Laptop Help

Right think I’m finally going to bite the bullet and get myself a laptop. I have been trying to search and read what I can on here and and KVRAudio but obviously the word laptop gets used in many, many threads so sure most of what will be discussed could be found with more comprehensive searching so I hope people don’t mind covering ground that has obviously been discussed many times in the past. I guess it’s my fault for not coming on these forums (or really using Renoise) for far too many months now!

First very simple question is what processor would be best? Am I right in thinking the multi core/processor support of 1.9 makes the Core 2 Duo the best processor to go for in a laptop for Renoise? It seems to be the recommendation for most other applications…
Also is there any advantage for going for a XP Pro installation over Vista (bearing in mind I use almost exclusively freeware VSTs and would like to start to learn CSound/PureData during quiet periods at work.)

What’s important to me?

Well it has to be hardy and proven stable/touch in a live environment! I’m not as gentle with my belongings as I should be and I don’t want something that is going to break after a week or constantly be crashing mid session.
17" display. Don’t mind a slightly chunky laptop and screen real estate is more important for me. Preferably with a numerical keypad (which I believe a fair number of 17" laptops do.)
200GB+ 7200rpm hard drive.
I will be getting an external soundcard at some point and have been told that if you want to consider a firewire card to make sure you get the Texas Instruments firewire chipset. Is there any place where this is easy to check?
2GB RAM mimimum (leaning towards 4GB if it was a Vista machine)

I have been leaning towards the Dell Precision/XPS laptops because of the price/performance ratio and have heard that the older models at least are very hardy. Have heard mixed reports on their customer support although people I have known in the flesh seemed to of had more problems so it may depend a bit on where you live.

Also been hearing very good things about Lenovo although they seem to be higher priced for similar spec. Saying that a lot of people seem to be happy with the cheaper R series but then it doesn’t seem you can upgrade the bits you want like with Dell. Plus it would limit me to 15" as maximum screen size.

There is also Acer, HP and Toshiba which often get mentioned…

Or am I just completely over-specing myself for what I’m likely to need with modern laptops? I not generally one of these cheap and cheerful guys and when I get a new piece of kit I want to know it’s something of quality and will last me a few years.

I’ ve been using a sony vaio ( pre dual core era) …for 3 years now …bear in mind that the first things that get broke on a laptop are the cd rom dive / headphone out …other than than you can’t get really wrong …just don’t go for the budget cpu’s
If you got some serious money to spend —>Lenovo thinkpad …

I’ve personally never liked the Vaio, they are very overpriced for the spec and most people I know who have owned them have had a lot of problems (used as a general laptop, not for audio work.)

I’ve also heard a few people say they’ve been a dream for them though…

EDIT: Actually looking on Sony’s site and they seem to be more competitively priced that they used to be.

I have to say I haven’t really looked at anything to do with laptops for 2-3 years so am planning on doing at least a couple of months serious research before I even consider parting with my hard earned cash. This may mean some of my comments are completely wrong and seem stupid, but things do change VERY quickly. That’s why I want to get some people’s opinions and do some research.

I recently bought one of the budget Lenovo’s (not the higher-priced Thinkpad series), and it’s build quality isn’t good enough for tracker-composing…some keys are already starting to get stuck, the fan is noisy. So that one isn’t recommended.

Runs windows, too.

Somebody just jinxed you on KVR saying just that ;)

Too bad i’m not superstitious, fuck 'em.

It’s a decent spec for a laptop, battery life is good, and at a decent price, it’s worth looking at when considering a portable.

No you’re right. I was surprised when i read the specs on the UK store page and the price was competative to what a similar PC audience targeted laptop would of been. I remember when they always seemed to be a lot more than they should be for the components!

As I said this is just the start of my research though so not making any decisions just yet, will keep it in mind though!

I heard some true horror stories about the apple macbook …motherboard shorcircuit due to overheating cpu’s etc …could be fixed by now …I don’ t know .
About the vaio’s well almost every laptop is made in china , mine never let me down .( OOh yeah I use a usb keyboard cause some keys are broke …my headphone out is broke and I can’t write dvd’s anymore .but I just call these litlle annoyances :) …besides that …it runs verry smoothly …only thing I care about is performance …so either way you go , choose a fast cpu …lots of ram and no shared videomemory …If I had the money I might consider a macbook pro or the high end lenovo thinkpad …

Yeah, my macbook pro is consistently 80 deg centigrade at the cpu. not good.

