Computer Nerds, Help Me Choose A New Laptop (Happy Birthday, Me!)

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Luke19Boarder, Sep 28, 2017.

  1. Sorry in advance for a long post ...

    I'm currently running a few-years old desktop, but plan on upgrading to a laptop in the next week or so, as a birthday present to myself. My current setup isn't terrible, but it does take quite a while to load vst-intensive projects (~3-5 minutes to load a project).

    Specs of my current computer:

    -Intel i5-3470 CPU (3.2GHz)
    -4GB Ram (DDR3)
    -Windows 10 (64-Bit)
    -Single Hard drive (I think a like 750GB - not sure on the speed ... couldn't find that spec, and I'm not at home right now)

    From the research I've been doing, it seems that the bottleneck in performance are the low RAM and the probably the hard drive speed.

    Moving from a desktop to a laptop, I know I won't be getting as much for my money, but I've definitely made up my mind that's the direction I'm going.

    I'd like to keep my budget as low as possible (duh). Ideally, I'd like to keep it in the $6-700 range ... but realistically I could stretch it to anything under $1000.

    I came across this today on Amazon:

    This seems to check all of my boxes (16gb RAM, SSD + HDD) except I'm not sure about the processor. I am only really familiar with Intel chips, and can't find much out about the AMD FX-9800P Quad-Core 2.70 GHz Processor in this computer. Any input - is that going to cut it, or should I stick with an intel processor?

    I'm also a tiny bit leery of a refurb ... but my current computer was a refurb and has lasted me ridiculously heavy use for the last 4-5 years (and will still be used in my living room entertainment center).

    Looking through Amazon and Newegg, these are the pages with my search parameters: (amazon)
    $200 - $800, 500 GB - 1 TB, 250 GB - 499 GB, 100 GB - 249 GB, Quad-core Processor, 16 GB, 20 GB, 64 GB, 24 GB, 32 GB, Laptops / Notebooks, Laptops / ... - (newegg)

    Anything jump out as a good/bad deal?

    Anything else I should be looking at?

    Any and all help would be appreciated!

    p.s. I'm pretty much a bedroom musician working on a solo project at the moment. Usually 20-30 tracks, with a decent number of VSTis (arturia analog lab 2, superior drummer 2, NI massive, etc.). I will also be using the computer to record/mix demos for local bands I know (max 4 inputs at a time). I use a focusrite scarlett 2i4 usually, and some Behringer 4-input interface when required (rarely). I use Reaper as my DAW (occasionally fiddling with Ableton lite).
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
  2. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    Make sure the laptop has a big enough screen and a high enough resolution to be able to comfortably work on your projects. A lot of laptops with otherwise decent specs have annoyingly low rez screens or they cram full HD screens into 15 inches which makes everything on the screen tiny.
  3. I wouldn't take that first laptop you mentioned. That particular AMD processor is a chip designed to have low power use and is an enormous step down from your desktop performance wise. (And it's basically a dual core when doing floating point calculations, which is what music editing is - not bashing AMD here, but that was just a particular weird design.)
    Although that doesn't mean the laptop will be slow, since the ssd will still give you near instant load times on everything.

    After checking that newer link I'd take this one: Refurbished: Lenovo Laptop W520 Intel Core i7 2nd Gen 2760QM (2.40 GHz) 16 GB Memory 256 GB SSD Intel HD Graphics 3000 15.6" Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit -
    A lenovo W520 which has the advantage of having a sturdy design, a legit high performance quad core, anti reflective screen etc.
    Although as dxb has mentioned, I's doesn't have a great screen.
    So if you care to add another 100$ you get the w530 with a HD screen and a slightly more powerful processor.
    Refurbished: Lenovo ThinkPad (2447-4C8) W530 i7-3740QM Quad Core (2.7GHz) 16GB 256GB SSD 15.6 FHD (1920x1080) Webcam Bluetooth NVIDIA Quadro K1000M Fingerprint Reader Windows 7 Pro 64Bit -

    I hope this helps you.
    (PS they are all refurbished laptops, they would all have shoddy battery life by now)
    Luke19Boarder likes this.
  4. That's definitely something to think about. I will be running dual monitors, so it will be somewhat less of a concern. But point definitely taken.

    I really appreciate your input. Both of them that you linked would certainly be within my budget, so it's given me more to consider. Good to know about that AMD chip - it's probably the most common AMD processor I've seen in my preliminary searches.

    Regarding the battery life - that's not of great concern. The portability aspect is mainly so I can take it into the living room (my current studio room also doubles as our guest bedroom, so it's a bit cramped).

