 21.5" i3 with 8 gigs of RAM. The beast's good, but for some reason it does hang up a bit and I get a lot of DAE errors on pretty massive sessions/plugin counts. It's pretty stable when recording though, and I have a case for a few mobile gigs. I don't really like transporting it though, and now up at school I have a mixing setup in my room along with a studio some friends and I started off-campus, and the iMac is also my main schoolwork computer.

Right now, I also have an HP g60 laptop. With a focusrite scarlett usb interface it runs ok, but doesn't handle high counts too well. Ideally I would like a laptop where I can just easily bring a session on either and not have to worry about taxing the system/do full mobile sessions on the laptop.

My interfaces are a pair of MOTU firewire pieces. Pretty much, I don't care about windows or mac- they're both the same to me. What I'm worried about is if I'm dropping at least $1500, between a RAIN laptop and a 15" MBP, which would handle what I want to do the best?

Old 9th September 2011
does it have to be a laptop? you could make an extremely nice 8 core computer, make it rackmountable, SSD's, 16gb ram, qiet cooling system and still have a few hundred left over
Old 9th September 2011
Here for the gear

I was seriously considering that, but the laptop is currently the only weak link in my rig since my g60 although having dual core 64 bit stuff, is still a bit slow. Also, as a student, sometimes I really need that mobility on me.
Old 9th September 2011
Gear Addict
always_ending's Avatar

man I have the 2010 model of the Macbook pro 15" with the i7 in it, and maxed out RAM at 8 gigs...

NEVER have I had issues with large track counts on my mixes or "hangups"....

I'm not sure why you are with your iMac, are you changing latency when moving from recording to mixing?

I usually record as low as possible, 248 (i think that's right?), and mix with a much larger latency to avoid this issue.
Old 9th September 2011
Lives for gear
my vote is for the mbp with an ssd
Old 9th September 2011
Lives for gear

Think about a 13" MacBookPro; bigger laptops are a pain to lug around. You can add a big second LCD screen for work at home (the Mac 2-screen thing works really well) for almost no money. And if you want to keep the load on the CPU low, use one or both of these: a Metric Halo interface with their DSP (over 100 plugins that run in the MH box) and/or; a UA Satellite, for all the plugins that run in that box.

re Mac vs Winows: Mac sucks less. No errors of any sort here, though my stuff may be simpler than yours.

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Old 9th September 2011
Lives for gear

Mac laptops are usually better performers audio wise. I also agree, get the 13" and use an external monitor if you need more screen real estate.
Old 10th September 2011
Here for the gear

You tend to have to shop around more with PC notebooks to make sure the bus (and drivers) will play nicely with your interface. MacBooks aren't quite as fickle.

When it comes to desktops, if you're careful you can put together a perfectly sound and stable Windows machine to suit your DAW needs for a little cheaper than an Apple desktop. When you bring your DAW to a portable, it gets a little more hairy and you really get what you pay for. I've finally eschewed both Mac and Windows desktops entirely and use a dock for my Pro. (It's worth noting that my TC interface works just as well booted into Windows 7 on the same MacBook.)
Old 10th September 2011
Gear Head
Electrocrisis's Avatar

This is a great question. I have a pretty extensive background in IT. Here is what the Mac vs. PC debate comes down to... How much money do you have to waste? If you want high quality, a brainless consumer exercise and don't really have an out of the norm studio/interface/plug-in configuration, get a Mac. Its made well, simple and pretty easy for basic setups. OSX being UNIX based has great benefits. However, owning a Mac is costly and it can be very hard to make some unique and/or tricky configurations function correctly.

A PC will give you much more power for your money. PCs are more flexible and compatible with audio interfaces than a Mac. (I disagree with the person's post above.) Developers/companies market to PC more than Mac because of marketshare and node cost. There are some Mac only devices aimed at the pro creative market but by far, PC has the most software and external devices available.

