Looking for laptop recommendations

Reaktor, MAX/MSP, VST/AU, etc. A place for all things soft....

Moderators: Joe., lisa, luketeaford, Kent

Post Reply
User avatar
fac
wig MUffler
Posts: 3574
Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:33 am
Location: Mexico

Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by fac » Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:41 pm

Hey all,

I need a new laptop for work (teaching, presentations, and non-demanding coding in java, python, etc), but naturally I might also end up using it for music (mostly PureData but who knows what else). In the past 8-10 years I've been using macs almost exclusively, but I don't have the budget for a new macbook right now. However, I don't even know which PC brands are reliable these days; I've had a couple of Dell laptops that didn't last long, so I'd like to avoid them. I also don't know how AMD CPUs are doing these days; I've only used Intel in the past 10-12 years.

I would like these features:

- SSD drive but not necessarily a big one (256 Gb, maybe?). I want something that can boot up fast.
- 8 Gb of RAM
- Don't need a big screen. 13" or 14" would be fine.
- Decent CPU, dual core at least.
- Couple of USB ports (at least one USB-3) and HDMI output.
- Reliable. Ideally, I would use it for 4 or 5 years at least.
- Max budget around 500 USD

All suggestions welcome (although not all options may be available in my area).

User avatar
EATyourGUITAR
has no life
Posts: 4621
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:24 am
Location: Providence, RI, USA

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Wed Jan 15, 2020 8:48 pm

WWW.EATYOURGUITAR.COM <---- MY DIY STUFF

Bitnik
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 38
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:41 am

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by Bitnik » Thu Jan 16, 2020 2:55 am

As a brand, ThinkPads have a good reputation for ruggedness and longevity. I'd definitely take a look at the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which is available second hand for less than £300 on UK eBay (the example I just looked up comes with a 1 year warranty). That's an amazing price for a model that retails for £1400 or more new.

User avatar
Severed head
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 517
Joined: Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:24 am

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by Severed head » Thu Jan 16, 2020 6:26 am

I know you said budget Makes Mac prohibitive
but you could look at their students discounts. even if your not a student.
when ive bought new Macs they just ask what school you attend in a school menu and have never asked me for a student ID,
also often have some free item w/ students purchases, and in the pst they deducted the MSRP of that item from the total (post tax), for me as I didn't want beats head phones (this may've been a rare luck case though)

resulted in a last years model, at a 500$ savings.
as the need for was low in my case, wound up at about 850$+ shipping.
WTB: modules, MA35 filter.
:help:

User avatar
acidbob
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 2682
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 2:48 am
Location: Denmark

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by acidbob » Thu Jan 16, 2020 6:38 am

T and W 520-530 and 540???

User avatar
BugBrand
Knowledge of Bugs
Posts: 7261
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2008 11:59 am

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by BugBrand » Thu Jan 16, 2020 6:43 am

acidbob wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 6:38 am
T and W 520-530 and 540???
Agreed on Lenovos (Thinkpads) - got a T520 at present, had a few other models over the last 10 years. They're not flashy, just pretty solid & can def keep you going for a few years even getting a reconditioned one (I've never bought new).

User avatar
arthurdent
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 603
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2016 3:21 pm
Location: Ohio, along the North Coast

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by arthurdent » Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:13 am

OWC has a variety of used MacBooks for sale:

https://eshop.macsales.com/configure-my-mac/macbook-pro

I have bought several computers from them in the past, always been satisfied with them.

Bitnik
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 38
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:41 am

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by Bitnik » Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:47 am

BugBrand wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 6:43 am
acidbob wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 6:38 am
T and W 520-530 and 540???
Agreed on Lenovos (Thinkpads) - got a T520 at present, had a few other models over the last 10 years. They're not flashy, just pretty solid & can def keep you going for a few years even getting a reconditioned one (I've never bought new).
I have a similar experience. I never buy new, and second hand ThinkPads last years. My x61s recently suffered catastrophic failure after being attacked and jumped on (I care for a mentally ill person). I bought it five years ago and it was showing no signs of age. I've bought the x230 model second hand for two relatives and they're both still going with daily use (though not up to the spec original poster gave, which is why I recommended the X1 Carbon above). I'll probably buy another secondhand x230 (budget is £150-£200) and expect it to last me for at least five years.

User avatar
fac
wig MUffler
Posts: 3574
Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:33 am
Location: Mexico

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by fac » Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:59 am

Thanks guys. So, Lenovos are good.... I'll keep an eye on those models you mention. I've also heard Asus is good.

