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#2884572 - 10/12/17 05:09 AM Best laptop for home studio
BuckW Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 06/20/17
Posts: 87
I was going to use a Windows desktop but discovered I only have space for a laptop.

I will be running Presonus Studio One and virtual instruments such as SampleModeling trumpet.

I'm indifferent as to whether or is Windows or Mac.

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KC Island
#2884580 - 10/12/17 05:58 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: BuckW]
Phreakay Offline
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Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 2630
Loc: Australia
Many threads on this topic. HERE is one from a month ago.
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#2884582 - 10/12/17 06:03 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: BuckW]
Dave Weiser Offline
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Registered: 06/30/09
Posts: 1189
Loc: Boston, MA
I purchase literally hundreds of laptops every year for my Broadway and touring theater shows keyboard rigs - a setting where everything has to be perfect.

In general the answer is something like this: MacBook Pro i7 (or a good i5) with the fastest quad processor you can afford, with solid state drive and maxed out RAM.

I realize that these suckers can be pricey. After doing a bunch of research I decided on this company for my own personal MacBook: https://www.macs4u.com
Unit is refurbished, with 15" Retina, 2.2GHz quad core i7, 16GB RAM, 256 GB Solid State Drive, 2 yrs Apple Care, $1699.

New from Apple would have been around $2500, possibly more. I decided the best place (for me) to save $$ was on the hard drive size.

I got mine specced to have Thunderbolt, which is the only format that lets us use Firewire (w RME Fireface interfaces) If you're not using Firewire you probably won't need Thunderbolt.

Sidenote: I recommend running old fashioned MIDI cable from keyboard to interface if possible.

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#2884588 - 10/12/17 07:00 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: BuckW]
Al Coda Offline
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Registered: 08/31/08
Posts: 3899
Loc: out in the sticks
Originally Posted By: BuckW
I was going to use a Windows desktop but discovered I only have space for a laptop.

I will be running Presonus Studio One and virtual instruments such as SampleModeling trumpet.

I'm indifferent as to whether or is Windows or Mac.


I´m in the same situation since my 19" rackmount PCs are in stock after I moved.
But finding the right laptop is a hard task and budget dependent.

In general, all laptops (Apple included) are less powerful than any well built desktop machine using processors w/ same count of CPU cycles.
It´s by reason of power savings and prevention from running too hot.
All the mobile processors come w/ less 3rd level cache than desktop processors because cache eats power and consequently temperatures rise.
Cooling options in portable devices are limited compared to larger desktop towers or 3- or 4-HU rackmount cases.

But when your demands aren´t too high there might be solutions:

a)
investigate in PC gaming laptops when you have some knowledge about changing configuration in BIOS and using portable software from a stick to spy on hardware components build in, drivers installed and so on.

b)
check out what pro DAW builder companies offer as mobile solutions.

ADK offers 4 basic laptop solutions w/ headroom for individual configuration/expansion.

CAS does similar ...

In germany there´s DA-X ...

On laptops there´s USB audio and now also Thunderbolt 3, but then you need such an audio interface,- p.ex. Presonus Quantum which requires a computer motherboard w/ at least Thunderbolt 1 or 2 connectors but doesn´t support Thunderbolt 3 (up to now ?) .

Thunderbolt 1 isn´t faster than USB 3.1 (10GB/sec), Thunderbolt 2 is double speed (20GB/sec) while Thunderbolt 3 is 40GB/sec..
Have in mind these are theoretical values.
thunderbolt data thruput

Scroll down learning which laptops as also motherboards come w/ Thunderbolt (3) today.
I expect we´ll see Thunderbolt 3 audio/MIDI interfaces soon.

When you work w/ p.ex. a RME USB audio interface, you might find a lot of audio-laptop solutions.
Up to now typical spec for USB audio is USB2,- so that´s the bottleneck always until using PCIe or Thunderbolt,.- which technically is PCIe bus too.
USB isn´t !


I´m using Presonus Studio One Pro and don´t have any bad experiences w/ Windows PCs in that regard,- also not w/ Reason and Reaper, NI Komplete, U-He, Waldorf Wave 3V, OP-X Pro II, Memorymoon plugins and so on.

