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I'm considering purchasing a new, non-Apple, laptop Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 1st September 2011
  #1
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I'm considering purchasing a new, non-Apple, laptop

Back Story

I have a Macbook right now which has been an amazing device. This isn't intended to be a mac vs. pc confrontation but I've worked with PCs all my life and the Mac was a breath of fresh air. Previously my laptop was a Dell. I intended to use it for live performance. I purchased a new Akai MPD24 that theoretically should work through plug-n-play. It didn't. With some tedious research I hit a dead end. It didn't seem that it was Live's problem but instead was Windows. Windows couldn't quite recognize the device. I read tips suggesting that I plug it into a different USB port, or reinstall the OS, or that my Dell has problems with it's USB ports. None of it helped me. Shortly after I purchased a MacBook. I've never encountered USB issues since.

Now, I still own a PC -- an AMD quad-core, custom built, desktop. Despite this I still encounter major USB port issues due to Windows (or maybe the hardware)? Vista doesn't easily or consistently recognize some of my USB devices such as hard drives. You get the picture. I've generally been against using PCs for music since all of this. I have three major USB devices I need to use for live performance and I want something dependable. I'm wondering if things have changed for the PCs.

Is there a brand, specific laptop or definitive solution to these insidious USB issues? I need to replace my failing Macbook but I'm hesitant to spend that much money on another Apple device.
Old 1st September 2011
  #2
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Well usb is a standard platform across both mac and pc so it sounds like a driver problem to me with your external gear. Double check with under manufacture to ensure that they support their device on your platform.

Due to the general crapness that is vista, a lot of manufacturers dont bother to support it. Windows 7 is much better with better general support so maybe consider ditching vista?

Just a thought

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Old 1st September 2011
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drumdrum View Post
Due to the general crapness that is vista, a lot of manufacturers dont bother to support it. Windows 7 is much better with better general support so maybe consider ditching vista?
Exactly! My current dell came with vista installed, after struggling for several weeks I downgraded to xp, that was a relief. After that I switched to windows 7. (Well, actually a dual boot, but nowadays xp doesn't get used anymore.) Vista was terrible...
Old 1st September 2011
  #4
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I don't necessarily disagree with you but the series of USB issues I've had have been on XP and Vista. Ranging from situations where my USB hard drive is recognized in Vista's device panel but not listed as an actual hard drive, my MPD24 not being recognized at all on XP and then inconsistent issues requiring me to restart my applications.

I don't really believe this is purely or even always a driver issue. I installed the MPD24 drivers on my old XP machine for example. However, is there reason for me to think things have changed? Is Win7 that much of an improvement?
Old 1st September 2011
  #5
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I don't know why you are having USB problems. I only had them with known-flaky USB hubs or hardware, not with XP, not with Win7. (I skipped Vista because it looked like BS to me and there was no advantage to going with Vista for audio work.)

I have used a number of different USB devices, an audio/MIDI interface, hard drives, card readers, memory sticks, DVD burners, floppy disk drives, cameras, and I've used them all with XP and/or Win7 without incident. My experience would lead me to believe that, if I have problems with a particular device and no problems with all of these other devices, the problem would not be with the OS or the computer.

Could it be something that has been loaded in after the fact that is causing problems with the USB ports in general? Possibly. But I would not know what that would be. Maybe someone else might.
Old 1st September 2011
  #6
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Just to avoid the point a little....

Just got the latest Macbook air 11" and it's absolutely killer. Tiny, very speedy, awesome multi touch with latest OS and SSD hard drive is unbelievably fast!
Just used it with serato scratch live for a nights entertainment without a hitch.

Has worked with all peripherals straight out the box.

Couldn't be happier.
Old 1st September 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
Just to avoid the point a little....

Just got the latest Macbook air 11" and it's absolutely killer. Tiny, very speedy, awesome multi touch with latest OS and SSD hard drive is unbelievably fast!
Just used it with serato scratch live for a nights entertainment without a hitch.

