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Laptop vs. Tablet for astronomy and misc other?

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#1 RocketScientist

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 11:43 PM


I've reached the point that I need to replace an old laptop. The replacement will be used for a combination of web browsing, email, and astronomy.

What are the tradeoffs between the two? If you were only buying one, which would you choose? Note that I am not part of the Apple universe, so I am only interested in discussing Windows laptops and Android tablets.

The only device I have at present is a Nook Color that I've hacked to run as a general-purpose Android tablet. It has all of the Tri-Atlas on it and a PDF reader, but the PDF reader is so slow on this hardware that it's essentially unusable. Of course, this device is so slow that it is painful even to send and receive email; it just wasn't designed to be more than an e-reader (a job it does fairly well).

So, laptop or tablet?

#2 Jeff2011

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 12:37 AM

Well that just depends. What type of "astronomy" do you want to do? If you just want to run a planetarium program than a tablet or even a smart phone will do the trick. If you want to do autoguiding or control camera then a laptop would be a better choice.

#3 skyquest25

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 01:36 AM

Comes down to what you want from the use of "astronomy". If you just want to view pdf's and use say Sky Safari. A tablet is more than sufficient. I use a Toshiba 10" 64GB Excite for digital astronomy books, Charts, and the available android astronomy programs.

But your consideration comes into what you "might" want to do in the future that you have to make room for. I have a 17" Toshiba Satellite laptop for Starry Night Pro Plus, Cartes du Ciel, etc. Obvsiously I can't use them on an Android tablet.

If your not concerned about using other Astronomy software that is only available in the pc environment then any higher end Tablet would be sufficient. Web Browsing and email isn't a problem.

If that's your take then I would recommend a 10" as compared to a 7", while compact and sometimes easier to hold, it won't be satisfying enough visually. Nexus 10, Galaxy Tab 2 10", Toshiba Excite 10" are all good tablets. Spend the few extra bucks for a higher end rather than a cheaper version. With cheap you get heavier and low end hardware, in the end its not financially "smart."

#4 CarolG

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 08:23 AM

I have both a tablet and a laptop. The tablet is fun to use, but the laptop is the real workhorse. One thing to consider is whether or not you need USB ports. I have 6 USB ports on my laptop, and, depending on what I'm doing, I sometimes use all 6 ports and still need more. As the others have said, it all comes down to what you want to use it for.

#5 Spaced

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 04:46 PM

Certainly one activity is only practical with a tablet, and that is holding it in one hand to view the star chart (in my case, on Sky Safari) while looking back and forth between it and an EP. I've started doing that -- & acquired an iPad Mini for that purpose -- and (cue the swelling violins) it's changed my life. ;)

#6 rmollise

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 04:57 PM

I've reached the point that I need to replace an old laptop. The replacement will be used for a combination of web browsing, email, and astronomy.

What are the tradeoffs between the two? If you were only buying one, which would you choose? Note that I am not part of the Apple universe, so I am only interested in discussing Windows laptops and Android tablets.

The only device I have at present is a Nook Color that I've hacked to run as a general-purpose Android tablet. It has all of the Tri-Atlas on it and a PDF reader, but the PDF reader is so slow on this hardware that it's essentially unusable. Of course, this device is so slow that it is painful even to send and receive email; it just wasn't designed to be more than an e-reader (a job it does fairly well).

So, laptop or tablet?


Impossible to say without more information about what you plan to do. Need PHD Guiding? It will have to be a laptop. ASCOM? Same-same. Etc. ;)

#7 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 05:23 PM

Everyone needs a laptop.

But out under the night sky.. for visual, there's not much Sky Safari won't do that desktop programs will... There's stuff that Sky Safari does that on the desktop, only Sky Tools does.

As far as tablet size, if you are going to use a 10 inch, might as well use a laptop. I have an 8 inch, would like a 6 inch but such a bird does not seem to exist so I will probably get a 7 inch here shortly.

Jon

#8 RocketScientist

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Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:16 PM

Sorry, I should have been much more explicit in the OP.

I use no DSC's, no guiding, no clock drives. My only GoTo scope is a simple ETX-80. Most of my observing is done with a Z10 and a C5 on a CG-4 mount. In both cases, it's all about star-hopping.

