Not just for gamers any more: Razer’s high-spec Blade laptop holds promise for music making, too. I’ve taken one for an extended test to see how it holds up.

Do you know what you want in a production laptop? Well, odds are, yes, you absolutely do. But as computing has pushed harder into mobility, we’ve often had to sacrifice power, specifications, and expandability we want. That is, we’ve been told what we want, rather than being heard.

The thing is, what a laptop consumer wants isn’t necessarily what we want for music, video, and the like. If you’re like me, you want a powerful machine to tote between home, studio, office, and tour spots. But it might be okay to plug that machine into power most of the time – and a little extra thickness isn’t such a big deal.

The Razer Blade is a feeling of relief – getting what you actually want for music and visuals. And that may say something about where the creative PC lies at the moment – if it was overlapping with mainstream issues for a while, it’s again a niche.

On the surface and in the marketing, this is a gaming machine. But the same specs gamers want – yes, even including the GPU (more on that in a bit) – can be just as useful to music and visual production. Razer are also the first from the PC gaming industry to figure that out, as they’ve touted the machine with their Razer Music program and even bundled a full license for FL Studio (commonly known as “Fruity Loops”).

I’ve been testing my Blade since earlier this year. It’s a machine that’s both faster and cheaper than a MacBook Pro flagship – no dongles required. (I had a MacBook Pro on loan for a portion of the same time period – and, while it was also an exceptional high-end machine, sorry, Apple, I kept coming back to the speedy Razer with its more conventional keyboard action and additional ports.) Having it over that time has let me see what it’s like in the studio and on the road for extended periods. Gamers can vouch for its quality in that territory. So let’s see if it holds up to creative use.

Black, understated, this looks kind of like you’d imagine a pro machine to look – and has elicited surprise from everyone who’s seen me with it.

Form factor, display

The nicest thing about the Razer’s design is, you’re not going to notice it much. It’s just an all matte-black design that nicely slips into the background as you work. There’s one Razer touch – the neon-green “snake” logo on the back. That logo will earn tons of compliments from gamers (turns out more of my musician friends game than I thought) – and everyone else will think it looks like an energy drink logo or that you’re going to start making trance. But there’s nothing anywhere to distract you from working.

I’m not going to pull any punches: if you miss the old pro Apple designs, you’re going to crack a smile the moment you pick up the Razer Blade. The scaling and feel seem like a MacBook Pro from a couple of generations ago. (There are even faint ribs on the top cover reminiscent of the PowerBook G3 Series, for added nostalgia.)

The keyboard features a comfortable travel and holds up to my thousands upon thousands of daily words typed. And it has interactive lighting features, all fully user-configurable.

To me, the best feature of the form factor is the keyboard. It’s crisp and has a full-sized action. In fact, when this machine was next to Apple’s offering, it was the keyboard that constantly had me switching back to the Razer above all. The trackpad is also really solid – I have mine set just for scrolling gestures and nothing else, but that’s fine.

Razer likes to advertise the Chroma support on this keyboard, which changes color based on context. There’s a C++-based SDK, and if I ever have any spare time, I’d love to write a little MIDI plugin for that or do some animations to sound for live sets.
More likely, you’ll use Chroma one of two ways. There’s dedicated support in Image-Line’s FL Studio for Razer Chroma, which provides a bunch of nifty features, depending on mode:

  • You get visual feedback on audio material playing in FL, either by frequency spectrum or peak level – effectively turning your keyboard into a reactive meter.
  • There’s a metronome, with both pulse feedback (on supported devices) and per-beat lighting on the keyboard.
  • For using the keyboard as a melodic input, lighting will illuminate to show you where piano keys are located.

Chroma support is available as a plug-in for visual feedback, or activates for piano input when you use FL’s Typing to piano keyboard.

There’s an update coming for other Chroma peripherals, too.

This is all an interesting gimmick, but of more universal appeal, you’ll find settings in the included Razer Synapse utility that let you tone down the color or choose when and how to light keys. I like the “reactive” mode onstage – keys light when you need to see them, but otherwise disappear into blackness. And blackness is good.