Has worked with all peripherals straight out the box.

Couldn't be happier.

Hmm... I forgot about that SSD. I was considering just updating my macbook with an SSD.
Old 1st September 2011
  #8
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mintyfreshbeats's Avatar
 

I would be getting a machine with a Sandy Bridge i7.

I will throw an option into the ring:

Lenovo Thinkpad X220
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Review
Old 1st September 2011
  #9
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I would definitely upgrade to Windows 7 64 bit. I'm sure Vista is not a help!

In terms of a new pc laptop...I have been going through a selection process here and finally made my decision yesterday. It seems that some of the gaming laptops have some of the parameters needed for music. I didn't have much of a budget so I was pleased when I found the Asus N53sv-xv1 and read the reviews on a few sites, including amazon.com. And I purchased additonal RAM to bring it to 12GB. The only thing it does not have which I would have liked is firewire. So I also purchased (this morning) the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 USB audio interface.

You can hardly go wrong with a MacBook, but if you would like to go pc, you might want to look at that Asus or something similar among the gaming notebooks.
Old 1st September 2011
  #10
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From the tiny research I'm doing so far I'm realizing that PC laptops that would have the qualities necessary for a stable music production machine, are comparable in price to Apple devices... which is disappointing. Or maybe it's a good sign that price can really get you something stable.

So, from here and other forums, I'm learning that Vista sucks (which I knew). Win7 is greatly improved in terms of dealing with drivers and USB devices and I should look into the Sandy Bridge if I want to do PC.
Old 1st September 2011
  #11
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ckreon's Avatar
 

Well, it seems that Apple has done you well, and you aren't really going to find anything THAT much cheaper with equal performance that's not going to give you some of the headaches you listed.

That's just the way it works. If you want a solid, non-apple DAW (laptop or not, though especially true with laptops), you either need to buy from someone like ADK (or the equivalent), or really do your research and know your stuff.

Just saying, by your own accounts, it sounds like you should just stick with Mac...
Old 1st September 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ckreon View Post
Well, it seems that Apple has done you well, and you aren't really going to find anything THAT much cheaper with equal performance that's not going to give you some of the headaches you listed.

That's just the way it works. If you want a solid, non-apple DAW (laptop or not, though especially true with laptops), you either need to buy from someone like ADK (or the equivalent), or really do your research and know your stuff.

Just saying, by your own accounts, it sounds like you should just stick with Mac...
Hm, yeah. That may be the case. I suppose I could save money on a laptop but then I should prepare the pay the consequences in terms of reliability.

In that case, any suggestions on how to tweak a 4 year old macbook? I'm thinking solid state drive.
Old 1st September 2011
  #13
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ckreon's Avatar
 

A SSD can give any machine a considerable boost in speed.

Upgrade to the latest OS version you can (keep software compatibility in mind).

A fresh install of the OS can do wonders for an older machine, wipes away years of murk that accumulates. Macs are better at dealing with this, but a fresh install can still yield performance increases, especially if it rids old things you might have installed (and left running/allowed to startup on boot/etc.) and don't use anymore.

Upping the RAM can help, but it is really only noticeable if you're actually doing RAM-intense work, which really, most ordinary audio work is not. If you are doing sample library work and/or use a lot of VSTI's, then definitely consider adding RAM if possible.
Old 1st September 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ckreon View Post
A SSD can give any machine a considerable boost in speed.

Upgrade to the latest OS version you can (keep software compatibility in mind).

A fresh install of the OS can do wonders for an older machine, wipes away years of murk that accumulates. Macs are better at dealing with this, but a fresh install can still yield performance increases, especially if it rids old things you might have installed (and left running/allowed to startup on boot/etc.) and don't use anymore.

Upping the RAM can help, but it is really only noticeable if you're actually doing RAM-intense work, which really, most ordinary audio work is not. If you are doing sample library work and/or use a lot of VSTI's, then definitely consider adding RAM if possible.

