Moving Target

I may be about to buy a new laptop PC. Trouble is, there are a lot of factors to think about. Many ways to go wrong, leading to hours or days of headache and possibly large amounts of wasted money.

My first stop was the HP website. HP alone has more models than you could shake a stick at, and their charts don’t really explain the relevant differences. None of the charts even lists the number of USB ports, and I’m going to need four (two keyboards, an audio interface, and a dongle). Or maybe five, if I want a mouse. The differences between USB 2.0 and 3.0 may turn out not to be trivial: A device with a 2.0 class-compliant driver might not like being plugged into a 3.0 port.

I checked the Sweetwater site. They only want to sell you Macs, not PCs. Macs are more expensive, migrating some of my software to a Mac might prove problematical, and I’ve heard funny stuff about compatibility issues between music software and OS 10.8. Maybe those issues are ironed out by now … maybe.

The basic advice I used to give to Keyboard readers was, buy something that does what you want today. Don’t buy promises about what something will do in the future. But how do I figure out what does what I want today? I looked on the Cubase forum. There’s a thread on “the best laptops for Cubase.” Unfortunately, the most recent topic-related post in the thread is a year old. Not helpful.

I had a laptop PC for a while. Still have it, in fact. Bought it in 2008. MusicXPC, supposedly fine-tuned for pro audio usage. It developed a nasty trick: When overheated, it would simply shut down without warning. And of course audio processes tend to be CPU-intensive, which can easily lead to quite a lot of heat. How likely is it that the HP site is going to provide information about cooling and heat-related issues? Not very. I guess I can phone them and ask pointed questions.

Musician’s Friend has a few laptop PCs … from MusicXPC and IndaMixx. The latter are Linux boxes. Can’t use one of those. But mostly Musician’s Friend sells MacBooks.

Amazon has the HP Pavilion dv7-7030us (how do they think up these model numbers???) for $850. Hard drive is only 5400 rpm, but it has four USB ports (three of them 3.0). Its built-in audio (which I don’t need) reportedly has four speakers and a subwoofer. A subwoofer in a laptop — now there’s a concept for you.

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1 Response to Moving Target

  1. georgek says:

    hey Jim, you might want to look at the Lenovo outlet at My philosophy with ‘new’ laptops is to buy a model a couple of years old that was top-of-the-line at the time (always reading reviews of course), Usually the build quality is much better and that’ll help with issues like the overheating you describe.

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