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Upgrading a church laptop

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  • Upgrading a church laptop

    Our church will soon be upgrading the laptop we use for projecting lyrics, videos, presentations, recording sermons (using FreeWorship, or PowerPoint, Audacity, VLC, and a web browser). The laptop we currently use is quite old, running Windows XP (yes, it still works). It functions okay, but has a difficult time running video, and various programs running at the same time to the point of causing delays.

    I'm hoping someone can answer some of these questions:

    1) Is it necessary to have a dedicated video card in a laptop with modern laptops for smooth running video?
    2) Does anyone have experience in converting HDMI to VGA in a projector that can say it can work smoothly? Otherwise, I'll only consider the options that do still have VGA, since we're not upgrading the projector at this point.

    The laptops I'm looking at are similar to this:

    Intel i5-4210U or similar
    around 8GB RAM
    integrated graphics OR something like AMD R7 M260
    optical drive of some sort
    and varied other specs

    I'm looking in the $550 to $650 price point, so I'm limited to non-Apple products. Any advice? What would you be looking for at this point?

  • #2
    You really will limit yourself by buying in this price range. If you could find a way to purchase a top end laptop you will get several years of service from it. A top end Apple with extra ram would be my choice as programs and operating systems are constantly evolving and using more and more computer resources.


    • #3
      Those are scary stats to me.

      -I'd push for an i7 processor if you want to keep multiple programs happy. We have about 35 Macs in service right now of various ages and speeds. I can tell you that the i5 is PLENTY for office work but it will get bogged down with heavy lifting and multiple processes.
      -8GB RAM sounds good enough.
      -I would never use integrated graphics for any external displays. If you want to run HD video and have confidence in it, I'd consider 1GB VRAM a minimum as well.

      Your best bet for what you are trying to pull off is more like $1200 for an iMac. I know that is neither a laptop or in your price range but I think it is your best bet at fulfilling your needs for 4+ years forward. If I was given that budget I would choose to limp along in my current set up until I could afford to purchase something that was going to really make a lasting impact.
      Travis Paulding,
      Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


      • #4
        Thank you for the advice. I can see that it might be beneficial to try and up the budget and the specs. I can't see the price going above $800, but perhaps going for an i7 with a dedicated card may be within range, hopefully in the late November, December time. Perhaps that may help things?

        One option right now includes this:
        12 GB RAM
        2GB AMD R9 M265X
        Which costs at $800 new.

        I might try and wait for a bigger budget, but the condition of the laptop we currently have really limits things as they are, since it's 10 years old, and has difficulty in displaying videos. Perhaps this might be a better option that will last a bit longer?


        • #5
          Those specs are certainly more production friendly. You are stepping into more of a preference question now over a function. My PREFERENCE is still with Mac and I've demonstrated the value and stability enough for my leadership to agree. We can get into the cost over life stuff in a different discussion, that's not the point here.

          Knowing nothing else about the computer you are specifying, those stats sound safe. My only other thought is this: I would not ask as much of one computer as you are discussing. If ONE program locks up or crashes the computer, you've lost your entire production process. I would at least move my recording to another spot. Maybe something external like this:
          used on ebay for less:
          It has 2 XLR in and records to SD cards. You could record to WAV and then transfer to your new production computer afterwards to edit/process. We've been using one of these for our video production for 4 years, they are solid.
          Travis Paulding,
          Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


          • #6
            Does it have to be a laptop? We bought a Dell desktop for our projection a couple of years ago for around $800 that was pretty much maxed out. You can stretch your budget a lot farther if you're able to look at desktops. Obviously that may not work if you're in a portable scenario, etc., just figured it was worth asking the question.

            I'll also second what Travis said about application. If this is the machine that you'll be using for projection/video playback, then it would be best to move the recording application to a different device. We also use a small Zoom recorder for this purpose.
            Eric Frisch