Compatible Mac, but not new. Any advice?

I’m a Dorico newbie with a shameful confession. I’ve been running 2.2 on a MacBook Pro early 2008, El Capitan. There, I said it.

[Seriously, over the years I have Frankenstein’d the Jesus out of this machine, replaced all sorts of hardware, have opened, cleaned and fixed it many times. It’s been great actually, though of course slower than a new(er) machine would be. I haven’t had need of anything newer, I don’t run all sorts of fancy software or do any gaming, and the money savings of not always buying machines has been well worth it. This gray lady here is not even a portable laptop anymore to me, it has stayed in one place and I have a large external monitor connected. I’ve “come out” to Pianoleo already about this but I thought I’d throw the question wide rather than going on bothering him with PMs (he’s been really sweet about that and says he’ll even test the latest version on an older Mac of his). I hope it’s okay I’m posting this here, if not please let me know where to go. I trust the advice here could help others in anything adjacent to my situation.]

The early 2008 MacBook Pro cannot run Dorico 3 due to it’s architecture, not just because I can’t reliably install Sierra or High Sierra on it. I have been lately trying to do a large opera score in Dorico 2. But I am experiencing unprecedented, truly massive latency (working with such a large score I suppose), plus the lack of a stave condensing feature in D2 is meaning even more work, and thus more latency. It’s just tooooo slow for me to take any longer. (FYI I do have a Dorico 3 license because I started testing and loving D2 right exactly when D3 launched. I only have to download D3, just haven’t because this machine won’t run it.)

I think it is time for me to upgrade to a newer Mac… to a degree. What I mean is, I am not looking for the latest Mac at all. Due to finances I need to get a used or refurb older one. Besides which I want a workhorse like what I have, not some sealed-up non-upgradable monstrosity like I’ve been hearing about (if my ears aren’t mistaken). Back years ago I used to get very Pro-level use out of this machine, Logic and other programs, it’s only by circumstances that I stopped needing the ‘latest thing.’ But now I’m getting more pro jobs. Let me add that I’d prefer a laptop for convenience sake but it isn’t necessary, could be a tower if that’s so much better.

So, can you give me any advice on getting a new-old Mac laptop or tower that will nicely run Dorico 3 and which is a reliable workhorse-type machine in itself? Correct me if I’m wrong but I think running Dorico 3 takes Sierra or higher and a 64-bit Intel, AMD multi-core, or Intel i5 or faster. Maybe it doesn’t need to be so souped up. I have no need to jump right into the brand new Dorico 3.5, I’m happy to start earlier and not pay the fee for the new version at the moment (unless that’s foolish).

A thousand thanks!

I bought a reconditioned 2015 MacBook Pro for my wife the Christmas before last. That’s the last revision before they introduced the Touch Bar and the problematic keyboards, but the spec is still pretty great: quad-core i7 CPU, 512GB flash storage, 8GB RAM. That would be a decent enough machine for running Dorico 3.5. If you can spring for 16GB RAM, you’d be even better off. This was not an inexpensive machine by any means – if I remember correctly I paid around £1200 for it. But that was something like 30-35% cheaper than a brand new MacBook Pro with comparable specs, and the machine has worked brilliantly for the last year. My wife, however, is a photographer rather than a musician, so I can’t say with my hand on my heart that I have actually used Dorico on it, but it does a great job with Photoshop and Lightroom.

The crucial thing is to have a fast, quad-core i7 CPU and at least 8GB RAM. Hopefully you can find a machine of a similar vintage with similar specs that will fit within your budget.

I’d concur with Daniel: the 2015 MBP is a sweetspot between price and usability. You can get 15 inch models with 16Gb Ram on eBay, though choosing one that hasn’t been too ‘used’, and balancing that with a good price, is an art. I’d recommend a 15" for using with Dorico.

You can buy larger SSD blades for that model and fit them yourself, but that’s it. Apple still service the battery (£200), and you don’t want to do this yourself. Really.

The 2014 model is identical, but for the lack of haptic feedback on the Trackpad.

The alternative would be the 2012 Mini, with the top end 2.6 Ghz i7 CPU. You can still open that up and swap in an SSD and add more RAM. The 2014 was massively underpowered.

You could get a 2012 Mac Pro and tinker with it, fitting new 12-core CPUs and GPUs and EDO RAM, flashing the firmware, etc. And PCI cards for Thunderbolt and USB 3. And for BLuetooth and Wifi. And enjoy your electricity bill. :laughing:

I normally update my Macs every six years, so I ought to be looking for a newer laptop, but my 2014 is still good for Dorico.

You can still find a purchaser for your 2008 model, if you present it nicely, so that will offset some of the price.

Great advice so far. Thanks! I probably wouldn’t care about haptic feedback anyway, the simple trackpad itself is an amazing tool already, LOVE not reaching for a mouse. I’d be interested to see if anyone thinks even earlier machines than 2014/15 are well worth it. But what benwiggy says about getting a 2012 Mac Pro and tinkering, that’s a cautionary paragraph right there.