Slim-ish, but not so slim as to sacrifice a complete complement of ports or comfy keyboard. And that matte display avoids glare – plus check those viewing angles.

Oh yeah – everything is black, everything is matte. That’s really what I want, as I’m either focusing on the display or trying to make my laptop disappear into the background as part of a live rig.

That includes a full HD (1080) matte IPS display, which I find is easier to use in almost every situation than a glossy display. It’s great for mobile use and terrific onstage, thanks to the matte surface reducing glare and particularly broad viewing angle. There’s no practical angle from which viewing is difficult. It’s crisp and clear, though you may find some laptops with greater color depth and accuracy and more brightness; basically, I prefer an external monitor for intensive work when I need color precision for graphics and more real estate and brightness. On the road, this display did the trick.

I didn’t get to test the higher-density Razer, which is 4K (with touch). If you’re thinking of that one, note that Windows’ scaling at high densities isn’t as consistent across applications as on macOS, either (a Windows gripe, not a Razer gripe), though that’s gradually changing. Ableton Live 10 beta for instance just unveiled features for managing higher densities.

So the display is fine, but doesn’t feel like a key feature here. For extended use, I’d connect an external display, anyway. I could imagine the touch model could be useful live, too, though I just use an iPad Pro connected to the Razer so I can move the touchscreen over by my other gear.

I/O

No adapters needed. (Onboard audio is also plenty loud.)

Now to the good bits. You get a pretty ample set of connectivity on the Razer Blade. You get three full USB 3.0 ports, and one USB-C port that doubles as Thunderbolt 3. So you have Thunderbolt for high-end audio interfaces like the Universal Audio Apollo line, and three USB ports you can use without adapters. That’s about perfect. There’s also dedicated HDMI output which can drive 4K. (This is the killer machine for live visuals – more on that below.)

Bluetooth and WiFi are also up to the latest specs.

CPU, storage, and audio

Blazingly fast CPU, memory, and storage – before even getting to the GPU.

When you think gaming machine, you probably think fast GPU – but the Razer is worth eying even just for the CPU. This model comes with an Intel i7-7700HQ quad chip, so 3.8GHz in turbo mode. My most intensive soft synths were no match for that horsepower. This becomes especially nice when getting lavish with Reaktor Blocks modular setups and huge live rigs; I was finally able to create the virtual modular of my dreams without making the CPU sputter here and there.

You’re also decked out on RAM, with 16 GB of DDR4 memory.

Storage is configurable, with up to 1TB SSD storage – yeah, that’s a terabyte of SSD, not a choice between getting an SSD and having enough space.

Sure, I use external storage, but it sure is nice not to have to depend on it for big DJ track collections alongside massive audio and video projects.

The sweet spot for me is, you can max out this machine for US$2,499.99 with the full 1 TB drive, or go for the nicer display for US$2,799.99. (Prices start at US$1899, or you may also consider the lower-priced Stealth – see bottom of article. There’s also a sale on this month, and refurbs do become available now and then.)

That’s a premium price, but the trick is, you don’t get astronomical by maxing out the specs the way you do with flagship offerings like the MacBook Pro or Microsoft Surface Book. You get a balanced machine that has all the storage, memory, and CPU you could want right now, and without sacrificing the I/O you need, too.

GPU, video, and creative applications

The 1060 delivers exceptional DirectX and (here, in Isadora) OpenGL performance, and it’s compatible with VR (and AI tools, if you’re interested). Using the GPU is when you’ll hear the fan kick in, though – but since you’re probably not mixing pushing the graphics envelope with vocal recording, that’s okay.

Of course, what puts this over the top is going to be the GPU.

That’s where this category has really transformed recently, because you now get what is essentially a high-end desktop GPU in a laptop. It’s the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 VR with 6 GB RAM. That’s not available on the Apple side, and there’s reason to want it. This is a GPU that can do all this fancy experimental machine learning stuff. It can do high-end virtual reality. And it’s got way more power than you could ever use right now for live visuals.

