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Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your great intelligence and combined force of experience...

So, it's been a year since Mr. Huss' recently resurfaced question, and it seems like it's high-time to unearth the perennial question. A year is a real, real long time in the computer-iverse.

In this particular case I'm interested only in laptops. Portable is more-table. These little guys are starting to get mighty powerful (I was at a PT9HD Native demo a couple of months ago and the guy was running a 128-track session with full-rez HD video off a McBook Pro). Is there any particular reason to think that PT9 would run any less well on a superhotshitawesome Windows7 laptop than on a McBook Pro?

This question is borne out by two facts 1) I am a, ahem, thrifty young gentleman, and 2) I'm starting to get a little sick of what seem to me to be perfectly satisfactory computers getting bashed because they don't come in brushed aluminium cases.

Comparing specs between the Toshiba Satellite M645 and the middle-of-the-road McBook Pro here's what we get:

Toshiba Satellite M645:

  • 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M
  • 6GB, 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 640GB, 5,400rpm
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 525M
  • Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Chipset Intel HM65
  • Price as reviewed $1,099

McBook Pro 15-inch:

  • 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 (no idea which one)
  • 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB 5400rpm
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • AMD Radeon HD 6490M with 256MB GDDR5
  • Built-in battery (7 hours)2
  • Price: $1849 CAD

Now, according to this article, Core i3 vs i5 vs i7: A Summary of Intel's Processors, the functional difference between an i5 and i7 core is really only about 100MHz and is only noticeable in super-duper processing situations i.e. 3D rendering, HD video editing, Supermath, and Physics Kinda Stuff.

So, it would seem to me that the only real difference between these machines is the price. If I include the Canadian taxes to get the real cost of each machine here's what we have:

Toshiba with i5
~$1,250

McBook Pro
~$2,100

Even if you wanted to move up to the i7 in the Toshiba, it'd only cost you ~$300 more.

Toshiba with i7
~$1,600

McBook Pro
~$2,100

Plus with the Toshiba you've got a bigger drive, more RAM, and equivalent video cards. This, to me, seems like such a slap in the face from Apple that I assume I must be missing something.

There is the other question of OS stability. In my experience thus far running PT9 on both OSX.5 and Windows7 I have had absolutely no problems with either. However, I will grant that my sessions are not quite as industrial strength as some of you guys out there. So, also taking into the consideration the recent PT9 upgrade, which I assume is meant to deal with some kind of stability kinda stuff, and all of my waffle ^^up there^^, what do you think? Is the whole "Apple is more reliable" thing just hot air and hype?

Thanks Team.

p.s. I will accept only one Canadian real-money joke in this thread. So make it a good one.

EDIT


We have a winner for the Canadian Money Joke of the Thread!!!! Here's VCProd talking about FireWire cards:

"That will run you a hundred dollers (that's like 700 canadian dollars or 18 fine moose pelts, I think)."

He even managed to get a jab in for the way Merkins always pronounce things wrong! Double prizes!

---No offense intended to anyone anywhere for any reason.---

  • What joke? We're at a $1.02 US... and we have the hardest currency to counterfit in the world... I know, I just finished doing the videos that told us so! :) Just 'cause it looks like Monopoly money... sheesh! (The new bills will do NOTHING to refute this claim BTW) – Sonsey Jun 17 '11 at 0:06
  • (winks slyly into the camera) I know... – g.a.harry Jun 17 '11 at 2:15

10 Answers 10

5

There is a difference with off the shelf Macbooks and moderatley to lower price off the shelf pc laptops. All the hardware in a Mac (desktop or laptop) is selected based on how well it interacts with other components, and the OS is designed with those components in mind. This is one of the reasons Macs are commonly more stable than PCs. I would argue that the Toshiba is not as carefully designed, and Windows has the problem of having to work with a very, VERY, wide range of components. This goes back to what I was alluding to in the other Mac vs. PC post.

You get what you pay for. Yes, the specs are higher on the Toshiba, but it could still be less stable, and has the potential to perform poorer, than the Macbook. Yes, there are PC (Windows, Linux, etc) based machines out there that easily outperform Macs, but they're carefully designed and appropriately priced.

And now that I've said all that, I have to admit, that the only way to be sure is to test both machines. The Toshiba could very well perform marvelously. Computers are a mine filled maze through the Amazon jungle.

