Laptop Safe Choice


#1

First of all many thanks to Brad for the Glitch Free notes. I want to run cantabile vs buying new hw synths but first need a dedicated laptop not owned by my employer:-)

What’s the best/safest bet for audio, preferably in the $1000 range or less? Best meaning the usual quad core, memory etc. Safest as in no unsolvable dpc problems, overheating, clock throttling effects etc. I figure some of you know machines that work for audio with minimal pain.

I’ve read thinkpad t model refurbs are popular.
Microcenter sells refurb T440s with i7 4600u processors, a W540 with i7 4800mq. I’m fine upgrading drives and memory.

Trying to avoid much dpc adventure! Thanks for recommendations.


#2

I don’t feel qualified to comment on hardware any more really - but most machines with those specs should get the job done one would imagine. I’d personally be more concerned with a machine you could blast the drive on and load a completely clean version of Windows. Laptops are notorious for bloatware and you do not want that crap on your system. The catch-22 is if you don’t load the original system image with the bloatware you have to be sure you can get all the correct basic drivers for your machine from the manufacturer’s website. The other alternative is to just try and uninstall as much of the garbage as you can but you will always have to worry that at some point you’ll have to reinstall Windows and you’ll have it all back if you can’t do a clean install.

And I always go for refurbs, usually a year or two old. Great prices, usually with a 3 month warranty and if they go that long without blowing up they’re usually fine.


#3

I recently bought an MSI GF64 8rd (6 core/12 thread i7). I upgraded ssd to 512G Samsung NVME and memory to 16G. All this for about $850… Couldn’t be happier.

It’s a gaming laptop, so designed for cooling and avoiding throttling. Runs Cantabile super well.


#4

Kirk makes a good point, the MSI he bought has a 15.6" display, fast 8th gen i7 and SSD and HDD connectors.

Here are some things to watch out for:

  1. Make sure laptop is easily upgrade-able to a minimum 16GB RAM
  2. Make sure laptop has m.2 SSD slot
  3. Be careful that the processor isn’t an i7 designed more for battery efficiency than power. I have a 5th gen i7 equipped ultra light that is no faster than a middle of the road 5th gen i5

#5

Thanks - good to hear MSI is audio friendly. Microcenter (best store where I live, great support) has the GF63 for $800. The ssd is too small for libraries (256G) but seems like you could reasonably load samples with an external drive over usb3.1C. Not as fast as TB but 10 Gb/s transfer will apparently match pcie and outrun most drives.
Will appreciate other recommendations.
The store pushed an HP Omen gaming PC for $1000 but I’ve seen forum threads where Omens were DPC nightmares.
I’m reading where 8th gen i7s improved plus many references to avoiding the mobile/max battery life versions that throttle speed.


#6

Acer Predator Helios 300 PH317-52-74KR 17.3" for $1200 is interesting and I know it’s being used for audio.
6 core, 16 Gb dram, 512 Gb ssd, bigger screen is nice (but heavier).
I read mixed reviews on acer but should be their better line.
Of course you can find mixed reviews on about everything.


#7

Actually, make sure you have m.2 NVME. M.2 SSD could be SATA, not NVME. The difference is huge.


#8

Thanks for clarification - I forgot that m.2 format can be SATA.


#9

Thanks everyone. I’ve learned a good bit - maybe I’m the last person to discover dpc latency data on notebookcheck.net. It’s a little laborious to go through the site but worth it. The data strongly correlates with anecdotal stories about machines that work/don’t work.

Laptops from MSI and Lenovo tend to exhibit mostly low latency, which explains why, among the big manufacturers, you hear about these two for audio. However, not all MSI and Lenovo models appear to be low risk so you still have to research individual models. Some HP models appear to be good i.e. Elitebook 1050. Dell appears to be the most consistently troublesome for audio (i.e. the highly rated XPS line).

If I were buying new/off the shelf and had to buy today, I’d probably get either a Lenovo X1 Extreme for about $1800, the P72 17.3" workstation is a lot of machine for $1500 (but ~8 lbs) and a lot of folks are buying the P52.

If I didn’t care about TB3 I might get an MSI Raider for about $1500. If I wanted low-cost I might get an MSI Leopard for $1000 and take some risk on the plastic case durability. The MSI P65 is interesting at around $1450 and includes TB3 although I can’t find one to see it locally yet.

Dedicated graphics cards are such a common source of problems, to the point where folks disable these cards and use whatever basic Intel graphics is on the motherboard.

The 8750h processor appears to be a major winner for audio (and everything). Not much point in risking some expensive high-end graphics card for audio - more likely a problem than benefit and the big difference between gaming and audio.

This is interesting if you haven’t seen it:


#10

I’m not sure I’ve seen notebookcheck.net before - that’s a good website. I learned that my C3 Lenovo X230 has a backlit keyboard from it! That’s handy for dark stages.


#11

Just an opinion, but it seems a lot of DPC latency issues are related to drivers. If you are planning on using an external audio interface then one major cause of DPC latency would shift from (some of) the laptop’s built-in drivers to the external interface drivers. For example, there is a specific laptop model that seems to have trouble with built-in Realtek audio drivers. I’ve had Realtek audio built into a lot of gear that I’ve owned, and I’ve never actually used it for anything except maybe the system beep.