Mac Pro 2.66quad vs MacBook 15 Retina 2.7 for Cubase...?

Hi Guys,

It has come time to replace my ageing Mac Pro in my home studio, and I am in a quandry as to what to choose.

Up until now, the sensible choice has always been a Mac Pro, because it allows a number of hard drives (separate drives for audio, and for virtual instruments) to stream at high-speed, which was not possible with a laptop using external USB or firewire drives.

Thunderbolt changes all this, and I’m now wondering whether to replace the Mac Pro with a MacBook Pro 15" Retina, and connect two external drives via Thunderbolt for my audio and virtual instruments…

The alternative is to get a newer Mac Pro, and I’ve noticed a demo 2.66GHz quad at a great price at my Mac dealer.

I’m really not sure which way to go. On the one hand, I like the idea of just one computer (the MacBook 15") for both studio and non-studio work, as it would mean I no longer need my 13" MacBook for non-music related tasks. I also like the idea of the main drive being SSD in the Retina. The MacBook 15" can be specced with 16GB of RAM, letting go of the previous RAM limits of earlier MacBooks. The downside is that external Thunderbolt hard drives are still incredibly expensive, and I’d need two!

On the other hand, the Mac Pro is brilliant in that it can house all the hard drives I need, is expandable port-wise (although is that really such a big deal these days?), and it would mean I have a dedicated computer in the studio just for music, and can keep my non-music stuff separate on my 13" laptop.

I’d love some thoughts on what will do a better job for me in the studio. Perhaps I’ve missed a key benefit of one of the approaches above, that actually puts one option significantly ahead of another!

Keen to hear people’s thoughts, perhaps from people who have had experience running DAWs on both machines I’m looking at.

Thanks guys!


Try to check this thread. Mac Books Pro are using the same i- processors, like iMacs.

In my opinion, iMacs/Mac Books Pro are quite powerfull for todays “normal” using. It depends, how large your projects are? How many tracks? How many effects? Which effects? Etc.

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the link - just had a look and some interesting points there about the difference between Nehalem processors and the i7… it appears that the Nehalem handles multitasking better and this means a better performance for virtual instruments.

I’m currently using parts of Native Instruments Komplete, as well as BFD and Superior Drummer - all of which place a fairly heavy load on the computer. Our projects are reasonably complex too - we usually have to freeze tracks towards the end of the project so that everything will keep running.

There were some interesting views on the fact that the Mac Pro also ventilates a lot better than a MacBook or an iMac and therefore the processor is less likely to heat up under pressure.

I feel that the Mac Pro might be the best option for me at this stage, but really keen to hear other perspectives from other users!


Hi Yeloop,

Agree, Mac Pro is better for pro solution, because of better multitasking on Nahalem processors.

Wait 2 days. There is no any indication, but Apple could introduce something important for you. New iMacs, new Mac Book Airs…? Maybye new iPhone only? Maybye new generation of Macs Pro? Who knows? Anyway, wait to the 12th September.

I wouldn’t buy a MacBook Pro on the promise of Thunderbolt solutions. Thunderbolt devices are rare and expensive at the moment, with no guarantee things will change in the near future…

Morning Martin,

Yeah - that could be a good idea. On the other hand, if a new Mac Pro does launch, it would probably be out of my price bracket to be honest. The Mac Pro 2.66 Quad ex-demo I have seen is an incredibly good price (about 50% of the retail price) and comes with full warranty from the Mac dealer… so I’m very tempted to go that way, especially if the Nehalem processor still puts me in a better position for heavy projects than the i7 does.

Thanks again for your thoughts!



Thanks for your thoughts on this!

Yeah - that is my concerntoo to be honest - at the moment it’s about $699 (Australian) for a dual-drive external hard drive unit that runs on Thunderbolt… massively more expensive than the equivalent in USB!