Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

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Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by pimvx »

My budget is around $4500. Please bare in mind the laptop will also be used for some video and photo editing.

I hear the XPS 17 has a lot of overheating and latency issues but somehow the XPS series always makes it onto ''best music production laptop'' listicles. I wonder if they're even testing the laptops or just going by specs.

I'd go for a custom build with Intel i7-11800H, 32GB Ram, NVIDIA RTX 3050, 1TB SSD. Initially I wanted to max it out to i9-11900H, 64GB Ram, NVIDIA RTX 3060 & 4TB SSD but the machine won't be able cool those specs properly.

As for the Macbook Pro, I'd go for the 16'' and I've heard a lot of great things with a few issues on thermal throttling. I'm very heavy handed on my VST's so any one project could have 10+ instances of Omniphere's as an example - is this something the M1 could handle?

What is your experience with either of these models?

Any and all help is appreciated!
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by Eddy Deegan »

From 2016 up until earlier this year I used a Dell XPS 17 on a daily basis, mainly for work but also as a 'portable studio' when staying in hotels etc. I was running Reaper, Studio One, Ozone and the Arturia Collection suite on it as well as a few other plugins.

I can't speak for Macs at all (I exited that ecosystem some years ago) but with regards to the XPS performance was very good, as was general build quality and screen clarity. There are three concerns I'd have with getting one with my own money although I should stress that the model I had was from 2016.

The first is that the battery started to swell up after about 3 years and the screen couldn't close properly as a result. I had the battery replaced but the replacement started showing signs of doing the same after another year so.

The second is that the keyboard mechanism is not particularly robust and I lost a couple of keys through normal (if extremely frequent) use. At first I could sort of get them to 'snap back' onto the posts but after a while that stopped working and in any case one of them broke separately (into halves).

The third is that the model I had (which had some variation of a quad core i7 CPU) would run extremely hot if under sustained load; more so if the graphics card was in use. I always run my laptops on aluminium fan-assisted cooling beds but even on one of those in the hot Summer a year or two back the laptop would randomly crash due to the heat.

My work colleague, who had the same laptop model, had exactly the same problems. Now of course these are just my experiences (and thus hearsay to everyone else), we could have been unlucky and, as I said, the XPS model was from 2016 but I would do some research to find out if these problems have continued to be an issue in subsequent years.

A few months ago I replaced it with a Lenovo Legion7 15IMH05 with a 6-core i7 in it. I would have preferred an AMD chip but the options were slightly too expensive to justify for a work laptop, though should be well within your budget. I like that a lot more than the Dell XPS so far.

To be honest I'd decide whether you want to go OS X or Windows before looking into specific models of hardware though.

As an afterthought, if I was looking at the budget you mention then I'd probably go for a decent desktop system rather than a laptop of any variety.
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by Luke W »

pimvx wrote: Thu Nov 18, 2021 4:23 pm As for the Macbook Pro, I'd go for the 16'' and I've heard a lot of great things with a few issues on thermal throttling. I'm very heavy handed on my VST's so any one project could have 10+ instances of Omniphere's as an example - is this something the M1 could handle?

What is your experience with either of these models?


I don't have any personal experience with the new M1 processors, but this article may be of interest.

Realistically, with your budget you'll be able to get a very capable machine regardless of the platform. The choice for me would come down to which OS I'd rather spend time with (as Eddy has mentioned), or any needing any software/hardware that's only available for one or the other though.
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by James Perrett »

Can I suggest a Dell Precision rather than an XPS? I've used a variety of them for nearly 10 years (though only 4 years seriously for music) and they're very solid machines with decent performance - and certainly more reliable than the XPS machines that I've had experience of (though that was 5 or more years ago).

The one I'm using now is around 10 years old but still handles most modern software. Our lad is just experimenting with creating 3D models in Blender and rendering movies. Rendering is a little slow (I think the graphics processor is too old to be supported) but it handles all the models in preview mode with no problems. I don't use Omnisphere but mine handles just about anything I've asked it to (provided I don't use loads of convolution plug-ins at 96kHz).

