I need configuration advice and what to buy

Here is an interesting problem. I need some advice on what to buy to accomplish the following:

I will be taking the California Bar exam. I have already decided on a Bar Review course that reqires an IPad so assume I already have a 2020 12.9 inch 256 gig IPad Pro and associated Magic Keyboard. After the review course i will be taking the Bar Exam online that requires a webcam and microphone so tge proctors can monitor me. I would prefer an external omnidirectional directional mic and webcam (an iPhone 11 Pro will do for a wide angle Webcam). However I need a laptop that will run this software natively: https://examsoft.force.com/etcommunity/s/article/Examplify-Minimum-System-Requirements-for-Mac-OS-X

I would like a Mac laptop because it will work for the exam and will run Windows ( should be able to run Parraells. https://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/resources/)apps when I practice law and it works with sidecar

Given the above what Mac laptop and configuration, Webcam, mic abd possibly lighting would be the best reasonable solution?

I’ll let someone who knows MacBooks answer but I’m curious why you would not just use the inbuilt webcam and mic as a ‘good enough’ solution?

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I want an external mic becauce the built in mic is not omnidirectional and directional. I need both. The omnidirectional mic to listen to the entire room during the exam And the directional mic is for online meetings when I practice

The webcam should have a professional clarity during the exam and online meetings. Also the wideangle lens would show most of the room during the exam which is why i mentioned the iPhone

Besides with both external they can be placed independently for best results

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This is difficult to get my head around. Sounds like you’re going to spend $1K in mics and cams to take an exam? This can’t possibly be a requirement of the proctoring. I don’t see anything about needing two mics in the link: just a webcam. Is the sw designed to work with two mics? Seems doubtful.

What you describe here is pretty complex. Here are some issues.

  • How will you transmit two video feeds?
  • If you want to use two mics, I think you will need a mixer to put audio together.
  • I don’t know what “professional clarity” means to you, but I think 720p is good enough. Pay more attention to lighting and background which cameras don’t fix.
  • All MacBooks have 720p cameras. Some people complain about the MBA’s though.
  • A webcam is probably a good idea because laptop webcam (from desk surface) gives up-the-nose view and can’t adjust separately from screen angle.
  • Any built-in microphone is going to pick up the noise in the room.

Maybe I’m reading too much into “professional”… I will presume you mean for a “profession” rather than audio/video “professional.”

General Recommendations:

  • Any current MacBook Air/Pro will do what you want (other than 2 mics and 2 cams).
  • Get 16GB RAM if you want to be running Parallels or other VM routinely.
  • 512GB SSD is probably adequate.
  • Sweetspots by increasing price: MacBook Air i5, upgraded MBP 13" 10Gen i5 (it has many improvements over lower 13" model), MBP16" i7
  • Depending on budget and tolerance for weight, the 16" is most powerful option. 13" is probably best all around. MBP16" has superior array of microphones (and speakers).
  • Logitech are probably best webcams for general “business use” - C920s, and other C92xx are very good. Even the C615 is good-enough.
  • Logitech C930e is aimed at “business users” and has a wider field of view.
  • For any business use, have a secure backup strategy and make sure you follow it.

Also, I would plan to wipe the MacBook after finishing with the exam software. Likely very invasive. Or maybe run it in a VM, but I lean toward the first.

Does any of this help?

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I see what you’re saying. I work in IT in the legal industry so I know how exacting tech requirements can be. You can’t really go wrong with any of the MacBook pros, the wrench here is Parallels as you’ll need to allocate memory and processors to it’s VM for Windows in a way that will have good performance in Windows and won’t slow your Mac. This means you’ll need Memory, storage, and processor cores to satisfy both. Check to see what are the minimum requirements for the most demanding Windows application you will use, and that will be the minimum amount you will need to allocate to the VM.

If that is not possible then you would need to run boot camp and dual boot to get the most performance out of Windows. Judging storage might be tricky as that will expand over time, but you can always get external drives if needed. I personally get the most I can afford at the time.

Also remember there is no GPU passthrough for Parallels so if your Windows applications are graphics heavy or require Directx12 and you get one of the MacBooks that has a dedicated graphics card with the intent of using it in Windows then Parallels is DOA.

As for the webcam, sounds like you need something that is conference call focused due to the omnidirectional requirement. While the C920s are nice (I have one), they are only stereo. The Logitech C930e (1080p) and Brio (4K UHD) are omnidirectional if you can find them and I hear good things about them. I am looking at the Brio myself.

Here are the specs of my MacBook Pro which has given me zero performance issues with multiple applications running and Parallels:

2019 15" MacBook Pro

  • 8-Core i9 (4 cores for Windows)
  • 16GB RAM (8 GB for Windows)
  • 512GB Storage (128GB for Windows)

If the main reason you are getting a Mac is that it will work for your Bar Exam, then that seems like an expensive decision. You would likely be better served just getting a Windows machine - especially since, as others have noted - running a virtual environment for Windows on a Mac will start to require more a more powerful machine than if you just ran it natively.

Additionally, as I have some experience supporting lawyers - if you are part of a firm, they will likely have requirements you will need to adhere to (like document retention, security, etc), which might preclude your personal technology choices. As some software has restrictions on running in a virtual environment (Examiplify being one example) - that could render Parallels (or other virtual solutions) unworkable for you.

If you know you will have more control over your work environment, then - of course, make whatever decision you feel is best. :slight_smile:

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Windows machines are also expensive purchases, considering the time and effort required to support Windows versus MacOS. Time is money.

From a personal standpoint, I have had few issues at all with modern (last 5 or so years) Windows machines. And the issues I’ve had have largely been hardware-related (failed hard drive, memory leak on motherboard). So, from my perspective - I haven’t found the entry cost of owning a Mac to be worth it, especially with the restrictions on how I can updated my machine.

But that’s me . I understand others have had different experiences.

I want to concentrate on the Bar Exam. I am not going to take the exam anytime soon but the laptop can be used to make money for the exam

There are 2 ways (maybe) to take the exam. 1. In person with 1000s of others at a convention center. Thhis is the traditional way OR 2 online, which poses some proctoring issues.

If the first method is used then i need a laptop that can run one program Examsoft (this needs 4 gigs of ram - no permanent storage requirements listed). Basically Examsoft is a rudimentary word processor that locks the computer to just the Examsoft interface

If the second method is available (there are practice runs of the process in September) then the laptop needs to run Examsoft AND ProctorU (this requires 2 gigs of ram - there are repeated adnomissions to use only the camera and microphone included in the laptop). Obviously the additional I wanted in my previous post cannot be used

Given that i think i shoud buy a Macbook Air 16/512 Gb storage i5

I thank everyone who responded to my original post. Your comments and questions have been helpful

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Also i should have 2 separate systems for personal and business use to comply with ethics rules, future employment requirements and tax purposes. My personal system could also be used as a test machine for system / security updates and beta programs

Looks like you have your choice locked in.
A bit of personal experience running Windows on Mac. I found running Windows as a VM to be fine for just noodling around to see how it worked, but I was very disappointed when actually trying to run even “simple” programs like Office. Now you will have 16gb memory if you go with your idea, so it may work much better.
I finally gave up when I got to Windows 10. I then upgraded my storage to 1tb, and configured to run my Macbook Air using the Apple Boot Camp feature. Windows runs very well in this mode. Downsides are you have to close MacOS and boot to Windows when you want to run it and I don’t believe Sidecar works in this mode

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