Buy new Mac Mini vs upgrade Thinkpad X1E

wuubb

New Member
I'm at a bit of a crossroads here and could use some advice.
Up until this past semester of college I had a 15u server rack with a 4u workstation, a 3u VEP PC, a Linux server...It just became too much. I wasn't even using the VEP machine and plus the whole setup was a pain to move in/out of apartments every year. I've now sold all that and am looking to go for less, and portable.

I've been using Cubase for the past few years, but have been thinking of switching back to Logic now that it has articulations and (hopefully) works with VEP better through AU3.
I've been considering getting a Mac Mini, as a MacBook is too expensive and I already have a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme that I use for software development and machine learning. It has an i7-8850H, 32gb RAM (can upgrade to 64), and a 1tb M2 SSD with a slot for a second.

Does it make more sense to just upgrade the RAM and SSD in the Thinkpad and keep using Cubase for a few more years till I get out of school? The CPU's between the Mini and the X1E appear to be comparable in terms of performance. Also getting the Mini I'd need to skimp on SSD since it's absurd and use external storage.

Another thing complicating the decision process is that the more I learn about Apple's ethics (or lack thereof) also turns me away...

Any thoughts or suggestions? I know that DAW prefernce and those things are individual, but any information people have about doing work on the Mini or on high-end Windows laptops and just information in general would be helpful.

Thanks everyone!
 

Wunderhorn

Active Member
IMO if you are already used to Windows I would not switch to Apple. The Mac Mini is not very future-proof, the limit of 64GB RAM is ridiculous. You'd get a much better PC for the buck and you are already on Cubase, so that should make the decision even easier. BTW. This is from a Mac user of 25 years.

Regarding Logic, it looks like AU3 and related workflows still need time to mature. Currently a lot of people here (me included) think that VEP runs best with Logic with lots of instances vs. Cubase where that is not the case. Until this shifts your prospected gain with AU3 will not matter much because of this. Artz ID or something similar and VEP seems to work well at the moment.
 

gpax

Senior Member
I think you’ve possibly answered your own questions, given the pros and cons you’ve listed. I too am a Mac user of over 25 years, and would be hard pressed to recommend a Mac mini given the other options you detailed - unless it’s ultimately about you wanting to work in Logic.

As for ethics concerns, I’m not going there. Like you said, these tools are individual choices we each make, for all kinds of personal reasons.
 

Fredeke

Senior Member
As @gpax says, it's all a matter of personal choice. Here's mine:

Personally I left the Apple ecosystem a couple of years ago, because the MBP I bought in 2015 was of poor quality compared to my previous one (from 2005): both the OS and hardware were less reliable in my experience.
So I built a tower PC, and enjoy about the same performances for a third of the price.

Note that the difference was not just switching from Mac to PC. It was also switching from a compact, hardly customizable computer, to a big tower (which is bulky but not heavy - if I had to move it once a year it would be ok). Now I can upgrade it at will, at little cost, and if any part becomes the cause of a problem (like a driver incompatibilty, etc. - those things happen), I can just replace that part super easily.

Switching not only from Mac to Win, but also from laptop to tower, really made me feel like I was regaining control over my hardware (and finances).

Now they say PCs are more vulnerable to viruses and the like. And it is said that antiviruses' processes can degrade realtime audio performance... My solution to that is radical: my computer is never connected to the net. Never has been, never will be. It makes activation processes a bit tedious because I have to use another computer for that (the cheapest netbook is my portable solution for everything but music), but I feel much safer - and, again, in control.

I miss Logic though.
 
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Alex Fraser

Senior Member
This thread has the word “Apple” in the title twice, and so will be filled to the brim with PC users in due course. ;)

My advice to the OP is to decide on the DAW first above all else, and then build the hardware solution around that. That said, if you go the Mac route then you keep both Logic and Cubase as an option.
 

Fredeke

Senior Member
This thread has the word “Apple” in the title twice, and so will be filled to the brim with PC users in due course. ;)

My advice to the OP is to decide on the DAW first above all else, and then build the hardware solution around that. That said, if you go the Mac route then you keep both Logic and Cubase as an option.
Yeah but with Windows you get Adobe Audition - just kidding. I'll show myself out.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
Unless Apple developers a mid level MacPro in a tower, which I don't expect them to, I'm building a hackintosh next time, which may or may not end up running windows instead, we shall see, but that is the best hardware to build anymore and I don't think Apple is really addressing my needs anymore. I'm still wanting OSX though.
 

Shad0wLandsUK

Senior Member
This thread has the word “Apple” in the title twice, and so will be filled to the brim with PC users in due course. ;)

My advice to the OP is to decide on the DAW first above all else, and then build the hardware solution around that. That said, if you go the Mac route then you keep both Logic and Cubase as an option.
Do you keep the Cubase option though?
For the tests I have done on Cubase Pro 9,9.5 and 10 the performance is a good deal less than on Windows. So I cannot justify spending the same £400 on a software that is poor on one platform and great on another.