I got back into music making about a year ago and decided to go for the laptop route. I did my homework a saved my money pretty hard, I decided the best way to go was a gaming laptop for speed and RAM. I went with alienware Area-51 m9750 with 2GB of RAM and intel dual core T7400 @ 2.16GHz processor. I can highly recommended this laptop as it is solid reliable and just eats up anything I throw at it, it also has a lot of usb connectors and a decent audio interface. Alienware have just brought out a new laptop, so I think the area 51 has gone down in price now, checkout the website a see what you think.

just wandering …renoise supports dualcore cpu …but what if the ( vst) plugin’s don’t ?Do we get an increase in performance ?

I got a Dell Inspiron 9300 (the 17" display one) about 3 1/2 years ago and it’s still working fine. I know they don’t use the best grade components, but I haven’t had a problem yet.

I would definitely avoid HP. I know several people who got HPs that killed; mostly blown motherboards (one of my friends got her’s replaced only to have the ‘new’ one blow out a few days after getting it back).

Overall quailty-wise, Thinkpads and Macbooks are the best bet right now. Macs are great but you’re paying more for the same specs just because it’s a Mac.
And Lenovo does let you upgrade certain things (although I don’t know if it’s to the extent that Dell does) if you go to Customize and Buy.

I got a second hand ibm (as in ibm, not lenovo) thinkpad. It is a few years old, but it runs soooo nice. I got it from my mate, maxed out the ram and put a 7200rpm drive in it, and I have not had a single problem with it.

The build quality on these older ibm thinkpads is insane! Feels as solid as a rock.

I can use my 1616m with it too, as it has the older PCMCIA card slot.

All good.

But it says you have a Lenovo T61 in your signature? :blink:

Thanks for all comments so far. Knew this was going to take a fair bit of research. Does seem that most people are saying the majority of laptops are reasonably capable now, which is a bit different from what I last looked into this.

i have a dell vostro 17" centrino core 2 duo 2gb, 2gig ram, 256mb nvidia graphics + Edirol UA-101 soundcard. its good… but:

the first thing to say is that i had to ditch vista and get XP to get it to run nicely… vista gave me relentless audio issues in multiple apps which couldn’t be resolved easily or through the normal optimisations etc. Now its on XP it works fantastically. Part of getting it to run so well is the usual optimisations, keeping regular spyware/virus/firewall and I use no-script on mozilla firefox which is effective at blocking stuff (albiet by making internet browsing slightly more… inhibited). I did plan to just use my old PC for internet and keep this one internet-free… but thats not really that realistic in the end I think. And so far no problems through using the above.

XP runs faster on a laptop of this spec, no question. You can get vista to run okay if you turn off the aero visual effects… going back to ‘classic’ mode probably sped things up by about x2 for me on vista. I did give vista a decent chance for several months because it worked fine (and was even better for some things) … EXCEPT AUDIO. In Renoise I would get random clicks for example, max/msp was troublesome to get to work at all. I tried many, many solutions to this and it was never totally resolved until I went back to XP. I read through many FAQs and solutions for this on the dell forums with people having similar problems. Having gone back to XP i think its quite possible that on this particularly laptop I may never switch it back to vista again.

I heard that having a video card which is better than ‘on-board intel’ is advised, because on-board graphics will drain your system ram which would otherwise be used for audio.

The one other big thing i would say is think carefully before you buy a laptop with a 17" screen:

i actually mainly use my laptop as a static device instead of my desktop now which is old and broken. i bought a nice 22" TFT screen and wireless keyboard so i can have the laptop on another table and keep my desk as clear as possible. It works really well using the laptop with a larger external screen at a good resolution for your eyes. i would strongly recommend to buy a laptop with a smaller screen and use the money you save toward a larger external TFT screen.

The 17" display is useful for when i take the machine elsewhere and i want to work… but by this i mean another environment where i have a proper desk or similar and the setup is semi-permanent.

