Five hundred bucks. In music tech terms, that usually gets you, what, a single app bundle? Now, it can get you a whole computer, pre-loaded with a bunch of music software. It may not be as powerful as a modern laptop, but it’s also in a cute, smaller form factor you can keep everywhere in case inspiration strikes, or balance on the corner of your Steinway grand. Meet the Indamixx laptop. Whether you want one or not, it’s emblematic of the ongoing commoditization of laptop technology, with ever-cheaper, lower-power brains.

Highlights:

  • Brains: 1.6Ghz Intel Atom CPU netbook (looks similar to the Asus, but it’s actually Sylvania)
  • energyXT bundled: Runs energyXT, the awesome music production workstation with modular features and some unique editing capabilities – sort of the “indie” electronic music workstation of choice
  • Full laptop-like specs: a full complement of I/O including 3 USB ports; an 80 GB hard drive (not bad for a machine this size!)
  • Custom Linux distro + apps: Tons of pre-configured Linux music production software running on a custom distribution called “Transmission” – with Hydrogen Drums, Ardour DAW, DJ software Mixxx (that’s three x’s to Indamixx’s’s two – don’t ask), and lots of other lovely tools
  • Sounds pre-loaded: 2900 drum sounds, 350 samples + scratches
  • Import sessions: The new Ardour Xchange imports from your existing DAW (worth its own article, I think!)
  • Broadcast your sets: Included Internet console for streaming your live gigs, etc.
  • Hosts Windows VSTs: An included Windows-compatible host for your existing plug-ins
  • Bundle: includes 1GB SD card, free carrying case, free US shipping, a t-shirt, and 30 days software support while you get it set up

$499 for the whole bundle – stuff like Ardour Xchange alone lists for US$75, energyXT is commercial, and you get these other goodies, as well (the memory card, case, etc.). So I think this is very competitively priced.

More reflections from Liliputing, which is a must-read blog if you’re into netbooks. (And it’s the creation of Brad Linder, audiophile and NPR producer who occasionally checks in on mobile recording here.)

In a story I originally broke here, Trinity Audio Group has already built an all-in-one, ready-to-run Linux audio machine in a UMPC form factor, the Indamixx. I reviewed that Samsung Q1 Ultra machine for Keyboard Magazine, and was particularly impressed with the software configuration. I’ll be honest, though, personally I could never get that comfortable with the UMPC-style Indamixx, because I found input methods to be overly cramped, and the tradeoff for the UMPC’s extreme mobility is vastly trimmed-down performance – at a price (US$1199) that remains awfully steep. Touch is appealing, and it’s worth holding one just to marvel at the technological achievement, but in practice I just didn’t like the thing that much. I know some people feel differently – EnergyXT creator Jørgen Aase adores his – but you realize that maybe traditional laptops have something going for them.

I’m not alone. The netbook market has already more or less clobbered the UMPC in the market. Under the hood is the same enabling technology: increasingly power-smart, low-heat Intel mobile CPUs. They still fall well short of what the Core 2 Duo can do, but they’re getting better. And in the netbook, they have two massive advantages: one, they’re super cheap, even relative to bigger conventional laptops, and two, they’re in a familiar form factor that’s been made more compact.

Turns out, that whole laptop form factor isn’t so bad, after all. It tilts the screen up, and allows for a big screen. It provides ample keyboard input. It folds to protect the vital bits. It has plenty of I/O.

So, whereas the original UMPC Indamixx might have only niche appeal, you can bet the Indamixx netbook could be a huge hit.

You can pre-order the Indamixx laptop with a US$99 deposit, and guarantee delivery by Christmas by ordering by December 15. With USB2, you could easily plug in audio interfaces and keyboards, some of which have excellent support on Linux. On the downside, unlike something like the Lenovo S10, it won’t run Ableton (at least not with some effort – anyone tried WINE?) On the upside, Linux has audio features Windows XP doesn’t, it comes pre-configured with a bunch of software, and runs nicely on this kind of hardware.

