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The right laptop for RME fireface 800

Discussion in 'Converters & Interfaces' started by linclink, Apr 26, 2007.

  1. linclink

    linclink Guest

    Hi guys !!!!!

    I'm new here...but I hope you guys can help me answer some questions.

    I've been in and out of the computer recording world for 8 years now, and I have no problems with my desktop systems, since I build them myself.

    Now I have to build a mobile DAW for my church...and I'm sort of lost because I don't know anything about laptops.

    Since I'm using the RME FIREFACE 800 as my firewire interface.....

    What kind of laptop should I buy (it would be a Windows comp) ?????

    I went to the RME website and their compatibility section looks a little bit outdated. So maybe somebody here has enough experience to give me some advice.

    I checked some companies that sell laptops that are pre-configured for audio...but in analyzing the specs it looks like they have a regular laptop with ram ...fast hard drive, etc (things that I can do myself) and then sell it for a premium price.

    So...if somebody can guide me in the right direction....like DELL, HP, GATEWAY...etc...it will be really appreciated

    Thanks a million !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    there is a big difference from Dell, gateway etc and a custom built for audio laptop.

    1) most brand names do NOT work well for audio
    2) most brand names do not have TI chipset firewire.
    3) purpose built for audio (should mean depending on who you buy it from) that its been tested and validated with all major software and audio interfaces.
    4) just because they seem to have the "same Spec" doesnt mean anything. do make sure the HDD is 7200 rpm

    but if thats not enough to convine you read this.....

    This is hard to explain without having read a lot of white papers.

    Issues with the majority of new laptops.

    first no one builds their own laptops (Dell, Apple, etc)
    there is 7 or 8 laptop manufacturers in the world only who build for all.

    While this has to do with both Intel and AMD I will confine this to Intel.

    Intel Core 2 Duo, and upcoming Santa Rosa (core 2 duo with 800 fsb)
    1) Chipsets: the main chipset is the Intel 945 PM/GM (gm means onboard video)
    And this is not the issue.
    The Chipset issue is what is being used for the Cardbus(if it actually still has one), Memory card reader, modem, network, Firewire.
    or whats called combo chipsets. (all in 1)

    Ricoh: (asus and others) a lot of incompatibility with audio interfaces and general poor performance.

    ENE: (compal and others) same as above, the Cardbus is horrid. Usually with Via firewire. The via firewire does better than ricoh.

    Realtek: now found on several laptops, not just as audio, but audio, card reader, Cardbus, modem, Firewire. (run)

    Texas Instruments: firewire and Cardbus (again gone from most new laptops). The chipset to have!

    Bios: most laptops are 512k some are 1 meg, where a desktop will have 4meg- 8meg.
    This is probably the biggest issue.
    The Bios for the most part is responsible for IRQ and resource allocation. A small and poorly written bios is what causes so many things
    To be lumped on to 1 IRQ.
    ACPI handles this.

    with laptops you have “hot swap” devices (cardbus, Express slot and more) this adds to the issue.
    Understanding that resource allocation is memory based (name space and virtual memory)
    A small bios has a hard time allocating space for all potential product IDs.

    Add to that we now have PCIe even more bios issues arise.


    “Insufficient bridge resources appear when the platform BIOS cannot assign appropriate PCI-bridge resource windows during POST. Systems supporting hot-plug PCI devices are particularly problematic. When a PCI device can be hot-plugged behind a PCI bridge at run time, it is impossible for the BIOS to ascertain during POST how large a bridge resource window must be to accommodate a device. Additionally, a PCI bridge device might be hot plugged in certain situations—for example, in generic docking solutions that connect through CardBus adapters”

    “””The previous scenarios are exacerbated with the emergence of PCI Express. PCI Express defines many bridge devices that are used to represent ports, thereby making complex bridge hierarchies more prevalent. Additionally, PCI Express hot-plug will be widely used in desktop and workstation client systems, so hot-plug scenarios will not be limited to large servers.

    So small bios means less ability to handle ACPI steering and resources in “virtual space”

    Expectation of ODM: most laptops are NOT designed to be used as workstations. The vendors never expected this.
    Laptops are designed to be light weight, long battery life used mostly by biz people on the go or typical home user surfing the net, playing music.
    Therefore they program the bios in a careless manor.

    Here is more about how its left to the individual ODM to program the bios.

    “””The rules for the above programmable ranges are:
    1. ALL of these ranges MUST be unique and NON-OVERLAPPING. It is the BIOS or
    system designers responsibility to limit memory population so that
    adequate PCI, PCI Express, High BIOS, PCI Express Memory Mapped
    space, and APIC memory space can be allocated.
    2. In the case of overlapping ranges with memory, the memory decode will be given
    3. There are no Hardware Interlocks to prevent problems in the case of overlapping
    4. Accesses to overlapped ranges may produce indeterminate results.
    5. The only peer-to-peer cycles allowed below the top of memory (register TOLUD)
    are DMI to PCI Express VGA range writes. Note that peer to peer cycles to the
    Internal Graphics VGA range are not supported.”””

    Taken from Intels white papers

    A few manufacturers put more thought into it. Again the more expensive TI chipset is a good indication that there was consideration for use as a workstation.
    The bios will be a bit more open and better programming as well as usually larger.

