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Portable Music Machine! What Specs? :o

Last response: in Laptop Tech Support
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May 8, 2012 4:02:04 PM

Hey guys..

I'm a music producer looking for a laptop to deliver enough power to produce the tracks I can at home.
I use FL Studio, Pro Tools as my main DAW's, I know almost any computer can run these soft wares alone.
The question is how much CPU power I REALLY need to support the software plus all the extra plugins.
Currently I only reach 4GB RAM while making music, and 30-40% CPU.

My PC specs are:

-128 m4 SSD
-2 500GB Caviar Blacks + 2 storage drives
-16GB RAM
-i5 2500k (no overclock)
-GTX 560 ti
-GA z68xp UD3
-750watt PSU

But all this is luxury! I game a bit and render video at times, extra hard drives for back up.
The laptop will be only for music.. If I'm only using 30-40% of CPU at home on an i5...
How will that translate on mobile processors w/ lower clock speeds etc.
What will be ENOUGH and what would you guys recommend?


a c 464 D Laptop
May 8, 2012 4:26:40 PM

Laptop CPUs are a bit different that their desktop counterparts and it's not just about clock speeds. The primary difference is the number of cores. All desktop Sandy Bridge Core i5 CPUs are quad core and do not have Hyper Threading (HT). All laptop Core i5 CPUS are dual core and have HT. Only certain laptop Core i7 with the "QM" designation are quad core CPUs.

Laptop graphic cards are much less powerful than there desktop counterparts. For example a Radeon Mobility HD 5850 is basically equal to a desktop Radeon HD 5770. The performance difference between a desktop Radeon HD 5850 and Radeon HD 5770 is rather significant; about a 60% different off the top of my head.

Since you are not going to be gaming, you don't need to worry about the graphic card portion. Since on the desktop you are only maxing out your CPU by 30% - 40%, that indicates a dual core CPU should be fine. The Core i5-2500k is clocked at 3.3GHz and maxes out at 3.7GHz with Turbo Boost. The fastest dual core mobile CPU is the Core i7-2640 which is clocked at 2.8GHz and maxes out at 3.5GHz with turbo boost. Obviously, your desktop will be more powerful.

Be aware that performance comes with the price of a pretty penny. The more performance you want to more you will need to pay; more expensive than desktop components. For example, the difference between the Core i5-2410m and the Core i5-2430m is 100MHz. The price difference if there is an option to upgrade is usually $50.
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May 8, 2012 4:33:53 PM

Very well. I appreciate that info as I was somewhat aware of the dual core quad core differences.

To clarify.. i7's are still dual core unless them have the QM branding?

And a more direct question is a Core i7-2640, being one of the fastest CPU's available for mobile, overkill for the task I am looking to perform? Wouldn't an i5 do the job?

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a c 464 D Laptop
May 8, 2012 4:56:41 PM

RoZmX said:

To clarify.. i7's are still dual core unless them have the QM branding?

And a more direct question is a Core i7-2640, being one of the fastest CPU's available for mobile, overkill for the task I am looking to perform? Wouldn't an i5 do the job?


Yep, there are Core i7 with the "M" designation (Dual Core) and the "QM" designation (Quad Core).

"Overkill" depends your expectations. Since the i7-2640m is dual core CPU with Hyper Threading you will still have a 30% - 40% load. But since the i7-2640m is clocked slower than your i5-2500k, it will naturally take longer to produce music. If you are willing to give up performance and save money and be able to produce music away from your studio / office, then even a Core i5-2410m should be fine. If you want the same performance as the i5-2500k to produce music just a quickly, then you are not going to get that level of performance in a laptop.

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May 8, 2012 5:01:10 PM

You have those specs on a computer without a dedicated high end sound card for music production? I would recommend you purchase a laptop with a nice sound card or external sound card because you don't want to sacrifice quality when your working with music production.
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May 8, 2012 5:56:52 PM

It took me two years to put all those specs into my computer. so i'm not made out of money, and most of my investments are to instruments. And of course I have a dedicated sound card! Mbox 2 w/ Yamaha HS80m and a matching sub along with some acoustic treatments (very minimal) as my focus is produce music not so much sound engineering.

But I didn't feel like mentioning my sound card would reflect on what CPU power I need.. and what translates to my current set up.

Mainly the reason why I want the laptop is to work on my songs I have already started at home, at work. So it would only be 1-2hrs away from my home studio.

I will be looking into i7-2640m equipped laptops and see if the price/performance ratio is enough to have me squeeze out a bit more money for the i7.
Maybe even run some test on laptops friends have.. See what I come up with.

Anything else I should take in consideration when making music on the go?
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May 8, 2012 7:02:25 PM

Best answer selected by RoZmX.
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May 14, 2012 12:34:41 PM

Just in case someone stumbles upon this in the future. I ran some test on my friend's laptop that has an i3-2330m, and due to the hyper threading, it doesn't lose too much performance over my i5-2500k w/o hyper threading. My most complex songs peak the CPU at 35%, that same song peaked at 50% on his laptop. BU ton average it was nearly the same performance. I was shocked to see it perform so well.

I went to the options and disabled hyper threading processing and it peaked at 90%.

FL Studio doesn't even access more than 4GB of Ram.

So the specs needed for a laptop are an i3and 4gb ram! Cheap! :) 
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