Macbook Pro for Music

Posted:
in Genius Bar edited June 2015

I have a 2010 MBP (non-retina) and am thinking about upgrading this summer when the student discounts start (I am in college) to a 13' rMBP. My current comp is ok for many tasks, but for music I feel that I need something more powerful. I have 2 main questions:

 

1) Should I wait for skylake? I currently have 4gb ram, 5400 rmp HD, and 2.4 core2 duo. I need better specs, but if skylake will be significantly better than the current gen, I may consider it.

 

2) If I were to buy the current gen, what would be recommended specs? I would be able to spend about $1500-1700, so I was wondering if a ram increase from 8 to 16 or a slightly better processor would be highly recommended (keeping in mind I do get educ pricing). 

 

For my music, I use a lot of electronics which tends to mean that I have many tracks running at once. Also, I plan on getting Logic X and programs such as Omnisphere and other external plug-ins, up from Logic 9 (which I currently use).

 

Thanks a lot!

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,213moderator
    1) Should I wait for skylake? I currently have 4gb ram, 5400 rmp HD, and 2.4 core2 duo. I need better specs, but if skylake will be significantly better than the current gen, I may consider it.

    The recently updated 13" rMBPs got Broadwell and Force Touch so Skylake will be less of a jump than it will be for the 15", which stuck with Haswell. Intel is still aiming for 50% faster graphics though (this would also mean faster OpenCL). Skylake can optionally have DDR4 memory too, which is higher bandwidth. There's the move to USB C and Thunderbolt 3, which is more future-proof. There's also wireless charging, data and video. If Apple implements wireless charging, that would be well worth waiting for IMO as you'd never have to plug the laptop in, you just sit it next to the charging brick or on a mat of some kind. TB 3 should also be able to support UHD displays so again a little more future-proof.

    Another thing to look out for is Intel's SSDs. There have been articles saying they are going to introduce disruptive pricing with their 3D NAND. To be disruptive, it would have to be MLC well below $0.50/GB. If they managed $0.25/GB for example then 1TB would be $250 (although Apple could charge more). Samsung's EVO drive is $378 for 1TB but uses lower quality TLC NAND. Even matching that price with MLC would be very competitive.
    2) If I were to buy the current gen, what would be recommended specs? I would be able to spend about $1500-1700, so I was wondering if a ram increase from 8 to 16 or a slightly better processor would be highly recommended (keeping in mind I do get educ pricing).

    The CPU upgrades aren't worth it. When the i7s had double the threads of the i5 they were but now there's very little advantage. 8GB should suffice but it depends on how many apps you plan to run and how big the projects will be. If you check your page outs in the Activity Monitor app after doing some work for a while, that's roughly how much more RAM you need on top of your internal. If your internal is 4GB and page outs are 2GB, 8GB would be ok. If internal is 4GB and page outs are over 3GB, you'd be better with 16GB. The internal GPU can use up to 1GB of the RAM but compression can give you some extra.

    Intel is expected to launch Skylake August 18th at IDF. That's just over 2 months away. Apple typically updates the iOS products in September and Macs in October. If they do update the Macs in October then the 12" Macbook and 13" rMBP will be first updated because Intel prioritizes the low power chips.
  • Reply 2 of 9
    Thanks for the advice! You mentioned some points that I hadn't even considered which was very helpful.
  • Reply 3 of 9
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,739member
    Given your stated purpose, you MUST go for 16 GB RAM.

    I would also opt for the maximum processor power, even if it's not a big difference.

    I use my early 2011 13" MBP for music (MainStage and Logic), and sometimes, it really is that one plug-in or extra layer that you'd really like to use, but can't without limiting polyphony or getting drop-outs.
  • Reply 4 of 9
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,739member
    Btw, what are the odds of the 13" machines going quad-core anytime soon? Is there anything in the pipeline?

    I'll need to replace this book at some point....
  • Reply 5 of 9
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,213moderator
    spheric wrote: »
    I use my early 2011 13" MBP for music (MainStage and Logic), and sometimes, it really is that one plug-in or extra layer that you'd really like to use, but can't without limiting polyphony or getting drop-outs.