I just try to stay away from Dell and HP. Not sure how's Acer doing these days.

Regarding macbooks with educational discounts: I happen to work at a public university and have asked about discounts, but they're not so attractive in Mexico. And even with the discount, I don't want to spend that kind of money in what will be basically a beater.

Also, I don't really feel comfortable buying second hand (especially in Mexico, where there are little guarantees). I've always bought new and tried to squeeze 4 or 5 years out of them before I hand them down.

User avatar
EATyourGUITAR
has no life
Posts: 4621
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:24 am
Location: Providence, RI, USA

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:50 pm

they are all plastic unless you get a mac book pro or a thinkpad. I have a refurbished thinkpad but not $500 thinkpad. the laptop I linked has a discrete nvideo gpu that will help with some music apps. 3d spectrum analyzers for example often use GPU to offload from the CPU. when using the HDMI out, it helps to have that GPU. you would need a more expensive CPU without a GPU.
WWW.EATYOURGUITAR.COM <---- MY DIY STUFF

User avatar
sduck
experimental use of gravity
Posts: 13614
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:03 pm
Location: Vortepexaion, TN, USA

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by sduck » Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:46 pm

I'll third the Lenovo recommendation. My wife did most of the research, when she needed a new laptop a year or so ago, but I did some investigating also. She's always been one to use cheap windows boxes, and replace them often, but wanted something a bit more substantial this time around. The lenovo she got (don't know the model number, sorry) has been a tank, and even I can figure out how to use it fairly quickly, and I've been on macs for way too long.
flickr cloud of sound touyube NOT A MODERATOR ANYMORE

peripatitis

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by peripatitis » Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:57 am

I would say no to Lenovo's but yes to Thinkpad's. A different product for sure.
Keep in mind that if your ask includes an excellent screen, then the Thinkpad's prices will rise probably above a mac.
The Yoga line seemed to interesting, but I ended up with a Microsoft surface, since it was cheaper.
256gm is really very low storage these days, the last thing you need is start carrying around external drives,
or at least that is my opinion :)

User avatar
fac
wig MUffler
Posts: 3574
Joined: Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:33 am
Location: Mexico

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by fac » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:34 am

I went to multiple stores yesterday to check out different models. At the end, I narrowed it down to only two brands: Lenovo or Asus. Lenovo seemed to have better quality but was in general more expensive and only the more expensive models had solid state drives. There were some hybrid models with a small 128 Gb SSD beside a 1 TB HD, but they were bigger (15.6") and heavier than I wanted. I'm very used to the weight and size of my current 13" macbook pro (Late 2013 model and has been having battery problems for a year).

I finally decided to stretch my budget a bit and went for a 14" Asus VivoBook X412F with a 4-core i5-8265U CPU, 8 Gb in RAM (that I might expand later), and a 512 GB SSD, plus 32 Gb Optane, for about $700. It is only slightly bigger and heavier than my macbook and looks robust enough. Graphics are Intel's UHD 620, but all my current computers have Intel graphics and it has never been a problem (I don't game on them).

Can't wait to benchmark it against my macs. I'll keep the thread updated in case someone's interested.

User avatar
eboats
Common Wiggler
Posts: 108
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:15 pm
Location: seattle

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by eboats » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:28 am

I've normally bought cheap Windows laptops (sub $500 ) every 5 years or so for music applications, Cubase, Sibelius, orchestral libraries. So Lenovo or Thinkpad would be good budget options for music apps too? I guess Refurbished would be a good value but didn't have a great experience with the longevity of a refurbished laptop in the past, so not sure if I should go new or used.

User avatar
sduck
experimental use of gravity
Posts: 13614
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:03 pm
Location: Vortepexaion, TN, USA

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by sduck » Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:11 am

peripatitis wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:57 am
I would say no to Lenovo's but yes to Thinkpad's. A different product for sure.
Are you aware that thinkpads are Lenovos?
flickr cloud of sound touyube NOT A MODERATOR ANYMORE

peripatitis

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by peripatitis » Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:24 am

sduck wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:11 am
peripatitis wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:57 am
I would say no to Lenovo's but yes to Thinkpad's. A different product for sure.
Are you aware that thinkpads are Lenovos?
Yeah I am aware of the whole history of that merger/buyout whatever happened between Ibm and Lenovo.
The thinkpad was the only line that kept to the IBM standards though, and actually originally they even kept the Thinkpad team intact.
Regular Levovo on the other hand is like pretty much any pc maker out there, Hp,Toshiba, etc.

