Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

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Stevee00
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Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by Stevee00 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:59 am

Hello,

I know that this type of question is asked all the time, and about a month ago I read all the threads I could find to guide my choice of a Macbook Pro. All I could conclude is a big messy "it depends." So I decided I need to ask for specific advice for my very own Macbook specs.

I'm trying to decide if I should get an i5 clocking 2.4GHz, pay $200 more for one clocking 2.53GHz, or go all the way and get a core i7 at 2.66GHz ($350 more than the 2.4/i5). 4Gb RAM in all cases. What do you think?

I'm running Ableton Live Suite 8.2.1, PreSonus FireStudio for audio I/O, using an APC40, PadKontrol, and keyboards. I feed a few outboard synths through Live for effects and mixing (I'm a keyboard player). I'm buying the extra power (upgrading from a Macbook 2.4 duo core) so I can play 4 or more instances of U-He ACE (modeled vintage synth, CPU hog) at the same time, and soon will add Omnisphere. I use Live for looping and delay on everything and, of course, effects. I don't do sample warping. I use some percussion and sequencer clips.

At a concept level, I'm wondering what's more important, the number of cores or the clock speed for my type of setup. And what is the real difference between i5 and i7 in terms of Live. I've been reading about it, but can't seem to get a straight answer that makes sense to my non-techie understanding.

Your time and consideration and wise replies much appreciated.

Steve
Thin Air Music
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Ableton 8.2 Suite, Macbook Pro i7, 88-key Roland RD300, U-He Zebra, U-He Diva, Motif Rack ES, PadKontrol, NanoKontrol, NanoKey, AirFx.

leedsquietman
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by leedsquietman » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:34 am

I read in Sound On Sound that the i7 MBP is 30% faster than the i5. This was measured in Logic 9 though, which has (with recent updates) improved how it handles multi-core processors and hyper threading.

Whether you see this type of improvement in Live 8 or not, I couldn't tell you. It's more likely that Live 9 will have further optimization, so you have to think ahead a bit.

Both the i5 and i7 MBPs are only dual core anyway. It's definitely worth getting the 2.66 over the 2.4 though, that doesn't seem much of an increase but in real terms it works out to quite a lot.
http://soundcloud.com/umbriel-rising http://www.myspace.com/leedsquietmandemos Live 7.0.18 SUITE, Cubase 5.5.2], Soundforge 9, Dell XPS M1530, 2.2 Ghz C2D, 4GB, Vista Ult SP2, legit plugins a plenty, Alesis IO14.

Stevee00
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by Stevee00 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:44 am

Thank you for that, LeedsQuietMan.

Now, can somebody explain to me what the difference is between the 2.4GHz Core 2 Dual in my current Macbook, and the i5 or i7, and why does Live perform better with the i5? I thought the i5 had quad core.

Steve
Thin Air Music
ThinAirMusic.com
Ableton 8.2 Suite, Macbook Pro i7, 88-key Roland RD300, U-He Zebra, U-He Diva, Motif Rack ES, PadKontrol, NanoKontrol, NanoKey, AirFx.

Stevee00
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by Stevee00 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 3:24 am

I found this at Sound-on-Sound. A little more info here (from March, 2010).
http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showf ... ber=872477
Thin Air Music
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Ableton 8.2 Suite, Macbook Pro i7, 88-key Roland RD300, U-He Zebra, U-He Diva, Motif Rack ES, PadKontrol, NanoKontrol, NanoKey, AirFx.

davepermen
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by davepermen » Mon Nov 15, 2010 7:13 am

Stevee00 wrote:Thank you for that, LeedsQuietMan.

Now, can somebody explain to me what the difference is between the 2.4GHz Core 2 Dual in my current Macbook, and the i5 or i7, and why does Live perform better with the i5? I thought the i5 had quad core.

Steve
the core iX are new designs, leading to improved performances. tiny small tweaks lead to up to 10% more performance at the same speed to a core2duo. other things of higher importance (esp for music/realtime apps) is the temporal overclocking. when your core2duo would be at 100% of something, thus leading to dropouts, the core iX can overclock shorttime to get that much needed temporal boost. this helps when ever you have a short peak in cpu usage (opening an app, saving a file, scrolling in a document, etc), thus lets you gain there where it's needed the most.

there are detailed documents explaining in detail what's new. but all in all, just think of it that way: it's the new version => they've improved where they could.
http://davepermen.net my tiny webpage, including link to bandcamp.

Stevee00
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by Stevee00 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:22 pm

Thank you, Dave, for saying what I was hoping to hear--that the i5 and i7 are simply newer and better for audio apps. And you answered, in one sentence, two question I had about overclocking and dropouts.

I saw mention of dropouts on other threads, and other scary things like poor firewire handling. It was a case of the more I read, the more afraid I was of trading in my Macbook 2.4 Core2Duo and paying extra dollars for more problems. At the same time, with just a couple instances of U-He Ace I see the CPU meter passing 50%, and feel I need more horsepower so I can make music stop worrying about CPU meters.

So the remaining question: is the i7, compared to the i5, worth an extra $300; will I see a noticeable performance difference in Live?

While I'm at it, is anybody having any problems with the firewire 800 in the Macbook Pro? I'm counting on fast firewire for my audio conversion and I/O.