Complicated configurations in OSX Lion are actually more troublesome than Windows 7. File permissions can keep software from running, flash acceleration has been dropped and there is no longer support for Rosetta(PowerPC) applications. Lion is the Windows Vista of OSX. Windows 7 had to improve all the great ideas of Vista and make them more people friendly. Lion is going to have to follow suit.

Performance wise Windows 7 and OSX are neck and neck. Both systems can be optimized to be very hardware efficient. The true tie breaker is your pocket book. I have a MBP with an Sandy Bridge i7 but I also have a custom i7 PC rig. This gives me the best of both worlds. That being said, the MBP was well over 2k, then software was another 2k.... For your $1500, get a PC laptop. You already have a nice Mac. Do your research though. There is a lot of crap out there that give PCs a bad name.

What is your software of choice?
Old 10th September 2011
Gear Addict
DoctorG's Avatar

Was using an HP 8540w laptop which is supposed to be a mobile workstation. Had issues with firewire performance with FF400. If you want to stay with a laptop I'd say get the mac as it has the TI firewire chipset. However, I've just built a custom 6-core desktop that flogs any laptop and cost less than half the price. If you don't need something portable then I'd say go with a desktop.
Old 11th September 2011
Lives for gear
cdog's Avatar
Something to consider, most new PCs do not have firewire or cardslots. That being said, I highly recommend ASUS laptops. I got an amazing deal on a refurbished unit from
Old 12th September 2011
Lives for gear
jnorman's Avatar
i had a mcbook pro for a short while, trying to run logic. logic sucked so bad that i went right back to a PC running reaper. OSX wanted to make WAY too many decisions for me, and i found troubleshooting on the mac to be pretty much totally non-intuitive (even little stuff like how do you get a stuck CD out of the CD drive?).

i believe the macbooks do indeed employ about the best hardware components available, while many PC laptops use cheaper HDDs, etc. however, there are a few nice PC laptops that do use high end hardware. both my current machines are Thinkpad T410 i7 models running W7. they are both completely glitch free, and boot in about 25 seconds with all networking and virus software disabled. fantastic machines, extremely well built, and the best keyboard of any laptops made.
Old 12th September 2011
Gear Nut

I started digital recoding on a Dell notebook, Tascam interface and Cubase LE4.
It was a nightmare. It took me almost a year to make everything worked well, and you can follow my posts on this very forum. And even working, "blue screens" at the worst time were there. I exchange information with all manufacturers, tried different levels of firmware, new drivers... everything. It took my attention that googleing the problem, Dell was unfortunately a common name. After all, those computers are designed with another kind of user in mind.

Two months ago I got a MBP 13. In just an hour, my full Cubase 5, my three interfaces and everything else was working perfect, and still does without a single problem.

Do your math, but IMHO MBP's are a one less problem on the road of recording, period.


Old 12th September 2011
Here for the gear

My software of choice is Pro Tools. I actually used to have a 13" MBP, but I traded that for the iMac. Just didn't have enough bite for me after 20+ tracks usually and a bunch of waves plugins. Even with many of them bussed, I was still getting a lot of hangup.

As far as a PC laptop, I'd be getting a rain or one of those custom guys. I just stuck some more RAM into the iMac and that's running fine now.

Those are all some great points, and thanks for all of the advice so far!

My biggest question is which one will last me in the long run. Which one will not only run fine with my current MOTU interfaces, but will work in the future?
Old 21st September 2011
Here for the gear

Originally Posted by Electrocrisis View Post
Complicated configurations in OSX Lion are actually more troublesome than Windows 7. File permissions can keep software from running, flash acceleration has been dropped and there is no longer support for Rosetta(PowerPC) applications. Lion is the Windows Vista of OSX. Windows 7 had to improve all the great ideas of Vista and make them more people friendly. Lion is going to have to follow suit.
Just catching this and raising this from the dead a week later, I'm gonna have to respectfully disagree. First, 1394 interface compatibility is typically less troublesome on Macs -- both from first-hand experience, consensus, and technical practicalities -- simply because there are fewer chipsets to account for on the Mac side. Heck, just take a look at all of the posts around the interwebs from Windows DAW users looking for the "best Firewire card for my PC". I'm not sure what you mean by "complicated configurations", but the glut of hardware that Windows expects to see is about as complicated as it gets.

