What Kind Of Computer Do You Use To Run Pro Tools?
We have split the results across two charts for clarity. This means the vertical scales are different in the 2 charts.
You can get the exact data by hovering over a pair of bars, and a floating window will appear with the data for that computer.
The Mac Mini 2018, MacBook Pro 2018 and iMac Pro were not available in 2015 and so could not be included in the 2015 poll.
For those with multiple systems we asked that you chose your primary Pro Tools computer for this poll.
Apple Mac Computers Still The Most Popular Computer For Pro Tools
The overwhelming conclusion is that Apple Mac computers are still the more popular Pro Tools computer with a small increase.
Custom Computer Option
One of the most interesting outcomes from these two polls isn’t what is in the data but what is in some of the comments to the 2019 poll.
“What am I suppose to select if I built a custom PC myself?”
“Production Experts: It would have been much more accurate for me to choose an option written something like ‘Custom Build PC/DAW Server’.”
“I'm in a similar situation as you and ended up choosing ‘Other’ instead.”
Other than the additions of new Macs that were not available in 2015, we chose the same options for the 2019 poll as we did for the 2015 poll. Clearly having a custom build option wasn’t an issue back in 2015, but with more and more people wanting to choose an option, which provides an expandable, user-upgradeable computer, it is clearly much more of issue now and perhaps confirms Apple’s choices for the 2019 Mac Pro were correct, even if the price is higher than people would like.
We have covered the subject of Windows Self-Build Pro Tools computers a lot here on Pro Tools Expert. Here is a selection of our Windows Self Build articles…
Mac Pro 5,1
It is interesting to see that the percentage of people using a Mac Pro 5,1, which was discontinued in 2013, has increased, again showing that the tower form factor is still very popular and in this case, cost effective.
With the pricing of the Mac Pro 7,1, we expect the old style cheese-grater to remain a popular choice for anyone who doesn’t need Thunderbolt and maybe even some who do if they are prepared to use the workaround we discovered. The Mac Pro 5,1 is still very upgradeable as Mike and James have both benefited from.
Mac Pro 6,1 Trash Can
As we can see from the results of the two polls, the percentage of those using a Mac Pro 6,1 ‘Trash Can’ has doubled from 5.4% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2019. Although many Pro Tools users, like Mike stuck with the Mac Pro 5,1 cheese-grater, there have been a growing number of Pro Tools users that have either needed a more modern machine or a machine that had Thunderbolt, and until recently the Trash Can even with its drawbacks has arguably been the only game in town. Check the image above which is part of a rack from Deluxe in Hollywood with no less than 50 Mac Pro trash can Pro Tools computers.
Even so, the Mac Pro 6,1 trash can has come in for a lot of stick throughout its life. Apple in a rare admission they missed the mark, Apple's Craig Federighi said this…
I think we designed ourselves into a bit of a thermal corner if you will. We designed a system with the kind of GPUs that at the time we thought we needed, and that we thought we could well serve with a two GPU architecture. That that was the thermal limit we needed or the thermal capacity we needed. But workloads didn’t materialise to fit that as broadly as we hoped.
Back in 2017 just a couple of week’s before the revelations from Apple, Russ said this…
“My test of anything pro is how it performs on real jobs for real clients, in other words in the real world. Every day I walk into my studio turn on my Mac Pro and work for sometimes 12 hours if it's a quiet day. There's never a day when I think to myself; I wish I owned a different computer or used a different OS. In years since I owned it, my 'overpriced' Mac Pro Late 2013 has paid for itself over 250 times; it is the rock that powers my business. In fact, it is such a rock that I rarely realise it is there; it just keeps doing the job, quietly humming on the shelf.”
We have produced a number of articles covering the Mac Pro 6,1 trash can…
The MacBook Pro was knocked off the top slot from the 2015 poll and pushed into second place by the Mac Pro cheese-grater. We suspect that may well be that as both the requirements for the macOS and because Pro tools continues to be more demanding, that the 4-core limit in the MacBook Pro became an increasing limiting factor. So the release of the 6-core MacBook Pro and the much more recent release of an 8-core MacBook Pro makes the MacBook Pro a much more appealing option for Pro Tools users, especially for those who need a laptop solution either as their main or secondary Pro Tools computer. For example…
This is a typical example of someone who has a MacBook Pro as a 2nd Pro Tools computer. He often uses it when he is away from his dubbing theatre Point1Post.
I know that Adam uses a MacBook Pro 2018, he was an early adopter of the 2018 MacBook Pro as it gave him the power he was missing, from previous laptops.