I’ve been playing with Unreal Game Engine as a custom visual development environment for live performance. I tested more conventional tools like Isadora and Resolume Arena, and they were able to run tons of advanced shaders easily.

This matters for music, too, because you can off-load visuals (even 3D ones) to the GPU and run your music setup alongside. Even if internal graphics pull off what you need, shared memory on internal graphics means you’re limited by available memory resources.

Since it comes from NVIDIA, shader compatibility for the 1060 is excellent, and you get support for the CUDA instruction set (think acceleration for everything from graphics to machine learning). For one, this hardware is an excellent pairing for Adobe Creative Suite. Running on the graphics card, I was able to quickly render and transcode big video projects in a matter of minutes. Now, Apple can tout their acceleration for Final Cut Pro X, but … the dedicated GPU here easily keeps up in real-world applications, and the number of editors I know even on the Mac who prefer Premiere and After Effects to Final Cut Pro and Motion these days is considerable.

Using the GPU is the one time this machine is loud. Put the graphics under load, and that fan kicks in. Then again, I don’t think you’re going to be doing a sensitive studio recording while also using the GPU, so mostly this isn’t noticeable; the machine is quiet all the rest of the time. I don’t mind hearing the fan while my Premiere project renders.

But I think the GPU is worth watching. This is what future-proofs the machine. Artists want to work with advanced visuals, creative shaders, sophisticated video processing, live visual performance, 3D, VR, and AI. Heck, just one commission or workshop working with machine learning might pay off the investment. And the 1060 is a good baseline.

Even if you don’t game or do 3D output, the GPU comes in handy in applications like exporting video from Premiere.

This is the area of Razer’s lineup naturally most likely to change in upcoming models, especially as NVIDIA are also focused on new lower-power, lower-heat versions of their desktop lineup. But I still think this generation makes a worthy investment, even if you can’t yet run the GPU and get long battery life for now. (You can switch off the GPU to conserve power on battery.)

It’s also worth saying, musicians may want to invest in gaming laptops – for various reasons, not just on-paper specs.

Apart from various creative applications, music and sound design for games is becoming a big area. And that means you’ve got a good justification to go for a gaming laptop. (Yeah, it’s a tax writeoff.) There are plenty of reviews of this laptop as a gaming laptop, and I’m no expert there. But I can at least say, gaming breaks on this thing are as fun as long hours in the studio. It’s a shame we have to do other work!

By the way – while Microsoft’s Surface laptops look interesting, it seems they suffer from insufficient power to the GPU. (See The Verge’s recent coverage.) That’s a deal-killer for me – and the price from Microsoft is steep, plus they lack Thunderbolt. The Razer I think wins handily.

Life with Windows 10

If anything is holding most users back from the PC side, it’s probably poor past experience with Windows.

Windows 10 still doesn’t exactly win any contests for UI refinement. There’s some confusing mingling of tablet features and new UIs with the desktop bits of Windows you know well. And there’s the usual digging through settings panels.

But let’s talk about what matters. Compatibility with Mac volumes is no longer a problem. (I use Paragon’s products.) I think there’s a lot to like about the Windows file Explorer, but if you don’t like it, you can easily replace it with whatever you want.

Microsoft have also fixed the biggest problem with Windows for audio. You can now rely on the stock drivers for music work without worrying about latency and glitching, thanks to years of investment in that subsystem. So skip things like ASIO4ALL and use your internal audio card in WASAPI mode, and everything’s fine. You can also easily install drivers for routing audio and MIDI between apps and different machines.

Remember when this used to be scary in Windows? Now it’s perfectly okay to use the standard driver (not just ASIO) on the internal sound card. That’s useful when you just want to plug in headphones and do some arrangement in FL or Live or Reason on a train.