Second, Flash acceleration is not disabled on Lion -- that was a bogus rumor that sprung from a Lion beta (and hardly relevant to pro audio anyway). Major permission issues are quite rare, easily solved, and in all the years I've used OS X have never caused me any nagging issues, much less for audio work. (I can't say the same for permission issues under Linux, but I'm a terrible UNIX admin. I also can't say the same for the demon that is the Windows Registry Hive.) And if you're using PPC emulation to run your DAW, your DAW is probably close to ten years old now and likely wouldn't play well with your interface to begin with.

Lion is two months old and probably has negligibly better stable driver and application support from audio developers than Win7 did in the same timeframe. I'm not using Lion in my studio rig just as anyone else in their right mind wouldn't start an OS upgrade in a production environment until their driver and software updates were properly vetted -- which is probably now for me, but I have little reason to test or upgrade yet.

I'm not trying to proselytize for Macs here -- I'm as platform-neutral as it gets, spent most of my life as a PC tech, and have happily used Windows for audio for many years. Just be more careful with your information.
Old 21st September 2011
Lives for gear
richgilb's Avatar

Get a Mac. When you get bored you can look at porn sites without worrying about getting viruses.
Old 22nd September 2011
Gear Head

Hey, I was going through a similar situation a while ago looking for a laptop DAW, but I didn't want to pay for/couldn't afford a Mac, especially with the kind of computing needs I had. Though I'm not experienced as most here, I would probably side with those who say Firewire is more stable and better implemented on Macs. Having an integrated port makes a big difference, I think. I eventually settled on a Lenovo IdeaPad Y560p- a $950 configuration in total, with a quad core i7 (same one the current 15" MBPs have), 8 gigs of ram and a 7200 RPM, 500 gig hard drive. It's never given me any trouble running projects (though I haven't had really high track counts), but figuring out Firewire for my Saffire Pro 40 was a pain in the ass. The biggest downside to this computer for recording (other than that it's a little cheaply built- I'll be the first to give Macs the edge there) is that I have to run Firewire through an Expresscard. To be fair, I'm still using a Belkin card, which Focusrite says has been troublesome, but it does have the TI chipset. However, it's just very unreliable, wobbles around (this might be the computer build) and disconnects, and I can't count on it to work if the computer is bumped around. Also, at first I had a lot of glitches and dropouts and was very very worried about the investment I'd made when I finally discovered the battery software (that tells you how much charge you have left) was causing CPU spikes and audio dropouts every 10 seconds or so. So when I record, I can't leave that on- I have to actually turn it off in the Device Manager and reboot to solve that problem.

Bottom line is the following: This may just be one isolated experience, and other PC users may not have had the same problems as I. I did manage to get a very competent, fast DAW machine that I can record with anywhere for a good $1000 less than it would have cost me to get a comparable Mac. For that kind of money, where I am right now, I'm willing to deal with those quirks, especially since I do this solely for fun. However, if money weren't an object, I would lean to the side of those who argue that OSX just has a generally more stable architecture for streaming audio, and better Firewire implementation (believe me, I wanted USB but the best units don't use it, at least not now). It just seems like less of a pain in the bum. But then, spending twice as much is also a pain in the bum. It's your decision though, and buying quality never hurts. I'd agree that a PC desktop easily gives you more power and flexibility (seriously- if your FW card doesn't work, buy a new one- it isn't that easy with laptops) than a PC laptop or even a Macbook, but I hear you on mobility- that's my favorite part of my DAW.
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