Thank you, as always, for your time and consideration,

Steve
Thin Air Music
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Ableton 8.2 Suite, Macbook Pro i7, 88-key Roland RD300, U-He Zebra, U-He Diva, Motif Rack ES, PadKontrol, NanoKontrol, NanoKey, AirFx.

davepermen
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by davepermen » Mon Nov 15, 2010 4:52 pm

it's a max of 5% performance gain for the price of 10% more. i would not buy it, no. i would get the i5. but it depends on your usage of live. i just use internal plugins (and now 'nerve', which doesn't use much cpu), so i don't actually need that much cpu. i'd spend the money on an ssd, always (helps for dropouts, too, sometimes).

no clue about firewire, only using usb soundcards and stuff.
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agent314
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by agent314 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:05 pm

Not quite on topic but similar:

I recently put a SSD into my Toshiba laptop, and I've noticed more crackling that I used to (any, as opposed to none), as well as momentary lag when I'm recording an audio loop, as soon as I hit the clip launch button to start the clip looping.

Could that be a factor of the drive, or is there likely a setting somewhere that's giving me sub-optimal performance? I noticed neither of these problems when on 5400 or 7200rpm HDDs.

davepermen
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by davepermen » Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:49 pm

agent314 wrote:Not quite on topic but similar:

I recently put a SSD into my Toshiba laptop, and I've noticed more crackling that I used to (any, as opposed to none), as well as momentary lag when I'm recording an audio loop, as soon as I hit the clip launch button to start the clip looping.

Could that be a factor of the drive, or is there likely a setting somewhere that's giving me sub-optimal performance? I noticed neither of these problems when on 5400 or 7200rpm HDDs.
what ssd, and what os? it should definitely not happen. i know ssd and xp is not a good thing to do, f.e. as it's offtopic, you might contact me in other ways, or open a new thread, or something.
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agent314
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by agent314 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 6:26 pm

It's a Kingston 64GB on an i7-720 running Win7x64 Professional, with the Intel Rapid Disk manager installed.

No need to carry it on in here (but if you've got helpful hints, feel free to share though. :D)

Stevee00
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by Stevee00 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:34 am

And the winner is ...

After gathering and weighing the wisdom from all the people who contributed answers to my question, I just ordered a MBP i5 2.4 GHz, 320G HDD 5400. $1529 + tax from Apple Refurbished. I agreed with some posters that the i7 wasn't worth the extra money, and neither was the 2.53GHz. I also read reviews on other websites, including some bench tests. I also decided that if I need a little extra speed in the future, I'll replace the HDD with a 500G, 7200 Seagate.

One more question: My new MBP has Firewire 800. My PreSonus FireStudio Project has only FireWire 400. Feeding live audio in and out of the Ableton is important to my music. Would it make a noticeable difference if I upgraded the PreSonus to something with FireWire 800 (and better drivers)?

Steve
Thin Air Music
ThinAirMusic.com
Ableton 8.2 Suite, Macbook Pro i7, 88-key Roland RD300, U-He Zebra, U-He Diva, Motif Rack ES, PadKontrol, NanoKontrol, NanoKey, AirFx.

hacktheplanet
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by hacktheplanet » Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:56 pm

You'll find that the majority of FW interfaces are 400, and it's great. You won't notice a difference. I do know that the RME Fireface 800 gets great reviews, but it also costs more than the computer you just bought ;).

edit: Meaning, the connecter doesn't really matter. The quality of the audio interface makes the difference.
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leedsquietman
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by leedsquietman » Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:27 am

Were the benchtests aimed at relevant information for running a DAW? Most benchtests only check things such as 3D graphic rendering and stuff like codec processing, which is only partially relevant if you are mostly using your computer as a DAW.

For example, I saw a benchmark which gave the i7 macbook pro a near 30% advantage over the i5 in terms of running audio tracks and plugin counts, and were much greater with higher processor speed than regular laptop magazine benchmarks which does not explore this stuff (which were more like 10-15% on stuff like graphics processing, file rendering, office benchmarks etc).

Anyway, what is done is done and I hope this works out for you. At least you know that your computer is quite powerful and better than what was available 2-3 years ago on the real high end. You should be able to get quite a bit done with your new machine.
http://soundcloud.com/umbriel-rising http://www.myspace.com/leedsquietmandemos Live 7.0.18 SUITE, Cubase 5.5.2], Soundforge 9, Dell XPS M1530, 2.2 Ghz C2D, 4GB, Vista Ult SP2, legit plugins a plenty, Alesis IO14.

davepermen
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by davepermen » Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:53 am

it can't really get a 30% advantage if all it does is compute up to 5% faster. not really fitting, that math, it is. i don't think they got the i5 to it's full potential due to some latency limit (that can make slower cpu's look much slower than they are, as they have more work to do just to satisfy the latency requirement. slower cpu, still same work/second to do => spend more time on this). most likely, increasing the latency just one ms would have gotten the i5 to be nearly on par to the i7.
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leedsquietman
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Re: Choosing Macbook Pro i5 i7 core and speed specs.

Post by leedsquietman » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:45 am

I just report the figures, I don't do the math ... !

But seriously, whatever is causing the i5 to (seemingly) bottleneck with regards to track count and plugin count, I have seen much higher than 5 or 10% differential reported using LOGIC 9 in both cases in at least 2 publications, both of which gave much higher performance figures and counts with the i7, hence making it, from what I read, a worthwhile investment as a DAW computer at least.

These figures were particularly better in the 128 samples latency and below category. They evened out a bit after 256 samples, but still were higher than 10% better in the i7 in the reports I read. How accurate those tests were and how they arrived at those figures, I cannot vouch for ...

The plugin count was done using # of instances of Logic's Multipressor plugin, that's all I remember off the top of my head.
http://soundcloud.com/umbriel-rising http://www.myspace.com/leedsquietmandemos Live 7.0.18 SUITE, Cubase 5.5.2], Soundforge 9, Dell XPS M1530, 2.2 Ghz C2D, 4GB, Vista Ult SP2, legit plugins a plenty, Alesis IO14.

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