Some gripes remain. Driver installation and management for USB audio and MIDI drivers can still be a bit stickier than on other OSes. As I mentioned earlier, scaling the UI is also not entirely consistent yet. But on balance, I find Windows to be easy enough to work with. (It’s also great that you can now install an Ubuntu command line, if you care about that, which I do.)

Windows also has some excellent platform exclusives, like FL Studio, or vvvv and Touch Designer for visuals (Touch Designer’s recent Mac arrival still isn’t as complete). So much of the rest of our software is now cross-platform, you’ll barely notice. I found switching from Final Cut back to Premiere why so many other people have done that, and all my daily music apps are cross-platform.
Don’t listen to people who say you need to do a bunch of hacking to make Windows work for audio; you don’t. Just choose audio interfaces with stable drivers, and you’ll be fine.

Just one gripe, Microsoft – please let us delay automatic updates without hacking the Registry. (At least Microsoft quality control has been better than Apple’s, but this is more about timing updates when they’re convenient, which is essential on a machine you use onstage. Anyway, in the meantime – do something like this.)

What’s next

I’ve used this machine for a lot. It’s been a studio machine, working with Ableton Live, Maschine, Reaktor, Pure Data, Bitwig Studio, and dabbling again in FL Studio. It’s been a live machine, both running live music (with Live and Reaktor/Reaktor Blocks and Pd), and simultaneous audiovisuals (adding visuals in Resolume and Isadora). It’s been a video machine, working in Premiere and Creative Suite. I’ve DJed with it, done productions on the road. It’s handled onstage situations and smoke machines and dirt. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface yet, either. (Um, apart from some literal scratches I tried to put in it – did I mention I play really underground spaces? It’s resisted that, too. Nice to have a rugged machine.)

That CPU/GPU combination plus Windows is now proving handy as I experiment with creative coding and use with machine learning / deep learning tools and Unreal Game Engine and Kinect 2. (I’m developing some new courses and a new live AV show.)

I’m really happy with the Razer Blade. I hope Razer continue to refine hardware here. It’s not hard to imagine what a next generation would look like: longer battery life, a new generation of NVIDIA graphics (which will be required to deliver on battery), and refined display would be welcome. USB-C charging would be nice.

For now, though, there’s not much reason to hold off if you’re looking to upgrade. With so many specs being this solid, I think Razer are going to be at the top of the list for anyone looking for a production machine – full stop. And talking to others in the community about recent purchases, plenty of people agree.

This is a gimmick-free, compromise-free, high-end choice. And after some years away from the PC, this is as happy as I’ve ever been on a Windows machine.

Disclosure notice: I contribute to the Razer Music program, but without any monetary compensation. I had this Razer Blade provided by Razer Europe on extended loan.

For more information:

music.razerzone.com is Razer’s music-focused site, which has tutorials and such (of interest to PC users in general, not just Razer customers)

Razer has US$400 off on select models through December 23. Products are available direct (with localized service and pricing):
razerzone.com

My model, as tested:

Razler Blade 14” – i7-6700HQ CPU @ 2.6G, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, NVIDIA GTX 1060 VR GPU with 6GB VRAM, 16GB (DDR4) RAM. Graphics and RAM are actually standard that way; storage is available from 256G-1TB SSD on the HD model or 512G-1TB on the 4k model. And all of this is just 4 lbs / 1.86 kg – not ultrabook light, but perfectly portable.

I think the 14” model is the most balanced choice, but you can also upgrade to a roomier 17” Razer Blade Pro (with slightly higher-end specs, too), or opt for the more compact 13” Razer Blade Stealth. (To save space, the Stealth can use an external GPU, so you have graphics power when you need it.) Details:

Razer Blade Pro 17” – Full HD model (same CPU/GPU as 14”) with 16GB RAM and 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD. RAM can be upgraded to 32GB, SSD to 2TB, HDD to 4TB by user. Also have the 4K model, with GTX 1080 GPU, overclocked i7-7820HK, 32GB RAM, RAID 0 SSD up to 2TB, and mechanical keyboard.

