2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Khazul
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2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Khazul » Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:47 am

Just a quick summary of the good and bad with the new MBP for anyone whos considering one.

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May as well get the bad out of the way first -

Whatever you might have read about over heating issues is complete true with anyone Ive come across who runs certain kind of applications (the kind that go from no load to very heavy load instantly - like a DAW or Video app when you press play).

The cooling on the things is about on par with the result you might get when a clueless fukwit builds an overcloked PC, but there are ways to deal with it.

Personally I think its fixable in software, based upon using a utility to take over fan management and based upon my experiences over the years building high spec and severly overclocked PCs.

I suspect alot of other issues people have reported are related to over heating as well. If someone want me to go into the specific deatils of what is wrong and exactly why its fucked, happy to do so as it will help buyers for audio apps end up with an excellent computer instead of a hot heap of junk.

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Now onto the good bits.

I have the MBP 17 with the 2.3Ghz processor, 8GB ram and 7200RPM HDD. Unbeleivable the thing is actually as fast as my PC at running ableton live for real projects that I have thrown at it so far. Bear in mind my PC is an end of last-year chipset and CPU based 4Ghz i7/920 (runs all its cores, all the time at 4GHz), with 6GB of 1600MHz memory, 10000RPM system drives and a full sata 3 controller + drive for data running window 7/64 - ie by end of last year standards - very fast and capable machine as an audio workstation.

Part of that the equivalence in performance is also that my PC has got slower over time since it was first built and setup - I think mostoy when Win7/SP1 was installed.

Kind of projects I have thrown at it are a mix of pure mixing jobs (ie someone gave me a load of stems to mix), and so it mostly fx, but still a decent number of audio parts, or other mixing jobs where I have had to replace some of the parts with drum racks and processing, or synths like omnisphere etc. And quite heavy stuff as well. A project I was working on today pushed my PC to roughly 40%-70% according to the Live CPU meter, and the values I saw on the mac were in the same range, if anything sometimes actually better.

The other point of interest, on the PC I use an RME UFX over firewire. On the MBP, I was using the RME UFX over USB2 and in both cases buffer size set to 128 with 44.1K sample rate. It seems I can actually push the mac harder before it starts getting glitchy. Looking at the CPU use across the 8 cores I see a more even spread on the mac, more in line with what I see in Logic Pro 9. This was using Live 8.2.2b5 (ie latest beta).

Some other comparative observations - I would say that while the audio performance of the mac is as good if not better then my PC, the responsiveness to mouse clicks, smooth and accurate editing of EQ curves, levels and all the othre mous related knob tweaking is much more responsive and accurate on my PC. In logic pro i was actually painful sometimes, by massively smoother in Live.

Now, to be fair, I have an exceptionally good gaming mouse on my PC - which translates into very smooth and accurate control of knobs, sliders, curves etc in plugins, whereas the macbbook has variatins of apple trackpads, apple magic mouse and an old microsoft bluetooth laptop mouse - none of them ideal at all, and OSX seems to particularly hate having two bluetooth mice enabled, so I think I will have ge a good logitech bluetooth mouse for it to see if that helps.

Other non audio relatted stuff - WiFi to an Airport bass station is giving 450+Mbps which is quite impressive, so finally I dont feel a need to have ethernet cables plugged into a laptop. TI havnt really pushed the new radeon GPU, but there is quite a significant performance difference when using Live with it active vs just using the embedded intel GPU - I guess thats just a reflection of far faster UI rendering.

Seems to be coping with a ton of stuff connected quite happily as well (Virus TI, X1, Maschine, APC40, UFX and 4 dongles + FW harddrive, lots of network disc access via WiFi) etc all while editing. In fact it actually seems less impacted by the network activity than windows. Even some of the fancy window animatios that osx does when you minimize/maximise windows seemed to have no impact on the running audio.

BTW - When doing mixing work, I nearly allways have RME total mix and DigiCheck active and on screen while mixing, which of course adds a little to the overall CPU load. Incidently, when we decide to use the MBP today, then this is the first day in several weeks whether live didnt crash once all day - and we were throwing qute heavy load att it at times. Ths also means that the current over heating issues can be lived with.

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So all in all, potentially a really excellent studio machine and very definately the first laptop of any make I have tried to use that I can honestly describe as a workstation class audio production machine (and is still sensibly portable), to the point where we are considering whther to move production over onto the MBP, so will keep using it with that in mind. We just fancy the idea of the flexibility of being able to work the same at either studio rather than being allways tied to my studio for everything.

That is if Apple can sort out the cooling solution for them, which I beleive should be fixable in software. If they cant, well then there are utilities like smcFanControl which seems to nicely deal with the heating issues. Also I have to say - I dont like Apple mix - cool - but ffs, hardly an artists mouse. The big (bluetooth) track pad is nice though.

BTW - this is the first Apple computer I have ever owned and therefore used properly.
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Khazul
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Khazul » Sat Mar 19, 2011 1:06 am

Yep - 100% agree - complete piss take as far as Im concerned. The only reason I didnt phone apple today was a) was busy working in studio with people all day, and b) if the person I had spoken to had even slightly tried to treat me like an idiot/give brush off, then conversation would have turned very very nasty very quickly, so will leave it until Monday.

Its seem that gamers are suffering the worst of it however.
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Khazul
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Khazul » Sat Mar 19, 2011 1:28 am

Re GPU - no idea at all - not even tried any games on it. TBH gaming performance didnt even cross my mind until I read of troubles people were having with games causing it to overheat - especially SC2.