I hope to test one of these machines soon. And yes, before people start protesting, there still is a great argument for conventional laptops — $500 will buy you a fairly impressive conventional machine, and you can install Linux on that, as well; with more of an investment, you could get a machine that easily smokes this one. I do like maxing out the capabilities of just those kinds of machines. But you have to admit, you can see some appeal to this machine, as well. And I do think some of the developments here, from the low-power CPU to the use of the Linux distribution, have some implications for all laptops. Stay tuned.

Indamixx Laptop Pre-Order Page

  • Orubasarot

    I may not be IN DA MAXXIMUM MIXX but I got a Lenovo S10 because it has an Express Card slot, so I can use the new Echo Express Indigos with it.

    CPU power dominates all aspects of performance on Atom netbooks.

    I have ran the Energy XT2 and 2.5 beta demo, that default demo track with pads and arps on the following systems:

    XP Home fat32

    XP Pro NTFS

    XP Pro fat32 optimized and stripped to all goddamn hell

    OSX

    They were all identical, and they all choked on EXACTLY the same note, causing a few dropouts.

    I really, really, really doubt that this netbook will play that very same demo without any issues on that very same note, a couple of seconds into the demo. It's just a CPU spike because of too much polyphony, the OS is totally irrelevant unless it's loaded with Bonzi Buddy or something.

    The strange thing is that Logic, Digital Performer, Sonar, Nuendo, and Pro Tools run fine on these things. Everything loads in an instant, it FEELS like I'm on my 3.15GHz Core 2 Duo, but that feeling is gone once the Atom is hit with 5 or 6 simultaneous notes of a moderately CPU heavy synth. In Nuendo you also have to be a little clever with the high mixer by either splitting it in two or scrolling the resolution, but it's still usable.

    I'm totally sold on the upcoming dual core Atom netbooks for next year. The current models do the basic job of allowing you to sketch up some ideas or maybe DJ, but it is really easy to hit the performance ceiling and come crashing down. You have to be a total nerd about managing resources and freezing tracks, something I'm not used to since I've had my overclocked Core 2.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I actually know the demo you mean. I think the energyXT folks might want to consider a less-punishing demo, because I've seen the same thing happen. ;) It's definitely workable using energyXT in your own stuff, particularly if you're a bit on the conservative side.

    There are some interesting setups here, though, you know: imagine using this as a mobile drum machine, plug in a USB interface and output MIDI clock to a couple of other laptops (eg, you and one collaborator, or you and a VJ) for sync.

    I agree about the coming improvements to Atom. Dual core of course won't be a twofold improvement, because multi-core processing never works that way, but it should be a nice bump.

  • Orubasarot

    Oh and I totally forgot. I got my Lenovo S10 for $400. For only $70 more I could have had a Core 2 15" Lenovo Y430 or Y530 laptop that would be 10 times faster. But I don't want it, because I would never carry it to work or school with me, they're too heavy and I'm way too lazy.

    I can take the S10 with me everywhere, every day, and not feel like I'm stuck with a heavy cumbersome thing. It's great that I can just sit down (or stand up) and start working something out immediately. Doesn't matter if I'm at work, in class, in a parked car, everywhere is my studio now.

  • http://www.indamixx.com Ronald Stewart

    Orubasarot U R Right! That default demo on energy XT2 can cause fits BUT

    1) It's just a default demo track

    2) We have replaced that buggy misbehaving bad boy with new demos. Thanks to Tony Baker

    3) The default demo does not xrun on Indamixx Laptop

    4) Jorgen optimizes all Indamixx products specifically for our target hardware, tweaking it so it out performs a stock version.

    However, it is common to get 1 x run when loading energy XT but again, no x run when running the demo on Indamixx Laptop.

    Thank you for your feedback – I hope you are rocking out!

