Computer Advice Needed


(Nik Jewell) #1

I’ve been with Apple since 2003, after switching from Windows XP in 2000 to Redhat, and then Mac when they went *nix. I’ve had 5 PowerBooks or MacBook Pros in that time. My last is a late 2011 17" MBP which I love but is falling to bits, having thermal shutdowns, and is no longer up to running Rack. I remain delighted with my 2015 iMac, the only Mac desktop I’ve ever bought.

The problem is that health issues now make it very uncomfortable for me to sit at a desk for very long and I really need a laptop.

Without any great confidence I bought a maxed out 2018 MacBookPro - i9, Vega 20. It has proved to be an utter lemon. Beyond the fact that I find it hard to go back to a 15" screen and crappy cramped keyboard, it uses its entire chassis as a heat sink, has a pile of issues with its T2 chip that controls the unnecessary touch bar and security features, its audio crackles and pops and the graphics chip causes screen flicker away from the preferred resolution on the dedicated GPU. It is going back tomorrow (day 14 of 14 day ‘remorse’ period).

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am and how lost I feel. I now have to face up to the fact that Apple have finally and completely lost the plot and it’s time to move on(/back).

(Sadly) I’m a bit of a collector, and have thousands of pounds in music software, so I’m not prepared to go back (entirely) to Linux just yet.

I’ve been putting money away for the next computer for years and I can afford to buy something high end but back in the world of non-Apple computers (where there is no choice) the choice is overwhelming.

I want a very fast 17" laptop for laptop use - it won’t be used on a desk with an external monitor - it will be on my knees and will need reasonable cooling. I don’t mind if it is quite heavy and it won’t be travelling.

It will be used for music, editing photos (needs a good screen), making YouTube videos, website editing and general office use. I won’t be playing games on it. Primary concern at the moment is good VCV Rack performance. If it can do that I know it will do the rest.

Just like a Mac I will hope to get 5-6 years of heavy use out of it before replacement (if I haven’t pegged it by then!).

I really haven’t a clue. First world problem I know. I used to buy Dell before I switched to Mac.

Any advice gratefully appreciated.


(Adi Quinn) #2

So a windows computer is an option? I always have luck with Dell over the years, i have one now, but it’s a desktop. Laptops i’m not too sure on, it always seems like they aren’t powerful enough, I used to think I wanted a Razor, but now I think maybe these alien wares are worth a look, although 9.7lbs might get heavy after awhile on your lap and not sure how important battery life is to you. I hope you get some good answers, i’m definitely curious too. https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/cty/pdp/spd/alienware-17-area51m-laptop


(Lars Bjerregaard) #3

I feel your pain Nik! (although thankfully I can sit at a desk). When my beloved 2013 iMac dies at some point I’ll have to build me a good Linux desktop, unless Apple come to their senses again. I’m very saddened to hear a story like yours about those new MBP’s. Someone at Cupertino really lost the plot.

So… you need a Rack laptop, with a 17" screen. Hmm… My broad-strokes selection criteria would be:

  • Big roomy cabinet and/or expert attention to cooling.
  • CPU with a great eye for best single-core performance.
  • A very decent GPU, but not necessarily top of the line.
  • Pure SSD for storage, no spinning rust what so ever.
  • 16GB of RAM, unless you’re going to be doing some other extreme stuff on it, other than Rack.

This probably puts the machine in the category folks call “gaming laptop”. I suggest you have a look at the following lists, and select your price point:

Good luck with it Nik and keep us posted!


(Nik Jewell) #4

Thanks @LarsBjerregaard and @AdiQ. You have both homed in on gaming laptops rather than workstation laptops. I kind of assumed that gaming would be right but do you think workstations are definitely not the way to go?

I also asked on KVR and two people recommended Scan Computers here in the UK, who are a big parts supplier, but also build custom audio desktops and laptops. That is interesting too and I will definitely be checking them out.

I won’t be rushing into this ! Cheers.


(Lars Bjerregaard) #5

I think the “workstation” and “gaming” categories are probably somewhat arbitrary and fluid. I guess I’m thinking of a gaming laptop as a workstation with capable graphics :smile: and for Rack we need capable graphics, so… I guess one way of thinking about Rack, when it comes to a computer, is as a computer game with moderate to medium graphics requirements, that unfortunately requires a lot of CPU, but fortunately only little disk and RAM.


(Paul Piko) #6

Lisa from MobileTechReviews does great reviews:


(Paul Piko) #7

Linus’ look at the new upgradeable Alienware laptop


(Steve) #8

The Razer Blade Pro looks really good with 17" screen, 32GB RAM and 2TB SSD although it’s heavily geared towards gaming - https://www.razer.com/gaming-laptops/razer-blade-pro.


(Nik Jewell) #9

That Alienware is certainly very impressive Paul and I like the upgradeability. The screen though, I think, has only 70% SRGB coverage so that isn’t going to cut it for photo editing.


(Nik Jewell) #10

The Razer Blade Pro is very interesting because it only weighs a bit more than the 2011 MBP that I have on my knees now.

What I am seeing generally with the higher end laptops is 4kg+ which is really desktop use only.

Razer seem to have taken a leaf out of Apple’s pricing book :wink:

I am not seeing much information on support on their site - no extended warranties, service contracts, onsite engineer options etc. That’s a bit poor for a £4k computer.


(Nik Jewell) #11

Had an interesting chat with custom system builder Pete at Scan Computers and these two are in play:

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator/3xs-scan-performance-17-studio-laptop-no-firewire

https://www.scan.co.uk/3xs/configurator/3xs-scan-performance-17-music-production-laptop-with-thunderbolt

A kilogram difference between them (and about a grand once they are configured up with extra drives etc).


(Adi Quinn) #12

Wow, those look great for the price! This cheaper one seems plenty good enough for Rack. What’s the gpu on the more expensive one with that i9? At first i was thinking the 256GB SSD on these was small but i looked on my pc and i guess i only use 110GB out of 500GB, so now i’m thinking i didn’t need all that.


(Nik Jewell) #13

The bigger one has an 8GB 1080. Overkill for me. What the guy does with the big ones though is put desktop processors in them and massive cooling systems. Super powerful but not on your knees!

I’m pretty much made up with the cheaper one, which I will upgrade to a 500GB SSD and add a 2TB HDD. That’ll suit me fine for a dual boot setup with Ubuntustudio, and all at 1/3 of the price of the MacBookPro. Really hope it will do the job OK. We shall see :slight_smile:

I’m actually feeling quite excited about using Rack on Linux. Loomer’s new Architect modular Midi monster is on Linux and now Bitwig is going all modular with version 3 and that is on Linux too.