Razer Blade Stealth 13” – New 8th gen quad-core CPU available, 16GB RAM, QHD+ touch screen, up to 1TB, and with Gunmetal color option (no glowing green logo or green USB ports, but also no Chroma keyboard). Can be paired with Razer Core for more graphics power and connectivity.

Let me know what machines you’re using these days. And, yeah, maybe we can add each other on Steam.

  • Velocipede

    Still working with two 6-year-old MBPs that I have thoroughly upgraded and usually still finding them powerful enough for my needs. My concern is their inevitable failure and replacing them because the current Mac laptop line is so unappealing. I use Windows in Parallels every day, so the thought of switching full time is no longer so strange.

  • wetterberg

    The scene in DK seems to be on the cusp of flipping back to windows PCs. I am picking up a Dell machine with very similar specs to yours tomorrow, and I’m actually excited to be leaving that awful Mac ecosystem.

    My 2012 mbp will certainly still go on stage with me, just in much beefier company.

  • geoff

    Interesting article I’m that guy stuck on a 2012 mbp with a matte screen, a 1tb ssd and 1tb hd waiting for something appropriate to replace it. So yes I agree a matte screen is a big deal. I choose this model rather than the retina to meet my requirements and nothing Mac wise has come along to replace it. I tried windows 10 for a few weeks on my work retina mbp machine, the experience was largely awful and windows now lies in a mess. This is the part that fills me with dread as I installed only a few music apps and copy protection drivers. My concern remains the clunky win os and the extra time it would take me to get it and keep it running well. Why does the machine have a 1tb ssd limit and can you add more internal drives?

  • abluesky

    I’m also on a 7 year old MBP with matter display, and truth be told, the matte screen of the Razer appeals to me most. I wonder if the GPU can power deep learning as well…

  • What a beautiful beast, definitely on the short list for my next music production laptop!

  • newnumbertwo

    I got a Thinkpad P51 earlier this year, outfitted with a 15″ 4K display, Nvidia Quadro M2200 GPU, 32GB ECC RAM, Xeon E3-1535M CPU and 512GB Samsung 960EVO NVMe drive, to replace my aging 2011 17″ MBP.

    It has HDMI, 4 USB-3, USB-C, a slot for SD cards, an easily-accessible internal slot for SIM cards, and even an ExpressCard slot, which I use to drive my 15-year-old RME Multiface, which is still supported and still sounds great.

    At 5.81 pounds, it’s not the lightest, and it’s also not the sexiest laptop ever made, but the performance I get is phenomenal. I run Cubase 9, Reason 9.5, Live 9, Renoise, Maschine along with the usual suspects plugin-wise.

    While there are still more than a few inelegant moments – I run the laptop display in 4k with an attached/extended 1920×1080 display, and while the 200% text scaling more or less works, applications that launch into full-screen mode can find themselves confused from time to time – for the most part the sheer power and speed of this laptop more than makes up for any clunkiness.

    I miss the integration with my Apple products, and Messages.app on the desktop is a notable absence, but for the most part, I feel like I got my money’s worth, and would recommend this model to anyone looking for an extremely powerful Windows notebook that doesn’t skimp on quality components. NotebookCheck gives it an 89%, which is a very good rating for that site: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Lenovo-ThinkPad-P51-Xeon-4K-Workstation-Review.229212.0.html

  • Elekb

    Thanks for the article (and the full disclosure – too much infomercials on the webs, glad to see you’re honest about where you’re coming from).

    Apple’s quality control and reliability is going down the drain (the recent audio problems and 10.13 security bug were examples), and their walled garden grip is growing ever tighter. For this reason, even though I’m still holding on to my 2013 Mac, I’ve been looking for Windows-based alternatives for my next machine, a couple of years from now, I guess. Particularly because Windows OS stability has been steadily increasing since Windows 7.

    Razer Blade seems to hit the spot, spec-wise. Surface, Asus and Toshiba high-end laptops also seem to be good alternatives, but this Razer laptop seems to be specially configured for audiovisual creative professionals.

