Tips for buying new computer?

Hi all,

I realize this could be quite a contentious issue! I’m looking at buying a new computer. I’ve had a MacBook Pro since 2012 or 2013 and she is getting fairly slow and finicky, and I am considering (a) getting a desktop and (b) MAYBE getting a PC, because I’ve heard from some sources that both of those things can be better for music production and composing (well I can certainly see how the desktop, with a larger screen, full keyboard, and mouse could be more convenient, but I know less about the PC question). I’ve had Macs for quite a while, and I have an iPhone, so I’m concerned about all the difficulties that could arise from making the switch to PC, but I also don’t like the idea of being beholden to Apple simply because I’m used to it, if it’s no longer the best product and if it’s way overpriced. I’m certainly not a professional level music producer, but I would like a computer that would give me room to grow in my work in that realm, as well as in the realm of composing/engraving. Another primary consideration is that I’m a piano teacher, which is now all on Zoom (for the foreseeable future here in the grand old USA), so having a decent camera and video possibilities would be good.

One other question. If I buy the new Dorico 3.5 with my Mac and then buy a new PC (or a new Mac for that matter), will I be able to transfer it over?

Long story short, I think I would feel more comfortable just sticking with Mac because I like it’s overall vibe/look and I’m more comfortable with using its interface, but if you all deluge me with reasons not to do so, I’ll reconsider. Thanks.

I believe that you can transfer the license.

There’s nothing wrong with being ‘beholden’ to a product if you like it, know how to use it, and have a legacy of application software, scripts, workflows, knowledge, peripherals etc. Remember to factor changing any of those in to the price.

A Mac Mini is a competitive desktop machine for music production. And so you can have whatever screen and keyboard you like, just as with a Windows desktop. (You can of course plug a screen and keyboard into a Mac laptop, too.)

The over-priced myths are largely myths: for comparable spec, Apple are not much more expensive. Compare Dell or HP laptops with Retina screens, Thunderbolt, similar i9 CPUs: and you’re in the same ballpark. They’ll even gouge you for extra RAM and storage, just the same!

You get more choice of hardware with a Windows setup, certainly. And you’ll certainly be able to get something else that does what you want for less. Some people espouse building your own desktop rig. But when something goes wrong, you are the support engineer.

Macs have traditionally been used in music because there’s low hardware latency, and you don’t have all the messing about with audio drivers that seems part and parcel of Windows life.
Macs tend to hold their value secondhand, too. I just sold a 2012 MBP on eBay for £450 – (which surprised me). I tend to sell my old kit to put towards the new one.

The case for the prosecution will be along in a minute! :laughing:

Unless one is depending on the on-computer eLicense, one can install Dorico on any machine and then transfer the USB eLicenser to the machine one wants to use for Dorico.

You can transfer the soft license to a new computer, too, by requesting new activation codes.

I’m not going to argue with that, but it tends to introduce artificial definitions of “comparable.”

AFAIK you can’t get a Mac with an AMD Ryzen processor for example. And taking your Mac Mini as a baseline, if you want to use more than one display it looks as if you are forced to use thunderbolt interfaces, even if you don’t need them. Four HDMI displays are arguably a more flexible configuration than one huge retina screen for example.

Price comparisons are fairly arbitrary, when for example Apple is selling identical spec Mac Minis for USD799 in the USA, and GBP799 in the UK. That’s a 30% price difference at current exchange rates.

My last two Windows PCs came from a UK company that builds its own range (which is as customizable as you like) at prices that are certainly no higher than “big brand name high street” prices - and they come with a five year hardware guarantee, unlike most big brand names. Full disclosure - I don’t know how good the guarantee service really is, because I’ve never needed to use it.

Rob, the latest version of Thunderbolt is basically compatible with every USB-C monitor under the sun. One can pick up a cable that has HDMI on one end and USB-C on the other, for less than £/$20, and it will work with basically any monitor with an HDMI port.

As to the price difference, prices don’t include sales tax whereas prices do include VAT. That’s not to say that there isn’t a price difference - of course there is - but a goodly proportion of it is nothing to do with Apple charging what a market will stand.

