Buying laptop for live 10 - questions about required specs (CPU, clock speed, etc) and determining real-time performance

Discussion of anything not related to audio or music production
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:25 pm

Buying laptop for live 10 - questions about required specs (CPU, clock speed, etc) and determining real-time performance

Post by vamos_todos » Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:54 pm


A few days ago my laptop broke and I’m currently looking for a replacement.

Looking to spend €1200 at most. The only heavy lifting will be Live 10. Preferably a recent (8th or 9th) generation i7 processor (I'm under the impression that i7 is more desireable than i5), 16 GB of ram w/ decent speed, 256 GB SSD is plenty for me. Ideally 14 inch or less - given that I’ll also be using it for college, portability is a plus, but willing to consider a 15 inch that satisfies all my wishes for a good price. Don’t care much about thickness, but nothing overly bulky. I value good construction and decent cooling (duh?). Don’t care about 2-1 features / touch-screen. Don’t care about a good graphic card as I’m inclined to believe I won’t need it for my purposes, and they negatively impact system temperature and/or battery life. A relatively silent fan would be a nice bonus. Expect to hook it up to ext monitor half of the time.

I’m open to going Mac, including refurbished, but have yet to look into them further. Also considering getting a custom build from e.g. PC specialist, but have read mixed reviews in terms of quality.

Here is what I’m currently considering, ... ifications (€1059) ... ifications (€1049) ... ifications (€999) ... ifications - (€949) ... ifications (€999 pro’s: 9th gen i7, decent specs for the price. cons: semi whacky design, unnecessary graphics processor, bit too bulky) ... ifications - (€1199) pro’s: decent specs. Cons: relatively pricey compared to other builds?

All of the models I’m currently eyeing are somewhat in the same ballpark as far as specs go - 8th or 9th gen i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, enough SSD storage, etcetera. However, I’m set on making an informed decision w.r.t audio performance - my workflow is based exclusively around live 10 - I’m not very well-versed in the current state of PC tech, and I’m unsure on two points:

First, I stumbled upon this informative video ( which argues that ultimately DAW performance is often bottlenecked by (poor) real-time performance rather than CPU performance - From what I gathered, a more powerful CPU does not necessarily yield better DAW performance if its efficiency is constrained by the underlying computer architecture - i.e. a very powerful CPU is useless if it’s temporarily “locked up” by another process or device.

That being said, is it still possible to tell whether a system has good real-time performance based on the specs - processor, number of cores, clock speed, RAM - alone, or does it really come down to the nitty gritty intricacies of the motherboard and the linkages between components? I want to incorporate this concept of real-time performance into my decision-making process but am unsure how as I don’t really know what governs it. I would really appreciate any insights on this.

Second, to what extent should I value the amount of cores over clock speed of said cores? Full disclosure - there is a section on the Ableton website covering this very topic, I read it, and it notes the following:
More cores, slower clock speed

Live supports multi-threading, therefore the more cores are available, the more efficient it will be when working with larger sets with higher track counts, or when working with large instrument or effect racks.
You'll probably be able to run more apps in conjunction with Live without seeing performance drops.
Lower single-threaded performance than a higher clock speed processor.

Fewer cores, higher clock speed

Better single threaded performance.
Fewer cores to split between applications.
Not as strong multi-threading performance.
(see: ... uld-I-buy-)

Nevertheless, I’m still a fair bit unsure on what I should go for - the Live article suggest to go for the highest number of cores / highest clock speed that one can afford, but so far my experience is that manufacturers tend to value the no. of cores at the expense of the clock speed, or vice versa - an optimal combination of high clock speed and a high amount of cores does not seem feasible (or at least, not for my budget). In that respect. I’m curious to hear about your individual experiences regarding this, and whether you noticed a notable worsening / improvement after switching to a different system. Ableton suggests to get a system with a clock speed of at least 2 GHz, so that will likely be my lower bound.

Speaking of which, many retailers seem to list a base clock speed of say 1.8 GHz and a turbo speed of say 4.5 GHz - which of these metrics is the most meaningful, and would a 1.8 GHz w/ a turbo speed of 4.5 GHz suffice? So far, I haven't seen many windows systems under €1200 with processors that have more than 2 GHz base clock speed, whereas almost all macs seem to have processors well in the 2.3-3.3 GHz range, albeit at the expense of less cores (dualcore systems, mostly). Would that be a valid reason to look into a Mac system instead?

In a sense, it seems hard to believe that a 2019, 1k laptop with the specs mentioned above would struggle to run live 10 smoothly, but I'd rather be confident. For what it's worth, most of the windows sytems I'm currently eyeing either have a i7 8550U or a i7 8565U, but I'm not sure how to compare these. I plan on ordering the Lenovo Thinkbook, take it for a test drive or two and see how it holds up. Nevertheless, I would really appreciate any insights regarding this, and perhaps other can also benefit from this discussion. Thanks!

Posts: 4105
Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 4:50 am

Re: Buying laptop for live 10 - questions about required specs (CPU, clock speed, etc) and determining real-time perform

Post by fishmonkey » Wed Aug 21, 2019 11:19 pm

as your post suggests, there are no simple answers.

some comments though:

- you cannot tell from component specs alone whether a system will exhibit good real-time behaviour, here you need to mostly rely on the empirical experience of others

- the amount of CPU power and RAM you need depend on what tools you use for music production, i.e. do you use a lot of CPU-hungry virtual instruments or effects, and/or a lot of large sample-based instruments?

- Turbo CPU clock speeds usually only apply to a single-core, as too much heat would be generated if all cores clocked up to Turbo speeds.

- any high performance laptop is going to have a significant amount of fan noise when the CPU is being pushed hard, although obviously some machines will be louder than others

- some laptops suffer more from thermal throttling (this is where the CPU clock speeds are reduced because the cooling system is unable to dissipate the heat effectively enough)
badbrainz wrote: I'm a drummer, so I'm already at an intellectual disadvantage here

Post Reply