    • Yeah, Surface becomes even more competitive if Microsoft irons out the power-GPU problem.

      The PC challenge is, there’s way too much stuff to test. But a whole bunch of people in my friends circle have also gone to Sager or MSI. (One to Clevo.)

      The Razer seems a nice balance. That price looks high but they’ve gone high-end on the storage and memory specs (both speed and capacity), the build is really nice, and some of the other alternatives here are much bigger/heavier. Then again if you don’t have to move it a whole lot, I can also see why some went with the bigger machines for lugging to visuals.

      I have to say, I didn’t realize until after hitting publish how many people in the audiovisual / live visual world had gone PC. Wow. This has brought them out of the woodwork. And in fact a lot are on Razers. It’s not so surprising given the GPU thing — but I think you’re right, the stability thing is the other *big* factor.

      • Lindon Parker

        Long time Clevo (and VAR based alternatives) user… performance/price ratio is about as good as it gets here, and as an audio software developer I NEED that power…. Win10 is power-up and forget from my point of view. So there’s another (cheaper) path available if you want to explore it.

  • TJ

    I have a one year old MSI Apache with similar specs. I can throw complex
    Ableton projects at it and still stay around 50% CPU. Plus, it plays
    all the latest games too. Glad to see some Windows coverage on CDM!
    https://www.msi.com/Laptop/GE62VR-6RF-Apache-Pro.html

  • Frank

    I couldnt run windows without some kind of antivirus prog. and thats the biggest problem for me. Never needed this kind of protection for osx. Im still using imac 2006 in my studio, running reaktor 5/spiral sequencer and older ableton/logic for audio editing.
    My MBP 2012 still covers all my needs, for DJing , for audio editing even for HD video editing. If I had extra 2000 today I would buy Analog Rytm or DJ808.

    • Frank

      And Five12’s Numerology is just for OSX,same with the FCX.

    • TJ

      Windows Defender is good for basic defense and I use Malwarebytes for browser based attacks. They are lightweight, but I shut them off and go offline when using the DAW.

    • Windows 10 comes with a capable antivirus programme so you can forget all about it. It’s not the 1990s.

  • pad_mac

    I just recently bought the MSI GS63VR for the same requirements as a creative all-rounder powerhouse and i’m very happy with the choice.
    It has the same CPU, RAM and GPU as the reviewed Razer Blade, while also coming with 2 TB HDD as well as 256 GB SSD and i got it for 1600€.
    Sure the Build Quality will be slightly less premium than a Razer and the Look of MSI Laptops may be a bit off-putting, but that’s something i can handle for more than 1000€ less!
    I’m also happy that more people are coming to reason over Apple Laptops, as you will always pay more for less with them no matter what.

  • Martin Roberts

    I was sold until I looked up the price. $1900 for a Windows laptop is a pretty big ask if you already have a Macbook, unless you’re a gear pro or money’s not an issue. For that I could get seriously started on a Eurorack rig.

    • TJ

      I had the same reaction and was why I ultimately went with the MSI.

  • wndfrm

    “…Driver installation and management for USB audio and MIDI drivers can still be a bit stickier than on other OSes..”

    this is important.. and perhaps this is more on the 3rd party end, but shit need to WORK RELIABLY ALL THE TIME, to be considered viable for a show machine, imho, and regardless of platform.

    usually this can be avoided by not investing in the ‘bleeding edge’ of any platform, allowing for 3rd party software to catch up with OS variations.. this seems to work successfully with OSX, for the most part.

    it would be great if PC laptop manufacturers could provide this positive , stable experience that you describe, at a much lower price point.

    as another commenter mentioned – comparing this to a MBP is really just comparing apples to apples, in many ways..

  • Joel Schalit

    I work in a mixed platform environment, with PC laptops and MacBook Pros. Despite all my complaints about Apple, you still couldn’t pay me to switch to Windows. It’s still far too maintenance heavy and the UI just hasn’t improved. What happened to touting the benefits of Linux derivatives?