    Ronald Stewart

  • Orubasarot

    I initially thought the most important aspect of an audio focused netbook would be express card audio support, but now that I have one I think CPU performance is what really matters. The onboard ALC268 audio for these units is actually surprisingly good. The Asio2ks drivers match OSX core audio performance for me. And I'm typically a headphone amp nerd but I've been able to drive my high empedance Sennheiser HD650s straight out of this thing without problems, I don't really hear any issues with transients even at high volumes.

    I'm curious if this unit will be overclockable like the MSI Wind. That's also something I really hope Lenovo considers, because when I make complaints about performance I'm actually really close to being able to do what I want. Just a little more headroom would be fantastic, and since it is essentially the same hardware I hope it will be possible.

    http://gizmodo.com/5068392/msi-wind-scores-30-per

    Besides that I'm hoping for more netbook support in Setfsb, so I can overclock regardless of manufacturer's wishes. I'm only looking for a reasonable boost to maybe 1.8, not to cook the thing.

    http://www13.plala.or.jp/setfsb/

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I don't see ExpressCard as that important. I believe this box has 3x dedicated USB jacks. (Yes, *more* than the new MacBook Pro. Ahem.) So you ought to be perfectly fine with audio + a USB controller + something else, if you like.

  • http://www.indamixx.com Ronald Stewart

    Orubasarot geez maybe you should go grab a lottery ticket as you are on a roll :)

    Again you are right, the built in audio is quite good as that was my main concern initially when we were considering Indamixx on the Samsung Q1 Ultra. Overall I have been quite surprised how good these Intel HD Codecs are.

    Thank you

    PS where are the links to your tracks?

    ronald stewart

  • Rex Rhino

    See, this is not what I want.

    What I want is essentially a laptop, except with 1/4" in and out jacks (1/8" stereo sucks), and built in MPC style midi pads instead of a keyboard (I can plug in a USB keyboard at home, and just have it auto-load my software live.

  • Orubasarot

    Haven't produced in years because of double full time work/school, but now that I'm so portable I'm finally getting stuff done. Actually this is straight off the netbook:

    http://andreynikolayev.com/7.62x54mmR_Short_Sampl

  • http://www.indamixx.com Ronald Stewart

    Rex,

    I want one of those too! I want one so bad I built it (without pads, but can be easily added).

    Trinity DAW
    http://www.trinityaudiogroup.com

    Peter, maybe you are right we should make a build your own Trinity for guys like Rex who want to customize the specs. Generic build sheet with customer add ons, sounds promising, I know Daniel James at 64studio still loves his Trinity DAW more than any of these type of solutions. And for Orubasarot I can pop a 1.8Ghz Pentium chip on the board so he gets his performance. Echo Audio is inside and built into the board. Wow it's back to 2006 again!

  • http://www.indamixx.com ronald stewart

    hey guys if you are looking for a low cost digital DJ solution you can use Indamixx laptop with the Behringer USB audio card to achieve 'house' and 'cue', I tested it and it works great! The Behringer podcastudio has been added to the accessories for Indamixx products.

    Lets have fun!

  • Dan Gillespie

    The one feature I've wanted for a while is a laptop with velocity sensitive keys. That could go a long way towards making it useful for music.

  • just_me

    "I have ran the Energy XT2 and 2.5 beta demo"

    that beta-demo that should appear around new year?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Dan: Ha! And the rest of the time, pressing them HARDER gives you CAPS. ;)

  • Orubasarot

    just_me, I don't remember, I'm pretty sure it was linked over at the KVR forums. I think it was technically 2.x, whatever the hell that means.

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  • just_me

    Orubasarot, thanks for reply.

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  • Sirhc Dunkulush

    is the harddrive space known on this thing yet? or is it a solid state or what? im in the market for a new computer and im really interested in something like this.

