What's a cheap, reliable A/V laptop?
February 8, 2011 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Help me find an inexpensive laptop for my DJ/VJ gigs.

Ever since my MacBook Pro died of heatstroke I've been carting my Mac Mini and a flatscreen monitor to DJ and VJ gigs.


I want to get a laptop I can use for "playing out."

Operating system is not important - I'm a Mac guy because of my love for Final Cut, but most everything I'd need to run is available for Windows, too, if not Linux.

It needs:
USB 2.0 (for hard drives, audio interfaces, flash sticks etc)

a non-mirrored video-out (I would consider both analog video outs and VGA/DVI out ports OK; both would be stellar)

Headphone jack

to be able to run VLC/Quicktime Player and Traktor

enough memory/CPU to make running those things not an exercise in forbearance
A bonus would be Firewire and the strength to smoothly run a video editing app, but I'd be willing to look at systems without. Same with optical drive; I have an external USB one I could cart around without any problem. I'd prefer a touchpad to one of those little nubby pencil eraser things but that wouldn't be a dealbreaker.

I am cheap and I am poor and I am broke, and I am totally OK with getting a system that's a few years old and that all the cool kids laugh at. I just want it to work.

What's a solid choice at the minimum feasible price, new or used?
posted by jtron to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I, too, am a poor VJ.

I use PCs for VJ/video editing. People think I'm nuts, but you get a lot more power and memory for your $$$. Plus, if something goes wrong, it's easier and (very important!) cheaper to fix.

I use a Toshiba Satellite (mumble mumble I forget the model number off the top of my head, but it has an S-video out to hook to my ancient, ancient mixer, and it's a "desktop replacement" sort of like this) and it's worked swimmingly for me. I don't use Traktor, but I do use VLC and Quicktime frequently, as well as a wide variety of editing and mixing programs, and it handles them just fine. I think I bought it for $679 new a few years ago. You can probably find a refurbished model for less.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:17 AM on February 9, 2011

Response by poster: Regardless of other PC/Mac issues, I am too badly addicted to FCP to switch my main "axe" - I always feel naked without its timeline tools and good ole' 3-Way Color Corrector.

You're not the only person who's recommended Toshiba, though, so thanks for the confirmation! I was looking around on eBay last night and think I can probably find something for under $500... c'mon, tax refund!
posted by jtron at 10:04 AM on February 9, 2011

Response by poster: Narrowed it down to Apple, Toshiba, Sony, and ASUS as they seemed to have the best records for customer satisfaction and equipment reliability. Toshiba makes it impossible to tell which systems have Firewire on their website; I finally ended up grabbing an ASUS G72 off eBay, which sits at a nice place on the price/performance curve and I find so heinous looking that my roommate's agreed to make a vinyl cling skin for me :p thanks again for the advice, LM!
posted by jtron at 3:21 PM on February 22, 2011

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