    • Linux configuration is next for this machine. It’s also easier to dual-boot to Linux.

      “Maintenance heavy” – I’m not sure what this even means. 😉

      The UI is … a mixed bag. I think most of it is stuff you can adapt to, really apart from how uneven Windows scaling to higher pixel densities is; there’s still some improvement there. But with a little adaptation as far as UI I find I can be productive on all three operating systems and even configure them to work more or less the same way, borrowing features from each of the respective approaches I like. Now you can even run that ubuntu command line on Windows, which fixes my one major gripe…

    • What maintenance do you think you need to do? I do precisely nothing.

      The UI on Windows is no better and no worse than Mac OS. Both have notably crappy file system interfaces. So replace them.

      Linux is poor for audio, sadly. A decade ago i was hoping this would change. I have given up caring.

      • PaulDavisTheFirst

        If you’ve given up caring, perhaps you do those of us who still care the benefit of also giving up commenting on it.

        • And yet I cared for two decades, which perhaps entitles me to post my opinion on a comment thread. The internet is full of other people; you might want to get used to it.

          • PaulDavisTheFirst

            You’re certainly entitled to post whatever you want. But if you’ve stopped caring, you’ve probably stopped following the story too. This means that it’s likely that your posts will, like so many others about linux audio, contain inaccurate, out of date or misleading information.

            I have to battle this everyday. I’m not telling you to shut up. I’m asking you to not post about stuff you don’t care about, so that those of us who do care (and who do continue to track the way in which things change) have less to work to do when dealing (as I do every day) with people new to Linux audio.

            And I don’t know what your definition of “poor” is. The iPad’s lack of drivers, and consequent forcing USB audio interface manufacturers to make all their new devices fully class compliant, has totally changed the story of audio h/w on Linux. Basically, all new USB devices “just work” (because they also have to “just work” on an iPad too, with no manufacturer-led interventions).

            The actual theoretical performance on Linux has always been better than on any other platform (as far back as 2001), but it remains true that when new users pick an arbitrary Linux distributions on arbitrary hardware, they don’t always see that.

  • Eugene Popov

    What about DPC latency? Are there any dropouts? Do you run latencymon for testing?
    I have tested some windows machines and still can’t find the most stable, dropouts, dropouts,dropouts

    • All this FUD about audio on Windows is tiresome. If you buy cheap consumer gear you get what you pay for. But quite a few companies make laptops targeted specifically for audio/video production. You might imagine they know what they are doing. On the flip side, I use a Lenovo bought second-hand for 200 clams. Works perfectly.

      • Eugene Popov

        Which companies make laptops targeted specifically for audio? I bought dell inspiron 7566 (quad-core i7) and intel NUC(quad-core i7) and still can’t optimize it for audio

        • This is of course a complex question since there are thousands of models and configurations. I would warn you for a start that Dell Inspiron is their consumer line. They swap components in and out of those depending on what they can buy cheapest that week. I have only had dealings with the Latitude series, which is the business line. The advantage here is that the hardware builds are consistent (since that’s what business wants). So there is less variation across time. But this is only one factor.

          Most people have cheap “sound cards” which have drivers built on generic cores. Every one of these brands is a crap shoot. It might work perfectly or might not. I buy only RME devices because they simply work. If there is any audio problem I know it’s not the sound card, Instead, likely a stray driver for some peripheral.

          tl;dr
          Don’t buy consumer-oriented computers.
          Buy RME.

        • Oh, as to your other question, have you done a search on “pro audio laptop” or similar? Names that come to mind are ADK, Scan, Millennium, PCAudioLabs. I have no personal experience with any.

  • Bernard Perbal

    Not available in Europe, sadly!

  • Thanks Peter for dispelling the FUD and giving an honest appraisal. That’s a lot of money for a laptop but it gets you premium performance. Sure looks sweet.

    As for Windows, I have long preferred it to Mac OS but always had to do a lot of customisation to get it how I want. Windows 10 just works better than previous versions and comes with everything you need OOTB. No more need for external anti-virus etc.