Mac doesn’t get in your way, it just lets you do the work. My previous mac was never reinstalled in 8 years. Bought it, set it up, used it and abused it (I’m an IT pro, my got how much stuff I installed on that poor thing!). It traveled with me a lot, across Africa, the Middle East, USA and Europe. That mac was my bread and butter. And it works to this day. A lot of money? Yes. Expensive? Nope.

I now have a 2019 model. I hated the keyboard (but the 2020 model should improve in this area) and the lack of magsafe. Most of all, I hated that it’s a sealed box (I moded the old one quite a bit - from RAM to SSD and even 2nd HDD in place of DVD). But I got used to it and I’m a happy user, even though my samples are now on an external HDD.

Oh, and I used many other systems, from HW and SW point of view. I really wanted linux to make it many moons ago. I was working on Windows from NT 4.0 to Vista. Windows 10? With its unavoidable telemetry? Thanks, but no thanks!

The UK price includes VAT at 20%. US prices are listed without whatever Sales Taxes you have to pay. There may be tariffs and other costs to the UK market.

The Mini has 1 HDMI port and 4 USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, each of which can have a DVI or HDMI or DisplayPort connection on the other end of the cable/adaptor.

As for user-swappable parts: yes, they’re nice - speaking as someone who built a PowerMac 7600 from scrap parts. But soldered memory can be lower-powered and lower in height in laptops. Most problems of memory going ‘bad’ is usually the connectors on the module, rather than silicon itself. There’s loads of things that used to be separate components that aren’t separate anymore. (Remember when you could replace your own valves, until someone put the transistors all on one silicon wafer? :laughing: )

I switched from Windows to Apple at the same time I bought my initial iteration of Dorico, and am very happy I made the switch. (I had been an apple user for years and had switched to Windows along about Sibelius 4 or so for various reasons including price.

If you price out a good Windows machine (HP, etc. – NOT Dell, I will never buy another Dell) with comparable specs similar to the nearest equivalent Mac machine, you’ll find not much difference in actual price, as others above have said. Even going with a low-price line like Lenovo (as I did last time) doesn’t in the end really saver you that much.

I would strongly recommend NOT going with a desktop. You can hook up whatever monitor (or other peripheral) you want to a MacBook Pro and if you happen to need to get suddenly portable for some reason, you’re already there.

Thanks, all. Somehow my email didn’t show me that there had been any replies to this and I was like “Wow, I’m kind of surprised no-one has any opinions on this one”. How wrong I was!

I think I’m leaning toward sticking with Mac. I appreciate the idea of there being value in being familiar with an interface or way of doing things, and the time and frustration that will save in the long run. My impression is that, if I were a big computer/IT wiz, a PC might be more fun/exciting in its potential for customization, etc, but that is definitely not me. I would like room to grow with what I’m doing with composing and recording, but my setup is nowhere near the level of sophistication/complexity some of you seem to be referring to, so probably won’t be big problem.

Now the other question: desktop vs. laptop. Thanks, for your thoughts, L38. Anybody else? I definitely do like the idea of being able to take my laptop on trips, perhaps composing in an idyllic lake/seaside cabin a la Mahler, but so far such instances have been very rare to nonexistent! My understanding is that you can get a lot more power and bang for your buck with a Mac Mini, for example, than a new MBP. Perhaps I could keep my current MBP and just sort of clear off a lot of stuff on it so that I could use it for trips, residencies (only done one in my life, but perhaps I’ll do another), etc. I’m not sure if I’d be able to have Dorico, Logic, etc. on both the laptop and desktop though. On a related note, maybe this is a dumb question, but is it possible to travel with a Mac Mini, perhaps using my laptop as the monitor for it?

There’s no point in carrying a Mini and using your laptop as its screen. Laptops are more expensive, but a lot of that is the display.

If your MBP doesn’t have an SSD, then fit one. That will massively transform its speed, and it may still be viable for a year or two. Or, sell it on eBay, and put the money towards a new one.

If you’ve bought Logic on the App Store, you can use it on up to 5 Macs.

I don’t think I’ve used a desktop since early 2000s… I’m sure there are specific use cases where you might want one, but even there, most resource intensive workloads are moving to the cloud anyway. Not sure if music is there yet, but film rendering is.

