What PC spec do I want?

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I'm going to Uni next year and have some money set aside to get a laptop for doing work on but I'd also like to be able to use it with my audio interface for doing reasonable home recordings. I'm using a 6 year old ACER at the moment which is painfully slow and you have to choose between glitching and bad quality. I don't have a fortune to spend, I don't really want to go above £400 if I can help it, happy to get a refurbished one, but what memory/processor etc. spec do I want for recording? I don't know much about these things so in English would be nice! 
"have a good time, all the time" Spinal Tap
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8233
    I was recording crazy multitracks years ago with a fraction of the power available these days so it's probably not that big a deal provided you don't so for some kind of ultra light thing. 

    The important thing is to get all the vendor crapware and bloated antivirus shite off there as that will make an i7 with 16GB of RAM run like shit. 
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • jmasterjmaster Frets: 19
    OK, thanks that's helpful, though I probably wouldn't know what to and what not to delete
    "have a good time, all the time" Spinal Tap
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8233
    This is a good one to start with: http://pcdecrapifier.com/
    Then remove whatever AV came with it and replace it with MS Security Essentials 

    In terms of spec all you need to remember is i3, i5, i7 are good, better, best and anything that isn't one of those things you might want to shy away from. 
    4GB RAM+ is probably fine. 
    Also remember that bigger hard disks don't make your PC faster (lots of people don't seem to get this)
    Also regardless of how techy you are you can work out if it has good quality plastics, doesn't flex, and has a nice feeling keyboard. 
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • When recording with a laptop, the one thing to be careful of (and has a DRASTIC effect of large tracks) is the hard drive read/write speed or RPM.  A lot of laptops have slower hard drives to save power and prolong battery life.  You need a speed of at least 7200 RPM or you will need an external hard drive as part of your budget,

    My muse is not a horse and art is not a race.
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  • jmasterjmaster Frets: 19
    thanks guys, the main things I need help with are the internal things like amount of memory and what processor and things that you can't see, like you said anyone can feel if something is cheap and crappy
    "have a good time, all the time" Spinal Tap
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  • FretwiredFretwired Frets: 18301
    edited August 2013
    Contact Dell - they offer massive discounts to students especially if you're a SU member. Also check what deals the SU might be able to get you.

    http://www.dell-sci.co.uk/
    My pump-action drivel gun is smoking hot today!
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  • jmasterjmaster Frets: 19
    Ok so what about this for example? http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/laptops-netbooks/laptops/refurbished-laptops/sony-vaio-sve1513d1e-refurbished-15-5-laptop-white-21302168-pdt.html

    It has windows 8 which I'm not mad on and doesn't have the hard drive that randomhandclaps suggested but I could get an external one
    "have a good time, all the time" Spinal Tap
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8233
    PCWorld are not especially cheap. 

    Have a peep at ebuyer
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • FretwiredFretwired Frets: 18301
    jmaster said:
    Ok so what about this for example? http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/laptops-netbooks/laptops/refurbished-laptops/sony-vaio-sve1513d1e-refurbished-15-5-laptop-white-21302168-pdt.html

    It has windows 8 which I'm not mad on and doesn't have the hard drive that randomhandclaps suggested but I could get an external one
    That's a refurbished machine. PC World is the last place you want to go - call Dell. They have offers on the phone not on the web.
    My pump-action drivel gun is smoking hot today!
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  • jmasterjmaster Frets: 19
    edited August 2013
    Yeah I know, I just thought I could get something cheaper if I went for refurbished. Is this a bad move in your opinion? I've contacted DELL and they recommended an inspiron 15, but I've had an inspiron before (I forget which) and it felt really cheap, was slow and eventually crapped out completely
    "have a good time, all the time" Spinal Tap
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  • FretwiredFretwired Frets: 18301
    edited August 2013
    My niece went to Uni a few years back and her parents bought her a crap laptop with Vista on it. You could read War & Peace all the way through in the time it took to boot up. It was unreliable and eventually failed - she hadn't backed her data up and had loads of unfinished assignments. I bought her a Dell and five years later it's still going strong [after I cleaned the dust out of it]. I'd get the best laptop you can afford for the money and I'd buy new [on site warranty with some Dell kit and a two year guarantee].

    The Students Union often has a shop on-site selling stuff.
    My pump-action drivel gun is smoking hot today!
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  • digitalscreamdigitalscream Frets: 12581
    My advice: be extremely careful about choosing based on spec. I had a Dell D820 (I think) with a 2GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. Based on those specs, it should've been perfectly capable of running Reaper with my Tascam US-1641 interface and 10 input streams (my desktop of almost identical spec managed it with horsepower to spare).

    It didn't.

    Basically, the shitty nature of the drivers - and customised hardware, meaning that generic manufacturers' drivers didn't exist for the various bits and pieces - caused such a high rate of DPCs (Deferred Procedure Calls) that the hardware in the laptop was effectively running at a bit over half the capacity it should've had. The result of this was constantly jittery audio (in and out) even with just one VST on a single output stream and one input stream, even if I disabled everything except the bare minimum hardware to run the machine.