According to Apple/MAC I learned buying older and refurbished models can be a better choice than buying new since they decided to solder/glue RAM (eventually more storage devices too) to the mainboard making the machine not user upgradable and prevents from repairs on component level,- means, you have to buy a complete new mainboard when only 1 RAM-stick fails !
But when you´re used to paying for extended warranty and buy all new every 3-5 years anyway,- Apple/Mac is good.

A.C.

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#2884602 - 10/12/17 07:51 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Dave Weiser]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11109
Originally Posted By: Dave Weiser
I purchase literally hundreds of laptops every year for my Broadway and touring theater shows keyboard rigs - a setting where everything has to be perfect.

What host software are you running on these Macs? Mainstage?

Originally Posted By: Dave Weiser
Sidenote: I recommend running old fashioned MIDI cable from keyboard to interface if possible.

Don't let Markay hear you say that! ;-)
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#2884603 - 10/12/17 07:56 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Al Coda]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2122
Loc: NYC area
Older Mac laptops, ones you can add ram and change hard drives without getting a second mortgage, might be preferable to the OP if he doesn't need movie-score-level VI real-time workability.

You want to get something that works for right now and the immediate future? Or something that you can squeeze 5+ years out of? I used my 2007 MacBook Pro until 2014 running a decent-sized VI rig at a 128 buffer. I might still be using it if Apple didn't swap it for my present late-2013 MBP after a glitch with a repair job they did.

It's about budget and workflow needs. If you have the cash, get the newest & best-spec'ed laptop you can and it should last you a long while. I would first ensure your current gear is connectable – you may be dealing with adapter cables & dongles! Also, newer laptops that won't load older OS versions might force you to upgrade other hardware – if drivers aren't there for what you currently have.

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#2884694 - 10/12/17 06:59 PM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Reezekeys]
RABid Offline
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Posts: 12092
I've been happy with my ADK though it is MUCH thicker than a MacBookPro.

Still love my MacBookPro. It is getting some age on it and I thought about buying a new one but I'm reading lots of complaints about the new models. I'll wait until they change some things before I upgrade.

One big difference, a 2TB SSK for a Windows notebook is around $500. If you follow the upgrade path on a MBP all the way up to a 2TB fully SSD Apple is charging about $2000.
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#2884728 - 10/12/17 09:41 PM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: AnotherScott]
Phreakay Offline
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Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 2630
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: AnotherScott
Originally Posted By: Dave Weiser
I purchase literally hundreds of laptops every year for my Broadway and touring theater shows keyboard rigs - a setting where everything has to be perfect.

What host software are you running on these Macs? Mainstage?

Originally Posted By: Dave Weiser
Sidenote: I recommend running old fashioned MIDI cable from keyboard to interface if possible.

Don't let Markay hear you say that! ;-)


Ahh Scott, I was going to let that go through to the keeper, but now you mention it smile

It is not a case of substituting one type of cable for another.

All modern controllers can be USB powered. So one USB 'A' to 'B' cable and you have power and midi taken care of.

Using 5 pin midi cables requires, 5 pin to midi interface, the interface, same USB 'B' to 'A' cable that I use, I guess we assume the interface is USB powered?, if so also a wall wart or in line lump to power the controller or two of those if the interface is powered separately.

That's a lot of extra complications simply to switch the USB B connector from the controller to the midi interface.

For those worried about USB B connector on their controller there is a simple solution, use a right angle connector and gaffer tape the cord to the controller several inches away from the plug so it cannot be accidently dislodged.

I'm guessing Dave loads in a complex setup at the beginning of a show and leaves it set up for many days. Also uses several boards some which may not support USB midi. So some extra devices, cabling and power are not an issue in that scenario.

For a club/pub band or touring muso who like to travel light the USB solution is ideal.

_________________________
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#2884774 - 10/13/17 07:40 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Phreakay]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2122
Loc: NYC area
Originally Posted By: Phreakay
For those worried about USB B connector on their controller there is a simple solution, use a right angle connector and gaffer tape the cord to the controller several inches away from the plug so it cannot be accidently dislodged.

Hmmm... where have I seen that suggestion before? smile

Yea I'm a proponent of USB midi over 5-pin for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Less cabling, less doodads to deal with. Plus, on my A800 I have two virtual midi cables (32 channels) over USB – a feature I actually use!

