Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

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PRYAM
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:07 pm

Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

Post by PRYAM » Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:57 am

Hi everyone, Has anyone experience of using Live on a Microsoft Surface (or similar) and any recommendations/observations if so?

Thanks a lot.

antic604
Posts: 579
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:14 am
Location: Warsaw, Poland

Re: Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

Post by antic604 » Thu Sep 07, 2017 8:20 am

PRYAM wrote:Hi everyone, Has anyone experience of using Live on a Microsoft Surface (or similar) and any recommendations/observations if so?

Thanks a lot.
Yes, I've been a very happy owner of Surface Pro 4 i7 8/256Gb since 3 months!

It works really well for me although you need to be aware of certain things:

- Surface Pro is the most powerful in this tablet / touch-screen form factor, but most gaming (or regular 'thick') laptops will give you more processing power, simply because Surface uses a low-power dual core CPUs; it's still plenty powerful for my needs (my latest project is 26 tracks, lots of automation, effects, etc. 100% MIDI all internal devices + few MaxForLive ones) and it hovers around 35-40%. Before using it, you need to tweak power management profiles, so that your CPU doesn't get down-clocked when it's not used to the max, because that's a killer for realtime audio; those tweaks are also important if you'd like to use it while not connected to the power plug / mains - the project I mentioned jumps to 50-55% when off the grid and works fine; also a lot of supposedly performance hungry VSTs - like u-he's Bazille or iZotope Neutron - take little toll on it, so I think it'll scale well, at least for my limited needs :)

- out-of-the-box it only has one USB port, so it's pretty limited as to what you can connect to it - a MIDI keyboard? a Push? an audio interface? obviously, you can buy a USB hub to increase the amount of ports and I'd suggest a powered one if you want to do it,

- internal audio is pretty good, so most of the time I don't even bother attaching the audio interface only when I want to focus on mixing or use my bigger headphones: the 250Ohm DT990Pro-s play just fine from built-in audio jack, but not loudly enough for mixing or sound design,

- the screen on Surface is awesome, but Live on Win10 has a problem with high-DPI screens (so you'll have this issue with all small, high-resolution laptops): you can either have a blurry Live UI and plugins of correct size, or pin-sharp Live UI and small plug-ins; hopefully Live10 fixes that... also 12.3' is not a lot, so if you have problems with sight you might want to consider something bigger anyway,

- obviously Surface pro is a touch device and great one at that (it replaced my Android tablet for typical e-mail/web + media consumption stuff), but Live is really poor at supporting this - most things are too small, you need to fiddle with options.txt to enable relative mouse mode, etc. It can work, but I don't think it's any better that keyboard + trackpad which both work great for Live. If you want to know how touch can really work well in a DAW, check out Bitwig Studio,

Having said that, you really should think of what you need. I'm a 41 years old hobbyist musician with full-time job and 3 kids and don't have a lot of time for music, therefore I needed something small & portable, so that I could quickly pull it out once in a while when I have some spare time, connect my Arturia MiniLab & play with it and then hide back in the closet when done :) Also I wanted a replacement for my tablet, which I gave to one of my daughters. It's a beautiful machine, really well-made and works like a dream, but might not be for everyone. If you need more power and connectivity options a bigger, quad-core 15-17' laptop might be better option for you. For me, regular laptop seemed big & clunky in comparison and the smaller alternatives (like MacBook Pro '13 or Dell XP13) were still too unwieldy and with similar performance profile (dual-core, low-power CPUs) and cost.


BTW, here's the track I mentioned - my first finished piece after almost 18 years of silence: https://soundcloud.com/antic604/2017-antic604-wormhole

Patrice_Peyret
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Joined: Fri Sep 08, 2017 2:47 pm
Location: San Francisco, CA

Re: Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

Post by Patrice_Peyret » Sat Sep 09, 2017 9:22 pm

Ableton is perfectly fine with any modern Windows 10 laptop. I have not tried to use it via the touch screen interface though (I still use a mouse and keyboard)

I run Ableton Live on a Surface Book. The only word of caution I would have is that some midi controllers (like the Akai MPK249) seem to be having issues with the USB 3 ports on a lot of recent laptops. It shouldn't be the case because a device that was designed in the days of USB 2.0 should also work when connected to a USB 3.0 port, but it seems that the Windows drivers for a lot of midi controllers have not been properly debugged.

If the midi controller you intend to use is portable, I would recommend bringing it to a Microsoft store to verify that it will work with the various laptops they have on display.

Vice-versa, if you buy your laptop first and then decide to buy a midi controller, go to the nearest music store with your laptop and try various midi controllers in the store to make sure the one you want to buy will work.

That's it. USB 3 possibly an issue, but not with all midi controllers.

antic604
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:14 am
Location: Warsaw, Poland

Re: Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

Post by antic604 » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:36 am

I love it when someone comes here, asks a question and then doesn't even bother to follow up :(

LeftHandSuzukiMethod
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Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:06 am

Re: Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

Post by LeftHandSuzukiMethod » Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:43 pm

I've been having issues with audio latency while recording on my Surface Book i7 with performance base, any tips on how to get this problem reduced to a manageable point? I'm a recent MacBook Pro convert and am hoping the change to windows I wasn't a catastrophic mistake! Thanks in advance for any help.

Stromkraft
Posts: 7033
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:34 am

Re: Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

Post by Stromkraft » Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:59 am

LeftHandSuzukiMethod wrote:I've been having issues with audio latency while recording on my Surface Book i7 with performance base, any tips on how to get this problem reduced to a manageable point? I'm a recent MacBook Pro convert and am hoping the change to windows I wasn't a catastrophic mistake! Thanks in advance for any help.
You don't mention your audio interface nor your buffer settings, which would have been helpful. I think the mistake may have been moving from a quadcore (if you had a 15") to a duocore. Unless one relies on hardware instruments I think using a duocore is a mistake when it comes to music production. It will of course take you somewhere, but Live quite often needs all the CPU it can get.
Make some music!

Stromkraft
Posts: 7033
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:34 am

Re: Laptop alternatives (Microsoft Surface etc.)?

Post by Stromkraft » Sun Oct 22, 2017 3:02 am

Patrice_Peyret wrote:Ableton is perfectly fine with any modern Windows 10 laptop. I have not tried to use it via the touch screen interface though (I still use a mouse and keyboard)
I think that blanket statement is both naive and frivolous. All Windows machines are not optimal for music production.
Make some music!

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