So what I am looking for is the most effective hardware for (1) planning observing sessions while lying on the couch instead of sitting up at the desktop; (2) using as a star chart and lunar chart while actually at the eyepiece (star-hopping, remember); and (3) accessing Cloudy Nights and other related web sites (plus email).

I currently use Stellarium, Xephem, and VMA on my PC, but for the most part I still live in a paper chart world. I'm looking for a way to be less dependent on the pile of heavy, bulky paper.

The obvious advantage of the laptop is that it can run Stellarium, Xephem, VMA, and a whole slew of other effective programs. The tablet would be limited to Sky Safari and displaying PDFs such as the Tri-Atlas, Lunar Field Atlas, and so forth.

It would also be useful to have pre-planned observing lists on the device, whatever it may be. Right now I tend not to pre-plan, but unfortunately that makes me less likely to push ahead with the Herschel 400 or other interesting "stretch" objects or lunar features.

95% of my observing is done at home under roughly mag 4.5 skies. I am a very serious lunar observer, a dilettante on planets, and a pretty casual observer of DSO's (mostly globulars, planetary nebulae, and clusters) and doubles.

I also like to go camping, and I usually take my ETX-80 if I expect it to be clear. Then I let the "Tonight's Best" mode do the work, because after a long day of hiking I'm too tired to work hard at searching for difficult objects.

Any thoughts, given this background?

#9 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 06:14 AM

Any thoughts, given this background?



My thinking:

I have been using hand held star charts for probably 10 years. For much of that time I was using Planetarium and Pleiades Atlas on Palm hand-helds but about 2 years ago I switched to Sky Safari and currently use Sky Safari Pro on either my phone or a smaller tablet. I just ordered a 7 inch tablet to replace my 8 inch, the new one fits in one hand. When I head out to the mountains for a weekend, I don't even bother taking my laptop.

If you are not using Skytools 3 to do your planning, I think a Tablet running Sky Safari Plus or Pro is the way to go. Sky Safari is more powerful than Stellarium, does more things than the big desktop programs I use, Cartes du Ciel and the Sky.

For example, Sky Safari computes the orbits of short period binary stars so you have the actual separations rather than a fixed date number which maybe totally wrong. Currently, Cartes du Ciel which does not compute the orbits, lists the separation of Sirius as 3.7 arc-seconds. Skytools 3 which also computes the orbit of short period binaries, shows it to be 9.9 arc-seconds. It also shows shadow transits...

Sky Safari has detailed information about the objects and in addition, it has detailed discussions of many objects that often include observing tips like magnifications, what to expect, appropriate filters..

It works for me... and it fits in my shirt pocket (phone) or coat (smaller tablet) so I have it with me at all times. No need to get up from the chair or climb down the ladder to check the laptop, it's right there, ready to go.

Jon

#10 rmollise

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 10:16 AM

If you are into planning, you want SkyTools 3, which is only available for (Win) laptops...

#11 RocketScientist

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 12:35 PM

After much thought I've decided to go the laptop route. I can pile on all the software I currently use at my desk (VMA, Xephem, Cartes du Ciel, Excel spread sheets of objects seen and to be seen) and have more flexibility.

After reading a bit about SkyTools 3, I think that it would be a great addition to my observing routine. I have not historically done much planning, which means that I get out under the sky and think "Now what?" on moonless nights.

So I'll probably get a Lenovo IdeaPad U410 or something very similar. Hopefully that's enough horsepower for these tools.

Cathy

#12 RocketScientist

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 11:44 PM


Update: I've ordered a Dell 17R with Windows 7. Seems like a good compromise.

#13 orion61

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 12:50 PM

Another thing that hasn't been mentioned is the Environmental issue. You can close the lid of a Laptop to keep dew from forming, or you need to buy a cover for the Tablet. Dew Very Very bad combined with electronics...
I finally built an enclosure for my Laptop. I carry a table
and set it inside it, I also went to a Music store and bought red Color Gell plastic and made a screen cover by sewing cloth around the outside, and have elastic straps
that fit around the LCD.. Patent Pending.. origonal invention...

#14 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 06:02 PM

You can close the lid of a Laptop to keep dew from forming, or you need to buy a cover for the Tablet. Dew Very Very bad combined with electronics...



My 7 inch Tablet lives a coat pocket. No need for a cover and much better protected against the dew. Tablets are also better sealed than a laptop. Tablets are also much handier, right there with me, no need to step away from the scope.

Jon






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