As I said in that thread, I'm planning on installing a second USB jack in my new A800 – one that's mounted to the keyboard body, not the main circuit board. I'm hopeful that will make the connection more solid. 5-pin midi has the edge for mechanical reliability right now, at least on my keyboard. I'll guess that most manufacturers of these controllers don't see them as instruments to tour or gig with, as I do.

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#2884777 - 10/13/17 07:56 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Reezekeys]
Phreakay Offline
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Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 2630
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: Reezekeys
Originally Posted By: Phreakay
For those worried about USB B connector on their controller there is a simple solution, use a right angle connector and gaffer tape the cord to the controller several inches away from the plug so it cannot be accidently dislodged.

Hmmm... where have I seen that suggestion before? smile

Yea I'm a proponent of USB midi over 5-pin for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Less cabling, less doodads to deal with. Plus, on my A800 I have two virtual midi cables (32 channels) over USB – a feature I actually use!


Missed that detail in the recent pic, it is also what I do but I remove the USB cable for transport as when connected it projects out of the rear of the Axiom, and if left in at risk of being punched through the rear of the controller. I use a soft case.

The right angle and gaffer tape solution came from your earlier thread where you discussed having to replace the USB B port on the A800.

One day USB B will be replaced by USB-C giving manufacturers far more flexibility in where the port is located, hopefully they take into account heavy duty touring requirements.
_________________________
MainStage | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P
"He helped me onto the bottom rung as a musician, from which, I might add, I never ascended" Glyn Johns - Sound Man

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#2884783 - 10/13/17 08:34 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Phreakay]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
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Loc: NYC area
Originally Posted By: Phreakay
One day USB B will be replaced by USB-C giving manufacturers far more flexibility in where the port is located, hopefully they take into account heavy duty touring requirements.

I'm not sure what you mean about USB-C giving more flexibility in where the port can be located. Aren't the options to panel or PCB mount a jack available to either type? What's the diff in the C-type that makes it more flexible as to location?

As I've said before, I think it was because the USB jack was mounted to the circuit board that it failed. With the cable moving even a little, the inner connectors of the jack are flexed. The jack itself is soldered to the board and can't move, so those inside parts move and eventually the casing of the jack comes apart as you can see in my video on that thread. Wouldn't USB-C jacks soldered directly to a circuit board be subject to the same life-shortening forces? I do think it's possible that a panel mount jack can be stressed by cable movement, but at least the fix won't involve removing the main board, desoldering the old jack and soldering a new one in. If you look a bit further down the thread, there's a pic of a Neutrik USB panel mount jack that uses a D-shaped housing. I'm betting (hoping!) that using that with the appropriate mating connector will be much more reliable.

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#2884786 - 10/13/17 08:46 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Phreakay]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11109
Originally Posted By: Phreakay
All modern controllers can be USB powered. So one USB 'A' to 'B' cable and you have power and midi taken care of.

I'm not denying that USB can be more convenient.

That said, not everyone uses a USB powered controller. A lot of people actually run Mainstage (or whatever) from their workstations/synths, not USB-powerable.

Originally Posted By: Phreakay
Using 5 pin midi cables requires, 5 pin to midi interface, the interface, same USB 'B' to 'A' cable that I use, I guess we assume the interface is USB powered?, if so also a wall wart or in line lump to power the controller or two of those if the interface is powered separately.

That's a lot of extra complications simply to switch the USB B connector from the controller to the midi interface.

Other than the possibility of not having to run power to your controller, I don't see where there's more complication. Just use something like this instead of your USB cable, done...

The only "complication" is, if your controller is also a sound source, you need to connect the In and Out which means plugging in the two connectors instead of one on the keyboard side of your cable. (Of course, if you're using a controller that is a sound source, it almost certainly wouldn't be one that could draw power from USB, either.)

Originally Posted By: Phreakay
For those worried about USB B connector on their controller there is a simple solution, use a right angle connector and gaffer tape the cord to the controller several inches away from the plug so it cannot be accidently dislodged.

OTOH, this...
http://forums.musicplayer.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2880644/Controller_keyboards_and_their
He tried his best! I don't think anyone is going to deny that 5-pin DIN is simply a more rugged connector.

