Surface for VCV Rack 2? Convince me not buying a macbook

Well well here we are again with the same questions as always. In my case I used a lot Macbooks and Apple but during the pandemic I built a PC tower cause I wanted to be able to optimize components when needed. I have a music project where my two partners are going to buy a macbook pro.

I’m happy how the PC performs with vcv rack bjt for live I would love to hve a decent laptop to use a big patch on vcv rack 2. I thought why not a surface that I could maybe even use the touch and not having it in front of me the monitor.

What are your experiences with a Surface Pro 7 and do you actually use the touch interface? I would use my surface with a RME 802 Interface to process my anlog rack through vcv rack. Mayve also use a bit of Ableton here and there…

Another budget option I thought was to buy a mac mini with a portable monitor, since I have an older macbook I still can use for some daw requirements but certainly not for vcv rack.

Any thoughts?

Good Q. The main problem with all laptops has been the heat generated slowing down rack.

Reports are that the M1 macs don’t have this problem nearly as bad. I’m sure someone who actually has used one like @LarsBjerregaard will chime in.

I would aim for a laptop that has good heat dissipation, in this case PCs built specifically for games will do a good job. I have an Asus Rog, and I’ve never had any problems.

For general music production on Surface Pros, checkout Robin Vincent’s series


One quiestion is also, if there is a benefit of being able to patch with the touchscreen. Should work better with VCV Rack 2 now?

afaik there is no explicit support for touch in 2.0. I don’t think this has changed.

I have heard of good results with gaming laptops. But have no direct experience.

Rack is not made for touchscreens and you won’t have a good experience.

An M1 Mac Mini is an amazingly powerful, cool and quiet computer. Ask around here, quite a few bought them. In general the Apple silicon machines are powerful beauties and I would recommend them any day over something like a Surface. I would only recommend you to get a PC gaming laptop if you want Windows. If not it’s M1 machines all the way baby :slight_smile:

I think your advice is excellent. Just to be extra thorough, how about an (old) Intel based mac mini? afaik those are decent platforms for running rack? But I don’t really know.

Two entirely different beasts. The “old” (Intel) Mac Mini’s have all the problems of the hot Intel chips and lack of being able to use their power, and I definately wouldn’t get one.

If I should boil it down I would say this: For computers with small enclosures (laptop, Mac Mini, Nuc, etc.) there’s no contest: M1 wins big every day. For large computers (“towers”) there’s more competition. You can build an amazingly powerful computer with those new AMD chips and put a ton of cooling on, and forget about the electricity bill. I suspect that’s all going to mostly go away during the next year or so, when Apple introduces their top-tier Apple Silicon machines though, we’ll see … :slight_smile:

I’m not an Apple fanboy and not a fan of the company, but good technology is good technology. The huge thing that the M1 chips have going for them is the unbeatable combination of low power and high performance. This is very difficult stuff. Especially good for VCV Rack users is, that they have sky-high single-core CPU performance, which they can seemingly just scale out horisontally, and incredible performance of those inbuilt GPU’s as well. So expect some monster chips in the future with a lot of cores, each core having very high performance. Things are looking bright…

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Thanks a lot, I see well Mac Mini is probably the way to go :slight_smile: It looks like everyone is reporting super solid performance…

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I’m on the preorder wait list for a Steam Deck…

If I go through and buy it when available (likely) it’ll be getting Rack on it at some point :grin:

Specs are promising:

  • AMD Zen 2, quad core, 3.5GHz
  • 16Gb DDR5 quad channel (!)
  • RDNA 2 GPU
  • 512Gb NVMe
  • USB3 for all external devices
  • 7 inch touchscreen, 60Hz, 1280x700
  • size of a Nintendo Switch (ish)
  • Linux provided, Windows installable
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Overheating was the biggest problem with my laptops, but borrowing a cooling fan-base helped me a lot. Probably worth trying one of these first before rushing into upgrading the laptop itself.


The reason I want something more portable is for gigs. I’m happy with my tower for my studio needs. And I have currently a laptop who does the job when I would need to work on road for smaller applications but not for a decent patch on vcv rack…

I was like kinda mac hater since the 90ties cause of i had to work in a few studios with Motorola Macs with Logic/Protools and stuff. I really never liked it. i was allways happy to be back at my Cubase PC. So i was a PC / Cubase Fanboy until 2020. My whole Computer Hardware became outdated (Studio PC, Laptop, Tablet, Mobile) and i was about to buy a new PC Setup and configed a € 3000.- Then i read about the M1 and its performance. Since my existing software licences are most multiplatform i decided to make a big step for me :laughing: So it was a hard decision but i first bought a Macbook Air M1. i could argue cause of my wife also wanted a new laptop at all. So i got one and installed all my stuff and i was about WTF about its performance. And i knew the performance of i9 PCs from my friends. I couldnt belive the power and the absolutly no noise and no heat. Well to make a long story short…. now i own a Macbook Air M1, MacMini M1, Macbook Pro and iPhone 12 Pro :laughing::laughing::laughing: And i switched from Cubase to Logic.

It was the best decision i made the last years. Hate Windows now! So i just wait for the VCV 2 AU Plugin Update and my life is complete!

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Too bad apple don’t support VST. They are trying to force the issues here - they are the bad guys. But it will be nice if/when VCV makes an AU version. Logic is, after all, a good and popular DAW. Before Apple bought the company, Logic ran on Windows and was in general not as “Apple proprietary”.

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Yeah me I had an on off relationship with windows, I guess its that time again…

What specs does your mac mini have? How big are your patches?

I would like zo know also if you use vcv rack on your mac mini and controll it with your ipad and dedicated pencil?

I use Rack on a Surface Pro 4 i7, and it works fine. Touch and Pen don’t work well at all, but that’s the fault of the graphics/input library that Rack depends on. Apparently, the devs of that are opposed to adding touch/pen support until touch is supported on all platforms. Given Apple’s stance on touch on laptops, that appears to be a dead end unless the devs can be convinced otherwise. Very disappointing, because having the directness and immediacy of touch for modular would be fantastic.

If I recall, when I investigated this, there apparently exists a fork of the graphics/input code that adds this support. Perhaps a willing dev could try integrating that support with Rack’s clone of the input/graphics library.

I don’t know if it’s “the fault” of anyone. Touch is a feature. A program that does not support touch needs to have code added to make it support touch. VCV has not done this because touch has never been on the top of their feature list. At least that’s what I’ve always assumed.