The big disadvantage is that a 17" screen means your laptop is big and heavy and not really portable at all… its more like having a ‘moveable desktop pc’ than something you could realistically use on a train. Considering this if you plan to use your laptop for live music use at all, i think this is a big disadvantage. Often you may find table space is a premium at a gig. Unless you really, really need the bigger screen… i dont think it pays off for the inconvienience of having something so bulky.

Another disadvantage is the native resolution of the laptop screen is 1920x1200 (or around that… its massive) and on a 17" screen that gives me a headache quite quickly to the point where i can no longer look at it after a few hours. I never have problems like this usually especially with TFTs, but that resolution makes everything SO small it hurts. Of course you can lower the resolution but because they are not the natural screen resolutions they are less defined and look comparitively rubbish.

So basically even though i intended to use my laptop mainly as a replacement for my desktop - but to use portably sometimes and for live music, and especially since I have the external TFT so 90% of the time the laptop screen is switched off…i think it was a big mistake to buy one with a 17" screen. Other than that unless I went over to a MAC (which would have some advantages) I would be happy buying another Dell… but id get one with a smaller screen pre-installed with XP

Another tip if you are buying a Dell… you can buy from the business range of laptops, they are cheaper and they dont come pre-installed with a bunch of crap you dont want.

Soundcard-wise i’ve been very happy with my Edirol UA-101… I had some brief driver problems but an update fixed that… it’s a very solid and nice device with plenty of inputs/outputs. The UA-101 is USB 2.0 and has very low latency. I think reliability is more important than firewire vs USB… i went USB because the dell laptop doesnt have a built in firewire slot, and because the last external firewire device I had (stanton final scratch 2 box) was not reliable at all.

Hope some of that helps anyway :slight_smile:

Yeah I get what you’re saying but portability isn’t quite so important to me as usable screenspace. Would preferably like to have a WUXGA screen so can watch high def movies at full resolution once in a while. Saying that, using 24" WUXGA resolution flatpanels at work and I can see how it may become quite uncomfortable reading much on it if shrunk to 17" (although a lot of that is adjustable through Windows or associated programs anyway.) Was actually looking at Acer 20" models earlier and surprised how they’re not WUXGA but a lot of 17" ones are. Maybe going for 720P mode on a WXGA would be nicer anyway. My 21" CRT at home is only set to 1024x768, which is the 4:3 equivalent.

Models I seem to be gravitating towards are the Acer Aspire 8920, Sony Vaio AR71, Dell XPS M1730 or Precision M6300. Don’t know if anybody has any specific comments about any of them (ignoring that things may completely change if I find I agree with the comment above.)

Also been reading that Intel are due to release new Core Duo chips next month with a FSB of 1066MT/s and wondering if people feel this is likely to be worth waiting for and getting? Would also hope that DDR3 would be supported at the same time.Even if not hopefully the price of the current machine will drop shortly afterwards… Especially with more becoming available in the Dell Outlet (one of the main bonuses of Dell) :)

i was following this logic which is why i went for 17"… if you don’t plan on using it with another screen or moving it around too much 17" is definitely the way to go. but in my case i just see my girlfriends older smaller dell and think “thats the machine i’d rather use live” (if it were faster). there is nothing i can see myself using the laptop for live where a big screen is essential or a significant benefit. the dell XPS models i think are probably also lighter and thinner than the vostro so 17" might not be so much of an issue anyway however. don’t know how those other models compare?

the native resolution thing, there aren’t any particularly satisfying work arounds i’ve seen yet for windows XP apart from enlarging the text in windows which looks ugly, or lowering the resolution which looks crap. if you plan to use vista its probably less of an issue, i think, because its designed with the higher-res screens in mind. but i’d definitely recommend the 4gb ram / higher spec models i you wish to put yourself through using vista……l3=536&l4=0

This works well for me, particularly if you’re not fussed about battery life.
What I can do on my desktop, I can do on my lappy, and all for a reasonable price!

Had a Lenovo; it broke. Now have an IBM T42.

I guess this would be underpowered for nerds, but it rocks for me, and it so-solid.