    Win10 is free… not many people realise that! Though a watermark persists on your screen, it’s nice knowing it costs nothing to check it out. No time limit, popups, or other cruft.

    The update system and automatic downloading of apps is the only PITA. But you don’t need a registry hack to change this, just set your network connection as “metered”. Then remember to manually check periodically for updates.

  • Dubby Labby

    I need less and less a deskto/laptop computer and as time goes by dedicated hardware solutions seems more appeal to me.
    ITOH Apple seems going toward the macincloud/Nvidia Grid approach and probably set in the future a subscription model for cloud computing then all this “thick and power” race will make sense. ATM buying any Pro model newer than 2012 is a joke…

  • Andre Hayter

    Thanks for the great in-depth review. Was wondering though what has the real world battery life been like on this thing? Does the GPU kill the battery?

  • PaulDavisTheFirst

    Lenovo Y700 … as a DAW developer I care more about more raw performance than audio performance, but this thing is a beast at a compelling price point. A gamer’s platform that is almost as fast as my regular custom-built office system. HDMI, USB3, SD card reader, number pad, huge screen. It’s heavy, but it’s also h e a v y.

  • okeribok

    One *could* install MacOS on this with some fiddling. Built in Wifi, bt and audio will not work though. If you get a dongle and use and audio interface, you can still have Logic and Alchemy AND the awesome hardware Apple has forgotten how to make since they stopped making PowerBooks.

  • Tom

    Would love to see these tests run on the Stealth. I’m a gamer, but that’s why I have a desktop. My laptop is when I need to bring tracks to another studio or need to DJ, so the compact 12.5″ or 13″ makes more sense in my opinion.

  • Tom

    Also, @peterkirn:disqus how about doing a piece like this on Core M? Would love to see if any of those processors could handle a production environment, if something like the new macbook came around but actually had USB’s. I think some of the new Windows tablets use it.

  • heinrichz

    I like the black and matte finish but this is too much of a brick to carry around, when i really don’t need that kind of power for music production.
    As far as gaming – and i don’t mean to sound like a grumpy guy who does not like fun – it’s mainly escapist and we actually could do with less of it. While it is certainly and outlet for musicians it is a regrettable distraction when more people should get real and starting focusing on the poitical malaise we live under.

  • Will Copps

    Posted on CDM FaceBook that I loved mine and it’s reliability–died the next day (so, 17 months after purchase @ $2300). Razer quoted me at $1250 on the repair and will only warranty it for 90 days. No thanks, dudes. I’m out and getting something else. Not looking to invest $3500 total in a laptop that wouldn’t even have a warranty three months after I get it back.

  • TomSa

    I’ve been working on a ASUS K-35E with Ubuntu since about 2006. I upgraded it’s RAM and put in a 7200 RPM Hard Drive about 3 years ago. I’m just now finding it to be too slow for some things. RePro-5 uses a ton of my CPU in Bitwig, to the point where it’s almost not usable. This is the same machine that I was able to do a backing track for a large wind ensemble for it’s performance of Mannheim Steamroller’s Deck The Halls. It was in Bitwig studio as well and there were 5 Instances of Tyrell, 5 Zebra2’s, 5 Hive’s, and 5 Bazille’s all going at the same time on my 10 year old (Linux FTW!) computer.

    The other thing that I found myself unable to do recently was doing a live edit of a six camera concert shoot I did. The timing on the switches was all completely off, because six HD streams is too much for my eleven year old Intel Integrated Graphics card.

    This looks like a great option for my next laptop, because let’s face it- I like gaming a lot too. I have to use Windows 10 at work, as well as a iMac, and I have nothing but loathing for Windows 10, so that’ll be the first thing to go. the existence of https://openrazer.github.io is another reason I’ll have no reason to keep windows.

    Now, the trick is going to be convincing my wife that it’s cool to buy one of these when I need to buy a Macbook Pro, ProTools, and Reason for the degree program I’m starting tomorrow…