    Any other suggestions/recommendations/input more than welcome!
    Stefan Verbeeck likes this.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    If you are open to registering for another forum, there is an excellent "What notebook should I buy?" sub-forum at If you fill out and post this questionnaire, I think you will get some great responses:

    ### What Should I Buy FORM (Must Read Before Posting!) ###

    I am user "precisionbassed" over there, say hi if you like. :) My personal preference is Dell's line of "business class" laptops (such as the Dell Precision--which is sadly out of your price range--but you could definitely afford some of the Latitude or Inspiron models, especially if you shop refurbished from, and I'm also quite fond of the Lenovo ThinkPad lineup.

    I work in a large IT department. If you sit in on one of our meetings, you will see most of the pro computer nerds are using ThinkPads, Dell Latitudes, or MacBooks.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
  6. Update!

    After searching a few other spots on the Web, I came across this one:

    Now, I'm typically anti-Walmart (no further comment, per site rules), but this seems to be quite a dang good deal. Pretty much the same specs as the Lenovo (currently in the lead), but with a slightly better (I think?) processor (i7-4800MQ), newer version of Windows (I'm used to 10) and quite a bit cheaper.

    Any thoughts/concerns with this one?
  7. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    8th Gen Quad cores are out now. Don't let the clock speeds fool you. They may have lower clock rates but it doesn't mean they don't have performance. Now that the 8th are out, the 6th and 7th gen should drop in price. There's no problem with a 6th or 7th gen, or even a 5th gen. I would say though that for most my DAW work I can show I use more cores, so quad core is something I look for.

    Many laptops just can't be upgraded anymore, CPU and memory are soldered in. They only have one bay for disk or SSD.
    Thunderbolt 3 is a good feature. It will let you add more drives, interfaces, etc as time goes on.
    oldNewbie and Luke19Boarder like this.
  8. How long would you expect it take for the older generation processors to drop in price? I'm a little bit antsy to pull the trigger ... but would be willing to wait a bit if it would be worth it.

    Good to know about focusing on quad-core. That was my suspicion, but a lot of 7th-gen processors seem to be dual-core (ex. i7-7500U), so glad to confirm that.

    I'm not all that concerned about upgrading ... I think with the specs I'm looking at, I should be set for a while (I've got a 2TB external hard drive as well).
  9. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    I,m digging my Lenovo Yoga 2, 11.6"' laptop.
    Windows 10 and very portable.
    Westsailor and seamonkey like this.
  10. oldNewbie

    oldNewbie Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    + 1 on CPU comments.
    A couple ideas on keeping a quad CPU in your target but keeping costs down:
    For <$1K , especially if you need portability, I'd suggest get a relatively smaller screen (13-14") and use the monitor from the present desktop at home. Internal SSD drive is a must - EVO drives are even faster , as is 8GB or more RAM . You could take the internal HDD from your present computer and put it in a $20 USB3 external box , use it as a data drive. Then with (cheap,small) 250 GB EVO or SSD as a system disk is 4-10X faster than your present internal drive , you have a portable , fast system with good battery life - SSDs use a lot less power than mechanical HDDs - and a separate data drive. Spend your last $100 on another external 2TB drive for backups.
  11. I highly recommend you go to a Mac. For desktop an iMac is perfect, especially for music. I run iTunes on mine plus Garageband for production projects. The Mac is soooooo much easier to use, is less susceptible to virus and malware and is a much more stable OS. Once you go Mac, you will never look back. :thumbsup:
    BadB likes this.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    I don't know this Latitude E6540 model very well, but I've seen a few of them pass through our help desk. It is a solid "workhorse" design. Not slim and sleek; more on the "chunky" side. One thing I like about it is the dedicated number pad on the keyboard (a lot of newer laptops don't have this). Also it is easy to open to access the storage and RAM. i7-4800MQ is a 4th generation "Haswell" CPU. This laptop probably would have sold for at least $1,500 when it was new in 2013; maybe closer to $2,000 with the SSD option and 16gb RAM. There are a few reviews up on YouTube.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
    Luke19Boarder likes this.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    A word of advice to anyone considering an iMac for music production: Do not under any circumstances purchase the base model with standard Hard Drive or Fusion Drive. At work, our help desk gets a lot of complaints: "I think there is something wrong with my new iMac... the mouse cursor keeps changing to a spinning rainbow beach ball?"

    The Solid State Drive is a mandatory iMac upgrade in my opinion.