Apple is really addressing my needs anymore. I'm still wanting OSX though.
I am right there with you on the want for macOS man. Each time I boot up my Mac Pro 2012 I want macOS again and I seriously like how clean and simple the Logic Pro X interface is, but the hardware costs are insane now and if I went the Apple route again it would be a MacPro6,1 at most. But even those are long in the tooth now for drive speeds, being capped at 1200MB/s boot drive I believe...
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
The 6,1 can’t even run massiveX

We have a choice, excluding overpriced macpro; imacpro with integrated monitor and no pci; or hackintosh
 

MarcelM

Senior Member
sold my mac pro 5.1 already and will go with hackintosh. ive recently build a new one based on a pretty cheap asus z370 prime p and really everything is working on this one. it has an i5 8600, but i ordered the i9 9900k for it last night. also bought two new 4k screens for it from philips which are like 200 bucks each (ips). took me some time to tweak it all, but now its really a perfect hackintosh.

if anyone wants to build a similar one ill be happy to provide the clover efi and my patched dsdt.
 

gpax

Senior Member
This thread has the word “Apple” in the title twice, and so will be filled to the brim with PC users in due course. ;)

My advice to the OP is to decide on the DAW first above all else, and then build the hardware solution around that. That said, if you go the Mac route then you keep both Logic and Cubase as an option.
An observation: The "problem" is that the thread title also invites a broader discourse from some Mac users as well, where disappointment since the new Mac Pro announcement is already being hashed out in a couple of other threads at this point, and it simmers over here.

So the OP’s actual post, asking about a Mac mini option versus upgrading an existing configuration, gets shuffled and/or lost in that other dialogue, well-intentioned as these things may be.
 
OP
wuubb

wuubb

New Member
I realize that the Mini is not very future proof, but I'm considering it for the portability factor - I have yet to find a way to do an mini-ITX build in that small of a footprint (though the thread here on the compulab airtop3 has certainly gotten my attention). Hell, I'd love to get a couple of NUCs for VEP except that they use U-series CPU's...

To simplify - if you had to choose between a Mac Mini and a Windows mobile workstation (that's basically what my Thinkpad X1E is), which would you choose?
 
OP
wuubb

wuubb

New Member
An observation: The "problem" is that the thread title also invites a broader discourse from some Mac users as well, where disappointment since the new Mac Pro announcement is already being hashed out in a couple of other threads at this point, and it simmers over here.

So the OP’s actual post, asking about a Mac mini option versus upgrading an existing configuration, gets shuffled and/or lost in that other dialogue, well-intentioned as these things may be.
I can edit the title, in hindsight it is kinda vague.
 

dflood

Active Member
Another thing complicating the decision process is that the more I learn about Apple's ethics (or lack thereof) also turns me away...
Compared to what? Presumably you are going to be buying some hardware from somebody. Compared to Apple, the other hardware companies like Asus, HP, Samsung, Dell, etc. fly way under the radar when it comes to scrutiny of their business practices. At least the bad things that Apple does seem to get publicized on a regular basis. Good luck finding a company in this space that doesn’t exploit cheap labor. Or would you prefer just not to know? This is a dilemma we all face.

Edit: No disrespect intended. I just don’t think there is an ‘ethical’ computer company when it comes to labor standards.
 

dflood

Active Member
You probably just need to decide how badly you want to use Logic and let that guide your choice. I think Logic is a terrific value when you consider the sounds and plugins included, but you will certainly pay a premium for the Apple hardware, even a Mac Mini. While not future-proof as you say, it should last for several years, although it may not be the optimal hardware configuration for you once you have more earning power.
 

Alex Fraser

Senior Member
An observation: The "problem" is that the thread title also invites a broader discourse from some Mac users as well, where disappointment since the new Mac Pro announcement is already being hashed out in a couple of other threads at this point, and it simmers over here.

So the OP’s actual post, asking about a Mac mini option versus upgrading an existing configuration, gets shuffled and/or lost in that other dialogue, well-intentioned as these things may be.
Absolutely agree. And just for the sake of clarity and positive discourse, I wasn't having a dig at the OP's title choice. It was more of an observation on how these threads tend to devolve. TBH, I'm massively surprised it hasn't already turned into an 8 page monster.

To simplify - if you had to choose between a Mac Mini and a Windows mobile workstation (that's basically what my Thinkpad X1E is), which would you choose?
Like others have said, it all depends on the DAW you want to use.

If you want to go Apple/Logic, I really wouldn't get too hung up on cost, specs, lifetime upgradability, etc etc. Yes, entry to the Apple ecosystem is more expensive but if you embrace the iCloud way of things, there's a ton of value to be had. Also, Logic is massively subsidised and hasn't had a chargeable update since 2013 on release of version X. And so many free goodies in the meantime. So, as far as the total cost of ownership, to coin a British phrase, it's swings and roundabouts.

One final thought. Logic (and Cubase) now both have a disabled tracks feature for massive templates. You could also consider if you need VE Pro at all and make the decision even easier. ;)
 

gpax

Senior Member
Absolutely agree. And just for the sake of clarity and positive discourse, I wasn't having a dig at the OP's title choice. It was more of an observation on how these threads tend to devolve. TBH, I'm massively surprised it hasn't already turned into an 8 page monster.


Like others have said, it all depends on the DAW you want to use.
I did not interpret your post as a dig on the OP either : ). And, I do applaud the OP for making a change to the title, as his post seems sincere about weighing legitimate options.