New Mac advice


I'm currently using a white plastic MacBook (2GHz, 2GB RAM, 2 external firewire drives for audio files & samples) running Logic 8.02 under 10.5.8, and some songs are maxing out the machine. My "big" projects consist of around 25 tracks, among which may be 5 VIs, though lately I've been bouncing them to conserve processing power.

I was at the Apple Store last week playing with an iMac and a MacPro. Both machines had Logic Pro installed. I played a song by The Killers which consisted of at least 50 tracks, most with multiple plug-ins. While the MacPro's cpu meter barely showed any signs of life, the iMac's never got above 25%. I'm wondering, then, if any of you think I'd see a significant power boost if I upgraded to the iMac. The Guy At The Store said "You bet!" But I'd like to hear a voice or two other than that of The Guy At The Store.

I understand that the mantra is "Go as big as you can," but this isn't a money making operation--it is a hobby. My music generates no income, it merely consumes it. So, if I could see a substantial improvement with an iMac, that would be great. The MacPro's price tag would more than double the outlay, and if that's overkill I'd rather avoid it. (And I know there are new iMacs on the way, but as they'll still be Core Duos, I assume any processing difference between the old and the new will be merely incremental.)

I got an iMac about 3 months ago (2.93Ghz, 4Gb), and I've been pretty happy with it running logic 9. I've had a few errors, typically when recording in Low-latency mode in a busy project -- but that's presumably because I'm going to the internal HD, and it sounds like you're well-covered on that front. And it's great having a 24" screen; I put the arrange window there, and the mixer on an old 20".

But anyway, it is noticeably faster than my 2.0Ghz 2Gb DDR3 aluminum MacBook, although I'm able to routinely work on the same projects on both machines. Will you see a massive difference in performance going to the iMac? Probably not. But it should be significant. As for the Mac Pro, if you're doing this as a hobby, I think you're better saving >$1200, even if it means you have to freeze tracks more often. More money for fun gear!
If you've got one of the later generations of white MacBooks, then you can bump up the RAM to 4GB (older ones went to 3GB, and even older went to 2GB maximum). And you can definitely change the internal hard drive to 7200RPM. Both will improve the overall performance of your computer for relatively cheap compared to buying a new one.

Even if you don't use the internal hard drive for the Logic projects, the constant behind the scenes caching (which only happens on the boot drive) will be improved with a faster hard drive, thus making everything a little snappier. Also, you can get much larger capacity drives nowadays compared to what you likely have in the MacBook now.
I've also had pretty good luck getting performance improvements with a disk optimizing program like iDefrag. It seems to help me a bit, especially if my internal drive is fuller than I'd like it to be. Even if I'm using external drives to record audio to, the internal drive has to hop around quite a bit.

This may be a somewhat controversial route, as supposedly the MacOS optimizes the mac startup drive somewhat automatically, I don't know. But I do notice a performance increase with less overload errors after I've optimized my startup drive.