So really, the question is, do you need a desktop for something a laptop can’t do? Otherwise it’s just a nobrainer.

If you want a desktop-sized display (i.e. multiple large screens), a full size keyboard with keypad, and a traditional style mouse rather than a fiddly trackpad (plus desktop space for a decent MIDI keyboard, speakers, etc), why spend more money cramming all the computer electronics into a tiny box that has fewer and more expensive options if you want to upgrade it or need to repair it?

Well, you can have all of the peripherals connected to a laptop, but it’s damn uncomfortable working on a zofa with a desktop PC in your lap :wink:

More importantly, sitting at a desk is actually terrible for humans. Reclined sitting is much healthier. I mostly work reclined with my laptop. If home office is gonna last a bit longer, I’ll consider buying one of these

I ignore gurus on the web who are trying to sell me something, and just listen to what my own body is telling me.

If it hasn’t complained yet about working at a desk continuously ever since starting school at age 5, I guess it has just got used to the idea after 50+ years of practice :slight_smile:

Thanks, benwiggy. Pardon my ignorance again, but how do you (and others) best utilize external drives to optimize the performance of your laptop? I have a Western Digital external HD, but I’m not sure if it’s an SSD or not. I just have Time Machine set up to do backups onto it, but I don’t delete files off my computer or anything. Do you move certain types of files or programs to your SSD while keeping others on your comp? And I guess a lot of my files are automatically copied to the Apple cloud, but I think they still also exist on my computer, so not sure of the best way to navigate that. Thanks for your help!

Also, I see you have a Mini and a MBP(?). What different purposes do you use each for?

The Mini is my main desktop machine, which has an external drive for TM backups. The MBP laptop is synchronised with the Mini, so that any changes to the Documents folder of either one are copied to the other – deleting, modifying, etc. I use Resilio Sync for that.

Remember that you need copies of every file on at least two (some would say three) separate devices. If your laptop explodes or gets stolen, where are your files? If the backup drive fails, where are your files?
Apple’s iCloud is not a backup as such - it’s a sync. If you delete a file from iCloud Drive, that action gets synced to all other devices. You don’t keep a copy with the file still there.

It can be difficult to implement regular TM backups on a laptop to an external drive. (It was much better when Apple made the wireless Time Capsules.) You can get third-party ‘NAS’ devices – essentially a hard drive with a network connection. Otherwise, you’re stuck with remembering to plug it in every so often to do the backup.

As for SSDs – I meant replace your internal hard drive in your current MBP with an SSD. That will improve its speed massively. You don’t need an SSD for a backup: it may be faster, but speed is not a priority for a backup.

One possible advantage of an non-rotating drive (SSD, USB stick, etc) for backup is that it is harder to destroy it physically, for example by dropping it, accidentally putting it in a washing machine, putting it next to a powerful magnet, or whatever.

(An SSD that had been in a washing machine would probably require some specialist attention to clean and dry it, but a rotating drive would need a complete rebuild done in clean-room conditions before you could even find out if the data had survived).

M’lud, this is surely rather misleading. (1) ‘Messing about with audio drivers’ - You run the installer and thirty seconds later you’re ready to go. (2) One installs drivers similarly on a Mac! (3) Although unusually, a third-party protocol - ASIO - is used in Windows for pro audio drivers, it’s universally supported and is highly efficient. It was of course developed over twenty years ago by a company by the name of Steinberg.

I built my own desktop, and I use it mainly for coding, music production, and gaming. It’s highly expandable, so I can add extra hard drives, memory, or USB ports to keep up with my needs. I’ve had it since 2017, and I anticipate using it for several years to come. Now there’s websites like which really help to ensure compatibility among parts.

I have a Surface Pro 6 for working on projects on the go. It’s not nearly as powerful, but it’s nice to have for smaller projects or for making quick edits. I also use it for viewing sheet music during rehearsals and performances. I keep files synced between the two with Google Drive.

I think the overall user experience is better on Macs than on Windows, and I think that’s part of why they tend to cost more. Definitely something to consider if that’s something you value.

Personally, I prefer desktop + tablet over a single expensive laptop, largely because I’m worried about an expensive laptop getting lost/stolen/spilled on (this last one happened to a friend recently…CPU was fried, too expensive to repair.)