Bitnik
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 38
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:41 am

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by Bitnik » Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:47 am

eboats wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:28 am
I've normally bought cheap Windows laptops (sub $500 ) every 5 years or so for music applications, Cubase, Sibelius, orchestral libraries. So Lenovo or Thinkpad would be good budget options for music apps too? I guess Refurbished would be a good value but didn't have a great experience with the longevity of a refurbished laptop in the past, so not sure if I should go new or used.
The refurbished market is very well developed in my country (UK) so you can even get a long warranty from some sellers. Buying from an individual is more risky, but if you stick to commercial resellers they grade the product so you know what condition to expect.

ThinkPad is a line of so-called "road warrior" business laptops, so the build quality is as good as it gets for a PC. Some, but not all, come with high quality internal speakers. In any case if you're serious about music you'll probably want to go with external speakers. Check the aftermarket to see if you can get inexpensive internal disk/SSD upgrades and/or memory upgrades. On some ThinkPad models this is a simple screwdriver job. They're designed to be field upgradable.

User avatar
oisin
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 639
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:27 am
Location: Berlin

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by oisin » Sat Jan 18, 2020 9:16 am

long time macbook user here; picked up a super cheap thinkpad t430 just to see if i could get away from the mac reality. . i love the hardware ., with an updated version ( x 1 carbon etc) i think it wouldnt be too hard to trasition . . and for coding etc it might be better (keyboard)

Bitnik
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 38
Joined: Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:41 am

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by Bitnik » Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:40 am

Recently bought a couple of second hand ThinkPads. The range is quite broad so they're very different computers.

The first is a X230i tablet with SSD hard drive running Windows. I wish I'd tried a ThinkPad tablet much earlier, because this is beautifully done and it's very easy to switch from laptop to tablet mode on the fly. It cost me about £130. I'm using it with Pure Data and SuperCollider.

The second is an old 11e Chromebook running ChromeOS, which I bought for my wife because she uses Google Docs extensively for her writing. Perhaps because it's officially EOLed this cost only £60. It's great for light work such as text composition.

User avatar
Whelm
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 493
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2015 7:27 pm
Location: West Coast Ish

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by Whelm » Sun Mar 01, 2020 12:40 pm

peripatitis wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:24 am
sduck wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 11:11 am
peripatitis wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 4:57 am
I would say no to Lenovo's but yes to Thinkpad's. A different product for sure.
Are you aware that thinkpads are Lenovos?
Yeah I am aware of the whole history of that merger/buyout whatever happened between Ibm and Lenovo.
The thinkpad was the only line that kept to the IBM standards though, and actually originally they even kept the Thinkpad team intact.
Regular Levovo on the other hand is like pretty much any pc maker out there, Hp,Toshiba, etc.
Exactly. Years ago I read about how reliable lenovos are so I bought an IdeaPad. Piece of shit lasted maybe two years. I now buy refurbished ThinkPads off eBay. Half the cost, better specs, last longer.

The primary advantages of ThinkPads are twofold: first, the market is saturated with second-hand models since they are often used as business computers, so firms are always replacing their "old" stock with newer shit and sending the old models to refurbishers. Second, all the parts are easily replaceable, which is so rare and valuable in lapotps. Batteries, hard drives, disk drives, screens, keyboards... all of it can be replaced with relative ease.

User avatar
naturligfunktion
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 513
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:07 am
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by naturligfunktion » Tue Mar 17, 2020 4:55 am

I like this thread! My macbook is over ten years now and is not doing well, poor thing. I think Im gonna get a Thinkpad. They look nice and I feel confident in your recommendations. I wonder tho, since there are so many different thinkpads, how do I know that a processor is good and fast?

I want to use my laptop as a everything computer. I will also use it for music (besides my monster, the stationary) so I want it to be fast and smooth.

User avatar
Voltcontrol
Ravey Dave
Posts: 879
Joined: Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:31 pm
Location: The Netherlands

Re: Looking for laptop recommendations

Post by Voltcontrol » Tue Mar 17, 2020 5:14 am

Microsoft's Surface Laptop (generation 3 at the moment) is an absolutely brilliant laptop. Very solid hardware, pleasing to use and for the quality/durability of the hardware a very acceptable price. I can't recommend it enough.
Locally, you could get a new Gen1 which covers all of your specs besides RAM (4GB, should cover your needs though!) within or just over budget.

Lenovo Thinkpad X series and Apple laptops are great too.

P.s. the 'premium' laptops look very much alike, I'd recommend to try out the keyboards/trackpads and screen experience in a store to compare before you choose.

Image

Post Reply

Return to “Music Software”