Mac as Windows machine: some questions

Discussion in 'Apple and Mac OS X' started by ratsrcute, Jul 13, 2016.

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  1. ratsrcute

    ratsrcute Notebook Consultant

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    I have always used Windows, but I am having tremendous difficulty finding a modern Windows laptop that can run all my software and hardware well, as well as be ergonomically comfortable. Modern Windows laptops have new kinds of touchpads and keyboards, usually, and I'm not comfortable with the ones I've tried. Or I AM comfortable, but then I have hardware trouble with my external audiophile DAC.

    So, switch to a MacBook Pro? I know that I like the ergonomics, and I am told that it has the best audio hardware performance of anything out there.

    Two options: (1) Use OSX. (2) Use Windows 10

    (1) My issue here is whether I can get all my software for Mac. Some of it is expensive audio or music-related software and I don't want to have to repurchase it. I do think I'll be fine, but there is one major, major issue. Right now I use a programmable Windows key macro utility for just about everything. I am a programmer and I can get it to do sophisticated things. It's a huge productivity enhancer. It also is the only thing preventing me from developing repetitive strain injury. It's called "Autohotkey." So I wonder if there is anything like this for Mac. I need the ability to bring windows to the foreground based on their title names, for instance, using programmable keystrokes. I would also like some mouse control through the keyboard, and this needs to be pretty sophisticated and programmable.

    (2) If I use Windows 10 then at least I'll know all my software including the key macros will work. So how realistic is it, in practice to do everything in Windows 10 on a MBP? This involves a few sub-questions:

    (2A) Does virtualization offer decent hardware performance? For instance, with my audio hardware I need to stream data at near the maximum of USB 2.0 speeds (that TWO.ZERO, so at least not as demanding as 3.0) with an audio latency of maybe 50 ms.

    (2B) Does virtualization offer good hardware compatibility with USB drives, USB keyboards, USB mice, USB hubs, Thunderbolt hubs, etc.? And my audio stuff? I don't have any exotic hardware besides the audio stuff.

    (2C) If I use bootcamp and primarily use it as a Windows machine, then I don't want OSX to take up a lot of the hard drive. What is the smallest partition that can contain OSX, in a practical sense?



    Thanks.
     
  2. saturnotaku

    saturnotaku Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    If you're doing audio work, most any software should be available on OS X. In theory you shouldn't need to re-buy any of your existing software if you already have a license for a Windows version, but you should check with the developers before purchasing your hardware. Now on to your specific questions:

    1) There is no direct replacement for AHK on Mac OS, but there are a few programs that look like they can do nearly, if not everything, you require. Here is a thread with several suggestions.

    2) Macs running Windows generally perform the same as a native Windows PC, but there are some important limitations. In Windows, Macs run hotter and have worse battery life. This point goes double for MacBook Pros with the dedicated AMD GPU because the automatic graphic switching that occurs in OS X is not supported under Windows. The Mac trackpad that is an absolute joy in OS X is an absolute abomination in Windows; the trackpad on my Chromebook works better. Driver support is not as good either. Apple creates a very basic package that's enough to get you up and running on Windows, but they rarely update it, and for some components, such as the sound card and trackpad, it's impossible to get updates from anywhere else.

    2A) I wouldn't recommend a VM for any serious content creation. Parallels and VMWare Fusion are nice crutches for software development and Office, but anything more demanding should be run natively.

    2B) See above.

    2C) I would suggest keeping an Mac OS partition of at least 32 GB so there's enough headroom for system updates.

    As far as Windows machines, have you looked into the Razer Blade? It has a very similar form factor, and its touchpad will work light years better than a Mac running Windows. Plus you'll gain a touchscreen and a newer CPU with faster RAM. The MacBook Pro is still running with Intel Haswell-based processors that are effectively two generations out of date.
     
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  3. KCETech1

    KCETech1 Notebook Prophet

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    I am not sure if it is an issue for programmers as I am not one, but my one daughter goes insane without a dedicated delete key for when she is working in php. Saturn hit all the high points but depending on budget etc you could also look at some of the business class and workstation models, I have seen a number of Precision 7510's at our local university and a few Zbook Studio's. ( 32GB i7 and Xeon models ) as well.

    as for audio performance I assume you mean latency, I have no experience in that except in broadcast video and motion pictures but our audio crew has used PC workstations without enabling graphics switching since the fall of 2011 ( mostly AVID, Ableton etc ), but I will assume someone with experience in DACs can speak up more than me, all I know is the cirrus logic built in audio processor is certainly nothing to write home about. I do know that many firewire interfaces can cause issues and we have that issue on the new Mac's as well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
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  4. ratsrcute

    ratsrcute Notebook Consultant

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    I think the biggest limitation in finding a Windows machine is the possibility of performance problems with my audio hardware, but I am told that Macs have the best performance (such as sound quality for picky audiophile ears). I have always like Apple, so this may be a chance to switch allegiance. Going pure OS X sounds better than dealing with Windows problems, even if I have to learn a whole new ecosystem.

