There are laptops with quad-core processors available right now. I was also looking around for high-powered laptop/notebook computers, since my current laptop is an emachines M6809 w/Windows XP Pro & SP3. While it does run Ableton Live okay, it's starting to show its age. So I'm lookin'.
Yes, the Mac PowerBook would be pretty nice, with a gorgeous GUI, but for sheer power, I don't know that it's the most cost-effective choice. I think the MPBs are limited to processors with two cores at the moment, aren't they?
There's a Taiwanese OEM manufacturer called Clevo which supplies laptop computers to numerous system integrators/resellers, such as Alienware, Sager, etc.. The build quality of these laptops is quite good, from what I've read so far, but of course, fit and finish depends partly on the care the reseller takes to put these systems together. Available machines include quad-core laptops which are pretty good desktop replacement/gaming machines, with enough horsepower to run Live effectively.
Look at this thread for an overview of Clevo laptops and quite a few of the resellers who distribute them. The "Clevo Guide 2.0". This was an eye-opener for me:
(scroll down about a screen length to see the beginning of the Guide)
The Clevo D900C, for example, would be a good desktop-replacement laptop. Check out these specs: (it's from the Clevo site, so naturally there is some hype included)
- World's First Quad-Core Notebook
World's Fastest Notebook
Screen: 17" Glossy/Matte LCDs up to WUXGA 1920x1200
CPU: supports LGA775 Core 2 Duo/Quad/Extreme (65nm/45nm)
RAM: support up to 8GB DDR2-800 (2 slots)
Videocard: up to dual MXM-IV cards SLI-Mode (up to 9800M GTX or Quadro FX 3700M... for now)
HDD: up to three SATA-300 Hard Drives (RAID 0,1,5 or none)
If you look at some of the resellers' sites noted in the Clevo guide, you will get a good idea of a ballpark price for the various Clevo laptops configured for resale.
Suffice it to say that we *do* have powerful choices for quad-core laptop machines currently, although you'll pay a premium for the portability. Another option, as you've noted, more cost-effective than a laptop, would be to build a small PC with a quad-core processor, but then you have the inconvenience of separate mouse/keyboard and monitor to contend with. I'm considering putting together a small PC with an Intel i7 processor, which seems to be a good desktop quad-core processor. But that would be for home use. I'll still need a laptop for gigs.
Good luck in your search..
I couldn't disagree more - my Mac Book Pro has been an utter disappointment in the CPU stakes. My XP Pro desktop studio system which I bought for a 3rd of the price absolutely smokes it. Definitely lusting for the next generation of PC laptops with Quad core processors!