  • Completely agree Shaun. Because Apple only have a certain number of hardware configurations to write the OS for, it means it's a lot easier for them to write a stable OS when they know the exact 10 or so configurations that will be using it. When compared to the practically limitless configurations a PC can contain, it's easy to see how Windows is less reliable; it's impossible for them to write an OS which runs completely smoothly with all the possible hardware configurations. – Fred Pearson Jun 16 '11 at 22:29
  • See, this is what I was wondering. That Toshiba is a Gaming laptop (at least nominally). Presumably their components would be chosen to interact as well as they possibly can, no? – g.a.harry Jun 16 '11 at 22:29
  • @Fred - True, but it's not impossible to build a rock solid PC rig...just a little more difficult (and costly). – Shaun Farley Jun 16 '11 at 22:53
  • @g.a.harry - not necessarily. for the most part, they're selling to number whores, not people who take the time to educate themselves about which models of components work best together. they rarely tell you anything about the motherboard, and that can have a huge effect on performance. i spent a little over three weeks researching components for my pc when i was looking to build it. it cost me less than a mac (wife's comp was on the fritz too, could only afford 1 mac), but that's only because i built it myself. otherwise, it would have cost about as much as her new macpro. – Shaun Farley Jun 16 '11 at 22:59
  • @Shaun - And of course, it's not possible to do much in the way of customization with laptops because of the size restrictions. Balls. Ok. It never occurred to me about the component matching thing. I'll have to look into the component lists of the competing laptops and see if there are any viable combinations. – g.a.harry Jun 16 '11 at 23:09
5

I personally hate the Mac vs. PC debate, especially when it comes to comparing individual components and price. People like to nit-pick specs, but that's been a long-standing crapshoot for years.

Is the premium price solely about individual hardware components? Or is it about the user experience? Get what works for you!

2

I just know from personal experience that Macs seem to perform better with audio, and any interface you throw at them. After having to tinker with PCs endlessly to get them to work, I have have found I can sit down at a relatively low spec mac, and it will just work. Also, I love Logic, and that is just personal taste - but Macs do come with a lot of great software out of the box (PCs may too now, I don't even know).

Do Mac lappys have a longer shelf life? I get the feeling they might, except that the hard drives always seem to need replacing after 2 years.

Just some opinions, Shaun speaks the truth "Computers are a mine filled maze through the Amazon jungle."

2

The stability debate aside, remember with a Mac you'll be getting Firewire - and now Thunderbolt - as standard, whereas you're much less likely to find these ports on a non-specialist PC laptop. Firewire is pretty much essential for audio work, and who knows how quickly Thunderbolt will catch on.

Also, bear in mind that if you ever wish to work with Logic (which may not be an issue, but is excellent value if it meets your needs) you'll need be running OS X.

The aluminium case might be pretty, but it's also probably considerably sturdier than the plastic alternative. If you end up working a lot at the laptop without an external keyboard/mouse, I find that the scrolling and gestures on a MBP trackpad make for very transparent UI interaction.

This suggestion may be a point of contention, but from my experience one thing you may wish to factor into your cost, if you're buying an Apple laptop, is Applecare. When something inevitably does go wrong you're completely covered for three years, anywhere in the world that you can find an Apple service centre.

  • It took me a while to get to this post while reading the thread, and I was just itching to point out these exact details: the intuitive interface (both physical and graphic) and the FireWire. It's part of the stability thing that's been discussed a lot: these features may be coming to the PC world but I've heard of stability issues many times. A Mac still feels less cluttered than a PC, and I say this for having been working on HP/Mac Pro workstation for 9 months. I'm not considering ever living without a Windows machine, but Macs have my heart as far as PT goes. – Justin Huss Jun 18 '11 at 13:09
  • I am NOT working with Pro Tools at any moment on the workstation I mentioned, just a general observation on the systems, both of which perform admirably well performance-wise (transcoding media if one must know). – Justin Huss Jun 18 '11 at 13:11
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I agree with Flipstar in respect of getting what works for you. I personally have worked on PCs for over 25 years and am familiar with them. Even in the event of something going wrong, I can usually identify it and sort it out quickly. Also, some of the software I prefer to use is PC only, so would have to go through the inconvenience of finding a suitable alternative if I was to consider switching to Mac. My experience has been that it is exactly the same for long-time Mac users.

There are some obvious reasons for considering a change, such as:

1) Financially challenged - PCs are and always have been cheaper for the same spec

2) It no longer works for you - Over the years your requirements and/or working methods can change. I remember a few years back when a lot of smaller companies were bought out, some applications became either Mac only or PC only or were discontinued entirely.