About the only game I have that I *might* have access to a mac version of is Starcraft 2, but knowing blizzard they would probably want you pay again to get the mac version being as the bastards make you pay the full price again just to play in a different region.

I was planning to stick WIndow 7/64 on it as well, but that kind of went out of the window during the last 3 days of installing stuff on it until someone releases a decent SATA3 1TB 7200 RPM - WD scorpio black type thing, so any thought of running games on it for the hell of it will have to wait :)
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Tarekith
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Tarekith » Sat Mar 19, 2011 2:26 am

Khazul, what heating issues are you running into? Just curious, I haven't been following the new i7 info. I have the last version dual core 2.66 i7 MBP, and while it will get hot during heavy loads (mainly video conversion using Handbrake here), it's never been an issue for any audio work. Is yours getting so hot it's shutting down?

Bizon
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Bizon » Sat Mar 19, 2011 4:48 am

Khazul wrote:Just a quick summary of the good and bad with the new MBP for anyone whos considering one.

The cooling on the things is about on par with the result you might get when a clueless fukwit builds an overcloked PC, but there are ways to deal with it.
God Dammit! ooops, I just Saw Jesus Christ in the other forum, I hope he does not get mad...


That's my biggest problem with my current I7 MBP. It turns into a skillet after about 20 minutes. I was really hoping they would have fixed this.

Bizon
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Bizon » Sat Mar 19, 2011 5:04 am

Tarekith wrote:Khazul, what heating issues are you running into? Just curious, I haven't been following the new i7 info. I have the last version dual core 2.66 i7 MBP, and while it will get hot during heavy loads (mainly video conversion using Handbrake here), it's never been an issue for any audio work. Is yours getting so hot it's shutting down?
I also had the 2.66 prior and loved it, then I screwed up and got the first I7.

The back (especially the left side) gets so bloody hot that you literally have to put something under the laptop or turn it on its side to circulate the air or you may fry something. Forget about having it on your lap because it gets so uncomfortable that you can't even work.

On another note, I am sure live ran more efficiently on the 2.66 since it could not utilize the dual virtual cores in the first I7.

Khazul
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Khazul » Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:30 am

Tarekith wrote:Khazul, what heating issues are you running into? Just curious, I haven't been following the new i7 info. I have the last version dual core 2.66 i7 MBP, and while it will get hot during heavy loads (mainly video conversion using Handbrake here), it's never been an issue for any audio work. Is yours getting so hot it's shutting down?
The simple result, if the machine is idle and the fans are not spun up, and you hit play on a track that will immediately push the cpu use upto 70% or so, then a few second later the machine will freeze.

The reason for this is that the cooling fans take way too long to react to the increase in cpu temperature, so by the time they have spun up, the core temps have allready gone past 100C and the machie will freeze (leaving just the pointer still movable).

If you very slowly increase the load giving the fans a chance to spin up, then its OK. The fans will just about keep up.

The only answer I can find for practical everyday use is to use a utility called smcFanControl which is enough for DAW use if I set the minimum speed to about 3750 (rather than the default 2000RPM).

I suspect that if you were to run a game that heaviliy uses the GPU and well as one or two CPU cores, then it might struggle to keep up at all, unless the fan is pre-spun to full speed first.
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dazzer
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by dazzer » Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:33 pm

Dude that sucks, not right at all. My old MacBook is the opposite, fans come on if u just look at it the wrong way.

Get it sorted and let us know how u get on, I had my eyes on a 17" too.

Rave
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Rave » Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:45 pm

Thanks for the review :)

Tarekith
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Tarekith » Sat Mar 19, 2011 2:17 pm

Wow, bummer, that's not right at all.

Breaks Dude
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Breaks Dude » Sat Mar 19, 2011 7:15 pm

Khazul, just curious - what are you using for a USB hub?

Khazul
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Khazul » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:03 pm

Breaks Dude wrote:Khazul, just curious - what are you using for a USB hub?
One of these:
Image

As I have 4 dongles (props ignition, iLok and 2 elicensers) the silver bit is very handy for moving them all between PC and laptop.

And one of the regular belkin USB2+ hubs.
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steko
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by steko » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:09 pm

Khazul, congrats on new machine! (?)

Maybe you got a lemon, or of course it could be a general problem with that model, which hopefully will get fixed with a software/firmware update soon… (though I haven’t seen that many threads yet…)

What you could do:

Check in Activity Monitor (Applications/Utilities), if any process is hogging CPU in the background. (Though your great results in the Live Performance Test speak against…) (A friend had heavy overheating/sluggishness on his MBP, caused by an unfinished printjob, I found through Activity Monitor…)

Have you checked your system.log in Console (Applications/Utilities)?


Did you try a SMC and PRAM reset?

Intel-based Macs: Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC)

Resetting your Mac's PRAM and NVRAM

Mac OS X: What's stored in PRAM

Intel-based Macs: Using Apple Hardware Test


If that doesn’t help, you could always try a system reinstall (only system stuff will be replaced, all other stuff stays in place).

When no success, I’d really bring it to an Apple store ASAP...
Rahad Jackson wrote:My Awesome Mix Tape #6

SWAN808
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by SWAN808 » Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:03 pm

thanks for this OP...

Can I ask - how do you feel about the responsiveness of Live in OSX vs on PC? I wonder if this is system or OS specific...I might be dreaming but I kind of felt like Live on PC felt more snappy. Also - there has been conflicting reports about the efficiency of Live on OSX...but it is encouraging to hear on your MBP it is fast...

Tarekith
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Re: 2011 MBP 17 so far (mini review)...

Post by Tarekith » Sun Mar 20, 2011 2:43 am

Agreed. Though I've had nothing but really good luck at Apple stores.

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