    So I just got a MBP from the local electronics store (Fry's). I'm discovering many things that are different from Windows... I use a lot of free software on Windows and I can't find replacements for all of it yet. Moving my whole operation to a Mac is clearly a big job. It's going to take some time to see if I can make it work.

    Thanks for the advice!
     
  5. saturnotaku

    saturnotaku Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Any serious audiophile is not going to rely on a computer's internal hardware for listening. They will use an external DAC/AMP. Even small, portable combo units can provide a noticeable boost in quality, assuming the source material has been encoded properly.
     
  6. ratsrcute

    ratsrcute Notebook Consultant

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    If it wasn't clear, I am definitely using an external DAC, but even so the sound quality is affected by the laptop hardware, operating system, and media software.
     
  7. KCETech1

    KCETech1 Notebook Prophet

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    more the media software on how it decodes, the external devices and more the actual sources themselves. No matter how good your hardware is it is hard to improve on a crappy mp3/m4a source file, same issues I run into with doing broadcast video.

    right now if I hook up my old HP 8740W with Ubuntu and Banshee or my 2011 17" MBP with VLC or Banshee, our antique file server hardware running mint and again banshee, my daughters old windows Vista laptop with Fubar2000, my 2016 rMBP, or Mac Pro with VLC or 5Kplayer or my Precision 7510 with Fubar or even Media player, I get the same output when hooked to my husbands Oppo HA-1 and into his fancy theatre speakers. I swap the software to iTunes or many other packages that don't do a nice clean decode or I have to use compressed sources ( we try to run lossless audio when possible ) I can see the difference on my audio profile scope I use for AV editing, and in come cases I can hear it ( I am NOT an audiophile )
     
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  8. ratsrcute

    ratsrcute Notebook Consultant

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    I got a 2016 MBP (16 GB memory, 256 GB hard disk, Intel Iris Graphics) for $2000 and set up Windows 10 on it. So far, not bad.

    But I would like to know just how much performance I'm giving up if I don't spend that $2000 on a Windows laptop.

    I need this Macbook to be a home computer and a travel computer.

    As a travel computer it is ideal. I love the ergonomics. And it's something subtle, it's not just a certain-sized keyboard, a certain-sized trackpad, or anything that I can put my finger on. Every other laptop I tried made my repetitive strain injury act up. This one is fine.

    It also has gorgeous graphics.

    And I will probably use OS X for travel.

    At home I will use it with an attached full-sized keyboard and mouse so its ergonomics don't matter. I will use it with an older 24" monitor in order to get the screen size I need, so I won't be able to appreciate the Iris graphics.

    So at home I just need it to be be a fast Windows machine. So how much performance am I really giving up? I don't need a SOTA computer. I don't expect the MBP to equal a $2000 Windows machine, but I just wonder if it's still decent, or is it a terrible deal?
     
  9. saturnotaku

    saturnotaku Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    If the computer does what you need it to do while at the same time not causing you physical pain, then I would advise you to hold on to it. Your health is worth far more than saving a few bucks by buying something else.

    You can save some money on a Mac by buying refurbished. Here is a 2014 version with otherwise similar specs as what you have for $1610. Refurbs carry the same warranty as new and can also be extended with AppleCare, which I would also recommend you purchase, regardless of whether or not you keep the machine you have now or get the refurb. But do not buy it from Apple. B&H Photo sells it for $50 cheaper than Apple, and unless you live in New York, you wouldn't have to pay sales tax. AppleCare can be added at any time during the standard one-year hardware warranty, so if you don't have the budget right now, you can pick it up when you do.
     
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  10. KCETech1

    KCETech1 Notebook Prophet

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    ratsrcute . not an easy question without knowing what all you are doing. as I suspect you are not working with pro level synthesis, advanced audio processing and all kinds of strange track processing you are not giving up much speed at all unless your unit starts to heat and throttle the CPU back ( basically cuts your speed in half for a varying period of time and for me is common in windows under heavy workload). However if for some strange reason you do have software that uses GPGPU signal processing for DAW/DAC or audio compiling you can be giving up as much as 90% of your speed with either the lack of CUDA or a dedicated GPU with very good OpenCL support.

    the only issue I see with the unit you got is not enough storage, most of us find 256gb way too small as a DTR and for me packing external drives is one of my major pet peeves.


    Saturn also gave you great advice on refurbs and AppleCare.
     
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