Of course I'm not saying USB is not usable (or that it can be more convenient), I'm just saying there's a trade-off. It's a less robust connection, and as discussed in our earlier conversation, although you may not believe it, people do occasionally run into ground hum issues with USB which are not an issue with standard MIDI. Sure, you can address these things if need be. But rather than even having to think about possibly strain-reliefing or ground-lifting a cable, i.e. of fixing the possible problems you might run into with USB, you could just use regular MIDI and avoid the possibility of these problems altogether. The biggest benefit of USB would seem to be to not have to run a separate power cord to your controller, and that's valuable, and I could see where someone would say that's worth the minor trade-offs, but if your controller requires its own AC regardless, I'm not sure there's any advantage.
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#2884980 - 10/14/17 08:00 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: AnotherScott]
Phreakay Offline
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Registered: 01/28/12
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USB B connectors have been around for 15 years or more and I suspect that there are many millions more USB B jacks in use day in and out than 5 pin midi jacks, given the diverse range of devices that offer only USB B as a connection option.

A meaningful measure to support your hypothesis would be the failure rate for USB B ports per thousand times a cable is inserted and removed, compared with that for 5 midi.

If USB B connectors are as prone to failure as you suggest you would think that controller manufacturers would have been overwhelmed with warranty claims by now and stopped installing them and reverted back to "robust" 5 pin midi.

As for ground midi ground hum, if it really is the ever present danger you suggest, then surely controller manufacturers would include warnings in their manuals and on their tech support sites.

We have rep from Kawai here, maybe James could chime in and let us know how frequently Kawai get support calls from owners of the VPC1 related to midi ground hum when midi over USB is used.

Some factual evidence on the incidence of this peril would surely help us put it into perspective.
_________________________
MainStage | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P
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#2884993 - 10/14/17 10:19 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Phreakay]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11109
Originally Posted By: Phreakay
USB B connectors have been around for 15 years or more and I suspect that there are many millions more USB B jacks in use day in and out than 5 pin midi jacks, given the diverse range of devices that offer only USB B as a connection option.

A meaningful measure to support your hypothesis would be the failure rate for USB B ports per thousand times a cable is inserted and removed, compared with that for 5 midi.

Plugging a USB cable into your printer is something you do once and basically never touch. Even for things you connect/disconnect periodically, it's a very different environment. Plugging (and unplugging) a USB cable into a gigging board is something you do every gig, but more than that, it's often in rushed/harried circumstances, with poor lighting, on stages where people routinely step on, pull on, and bang into things. Really, in every field, you have a choice between using "home" gear that has a higher failure rate if used in "pro" environments, or you can use the pro stuff that's built to be knocked around, this is just one more example. It's like using 1/8" headphone jacks as line outs. Can you use them on a gig? Absolutely. Are they as robust as a pair of 1/4" or XLR connectors? No. Does it matter? More to some people, less so to others. I've used 1/8" jacks and accepted the compromise/risk, but did not fool myself into thinking it was ideal.

Originally Posted By: Phreakay
If USB B connectors are as prone to failure as you suggest you would think that controller manufacturers would have been overwhelmed with warranty claims by now and stopped installing them and reverted back to "robust" 5 pin midi.

First, many controllers--likely the vast majority--are used in home studios rather than on stages, so that's more like the USB printer or other home/office device scenario. The reason I say vast majority is that there are more musicians playing at home than on stages, and also, from everything I've seen, most gigging players are still using boards with built in sounds. (Even players who use computers seem to often drive them from boards with built-in sounds, though in that case, it's hard to be sure which connection they are using.)

Second, even in stage use, "prone to failure" is a relative term. I'm not saying by any means that USB connections are likely to fail, not at all! Only that they are more likely to fail than a standard MIDI jack. People on this board and elsewhere have complained about failing USB jacks, but never a MIDI jack as far as I've seen. I don't know the odds, but over years of gigging, all else being equal, I'd rather have basically a 0% chance of connector failure than even a 1% chance.

Just like the 1/8" jack, I"m not saying to never use USB, there are times when it's the only/best option. I'm just saying, if there's a choice, I'd rather use the more robust connection if available. Why not? Especially in the cases where it doesn't even save you from running an extra power cable (i.e. your running from a synth/workstation that has to be plugged in anyway)?