    The 27" 5k iMac with SSD is one of my favorite Apple products of all time. (But pricey!)
  14. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    If you are considering a used/refurb Dell I should mention that has very good warranties; same as if you bought the computer new, basically. And you'd be looking at this year or last year's models, as opposed to the E6540 which is a few years older design. Plus if you are patient, they often run 10-20% off coupons. Looks like they have a deal right now on Latitude 5580, for example.

    Other manufacturers like Lenovo have outlet stores too.
  15. I'm not as much of a Mac hater as I used to be ... but that's definitely not going to happen. I've happily been a PC owner for decades, and don't plan on changing now. I prefer having options over design and "stability" (something I've never had an issue with).

    I chatted with a few guys in the IT department in the office, and I think I have it narrowed to these two:

    Refurbished: Lenovo ThinkPad (2447-4C8) W530 i7-3740QM Quad Core (2.7GHz) 16GB 256GB SSD 15.6 FHD (1920x1080) Webcam Bluetooth NVIDIA Quadro K1000M Fingerprint Reader Windows 7 Pro 64Bit - (Lenovo mentioned earlier in this thread) (Newer Acer I found on Amazon)

    I think I might be leaning toward the Acer since it is likely much newer (the processor is from 2017), and it comes with Windows 10 (not a big deal, but I'm used to it by now).

    Hmmm. Am I ready to pull the trigger, or should I keep looking?
  16. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. In Memoriam

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    The Dell Latitude will be an excellent laptop on a budget. And Walmart has a 30 days no questions asked return policy. You can drag it into any Walmart with your receipt and get your money back. Don't forget to get a laptop bag and docking station. The dock will transform your laptop into a dual display workstation. Good luck!
  17. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. In Memoriam

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    I beg you, do NOT get an Acer. They are the Kraco 8 tracks from K Mart! One of the biggest issues is when you call into tech support. Ever tried calling into Acer? Try before you buy one. Lenovo isn't bad but it's owned by the Koreans and they don't understand tech support. Dell is the best option, make sure you also buy a warranty. but please save yourself some grief and don't get the Acer. Take it from an IT tech who threw 12 of them away at our organization after only 14 months.
  18. Argh, thanks for making this decision more difficult :***:

    I don't think I've ever had to call tech support in my life for anything (knock on wood ... I'm fairly tech-savvy), but I get what you are saying, for sure.

    Hmmm ... I guess the Dell is back on the table (Dude, you're gettin' a Dell!)
    alaskaleftybass likes this.
  19. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    Mac Mini's are perfect for bedroom audio recording. They're tiny, quiet and affordable, plus you can use any size monitor you want. Unfortunately the current models are limited to obsolete dual-core processors, but there was a model a few years ago that had a quad-core I7 and if you can find one of those used it might be a good option.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
  20. Westsailor


    Dec 12, 2009
    I worked for 20+ years on the tech side with (pre-HP) Compaq, IBM & Dell. Here's my take on these brands

    Avoid HP/Compaq. They just don't hold up. Compaq was at one time a 'mil spec' build, nothing touched its quality. No more since acquired by HP. Compaq is but a shadow of its former self. HP's are also cheaply built.

    Dell - You roll the dice with a Dell. One may be great while the next exact same model is trouble right out of the box. And if you have trouble the very best you can hope for is a complete exchange for a new one. At no time during my stint with Dell were any warranty RMA returns 100% successfully repaired to the customers satisfaction. I wouldn't have a Dell Refurb if it were free

    IBM/Lenovo - Not sure about their 'consumer grade' (ideapads, chromebooks, etc.) but I've used IBM/Lenovo's Thinkpads exclusively for oh 10+ years now. They are no nonsense, 'Built Ford Tough' business workstations. Normally expensive here's my secret to getting a high end laptop for a reasonable price;

    IBM/Lenovo leases a gizillion Thinkpads to the Fortune 500. At the end of the lease those corporations return them for the 'new & Improved' models. IBM refurbs them and sells them at a fraction of the original price with full factory warranty. I bought one once (a $2800 laptop for $500) that had never been opened. The downside is you have to be patient, the laptop with the exact specs you might want isn't always available right now.

    Compare Laptops | Lenovo US Outlet Store

    As far as tech support, nobody does real tech support anymore. Nobody. For free anyway. It's just too expensive an overhead given the razor thin margins in the industry these days. Oh you might get someone on the phone (with a hard to understand accent) but all they're doing is reading from a script (Did you try turning it off and back on?). They really know nothing about the problem and if it goes off script you might as well hang up. Look for online support (updated drivers, etc) and Internet forums dedicated to whatever brand you buy.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017