I'm possibly stubborn or naive but I always worry about OS bloat when it comes to the idea of upgrading. I'm using Mac Leopard right now. Will reliability and speed really improve if I upgrade to Snow Leopard or Lion?

Also, I have software that I no longer have the serial for. A legit educational copy of Logic from when I worked as a teaching assistant. Is there an effective way to reinstall the OS and still have access to this program?
Old 1st September 2011
  #15
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ckreon's Avatar
 

Well, I can't make any promises, but every OS update I've done on my Macs has been a simple, hassle free thing. I did a clean wipe with Snow Leopard, but upgraded a few family member's Macs just using the 'update' method and all was fine.

Obviously, the clean wipe is the safest route for a perfect, clean-slate install. But you lose all your apps.

That being said, with a 4 year old Mac, running Leopard may be your best bet. I'm not sure how Snow Leopard plays with the older generation hardware. So it may not even be an issue for you!
Old 1st September 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ckreon View Post
Well, I can't make any promises, but every OS update I've done on my Macs has been a simple, hassle free thing. I did a clean wipe with Snow Leopard, but upgraded a few family member's Macs just using the 'update' method and all was fine.

Obviously, the clean wipe is the safest route for a perfect, clean-slate install. But you lose all your apps.

That being said, with a 4 year old Mac, running Leopard may be your best bet. I'm not sure how Snow Leopard plays with the older generation hardware. So it may not even be an issue for you!
What if I did a clean re-install of the OS but later used Time Machine to revert back to a previous state that included some software. Would that software come back?
Old 1st September 2011
  #17
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ckreon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rpeg View Post
What if I did a clean re-install of the OS but later used Time Machine to revert back to a previous state that included some software. Would that software come back?
Yes, but AFAIK you can't do a selective restore of your Time Machine (meaning individual apps) - you can get individual files (and you'd be able to say, grab the Pro Tools or Logic app back), but it won't install the services or other necessary files for more complex applications like those.

So if you did a full time machine restore, you'd bring back everything, including the clutter you may have wiped away.
Old 1st September 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ckreon View Post
Yes, but AFAIK you can't do a selective restore of your Time Machine (meaning individual apps) - you can get individual files (and you'd be able to say, grab the Pro Tools or Logic app back), but it won't install the services or other necessary files for more complex applications like those.

So if you did a full time machine restore, you'd bring back everything, including the clutter you may have wiped away.
Sounds reasonable. I think I have a pretty decent version backed up in time machine.
Old 1st September 2011
  #19
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ckreon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rpeg View Post
Sounds reasonable. I think I have a pretty decent version backed up in time machine.
Time Machine is a beautiful thing. One of my favorite parts of Mac!
Old 1st September 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rpeg View Post
From the tiny research I'm doing so far I'm realizing that PC laptops that would have the qualities necessary for a stable music production machine, ....
Depends upon what you need to do. I was recording 15 tracks live into a 500 mHz Sony Viao laptop more than ten years ago. (At the same time, I believe that it makes sense that if you spend the same amount on a PC as you did on a Mac, you would end up with a quality product. I think that it is very unfair when people claim that their $500 PC sucked so they bought a $4,000 Mac and everything is golden. well, duh!)

Your needs are really going to be the issue when it comes to 'music production'. I've always been able to use laptops, some modified, some not, for live remote multitrack recording or simple playback tasks. And I was always bringing the tracks back to the studio to dump to the production machines for editing and any overdubs etc. If you want large sample library playback ro expect lots of low latency effects, the answer may be different.
Old 2nd September 2011
  #21
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My goal is actually live performance that will at times require lots of playback and/or use of library audio. Additionally I had always assumed macs were over priced and that a cheaper pc could do the same job. Now I'm not so sure.
Old 2nd September 2011
  #22
I recently tested out a bunch of different notebooks in a quest of my own.

I recommend HP business notebooks or ASUS. Both are rock solid!
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