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DAW Laptop, think I'm on to a winner, what do ya reckon?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by schleigho, Feb 6, 2010.

  1. schleigho

    schleigho Guest

    Hey all, I'm going travelling and want to take my recording studio with me. I've spent all week researching laptops that can handle my audio gear, so much so, that my brain is starting to melt. I'm not that clued up on all the techy bits of a pc but read up a bit about processers and stuff and have gone a bit cross eyed. Anyway, for portability and performance etc. was thinking of settling on a reconditioned Thinkpad x60. Here's the specs:

    Processor T2400 Core Duo processor (rated at 1.83GHz)
    Memory 1024Mb DDR2
    Hard drive 60Gb
    Display 12.1" LCD 1,024 x 768 resolution
    Graphics Onboard
    Optical Drive External DVD/CDRW (Combo)
    Networking Ethernet 10/100, Wireless
    Operating System Windows XP Professional
    Included Good Battery, Power Adapter
    Features 1.83GHz Core Duo T2400; 1Gb DDR2 RAM; 60GB hard disk; Intel GMA 950 graphics; 12.1in 1,024 x 768 TFT; 802.11a/b/g WLAN; infrared; 56K modem; Gigabit Ethernet; 3 x USB 2; mini-FireWire; VGA; Type II PC Card slot; Windows XP Professional;Dimensions: 268 x 237 x 35mm (WDH). Weight: 1.65kg

    If I get a new soundcard do you think this will be able to handle Sonar, Battery3 and Waves nicely.
    Also, any horror stoies on refurbihed laptops?

    Many Thanks
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Reconditioned computers are not the way to go. I know everyone thinks they can save money by going that route but it just ain't so. If you are doing computer based recording then the computer itself is the most important thing behind microphone placement.

    There isn't any way to tell for sure if your Thinkpad will work. The processor on that laptop is five years old at least which in computer years is 80. The graphics memory is shared with the computer so that's not very good and you don't have enough memory anyway for a laptop. You could increase the ram on that board to a max of 4 gig (I think it has the ICH7 controller). You could also swap the T2400 processor for a T7200 and get much better bang for your buck. Your interface will NEED to be firewire and you'll need an external hard drive which will need to be usb or firewire. The internal hard drive that comes with the thinkpad is a 5400 rpm drive which will need to be upgraded to a 7200rpm drive. Some Thinkpads exhibit latency from the mobo design and some don't so that is a wildcard.

    Really it's always best-if you can-to use a desktop machine. If you travel slap it in a rackmount case and get a monitor that slides out of the rack on a tray. You can do all that with a five space rack case if you're careful. You'll still want the interface to be firewire but everything will run smoother with less jacking around with it.
  3. schleigho

    schleigho Guest

    ok thanks, guess I'm back to square one. I've got a pc tower I've had a few years now, I haven't set it up as an daw, just slapped the programmes on it and stuck in a m auido soundcard. I've only got a gig of memory on it and sonar, battery 3 do everything I want them to (needs a bit of tweaking) I'm confident I can get a portable laptop for under £500 that I can modify to run the programmes well on xp. I just want to record audio and smack some soft synths on and arse about with some drum sounds. There's people out there almost doing this on netbooks! What do you reckon, you got any ideas?

    Thanks again
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    They're not doing it on laptops with your specs. A Core Duo is a single core processor. The T7200 is a Core 2 Duo and it is a dual core processor. That's the first thing.

    A true recording laptop will be more expensive than it's desktop counterpart because the laptop platform is buggy in regards to recording latency and routing. That said, I utilize two different laptops for remote recording. Both spec out better than your Thinkpad and I'm a computer hardware guy so tweaking them isn't so much an issue for me. I normally record 4-6 tracks at 88.2k/24 bit (classical concert recordings) without issue. Even so, for critical large projects I use a desktop rackmount machine and a redundant backup (Alesis HD24XR).

    Now, can you get the Thinkpad to work? Probably. You'll want a better processor and more ram. You want more ram because I've already explained regarding the graphics chip sharing the system ram and also because the motherboards on laptops require more horsepower to do the same job. Upgrading these components blows your 500 quid pricetag.
  5. schleigho

    schleigho Guest

    Ok nice one, as I said I'm a bit slow on the uptake with the techy info. So, what I need is a portable laptop with a processer thats good enough to handle this kind and more ram. If i build from the bottom up, do you think I can squeeze in budget, as I said it doesn't need to be a super machine, just enough to handle audio recording a couple of tracks at a time, with enough stuf in the tank to edit with waves and use soft synths etc. I'm encorouged by this article from way back in 2003, but as I said some goes a bit over my head

    How Good Are Centrino Laptops For Music?

    Anyway, any suggestions on where to start with processors and laptop, bearing in mind the tiddly budget?