I would have thought that the new Precisions should be equally capable compared to their peers.
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by rockydennis »

Eddy Deegan wrote: Thu Nov 18, 2021 5:15 pm The second is that the keyboard mechanism is not particularly robust and I lost a couple of keys through normal (if extremely frequent) use. At first I could sort of get them to 'snap back' onto the posts but after a while that stopped working and in any case one of them broke separately (into halves).

There were a lot of problems with Macbook keyboards when Apple switched from a scissor mechanism to a butterfly mechanism in 2015. They've since switched back to a scissor mechanism. The scissor mechanism keyboard of my 2013 Macbook Pro still works flawlessly and has never had a problem.
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by MOF »

This video might help you make your decision.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1-YAb823XP8

Edit: This follow up video shows it can play even more tracks https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CTWbLt1g2_c
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by classick »

That MacBook Pro 16 M1 should run immensely well. For reference I have the last intel iMac tarted up with 24gb ram and an i9. I also have the new MacBook Air M1 13”. Almost everywhere the Air runs as smoothly as the iMac station including photo editing with Adobe software. My issue with my Air is that the 4GB unified memory (ram) shows it limits when building software in Xcode, at which point it often fails due to lack of memory unless I close my Chrome tabs.

The MacBook Pro 16” however comes with 400% more ram at 16gb unified memory (ram). Given the overall performance was smoother with my little Air relative to the more powerful iMac, I deduce the 16” Pro would blast through the workloads that the Air was challenged with. And on top of that, you have 10 core CPU and 16 or 32 core GPU.

If I could replace the hardware of my iMac with the MacBook Pro M1 hardware, I’d do it. Just make sure all the software you need to run supports M1 chips. Doesn’t some stuff still rely on intel / arm chips?
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by Dave Rowles »

Eddy Deegan wrote: Thu Nov 18, 2021 5:15 pm To be honest I'd decide whether you want to go OS X or Windows before looking into specific models of hardware though.

I'm a Mac OS X fan. I HATE windows.

That said I recently set up my father in law's windows 11 laptop and it wasn't as awful as 7/10.

Eddy's comment above is the main concern. If you hammer the processors you're probably kick the fans on, but with the budget you've said I'd be surprised if any high end laptop you get isn't able to cope.

I've got a fully spec'd (at the time)2017 MBP, and its rare that I max it out even now. The M1 MBPs are quite a few orders of magnitude more powerful.

So basically, decide what software you want to use, what OS you want to use, then get the best spec'd laptop that fits that.
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by Random Guitarist »

Based on my personal experience of an XPS, (more hearsay) I wouldn't recommend it.

Battery life was worse than advertised, the machine could run very hot, and the keyboard was really not very pleasant to use. At the same time I was using an HP Envy machine which was far better in all respects.
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by Jadoube »

Based on the reviews I have seen online in purely performance based comparisons this isn't even a competition (unless you play PC games). The MBP M1 Pro and Max utterly crush all current Windows laptops.
[Full disclosure; I just ordered a 14" M1 Max which i hope to see in January. My bias is clear!]

BUT... I also expect it will be at least 6 months before this machine is able to run all the audio software I use... which could be very different from all the software you use. I also and primarily need it's raw horsepower for image editing and battery life so I won't be worried for compatibility in the short term. I am sure if you partake of the Apple Logic kool-aid (Not a bad thing) you will be functional, but my experience is the pain and suffering is with all your favourite VST plugins as the small developers struggle to make everything compatible.
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Re: Dell XPS 17 or Macbook Pro M1?

Post by DoubleTap »

pimvx wrote: Thu Nov 18, 2021 4:23 pm
As for the Macbook Pro, I'd go for the 16'' and I've heard a lot of great things with a few issues on thermal throttling. I'm very heavy handed on my VST's so any one project could have 10+ instances of Omniphere's as an example - is this something the M1 could handle?

What is your experience with either of these models?

Any and all help is appreciated!

I can’t speak to the video editing, but my plain M1 MBP with 16gb would eat 10 Omnispheres for a snack. Obviously it depends on voices and the complexity of the patch but I can get 40+ tracks going with most synths. Most plugins are now native - I’m now just waiting for NI and Soundtoys, although they work fine anyway.
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