You are here

Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

For anything relating to music-making on Windows computers, with lots of FAQs. Moderated by Martin Walker.

Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby GilesAnt » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:38 pm

After nearly 10 years my old Scan 3xs tower PC seems to have expired. My initial thought was simply to replace like with like, but I was wondering if modern laptops exceed the power of my old tower.

Until last week the old PC was coping with all my needs. On top of domestic PC usage I have Cubase 10 pro and rely heavily on Native Instruments - mainly Kontakt and Reaktor.

I am simply a home user, composing, recording etc for my own amusement, so whilst I demand good quality instruments and effects I don't have highly complex needs.

When I bought the tower nearly 10 years ago it seemed laptops didn't really have the power to cope with advanced music making (oversimplifying here), - but would I be safe to assume that (for example) a Scan music laptop would meet my needs.

Am I missing anything crucial. It has been a long time since I looked at the market place.
GilesAnt
Regular
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2003 1:00 am
 

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:52 pm

Theoretically yes and these days its becoming more of a personal choice rather than a needs one. On just one level I like tinkering and upgrading so its tower every time here.
Guest

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby James Perrett » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:49 pm

If you need the ultimate in computing power then you may find the laptop processors to be slightly lacking but for most purposes they're fine. You don't mention which audio interface you are using - if you are planning on using an older interface you will need to check on compatibility.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 9791
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby GilesAnt » Tue Jun 25, 2019 12:47 am

I have an old StudioLogic (Fatar) midi weighted keyboard and a midi/audio M-Audio FW 410.

I'm guessing Firewire isn't really an option, so will probably have to replace this.

I'm not a power user but do want to future proof myself to some degree. I may only be an amateur, but I am a serious musician, and want to be able to take advantage of likely developments in the next few years.

I know it sounds a simple question really, but why does anyone in my situation choose a tower PC over a laptop these days?
GilesAnt
Regular
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2003 1:00 am
 

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby desmond » Tue Jun 25, 2019 12:51 am

GilesAnt wrote:I know it sounds a simple question really, but why does anyone in my situation choose a tower PC over a laptop these days?

Some people like the form factor - you can put in multiple hard drives, they may have PCI cards they wish to use and so on, and there is better cooling than the average laptop.
User avatar
desmond
Jedi Poster
Posts: 10300
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:00 am
mu:zines | music magazine archive | difficultAudio

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby GilesAnt » Tue Jun 25, 2019 8:04 am

Thanks for replies.

Am I right in thinking that with a laptop I generally need to get external hard drives for all the music software, samples etc, plus my personal usage (pics, documents etc). I have NI Komplete for example amongst other things.

Any recommendations? I have a budget with a max of £2k to include laptop along with audio/midi interface, externals etc.

Cheers
GilesAnt
Regular
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2003 1:00 am
 

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby Folderol » Tue Jun 25, 2019 8:17 am

Space permitting, I'd always got for a desktop unless you really need the portability. Laptops often have significant limitations, mostly in the form of fixed memory size, and restricted expansion capability. One I have includes the brain-dead idea of putting all the USB ports on a single internal hub, while to chipset supports 6!
User avatar
Folderol
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11477
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:00 am
Location: The Mudway Towns, UK
Yes. I am that Linux nut.
Onwards and... err... sideways!

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby Agharta » Tue Jun 25, 2019 9:18 am

If you load the CPU heavily laptops can be fairly noisy whereas with a desktop you can much more easily keep them quiet.
Desktops tend to be better value and with much more choice and especially if you build yourself.
If you need the portability then you will have to get a laptop otherwise the only other advantage is the size.
I have a desktop and a 32 inch monitor and am very happy with it compared to my laptop.
Agharta
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4123
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby CS70 » Tue Jun 25, 2019 9:32 am

If you’re thinking recording, you gotta look at the real time performance. Gaming laptops, properly configured, are usually ok when connected to the mains. Regular ones, it’s a bit hit and miss, there’s many cheap models which work fine but some which don’t
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6235
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby Pete Kaine » Tue Jun 25, 2019 9:34 am

GilesAnt wrote:I know it sounds a simple question really, but why does anyone in my situation choose a tower PC over a laptop these days?

The 9750H found in the current range in benchmarking sits around the same level as the i5-9600K, which I tend to position as the entry-level chip on desktop setups.

Laptops unless they are desktop replacements (i.e. they shove a desktop chip, in a laptop form factor) always tend to top out somewhere in the desktop mid-range in regards to available performance, and there is never a mobile option that can match the "enthusiast" range (x299) favoured by more demanding users. If you need (and some do) 64GB or above then you're still going to be running a tower setup.

I dare say in comparison to a 10-year-old machine, whatever option you go for is going to offer you a sizable step up regardless. What's the CPU in your current machine?