    Thanks again
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The Centrino line of processors are the red headed stepchild of the Intel line. Avoid them if you can. For 2-4 tracks a laptop will work just fine. If the specs are good enough and you have an Express Card firewire add on card for the firewire interface. If you are on a laptop you need to avoid the usb interfaces like the plague.
  7. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Um....Mac? When I first set up I used my work computer; a Macintosh Powerbook 17" G4 1Ghz processor, 1Ghz Ram. Might even have been 750 Ram. Using a Tascam Firewire recording interface I think, a red one called a 10/10, I happily tracked 10 tracks most of the time. Occasionally it would stutter, but I fixed that by recording to an external drive. I worked like this for a number of months.

    I then upgraded to an RME Fireface 800. Perhaps due to the FW800 bus, but I never had an issue ever again.

    I sold the laptop secondhand a while back and upgraded to the 1.3GHZ processor version. I'm pretty sure I sold it for £500 and that was a few years ago. DAW was Cubase 2SL at that time. The 17" G4 works absolutely robustly when we go out mobile, using the fireface interface.

    Interface dependent, I'd suggest perhaps looking for a secondhand G4 powerbook.
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    And I've regularly tracked 12-16 from a Mackie Onyx or FF800 onto several Dell laptops. It can be done given good implementation of the hardware itself and a few tweaks. Where we run into trouble on the average Windows laptop is the motherboard implementation and the original proposed CPU not being up to the task. Not all Macs are created equal either however. The non pro versions tend to have just as many issues as many Win laptops. On the whole, I would not recommend a used computer of either religion for someone setting up the first time. It just doesn't play out well fiscally in the long run. Then there is the whole user end of the equation. One really needs to keep a recording computer separate from other tasks like internet and games. Multi use computers again of either religion can be problematic.
  9. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    A G4 Powerbook is not capable of running any of the current mac DAWs, PPC cpus are dead in Apple's eyes.

    The latest OS and Logic 9.1 require a MacIntel.
  10. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    It's a Core DUO, it's pin compatible to the Core2Duo Cpus. It is dualcore, but 32bit only.
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Not to belabor the point, but a Core Duo is a single core processor that is divided into 2 virtual cores which is why it is only a 32 bit processor. The socket is 478 (socket M) and is compatible in most cases with 65nm Core 2 Duo cpu's which are also socket M and are actually two separate cores. The socket P Core 2 Duos will not fit.
  12. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Yeah I know we're discouraging secondhand, but I'm not of the opinion that it has to be the latest. I've very reluctantly upgraded to Cubase 4 so my engineers could have Logic on Tiger on the main recording computer. I've still using Adobe CS2 and most print machinery isn't compatible with even that, let alone CS3 or 4, which are overbloated, Intel Mac only and seem to me like progress for the sake of progress, or more likely, upgrade cheques. For me the DAW is mainly an elaborate hard disc recorder and I appreciate YMMV but it doesn't necessarily have to be the latest thing, especially if you are on a budget.

    A PPC 10.4 machine runs Battery 3 and waves 6 fine, I don't know about Sonar.Waves will give you V6 license keys to anything you own a V7 license to, they've just done it for us on some plugs that were bought after V7 (Intel onry) came out.
  13. musicmantest

    musicmantest Guest

    Certain users here have the wrong idea about laptops. The OP asked about working with Sonar on a laptop of certain spec. Another user chimed in with his thoughts. Let me relate my experience. For Sonar I run an ancient Toshiba Satellite 1955 laptop. 2.53 GHz Pentium 4 cpu, 1 gig ram (max it will take), onboard nvidia graphics. For audio I use an Edirol UA1000 USB2.0 box. External hd for samples and recorded audio (Glyph 200 gig) daisy chained off the lone FW400 port with a TC Powercore. I can do 8 audio tracks at a time (max the UA will do without using digital input). If I stay with softsynths and record no external audio or use my h/w synths, I can go upwards of 30 tracks at a time. Softsynths - almost everything in the NI arsenal, Arturia's CS80, Moog Modular & miniMoog, Sampletank 2.5 XL, and much more. All this with Sonar 8.3.1! USB2.0 is more than good enough for audio nowadays. Heck, Ro/Cake went that way with the VS700 system!

    On the Mac side I use an ancient Powerbook G4 with 1.67 GHz PPC, 2 gig ram, OSX Tiger and DP6. Audio is via Apogee Duet. I've not run this system for as long as my Sonar system but have yet to stress it out. NI stuff runs flawlessly.

    There is nothing inherently buggy about routing or latency in a laptop. You just have to know what you're doing and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make it work. You can record with ANY laptop - there is no such thing as a 'true recording laptop', just boutique vendors who pull the woll over the eyes of unsuspecting users.
  14. musicmantest

    musicmantest Guest

    You are wrong on the first statement. G4 Powerbooks will run DP6 and 7 quite easily under Tiger. Leopard or SL not needed. Not everyone that runs a Mac for recording uses Logic or PT you know.
  15. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    We'll have to agree to disagree on that one.