I have witnessed his laptop handling some sizeable Dolby Atmos sessions when he was demoing at the recent AES show in Dublin earlier this year.
There was also the issue with the 2018 MacBook Pro suffering from throttling due to overheating.
Check out these articles for more information…
The Mac Mini has always been Apple’s entry point low cost computer, but it was unloved for a long time, and although there was a 4-core server version for a while, which made a very cost effective Pro Tools computer, Apple chose to discontinue that model and we were left with 2-core Mac Minis for a number of years until Apple announced the Mac Mini 2018.
Although the percentage of users with a Mac Mini as a Pro Tools computer has dropped from 2015 to 2019, probably reflecting the lack of a 4-core Mac Mini, when you look at the number of people already using the Mac Mini 2018, that more than makes up for the shortfall in Mac Mini users from 2015 to 2019. As we have shown the Mac Mini 2018, makes a very convenient and comparatively Pro Tools computer. Check out our articles below…
iMac And iMac Pro
The figures for the iMac have stayed pretty stable. Although the figures for the regular iMac dropped from 13.4% to 10.7%, when you add in the figures for the iMac Pro of 1.9% from the 2019 survey, the overall percentage for Apple’s all-in-one desktop computer are 12.6%. The iMac is the type of computer you love or you hate. One of its biggest advantages is having a built in screen, is also one of its drawbacks. But for those for whom the all-in-one form factor is appealing it’s a great Pro Tools computer solution for you.
The iMac Pro will still be the most suitable Pro Tools computer, for some, because it combines processor power with the all-in-one form factor, but at a price and with precious little user upgradability. Here are some of our articles covering the iMac and iMac Pro computers…
Windows Off The Shelf Computers
Although they aren’t as well known about, as the Apple Mac range, there are approved Windows Pro Tools computers. like the HP Z840. Not so long ago, James made the decision to switch from a Mac Pro 5,1 cheese-grater to an off-the-shelf Windows computer. James explains…
“I was missing was Thunderbolt. Sadly there is just no such thing as a Thunderbolt PCI card. In my work with Production Expert I was seeing more and more Thunderbolt devices heading my way and the only machine I could run them with was a 2012 MacBook Pro, also not a new machine by any stretch.
The final nail in the Mac Pro coffin for me was the amount of video I was working on. 10 streams of 1080p video is a vast amount of data to be working with. I did update the graphics card in the pimped 2009 Mac Pro to one with quite a bit of GPU power but it was still not cutting it. Also looking to the future, and starting to think about editing 4K video, I knew the Mac Pro’s days were numbered. I could have probably thrown another £1000 at the old machine to get some more use out of it, but when hardware like the USB ports start to fail, you eventually have to call time on any more upgrades. It was time to look for other options.”
You can learn more about James’ journey from Mac to Windows in these articles…
Specialist Audio Desktop Computers
There are a number of brands that have put together specialist audio desktop computers. Two brands that have come across our radar (pun intended), are Scan Computers based in the UK and iZ Technology, the company behind the Radar DAW platform. 2 years ago Alan Sallabank was looking for a new Windows based Pro Tools computer. Alan explains…
Since my Is 2017 The Year Of The Windows Self Build? article earlier this year, the challenge has been on to build a Windows equivalent to an Apple Mac Pro, at a competitive price, but with a killer specification.
This is where Scan Computers and their professional computer division their 3XS FWX299 - Digital Audio Workstation come into the equation. With their help I've put together an incredible DAW host system, brimming with all the latest greatest tech.
Off The Shelf Laptop PC
Alan Sallabank had been using a MacBook Pro for his second machine on the road as well as giving him access to macOS only applications. However, his Apple laptop was starting to show its age, despite him pimping it with an SSD etc. Alan takes up the story…
“The day finally came. I was running a particularly graphics intensive plug-in on my 2011 MacBook Pro, then suddenly it went into a reboot loop, never to return properly. It seems that the GPU overheated for the last time and gave up the ghost. So the hunt was on for a replacement. I needed it to have at least an i7 processor, at least 16GB of RAM, Thunderbolt, USB3 and a 15" screen. After a brief affair with a 17" desktop replacement (not really a laptop due to it being 4kg and huge) I settled on the Dell Inspiron 15 7577, which retails on Dell's own website for £1349, but which I picked up for £1249, off-the-shelf, same day, from a "high street" retailer . This to me ticked all the boxes, plus being a gaming laptop had performance where I needed it for post-production.”
You can read the full story in Alan’s review…
There you have it. What has been your experiences of choosing and using your current Pro Tools computer? What are your plans with regard to your next Pro Tools computer? Which style of computer will you be going for? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below…