A purchaser for my 2008 model, man I rather doubt that. This thing looks like it has been through the wars. The keyboard no longer backlights and the screen is very dim; I couldn’t figure out either problem and I just have a large monitor as the primary now anyway. The battery blew while out of the machine (thank goodness) some time ago so it’s just plugged into the wall and that’s that. It ain’t pretty but like I said, it has kept me going and it’s been reliable for all that.

If you’re using it with an external monitor already and you’re more or less desk-bound, then I think that makes an even better argument for buying a Mac mini. The brand new Mac minis are veritable powerhouses, but might be outside of your budget. I myself have a 2014 Mac mini as my main home Mac, though since I’ve been working at home these last couple of months I’ve only been using my work-provided MacBook Pro. However, the 2014 Mac mini has pretty much identical performance to the 2015 MacBook Pro, but because you’re not buying a keyboard, display, trackpad etc., it’s a lot cheaper. If you’ve got a workable external display, keyboard, and trackpad already, and you don’t need the Mac for work away from home, then the Mac mini would be the way to go.

Hmmm, interesting! The keyboard and trackpad I’m using are those of the old MacBook Pro. The keys just are no longer backlit. So I guess I’d need to buy some keyboard/trackpad setup to use with a Mini.

You would, it’s true. But an old wired Mac keyboard won’t cost you the earth, and the former generation Magic Trackpad is likewise possible to pick up on eBay for not an enormous amount of money. I have two on my desk here at home, and I think the last one I bought cost me something like £40.

There’s no quadcore 2014 Mini, though. So go for the 2012 or new 2018

Yes, I think perhaps what I have is a late-2012 Mac mini that itself dates from 2014.

That’s a weird technical tidbit I didn’t know about, that benwiggy just pointed out. With 2014 the Mini took a step back, then forward again in 2018?

Yes, in terms of the CPUs that were included. The 2014 Mac mini only had a dual-core CPU. Each core was slightly faster than the previous generation, but the fact that there were only two rather than four cores meant that the muti-core performance of the computer was worse. Dorico does benefit from multiple CPU cores, and I’d definitely recommend a quad-core CPU with a slightly slower clock speed over a slightly faster dual-core CPU for use with Dorico.

Yes, everyone complained about the price of the 2012 Mini, so they dropped the spec to lower the price of the 2014 model. Then everyone complained about the performance of the 2014, so they increased the spec of the 2018 Mini, and …

and yada yada, I see. On just a quick eBay dip before going out to buy making for sauce (I’m good at THAT I can say), I see lots of late-2012 models anywhere from $330(bid) to $900 US, different features of course so I’d be digging through. 2018 prices higher of course but sounds like you guys think there’s not much better about the 2018.

No, the 2018 is an amazing machine. If you’ve got $900 to spend, then you should get the base-level Mini. RAM can be bought afterwards, though it’s “moderately difficult” to install. The storage is soldered, so get more now if you can, though externals can be used for sample libraries, iTunes Libraries, etc.

Or you could get an Apple Refurb, if available; or see if there’s a 2018 Mini on eBay. It’ll be a longer-lasting investment, and you’ll have things like Thunderbolt and USB C.

How much RAM is “enough”?

I bought my Mini with the standard 8GB, and it “wasn’t enough”. Things were a little constrained and tight; and there was a lot of pressure on memory. I’ve since bought 32GB for the Mini, and even though the OS will try to use as much as possible, there’s no pressure whatsoever.

I’d 16 GB is “more than adequate”, as my laptop has that, with very little pressure on memory.

I wouldn’t say that 16 GB is more than adequate - perhaps “adequate” - if you run something like a full score of Hollywood Orchestra with a lot of articulations. Give it props, it does really well for a good long while. But there does comes a point as you add more parts that it start to feel like playing Jenga as far as “when will it fall” :slight_smile: Or actually, stutters.

It’s early days, and I’m on Windows not Mac, but I would suggest the upgrade from Dorico 2.2 to 3.5 will give you more bang for your bucks than spending the same number of bucks on new computer hardware - so long as you have enough hardware to run it, for your definition of “large projects.” It might be useful to post how many staves, bars, and flows is “large” for you, so other people can compare with their experience.

I agree with benwiggy 16 GB is likely to be fine unless you are working on very large projects, or you want to use a huge collection of sample libraries (which I guess is unlikely given your current PC spec and your financial constraints.) I’m running with 32 GB on Windows, but I rarely use more than 16 unless I have some other large apps open at the same time as Dorico.

FWIW my idea of “lots of resources for playback” is a project which needed 6 instances of NotePerformer running simultaneously, but that is probably peanuts compared with a big orchestra sample library!

I have a lot of staves. Don’t have the score in front of me but it’s a full-on opera, think of the orchestra, the cast of voices, even a piano for the piano-vocal score version… a LOT. So of course I want a good deal of processing power.

To be honest I’m not terribly bothered about playback. I want the program to work ideally at optimum while entering notes and dealing with copying and pasting and articulating and all the things that go into making a score.

Daniel, since I want to consider laptops as well as Mini’s, may I ask is this what’s often referred to as the “pre-retina” or no?