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Finding a PC laptop to use with your firewire audio interface

PC Laptops with Firewire

The most important consideration when using a firewire audio interface is the firewire chipset of your firewire connection. You'll find that this is generally a requirement of any manufacturer of any firewire audio interface. Different firewire chipsets handle data differently, and some are better suited to the requirements of streaming multi-channel real-time audio.

While Macs with built-in firewire ports do use a supported firewire chipset, finding a PC laptop with built-in firewire can be difficult, and even then, most PC laptops with built-in firewire use a firewire chipset that is incompatible. Because of this unfortunate fact, the main requirement then becomes that the laptop has the ability to add a firewire connection which uses a supported chipset.

You may be able to find Firewire to USB adapters, and they may work for connecting external hard drives or cameras and other peripherals, but generally speaking, they will not work for audio interfaces. The primary, and for the most part only way to add a supported firewire connection to a laptop is with a firewire expresscard adapter. In most cases, to find a laptop with an expresscard expansion slot, you'll need to look at the "Business" class laptops from the major manufacturers. Check out the tech specs for each model to make sure though.

(Updated April 7, 2015) 

PC Audio Labs has created a model specifically for audio recording that features a compatible onboard 1394 port:

Rok Box MC Mobile 7 FW - http://pcaudiolabs.com/rok-box-mc-mobile-7-fw/ 

Sager ( a company known for creating desktop replacements in a portable solution)

Sager NP8278 - http://www.sagernotebook.com/Workstation-NP8278.html

Sager NP8268 - http://www.sagernotebook.com/Workstation-Notebook-NP8268.html

Sager NP8258 - http://www.sagernotebook.com/Workstation-NP8258.html

If your laptop doesn't have an ExpressCard slot or built-in FireWire port, then you would not be able to use that computer with a FireWire device. Below is an image of both an ExpressCard port and 34-millimeter ExpressCard adapter:

3335.jpg

For more information on the ExpressCard standard, check out this article. 

PC Laptops With Expresscard Slots

Anything with an expresscard slot has good chance of working, but even with an expresscard slot there's still a possibility for other problems or incompatibilities related to PC Laptop hardware, Windows hardware enumeration and communication, misbehaving device drivers, or other issues with the Windows Operating System. It's highly recommended that you do some research in various audio recording forums for suggestions on what PC's people are having success with.

The following laptops are ones that have expresscard slots so that you can add a supported firewire expresscard adapter, allowing you to connect a firewire audio interface.

NOTE: These are NOT recommended systems tested and certified by Presonus. They are merely laptops that have the potential to work for this purpose, but again, there are no guarantees that any of these particular models will work well as an audio workstation.

Dell's Vostro 3560, and most of the current and former Latitude line and Precision line has expresscard slots

Vostro 3560:

http://www.dell.com/us/soho/p/vostro-3560/pd

Latitude line (all 8 current standard models. Excludes Tablet and Ultrabook models):

http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/latitude-laptops

Precision line (all 4 current models):

http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/precision-laptops

NOTE: The Precision M4700/6700 built in firewire may even have a compatible chipset

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Most of HP's Elitebook Line has expresscard slots (all but the 2170 and the 9470 Folio model), and all "b" series HP Probooks have them:

http://www.hp.com/country/us/en/prodserv/laptops.html

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Many of Lenovo's Thinkpad line comes with expresscard slots, specifically the T series (except the T430u), L Series, and the Thinkpad W530:

 http://www.lenovo.com/us/en/?mobile=no

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Sager actually makes a "Mobile Workstation" which has a compatible FW800 with a TI Chipset built in. It's much larger and bulkier than a regular laptop, but it's a very powerful system. Basically a portable desktop:

DeskNote NP9570: http://www.sagernotebook.com/index.php?page=product_info&model_name=NP9570

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You can find them from other manufacturers as well:

Toshiba Tecra line, various models (34mm slot): http://www.toshibadirect.com/td/b2c/laptop-family.jsp?family=Tecra
R940-S9421, R940-S9430, R940-S9431, R940-S9441, R950-S9521, R950-S9541

Toshiba Portege line, various models (54mm slot): http://www.toshibadirect.com/td/b2c/laptop-family.jsp?family=Portege
R930-S9321, R930-S9331

ASUSPRO ADVANCED B53S: http://usa.asus.com/Notebooks/Business/ASUSPRO_ADVANCED_B53S/#specifications

ASUSPRO ADVANCED B43S: http://usa.asus.com/Notebooks/Business/ASUSPRO_ADVANCED_B43S/#specifications

ASUSPRO ADVANCED B23E: http://usa.asus.com/Notebooks/Business/ASUSPRO_ADVANCED_B23E/#specifications

ASUS N71jq: http://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/N71Jq/

Acer Travelmate TMP453-M-6425: http://www.provantage.com/acer-nx-v6zaa-002~7ACEN1J3.htm

Fujitsu LIFEBOOK® AH532: http://www.shopfujitsu.com/store/lifebook-ah532-notebook#wf_productinfo

Fujitsu LIFEBOOK® NH532: http://www.shopfujitsu.com/store/lifebook-nh532-notebook#wf_productinfo

Fujitsu LIFEBOOK® S752: http://www.shopfujitsu.com/store/lifebook-s752-notebook#wf_productinfo

Fujitsu LIFEBOOK® S762: http://www.shopfujitsu.com/store/lifebook-s762-notebook#wf_productinfo

 

Expresscards with Supported Firewire Chipsets

Here is a link to our hardware compatibility document to use as a guide:

http://www.presonus.com/uploads/products/media/files/Approved_FireWire_Cards.pdf

Here are a few expresscards on our Approved Firewire Cards list from different retailers. Make sure you get the right size card for your expresscard slot (34mm or 54mm):

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839328031&Tpk=SD-EXP30012

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Delectronics&field-keywords=SD-EXP30012&rh=n%3A172282%2Ck%3ASD-EXP30012

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Delectronics&field-keywords=EC13942

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839328006

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Delectronics&field-keywords=SD-EXPC34-2F

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839104015

http://www.amazon.com/2PORT-Firewire-EXPRESSCARD34-10-5-Windows/dp/B000X4PM9W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363014224&sr=8-1&keywords=FW800-E34

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839158012

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Delectronics&field-keywords=EC1394B2+&rh=n%3A172282%2Ck%3AEC1394B2+

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=NN-EC2012-S2&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3ANN-EC2012-S2

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Most of these are Expresscard 34mm cards, but they will work fine in a 54mm slot, so if your laptop has Expresscard 54, you may find a stabilizer like these helpful:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839158041

http://www.amazon.com/StarTech-com-ExpressCard-34mm-Stabilizer-Adapter/dp/B002GHTIRQ

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Some older laptops may have PCMCIA slots (the predecessor to expresscard) which you may be able to find compatible firewire cards for as well. If you have the older PCMCIA slot, here's a few cards that should be compatible:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839150011

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815158010

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16839314003

When researching just make sure to check tech specs on any laptop to see if it has one of these slots (preferably expresscard), and check firewire cards for compatible chipset (preferably a TI chipset from the list). Again, chipset is key, so be sure to double check as manufacturers sometimes change the chipsets they use.

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