    I have utilized numerous laptops for recording purposes (and still do) and have attempted to assist lots of others directly and through forums. More people have issues when using a laptop. No it's not rocket science but the previous sentence is still the majority experience.

    It is also true that the motherboard routings are not the same from full sized desktop board to the average laptop board. Components are daisy chained together in order to save space and this is the primarily issue with many laptops. As to be USB 2.0 being good enough, the reality of USB 2.0 is that it did not live up to it's much vaunted theoretical speed. This is why all the major interface manufacturers utilize firewire and reserve usb for 2-4 channel devices or entry level devices with only one or two exceptions. Lots of times I use USB for external hard drives but it's just not worth it for the audio interface unless one has a hankering to clean up digital artifacts. Granted, those artifacts are maybe more easily audible in classical music than pop music but I'd think one could still hear them and in my business you only get one shot at the performance.

    I never once stated the OP needed to go out and purchase the very latest computer or components. I'm using several Dell Latitudes, an Inspiron laptop, an HP, and a Toshiba myself. But it is ridiculous to even suggest someone go out and purchase a P4 or any single core processor if starting out new. Of course YMMV.
  16. TheBeaver

    TheBeaver Guest

    "I'm using several Dell Latitudes, an Inspiron laptop, an HP, and a Toshiba myself." why do you have so many laptops at all?! just a techno-nut? If I could afford it I'd have multiple computer two, it just seems strange to have SO MANY.

    My advice is invest more now, be happier later.
  17. musicmantest

    musicmantest Guest

    There's no more digital artifacts in a USB2.0 interface than one in a firewire interface. If there are, then it's in the a/d and d/a conversion, or your audio chain, not the interface protocol. Yes, all the major manufacturers use fw, but more and more are going USB2.0. Did you check out the Cakewalk VS700? 8 channels analog audio plus whatever digital you put in, full control surface, etc. all on USB2.0? Even MOTU has gone USB2.0 on a number of their interfaces and not all of those are 2 or 4 channel devices. And recording is recording - the material being performed doesn't matter to the equipment or recording engineer. any system can and will record any type of music. To think otherwise is elitist.
  18. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    If the OP just simply wants to take recording capabilities on the road with him using Sonar on a lappie, I don't see any reason why the computer he's outlined wouldn't do the trick and run Sonar and his outboard devices just fine. Plus the thinkpad is a real roadworthy machine and a reconditioned one will have years left to it. It's also one of the few that still offer serial ports :0)

    We're not talking about an in-studio DAW that'll the be heart of his operation...just a travel companion to record with and do a little mixing. If it's the right price, it sounds like an excellent solution to me. I run Sonar BTW on a 3+ year old machine very successfully and still doing some mixing tricks with Sonar on an 8 year old machine that has no upgrades yet from the day I first built it. Sonar is just easy to run.
  19. Spase

    Spase Active Member

    My Lenovo T61 has worked great so far - I have recorded many hours up to 16 tracks without a problem. I did get it specifically for recording, and set it up accordingly. The Lenovos can have a tray you can use in the optical drive slot as well, so you can have twointernal hard drives.
  20. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    (I've got lots of computers for a variety of reasons many of which have to do with computer support. IMO all of them are fair game for recording and they've all done the job live in concert.)

    @Spase-The T61 has a Core 2 Duo processor in it and the motherboard has many improvements over the generation prior that were the primary host for the single Core cpu's.

    @CoyoteTrax-It's true that there are lesser requirements for just "jotting stuff down" than for full fledged recording. All I was saying about his proposed computer was that he should bump it up a notch. Not go buy a DV8 with an i7-720 cpu. Also, your 3 year old machine will spec out much better than something designed six years ago. There was a leap in implementation between the original Core Duo generation and the Core 2 Duo stuff.

    @musicmantest-I'm a Fireface user so I don't really have interface issues. I'd also disagree on the usb being equal for another reason. The 1394 bus is a controlled protocol meaning it isn't likely to be interrupted. The usb protocol is not controllable and as such can be interrupted by any system device that needs it.

    Now that said, I have not seen the VS-700 in any of its permutations. I'm willing to be open minded about it even if I've never seen anything from Roland I liked. It looks like there are a few different configurations. One primarily is a control surface of which many seem to utilize midi over usb these days. The other version looks interesting too with the 8 preamps. I wouldn't normally have Roland come to mind when I think pre's but hey, I haven't heard it either.

    To throw another USB device into the pot, RME now has the Fireface UC. Being a big believer in the designers at RME I have to think they know what they're doing too noting they have limited the I/O to substantially less than the FF800. Also, RME states right up front that older generations of computers will not have good luck with the USB interface which just reinforces what I've believed.

    Perhaps the issues of USB are becoming a thing of the past on current generations of computers. Again I'm willing to believe it. I would just be careful about assuming a several generation old computer refurbished or not was up to that task.

    Thanks everyone for a lively and civil discussion. We don't usually see that here in the computer forum.

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