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Anyone make the switch from PC/laptop to Surface Pro 4? DAW Software
Old 23rd January 2016
  #1
Lives for gear
Anyone make the switch from PC/laptop to Surface Pro 4?

Really curious if the Surface Pro 4 is at the level of being a daily DAW for someone recording via USB. The specs are certainly impressive enough and it is a very tempting device to make me consider ditching the desktop and moving to a surface pro.

I use Studio One, FocusRite Pre, 2 external sample drives and a USB Keyboard controller.
Old 24th January 2016
  #2
Lives for gear
 

Technically I don't see any difference from normal i5 or i7 notebook, so standard Windows 10, USB for soundcard connection (maybe there can be lack of ports for mentioned harddrives, so hub will be necessary).
Why anyone would do that at standard situation, besides some emergency work on location or let's say live playing, when everything is already prepared in advance? Compared to desktop screen area is pretty small, keyboard is also small.. lower diameter fans in cooler will be probably louder under increased load, all components will be likely working under higher temperature than in normal desktop, which can negatively affect its longevity (but, who knows, it is short time after release), CPU frequency will be wildly throttled by activity due to aggressive thermal management, which is generally bad for latency performance. Again all of that because of space optimization..
For me personally, I wouldn't trade working comfort and possible reliability issues for cute small mobility.. but YMMV of course.

Michal
Old 25th January 2016
  #3
Lives for gear
People are doing it. At least MS marketing wants you to think that.

It's an I7 with 16 gigs of RAM that you can hook up to any monitor you want.

Now you are saying CPU frequency will be throttled. That is the stuff I am curious about. Do you know this for a fact?

It sounds like you are speculating here, or do you have any info on this?
Old 25th January 2016
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
People are doing it. At least MS marketing wants you to think that.

It's an I7 with 16 gigs of RAM that you can hook up to any monitor you want.

Now you are saying CPU frequency will be throttled. That is the stuff I am curious about. Do you know this for a fact?

It sounds like you are speculating here, or do you have any info on this?
People doing something, doesn't necessarily mean, it doesn't have disadvantages, I've mentioned. You can also do it of course, it's just convertible notebook, which seems to be from good components and stuffed into small package.
But in my personal opinion, it isn't worth of moving from desktop to notebook, unless it is really necessary.

Regarding mentioned throttling, this is generic thing for small computers, so not specific to Surface Pro, because of thermal management.
Modern CPUs generally use automatic clock frequency adjustment to reduce power consumption and necessary heat dissipation, so for example CPU dynamically use range from 800 to 3000Mhz. That applies also to desktop CPUs, but in case of notebook ones, curve of that dyn. adjustment is typically much more aggressive, because power consumption it very important factor there for battery life. Normally it works in way, CPU frequency is dynamically adjusted to maximum, when CPU is loaded with intensive computations. But there is one problem.. Desktop CPU cooler and case airflow is usually sufficient for long-term running of CPU at its full blast, notebooks (especially super compact ones like Surface is) doesn't have such capacity. So to prevent component overheating, after some time with full load, CPU frequency is reduced, until temperature falls again below some safe threshold. This is what I meant by CPU throttling.
One has to think about typical usage for such devices (eg. office, web, photo viewing.. etc.), where this isn't big issue a computer is still damn fast. On the other hand, when you use it for tasks, which needs some sustained computation power, this can be big problem.. Imagine for example, what will happen, if you have heavier project in your DAW and after 5 min of playback, CPU clock frequency is reduced to 60%.
It behaves similarly also with some video workloads.. there you can easily experience double time for frame rendering compared to times at start of export, until frequency returns back to its maximum.
Another related thing is, how this can affect latency, in most cases, when good latency performance is feasible, it is better to completely disable those CPU power saving features called C-states (basically CPU profiles with some predefined parameters, which are dynamically switched according to workload). Technical reason is, when CPU is switching those states, lot of CPU interrupts are generated, which momentarily prevent other drivers in system to work. So user can experience glitches in sound for example.. Bad news is, for such small computers, it isn't exactly good idea to completely eliminate power saving features due to reasons, I've outlined above.
Finally, those processor names like i5 or i7 really doesn't tell much about absolute performance.. Processors are put into those product lines according to relative performance (eg. mobile i7 is fastest range among mobile CPUs, but it isn't directly related to its desktop counterpart). So very often, there is quite significant performance gap between mobile and desktop version of processor with the same family name. For example mobile and effecient i5, which is in Surface Pro, has two physical cores, whereas all desktop i5s has four cores. Not to mention other attributes like maximum frequency or cache size.

I hope, it will help to explain it little bit. Of course, I've just generally expanded about my previous post.. eg. desktop vs notebook. Every particular system can behave slightly different. So for instance Surface Pro has last generation of very power efficient CPU with low TDP, which is good.. on the other hand, everything has to be stuffed into one package together with display.

Michal
Old 25th January 2016
  #5
Gear Addict
 
Mighty_Zoltan's Avatar
Check out the Molten Music Youtube page. Most of the videos are related to making music on a Surface Pro and he's just upgraded to a Surface Pro 4 and is posting his first reviews.

I got a pro 3 about 3 months ago and I love it. I've been editing vocals and drum on the go in Pro tools and it's fine. I have the i5 btw.
Old 25th January 2016
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

I bought the Surface Book to use Ableton on the road. Really nice laptop, but after trying to get Ableton running smoothly for two weeks, I returned it. Maybe it was the unit I was sold, but performance was far worse than my first generation i5 desktop. Very disappointing. And the graphics driver kept crashing, especially when using the browser. Bitwig ran well.

I ended up with a new MacBook pro.
Old 25th January 2016
  #7
Gear Nut
 

I haven't tried the Pro 4, but one of the issues with the 3 was how hot and loud it got under load. Looking at the reviews, the battery life of the 4 is also rather poor, which I imagine would be further emphasized by using CPU-intensive software and plugs.

Going from a desktop to a tablet-ish device is a pretty big step. Personally, I'd get a "proper" laptop instead, preferably with a bigger display. You'll pay less and you're limiting yourself less, while still gaining mobility and a smaller footprint. A 17" laptop will give you enough workspace so that you won't need an external monitor.
Old 25th January 2016
  #8
Lives for gear
Thanks to all, this makes complete sense to me. Especially the heat issue.





Quote:
Originally Posted by Mivo View Post
I haven't tried the Pro 4, but one of the issues with the 3 was how hot and loud it got under load. Looking at the reviews, the battery life of the 4 is also rather poor, which I imagine would be further emphasized by using CPU-intensive software and plugs.

Going from a desktop to a tablet-ish device is a pretty big step. Personally, I'd get a "proper" laptop instead, preferably with a bigger display. You'll pay less and you're limiting yourself less, while still gaining mobility and a smaller footprint. A 17" laptop will give you enough workspace so that you won't need an external monitor.
Nice post, can you give me some options on a "proper laptop" (besides macbook pro)? I've been looking at that option as well. Maybe have a docking station for it so I can easily go portable.

Last edited by Methlab; 25th January 2016 at 05:50 PM..
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