    In short: if you're buying a laptop, make sure you get the exact make and model that somebody else has already tried with good results. Laptops at the low end are far worse for this than the mid range, but as a general rule Asus tend to use only reference hardware designs for their Intel-based machines and Sony are sods for using ridiculously custom hardware for no apparent reason.
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • HeartfeltdawnHeartfeltdawn Frets: 11789
    I'm onto my second Asus laptop, finally went up from Core 2 Duo or whatever it is to an i7 3610QM processor. I've had zero problems with it at all. The only caveat with Asus is that you do have to filter out the bloatware/crapware/whatever you want to call it. They're far from being the worst offender. It runs quiet and cool, something that is important when recording as you don't want a big fan bringing up the noise. 

    -Don't go to PC World. 

    -What audio interface do you have? If it's Firewire then the choice of Firewire chipset on the laptop motherboard is important. I'm guessing you've probably got a USB interface. 

    -Sadly it seems most laptops come with Windows 8. So glad I bought mine with 7. 8 is horrible. 

    -DPC Latency Checker and LatencyMon are great tools to use for optimizing performance. 
    Clarity over quantity.  
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 15136
    If you're quick, on offer at Dell outlet atm

    http://outlet.euro.dell.com/Online/SecondaryInventorySearch.aspx?c=uk&l=en&s=dfh&cs=ukdfh1&puid=47b69b09

    Core i7.  6Gb ram.  750gb disc.  15.6" screen.

    More than enough power.  Screen big enough to look at comfortably, but no so big as not make it too big for the top of a lap.  Win 7 too.  £370 but plus VAT & delivery.

    It won't be sleek & sexy, but I've bought a couple of laptops for students recently, and they're reasonably solid (at the price) and reliable, and this one has enough oomph to play some games, make some music, and maybe even do some work.
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 15136
    You should also know about software 4 students.

    http://www.software4students.co.uk/
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  • HeartfeltdawnHeartfeltdawn Frets: 11789

    Don't buy Office. Download Open Office instead. So much good free software out there now. 
    Clarity over quantity.  
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  • FretwiredFretwired Frets: 18301
    If you're a student you can get MS Office for about £13 and Photoshop pretty cheap as well.
    My pump-action drivel gun is smoking hot today!
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  • Don't buy Office. Download Open Office instead. So much good free software out there now. 
    Open Office runs at the speed of death squared on my XP machine, and its only part-compatible with MickeySoft Office.

    Don't most students use MACs anyway? My sister did, and so did her two girls.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • HeartfeltdawnHeartfeltdawn Frets: 11789

    Don't buy Office. Download Open Office instead. So much good free software out there now. 
    Open Office runs at the speed of death squared on my XP machine, and its only part-compatible with MickeySoft Office.

    Don't most students use MACs anyway? My sister did, and so did her two girls.
    It doesn't run slowly at all even on my old Core 2 Duo laptop, let alone the newer i7, and I've had no issues dropping files into Office either. Plenty of students go with PC laptops. 
    Clarity over quantity.  
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  • @Heartfeltdawn OK if you say so but its only fair to report it if it's given me grief, so a prospective user should beware. Nice that you have not had any trubble with it.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • HeartfeltdawnHeartfeltdawn Frets: 11789
    Computers are one item that you will always find conflicting anecdotes on. Been looking around for new audio interfaces and that's a bloody minefield. On one spec one will run fine, another won't, something totally different. Open Office is a stock spec PC laptop will run absolutely fine. 
    Clarity over quantity.  
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  • jmasterjmaster Frets: 19
    I'm now considering ditching the laptop idea and getting a mac mini.. I like macs and it's the only way I could afford one, plus I like logic. But is a laptop pretty essential for a student?
    "have a good time, all the time" Spinal Tap
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  • jmaster said:
    I'm now considering ditching the laptop idea and getting a mac mini.. I like macs and it's the only way I could afford one, plus I like logic. But is a laptop pretty essential for a student?
    Depends on how you work.  I didn't buy a laptop until my 3rd year of uni, I just used the computer rooms at the uni and did fine.  To be honest I still rarely used the laptop as back then all laptop batteries were rubbish anyway and I think I got about 90 minutes maximum away from a plug socket, if I was lucky and kept the brightness on low and only did word processing!


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  • Handsome_ChrisHandsome_Chris Frets: 3655
    edited September 2013
    jmaster said:
    I'm now considering ditching the laptop idea and getting a mac mini.. I like macs and it's the only way I could afford one, plus I like logic. But is a laptop pretty essential for a student?
    Doesn't a Mac Mini only have 4GB of RAM, and experience has taught me that my MBP finds running Logic Pro X a bit sweaty with 4GB. I'm upgrading my RAM to 8GB, you may have you upgrade your Mini Mac's RAM too.

    Saying that, Mac is a great choice, and I am really starting to get along with Logic. The Fretboard Collective tasks are really getting me used to it.
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  • Don't buy Office. Download Open Office instead. So much good free software out there now. 
    Open Office runs at the speed of death squared on my XP machine, and its only part-compatible with MickeySoft Office.

    Don't most students use MACs anyway? My sister did, and so did her two girls.
    It doesn't run slowly at all even on my old Core 2 Duo laptop, let alone the newer i7, and I've had no issues dropping files into Office either. Plenty of students go with PC laptops. 
    I've found that the word equivalent is perfectly serviceable but the excel and powerpoint replacements in Open Office suck serious balls. 
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  • Odd. OpenOffice is fine for my business and AAT studies. Given that the OP is a student, I don't think he'd find anything in his course that OO would struggle to handle. 

    Powerpoint on all formats is shithouse :D
    Clarity over quantity.  
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