    If you still have a hard drive, that could be causing a bottleneck. SSDs in the new 13" laptops are 1300MB/s reads, whereas older laptop drives were 30-50MB/s, the new MBP SSD is over 20x faster. Those numbers are for sequential reads, random reads are much lower. Separate audio tracks would be located in different parts of the drive so the mechanical read head in platter drives has to keep jumping back and forward, as well as for the OS and software. Some people here mentioned not being able to work reliably off their internal drives:

    https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/842255-logic-crashing-macbook-pro-w-5400rpm.html

    SSDs are fairly cheap so you can upgrade old laptops. It will open and save files much faster too.

    For processing power, the difference between high-end and low-end CPUs is now just 7%. Even between 2015 models and 2011 models in the 13", it's just 20-50%. Intel's been putting all the power into the GPU. They also dropped power consumption a bit.

    There's a video here showing some failures on an old 2010 Air with a hard drive:


    [VIDEO]


    Disk IO and CPU were maxing out at times. The old dual-core processors only had 2 threads but the new ones have 4 so they are better at load-balancing. Still half the 15" though.
    spheric wrote:
    Btw, what are the odds of the 13" machines going quad-core anytime soon? Is there anything in the pipeline?

    The quad-cores use too much power and produce too much heat for the 13". They'd have to use a larger power supply too. Eventually the CPUs will become double the performance of the old ones but if they go up 10-20% per year for the CPU, it'll be about 2018 before it's equivalent to recent quad-cores.
  • Reply 6 of 9
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 902member

    You may consider upgrading your current machine by replacing some components. A RAM upgrade from 4GB to 8GB (the max yours will allow) is around $75. If you are using up all of your RAM right now with heavy application use this improvement will give you the biggest bang for your buck. An upgrade to an SSD from that HD would be a big improvement also. If you go with a similar size SSD to your current HD it would be around $200.

     

    I did these upgrades to my 2009 MBP (along with a $100 battery) and it's like a totally new Mac. I have no complaints about its performance now. I had lots of complaints once I installed Snow Leopard due to lack of RAM. I actually put in a 1TB SSD due to space contraints and got the added bonus of much faster drive access.

     

    Since you've had your Mac for 5 years (I assume you bought it new) it is likely that you will keep your next one for a long time. Definitely go with the maximum RAM unless you can't afford it right now.

  • Reply 7 of 9
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,739member

    Sorry Marvin, I could have mentioned that:

     

    I've got 16 GB in this box (Apple officially only supports 8), and am running a 1 TB Crucial m500 SSD on the main S-ATA III bus (still got the optical in here). 

     

    There is nothing more I can do for this machine. 

     

    I do appreciate your trying to help me out. :)

     

     

    I wasn't aware that the speed differences on the newer machines are so slight between the processors. On this dual-core i7, the difference over the i5 was well worth it, even just for the four virtual cores over the two of the i5 at the time. 

     

    In that case, I would probably reconsider getting the higher-end option. HOWEVER: If you're ever in a situation where that one plug-in would have made just that difference (as I was recently), then it's nice to know that there is nothing more you could have done better at the get-go. 

  • Reply 8 of 9
    If I did upgrade the ram and the ssd would it be a good deal?
    My concern is that I would still have the core2duo and be stuck with old ports.
  • Reply 9 of 9
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 902member

    A RAM and SSD upgrade will most likely keep you satisfied for one to two more years. As Marvin said a CPU upgrade right now won't get you much benefit. The rMBP is going to miss out completely on the quad core Broadwell. I definitely would not purchase one right now and instead wait for the Skylake, but my recommendation is to upgrade the internals on your 2010 model. If you don't need a lot of space a 512 GB SSD and 8 GB of RAM will run you around $250 in the US. The performance improvement will be significant. Your itch to upgrade will probably start in about 2 years. $125/year is really good for a prosumer-level laptop.

     

    If you have a lot of disposable income (as a college student?) then just go for a replacement. If you have to have the highest level of performance then that's the only option.

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