3) Company requirements - It is not uncommon to move from a PC-only employer to a Mac-only employer and vice versa.

At the end of the day though, it's the results that count and whatever enables you to get the best results in the quickest time is what you should use. Joe Public will certainly not be able to tell the difference.

2

I highly recommend HP laptops - you can get some really premo setups from them, and they generally use higher quality parts than any other manufacturers. I've been through Toshiba, Dell, IBM, Compaq, and ASUS - they've all been a bit flimsy and not quite up to par. HP laptops have been very sturdy and run rock-solid. Check out the DV7T Quad Edition. You can also work out of a Pelican case for your lappy if you think it's going to get damaged.

As far as firewire goes - YES, Apple has the best firewire in laptops and they're a good way to go if that is your aim. PC-built laptops have iffy firewire. You either need to get a firewire card that will run you a hundred dollers (that's like 700 canadian dollars or 18 fine moose pelts, I think), or go with a USB interface (Presonus has a one, but it only records up to 48k, 24bit due to USB speeds... that might improve with USB 3, etc). If you're building a desktop, PCs are way cheaper and you can get a good firewire card without any issues.

I prefer PC over Apple for a variety of reasons, cost being a large part of that. I like being able to upgrade and improve over time in the same box. I've had my franken-desktop for almost 8 years now and it's still cruising along just fine with upgrades made along the way.

The Video Guys have a nice writeup about video editing workstations.. a lot of that info is applicable to audio editing, although it doesn't need quite the power. They update frequently, so it's a good reference.

Good luck! Not an easy decision....

  • Moose pelts! Yes! – g.a.harry Jun 26 '11 at 1:04
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If you maintain the OS regularly a PC can be as reliable as a Mac and certainly cheaper.

But Windows is a little bit more processor hungry, so when you are comparing specs you are not comparing like with like. You will need a little extra speed and a little more RAM, this is partially due to Windows being backward compatible, and having to cope with many more hardware and software combinations.

It really doesn't matter what you buy as long as you learn how to maintain it, I know people with expensive PCs that have real problems, and those with cheaper models that work reliably for years, it all seems to be down to how they treat them.

I prefer Macs and make them last longer in order to justify the extra expense, it is more of a familiarity thing for me and what I consider to be a safe bet.

1

Wait a minute, are we comparing Apples to apples? (Re: your title. ;)

  • 1
    Tou-effin'-che. – g.a.harry Jun 17 '11 at 2:09
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Weight and construction are also a factor. Almost every PC laptop I've seen has a soft screen and plastic case, they usually weigh more and are bulkier than the Mac alternative. No laptop has a multi-touch trackpad like a Macbook, that thing is perfect. I've also seen a lot of wacky keyboard layouts on PCs. A lot of them have crappy firewire chips too, if there's a port at all. Macs have a FW800 port and now Thunderbolt port which is not available at all for pcs.

Since you're 'thrifty' you should check out the refurb shop. http://store.apple.com/ca/browse/home/specialdeals/mac?mco=OTY2ODY3Nw

I own the 13" MacBook Pro 5.5 (2yr old now) It's not my main computer but its a great mix of power and portability and reliability and design and price. My main system is custom running Win7.

~Jon~

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I agree with Flipstar. Get what works for you.

For me, it has been and will most likely continue to be a mac. I have no desire to crack open my computer and tear out components/install new ones or research compatibility issues. But, some folks like to get "hands on." I like gear as much as the next guy. But, in the end, computers are tools that I want to work for me as efficiently and transparently as possible, so I can get busy making noise. My Macs have always plugged in and worked quickly, consistently, and easily.

I used to set up non-linear editing systems and audio recording suites for TV stations and independent studios/editors. Many of my clients would want a PC due to familiarity and price. That's cool. I could always make it happen. But, it consistently took longer, required a lot more driver downloading, 3rd party software installs, and compatibility research. Generally, it took an extra day to get running and required more tech calls throughout its life span. But, when up and running, the system would perform as well as a Mac equivalent.

Also, this is a little off the subject, but it is a cool mac extra....Has anyone here played with this fancy ipad app that turns your ipad into a control surface via wifi for Pro Tools? It makes your ipad an excellent companion to your mobile laptop audio system. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/v-control-pro/id400423823?mt=8 Its pretty sweet.

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