Digital DJ Tips reader Taylor writes with a very common issue: "I recently received my first digital DJ kit, the Numark Mixtrack Pro. I'm really enjoying getting to know the controller and the software. My question to you now is in regards to the kind of computer I should run on. In your recent blog post entitled A Parent's Guide to Buying Digital DJ Gear for Teenagers you commented: 'Of course, the laptop of choice is a MacBook, but don't forget that a $400 Dell will also do just fine.' Please could you tell me what exactly it is about the Mac or a MacBook that is attractive to DJs using digital equipment? Why does the Mac vs PC debate rage so strong? And what should I keep in mind when shopping for an appropriate laptop in regards to hardware specification?"
Digital DJ Tips says:
First, try the laptop you've already got. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If your current laptop can run the software, consider waiting until it needs replacing before worrying about it, especially if you're a beginner. By then you'll have a better idea what you'd like next. OK, let's say you don't have a laptop, or it's time to replace the one you've got. Now it's a case of needing to know the minimum spec necessary for DJing, and to decide, as you say, between a PC and a Mac.
The good news is that modern DJ software will run on most modern laptops. If you're buying a Mac, any of the new ones will work fine. Check the minimum specs on the site of the software you run (here they are for Traktor, Virtual DJ and Serato ITCH), but this isn't going to be an issue unless you're really cutting corners. Memory is the most important thing - 2GB minimum - and make sure there's enough hard disk space for your tunes.
More important is to get a laptop that is well built (as a DJ laptop tends to take more abuse than say an office-bound one) and from a good manufacturer.
PC vs Mac
That brings us nicely on to the PC vs Mac debate. The truth is that you can DJ perfectly well with either PC or Mac, as all major DJing software runs on both platforms. Furthermore, the components used in PCs and Macs nowadays are pretty much the same (overwhelmingly Intel chips, same memory/hard drives etc). There are still differences though:
Advantages of PCs
- They are cheaper than Macs for equivalent specs
- There is much more choice from a whole host of manufacturers
- You may be more familiar with using PCs, thus you'll have less of a learning curve
Advantages of Macs
- They are guaranteed to be well built and reliable, coming from just the one manufacturer
- OSX is a more stable, operating system than Windows. Put simply, a Mac is less likely to crash on you
I have used both, and I prefer Macs hands-down, not just for DJing, but for all computing. I hate to repeat the marketing, but it's true: they just work. In an office, a crash is probably not going to feel like life or death. Performing in front of a crowd? Just imagine how that feels. Having said that, I DJed with a PC in front of a crowd for many years with no issues (it crashed regularly, just not when DJing). Yet my only crash in living memory while DJing was with my Mac (which has never crashed on me outside of this), when someone jogged the USB cable out of the socket while I was playing (OK, it was me). Neither Mac nor PC is going to help you in that circumstance.
It comes down to money
I'd say if you can afford a MacBook and either know already or are happy to learn the operating system, get one. If not, research your PC well, keep the anti-virus up to date, and be sure it's reliable before you play a mission-critical gig on it. For any computer, quitting all other applications when using your DJ software (or better still, only using it for DJing) further protects you.
Finally, you may be interested to know that in our 2010 reader's survey, over 50% of our readers said they used a Mac for DJing.
What operating system is your laptop? Do you have a PC that's never crashed or a Mac that always does? Got anything to add to the debate? Let us know in the comments.