I'm guessing 10 years puts you around the Gen 1 i7 / X58 chip launch with some kind of 9** chip?
User avatar
Pete Kaine
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3185
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester
Kit to fuel your G.A.S - https://www.scan.co.uk/shop/pro-audio

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby GilesAnt » Tue Jun 25, 2019 11:26 am

Thanks Peter
Sadly as it no longer works I can't see the details of my old PC and the paperwork has long gone. But whatever it was it worked fine with all my music and domestic software, latest versions of Cubase, Komplete, MS Office etc.

So I suspect mid-range would be fine, and as you say surely most modern laptops are at least as good as my old PC. What about storage, laptops don't seem to come with much from what I can see.
GilesAnt
Regular
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2003 1:00 am
 

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby N i g e l » Tue Jun 25, 2019 11:46 am

I made the switch to a laptop when I bought an i5 based Toshiba Satellite in 2013/14 and it has always proved capable for my needs and required minimal setting up.

I mainly use it for home studio/cakewalk/vsts & Midi but I have recorded a couple of sweaty, all day, 7 track band sessions with it. Recording songs straight through in a complete pass.
I don’t need huge memory for sample libraries.

I think with laptops you have to buy what you need at the time and then thats it. Tinkering with cooling is impossible (those little fans can be heard when they ramp up) whilst upgrading hard disk and memory can vary from straight forward to very fiddly. Check uTube for videos of upgrading your planned laptop.

My work laptop is more powerful, a fairly recent HP 360, 8th gen i5 – I can still hear the fan when it cuts in and judging by uTube, it would be a nightmare to open & upgrade. It does have a touch screen – I could see that being handy for poking at faders and VSTs.

Make sure you have enough connectivity. There is a trend for more emphasis on wireless, no ethernet and fewer USB ports.

Last time I looked [a good while ago] Firewire ports on laptops were all the small 4pin type- signal only, no power. Firewire devices would require their own PSU.

The future is possibly touch screens and USB3 with type C connectors (judging by my lack of success on lotto, my status as a futurist may be questionable).

Dont forget to think about drivers, software, windows 10 and 64bit compatibility issues.

You will need external disk access to back up your SSD. SSDs are NAND flash which is delicate, in the electronic sense.
N i g e l
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1048
Joined: Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:40 pm
Location: UK

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby GilesAnt » Tue Jun 25, 2019 3:06 pm

Really useful advice. Seems I really need to think more about usability and how I work than the actual capabilities of a laptop, e.g. noise, additional storage, DVD drive, probably using a larger monitor when actually at a desk, and then all the connectivity that involves.

My old PC had the flexibility for tinkering and expansion, but the fact was that in 10 years I never actually needed to change anything - even though I kept all my application software totally up to date.

Peter - I thought I would open up the case to see if I could find out what the chip was. On hoovering out the dust, amazingly the PC sprang back to life and booted properly. The chip is indeed an i7 920 and I have 6Gb of RAM

I won't risk another 10 years however so am going to take this as fair warning to save everything I need and proceed with buying a laptop. I think it only fair to take my custom initially to Scan given how well my last purchase has turned out!
GilesAnt
Regular
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2003 1:00 am
 

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby Pete Kaine » Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:53 am

GilesAnt wrote:Peter - I thought I would open up the case to see if I could find out what the chip was. On hoovering out the dust, amazingly the PC sprang back to life and booted properly. The chip is indeed an i7 920 and I have 6Gb of RAM

Well, that's a turn-up! MIght still be a bit of life in there yet then. The 920 pulled just shy of 5000 using CPU Benchmark test, whereas the laptop pulls about 13,750 so I'm fairly confident in saying that you're looking to easily at least double your overhead and then some with the laptop. For comparison looking at something like the 9900K (midrange desktop flagship), it pulls over 20,000 with the same test.

I won't risk another 10 years however so am going to take this as fair warning to save everything I need and proceed with buying a laptop. I think it only fair to take my custom initially to Scan given how well my last purchase has turned out!

Yes, I guess another 10 might just be pushing it. :D
Great chips from that generation though, certainly they've tended to survive some abuse over the years. My 960 from the same range sits under the stairs these days as a media and backup server. It's probably run 24/7 in there for 6 years now and it was hardly turned off all that much when it lived in the studio before that.

If you've any other questions regarding the range as it currently stands, feel free to give me a PM too. I'm not on the sales desk, but I'm probably better placed to answer technical questions before you make your choice.
User avatar
Pete Kaine
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3185
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester
Kit to fuel your G.A.S - https://www.scan.co.uk/shop/pro-audio

Re: Are modern laptops a suitable replacement for old tower PC

Postby GilesAnt » Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:59 am

Thanks Pete - I have tried to send pvt message but not quite sure if this has worked or not. Please let me know.
GilesAnt
Regular
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2003 1:00 am
 

Next