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  • ix

    i tried using netbooks for music. unfortunately theyre 1/6th the speed of the fastest core2duo mobile chips, even before considering the anemic HD's and bus performance

    you can get 4 times as much juice at this price point with an entry level AMD-powered or previous-gen-core2 notebook

  • http://www.indamixx.com ronald stewart

    Sirhc Dunkulush – the hard drive is 80GB

    thanks

    ronald

  • Ed_M

    Thanks for the information about this unit.

    I have been trying to determine what the characteristics of a good synth-compatible or synth-friendly laptop would be. Perhaps this information already exists somewhere on the web, but I have not been able to find it.

    Does our editor or any of the readers have any comments/recommendations/links/good-natured abuse to offer? Thanks!!

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  • sirhc donkulush

    thanks for the response.

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  • mediawest

    I have a high end laptop running vista, and while it runs protools and a few vst fine, it will bog down in heavy use. i cant believe that the atom linux setup will be of much use, except for light midi work. i have seen these new laptops for about $500, and would like to try one out, but for the same amount or a little more you can get a full blown laptop with 3gig ram, and huge drive. much better for portable production……..

    anyone try this box yet???

  • http://www.myspace.com/djnewmiracle newmiracle

    I must agree that the bundled music software does make it a better deal than it initially looks like. Also, on a personal note, it might be nice to just have one "music machine" that doesn't have a bunch of distractions on it. I know, I know, I'm an adult with a fully functional sense of self control. But I'm also trying to kick a really bad Left4Dead habit right now… haha.

    And I wanted to know what the deal is with MIDI controllers in a Linux enviroment. How do USB controllers like a Trigger Finger work under Linux? That could be a huge deal breaker for me.

  • http://www.indamixx.com ronald stewart

    Indamixx – Confirmed Devices Page
    http://www.indamixx.com/index.php?option=com_cont

    USB Controllers – Videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/indamixxPC

    Also, Trigger Finger works too! but check the firmware version.

  • http://www.indamixx.com ronald stewart

    Indamixx Atom Based Laptop/Netbook – Technical Video

    Multiple synth and drum tracks using energy XT2 default demo.
    http://www.trinityaudiogroup.com/Indamixx_LT_Perf

    Indamixx Laptop/Netbook Technical Video Setup – Live Scratching with Vinyl Control featuring Mixxx 1.6.1.
    http://www.trinityaudiogroup.com/IndamixxLT_VC.mo

  • http://www.indamixx.com ronald stewart

    whoops! File Overload go here instead:

    Indamixx Atom Based Laptop/Netbook – Technical Video

    Multiple synth and drum tracks using energy XT2 default demo.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOr2Q364kUQ

    Indamixx Laptop/Netbook Technical Video Setup – Live Scratching with Vinyl Control featuring Mixxx 1.6.1.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYg3Fx9YDDo

  • löffelw

    if somebody´s familiar with linux, then he´d be an absolute idiot, if he spends money for all those free software what´s here included for money, gentlemen…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @löffelweisheitscheisser:

    You're not actually correct.

    energyXT and several of the bundled utilities (including the import for Ardour) are for-pay software.

    And that's not even including the fact that this is an actual *laptop* and that it's all pre-configured for you, which even for a Linux user may have some appeal.

    So… no.

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  • http://www.brentodell.com Brent ODell

    Has anyone out there had a chance to play around with one? I'm interested in something portable to record tracks, usually just stereo, but sometimes 3-4, and have some loops/tracks playing back.

    I'm thinking this would be slick since my main DAW is a Ubuntu Studio 8.04 setup, I could transfer my projects over for anything too intense for the little guy, while still having something I could take with me wherever I go.

    Just wondering if anyone can give some real-world samples of tracks laid down with one of these things.

  • http://www.indamixx.com Ronald Stewart

    Hi Brent, Does a full remix from a cappella count as real world? :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT1RzMD_v9o

    Thank you

    Ronald

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  • blahze'

    does it act as a mixer?? in other words does the mic plug directly into the lap top or do you need a compatible mixer??

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