Originally Posted By: Phreakay
As for ground midi ground hum, if it really is the ever present danger you suggest, then surely controller manufacturers would include warnings in their manuals and on their tech support sites.

I don't know how common it is, but it definitely happens. Click: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=USB+MIDI+hum
And it is solvable. But it's just one more possible pitfall you can avoid with a standard MIDI connection.

Originally Posted By: Phreakay
We have rep from Kawai here, maybe James could chime in and let us know how frequently Kawai get support calls from owners of the VPC1 related to midi ground hum when midi over USB is used.

Some factual evidence on the incidence of this peril would surely help us put it into perspective.

Well, here's a page where Mike Martin (Casio) talks about the issue, and how he's experienced it himself...
http://www.casiomusicforums.com/index.php?/topic/6351-usb-audio-ouput-ground-noise/

But the other link will show that it's been discussed by many people, in many forums, with all different gear.

But we've been through all that before. I think you're not going to believe it happens until it happens to you. ;-)

ETA: It's also possible that the USB hum thing may be a non-issue if you are using a keyboard that gets its power from USB and is not, itself, plugged into AC...?


Edited by AnotherScott (10/14/17 12:42 PM)
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#2885002 - 10/14/17 11:15 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: AnotherScott]
KorgyPorky Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/03/17
Posts: 40
I would have said macbook..
Which probably is what i would advise

But specifically a windows system..
Did you consider a small micro atx case with a ryzen 7 1700x processor?
It would allow you to add a big touchscreen and a small keyboard..
The micro atx case can be easilly hung under the desk

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#2885018 - 10/14/17 01:00 PM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: AnotherScott]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2122
Loc: NYC area
I'm kinda with Scott on this one, even as an avowed user of USB. As I've posted about, I'm planning on installing a custom USB jack on my A800 that will hopefully mitigate some of the issues I faced. There's no doubt in my mind that the 5-pin connector is less prone to failure. The USB "B" jack in particular has a center part with four contacts, and any cable you plug into it seems to have more play than with other types of connectors. That middle part eventually loosens if the cable you connect to it is stressed or moved and weighs on the internals of the jack. As Scott said, with a printer or other stationary item this is not much of an issue, but with keyboards on a gig, it is – at least in my experience. Plugging, unplugging, and cable movement will eventually do it.

Still – having said all this, I really don't want to start with 5-pin midi. Mostly because of the added awkwardness of having to hook up a wall wart to my A800 to power it, and having my MOTU midi interface dangling off the SKB laptop case that's sitting on my bass amp. It just looks bad, but mostly it's the drag of having more cables & gear to set up. I like the single USB cable that takes care of everything. The only weak link, imo, is the jack – so I'm gonna give it the old college try and see if my theory about why it's failed and how I can prevent that is true or not. Stay tuned.


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#2885056 - 10/14/17 05:21 PM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: AnotherScott]
Phreakay Offline
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Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 2630
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: AnotherScott

ETA: It's also possible that the USB hum thing may be a non-issue if you are using a keyboard that gets its power from USB and is not, itself, plugged into AC...?

Now we are on the same page. And don't forget that audio interfaces like the Focusrite I currently use, or the Fastrack before, are also USB powered. No option for a separate power supply. And the USB B port gets connected and disconnected just as many times as my controller.

The fit into the Focusrite's USB B port is very tight and engages with a click when fully inserted. You could grab the other end of the USB cable and swing the Focusrite round your head and it would not disengage.

So yes there are USB B ports that are a sloppy fit, and there are some that aren't.
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"He helped me onto the bottom rung as a musician, from which, I might add, I never ascended" Glyn Johns - Sound Man

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#2885656 - 10/18/17 07:37 AM Re: Best laptop for home studio [Re: Phreakay]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 11109
Originally Posted By: Phreakay
If USB B connectors are as prone to failure

BTW, the issue isn't just the USB B connectors. The USB A on the laptop side is not the most rugged, either. I was reminded of this by J. Dan's post #2885636 in the thread at http://forums.musicplayer.com/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/2885636/

In fact, I've had two laptops where a USB port got flakey.

But yeah, unlike on the keyboard side, you pretty much have no choice on the computer side. Sometimes you just have to live with the compromises.
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