    The more different chipsets there are internally the more likely they will have their own resources, as opposed to everything in 1 chipset.

    So that about covers the less obvious (HDD, ram etc)

  3. huub

    huub Guest

    kay, very informative indeed!
    still... I'd say get a macbook..
    after years of pc use, I'm very very very happy with mine..
  4. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    well now,
    there is one brand name that does work well!

    FYI TI chipset firewire.

  5. neirbod

    neirbod Guest

    Toshiba Tecra M5

    I currently use a Toshiba Tecra M5 with my Fireface 800, and it works great. I can't speak to all the details already mentioned, but it does have a TI firewire chip, which sits its on own IRQ (not sure how the IRQ sharing factors in here as I am not a computer tech, but it *appears* to have its own IRQ). There are different versions with different CPUs, RAM etc., but all use Intel Core Duo or Core 2 Duo chips. I have never had any trouble with this my set up (1.8 GHz Core Duo), and get down to a few milllseconds latency in Sonar with zero issues.

    One big bonus is you can swap out the DVD drive with an optional second hard drive to have a dedicated audio drive with no external boxes. Also, it has a docking station available, which I find very handy. The only downsides are: it comes packaged with lots of extra crap software, so I formatted the drive and did a fresh install of Win XP; and the battery life isn't great. It isn't a very sexy laptop, but it works well.
  6. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    yup TI chipset means 95% chance of working!

    anything else good luck!

  7. linclink

    linclink Guest

    Thanks a lot guys for the input....especially Scott with class A knowledge!!

    Now...Scott....since my knowledge about chipsets, etc... is very restricted I would like to copy and paste something from the RME webpage.... it seems they are telling something a little different about TI chipsets...anyways if you could read the following and shed some light...it will be really appreciated

    "Reassuring: FireWire 400 (1394a-2000) has always functioned properly. We tested PCI FireWire cards with chips from VIA, NEC and Texas Instruments. The communication between computer, Fireface 800 and external FireWire hard drive didn't show any problem.

    Worrying: With FireWire 800 (1394b), however, we encountered shaky communication, complete denial or strong temperature dependency. Operating the Fireface and an external FW800 hard drive at the same time caused irregular bus resets, which were of course interrupting the audio signal.

    After extensively testing various devices with each other and taking a closer look at the circuits, we found that several devices on the market simply show hardware design mistakes, which can be modified in some cases, or which are irreparable in others. In most cases, it is the power supply voltage of the so-called physical chip. In the data sheet, Texas Instruments request at least 1.85 V, typically even 1.95 V. Unfortunately, TI have not emphasized this in the data sheet, and the regarding pins of the chip are called PLLVDD-1.8 and DVDD-1.8. No big surprise, that some manufacturers erroneously supply these pins with 1.8 V.

    Internally, however, the 'Phy' works almost like a Gigahertz CPU. And a fact that every PC tuner knows from experience is true here as well. With an operating voltage 150 mV too low, the chip doesn't work properly anymore. Depending on the chip's revision it can be more or less problematic, but reliability is definitely being defined differently. "

    It look like they are talking against TI chipset..doesn't it ????


  8. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    HI lincoln,
    they are saying the TI 400 is great and the TI 800 is what they had problems with. it also says it depends on which TI 800.

    no need fo TI 800 anyway, unless chaining 2 FF 800 together.
    TI 800 is not found on any laptop.

  9. moisiss

    moisiss Active Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    New York, NY
    Home Page:
    I have been looking at a lot of different laptop solutions... mainly for as a "live performance workstation".... so I'm assuming the same issues will exist for this kind of use.

    I have looked at a few different "audio PC" companies.... and some of their laptops are clearly built on barebones chassis (thus, chipsets, bios, etc.) from companies that you mentioned above (Asus, Compal). They claim to have tested their machines with numerous audio devices and all that jazz....

    So what's the deal? Have they found the exceptions within the ODM manufactures that were discussed earlier? Are they lying when they say that they have tested their laptops for audio use?
  10. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    one company i know makes claims of testing, however we have "Tested" the same laptops sold by them and found them wanting in compatibility and power. thus they are not on our site!
    this was also validated by another competitor... who sells a different brand than they do and I.
    He at least has found a work around (bios hack) and use of TI chipset Express card to be fairly successful. his site will say 3 Firewire ports due to the added Express card. this will be a much better option than the previous mentioned.

    however nothing beats a onboard TI chipset as this leaves the Express slot open for Esata and or future Express card options.

    oddly the smaller 14" asus on our site does indeed work fairly well.
    i think due to the lack of PCIe and the associated additional bios steering required that allows this as it has the "dreaded" Ricoh chipset. (wont work with PT LE)
    but does work with Presonus (which works with very few laptops)
    (still good enough for those with PCMCIA audio interfaces and not firewire)

    hows that for an answer without mentioning any names!
    somewhere on my site is a laptop comparison of the first mentioned and us! :lol:

  11. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Distinguished Member

    Mar 19, 2003
    Kirkland WA
    Home Page:
    There is only one laptop with FW800 on board. Macbook Pro.

    but the fire face will work fine with FW400.


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