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Best laptop for astronomy?

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#1 James Cunningham

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 08:15 AM

I am looking to upgrade my laptop. I want an SSD drive, USB 3 ports, 8 to 16 Meg's of ram. Preferably Windows 7. Any suggestions? Thanks.
Jim

#2 rmollise

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 09:39 AM

I believe you'll find 16 gigs of RAM a better option. ;)

 

USB 3 ports are good, and most new laptops will have them. Frankly, you don't need a whole lot of horsepower for astronomy. My main requirements? 17-inch screen and light weight. ;)

 

You can't buy a new machine with Win 7, so the best bet may be to wait till 10 is released. :FarmerRon:



#3 okieav8r

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Posted 18 February 2015 - 11:52 PM

New Egg still sells a good selection Windows 7 machines.  I just purchased a new ASUS laptop from Best Buy.  So far, I really like the computer, but I'm not finding myself to be a fan of Windows 8.  I can't think of anything bad to say about Windows 7, as it worked great for me.  Hopefully, Windows 10 will be a better OS.  From what I understand, it will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users, so there probably isn't much of an incentive to wait about buying a machine. Not for me, anyway.  My old Toshiba bit the dust last week, so I didn't have any choice.



#4 bluesteel

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Posted 19 February 2015 - 11:00 PM

Stay away from HP laptops for really poor hardware that breaks easily.

Also stay away from Lenovos for their REALLY bad spyware that comes pre-installed. 

http://marcrogers.or...omises-all-ssl/



#5 jackofalltrades

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 04:23 PM

Definitely stay far away from Lenovo. Haven't had anything to do with them since IBM sold them to China. Not convinced they're not conducting spying/monitoring at the chipset level either.

 

as for HP laptops, if you order direct for one of their better 15-17" Pavilions or one of their "Performance Series" systems, either with Intel chipset (no AMD) you should be fine.  I've had my Pavilion dv6 for going on 6 years and just finally replacing it with my move to Mac.  For any laptop or tablet no matter how tempted one might be or good specs appear, stay away from the Walmart offerings.



#6 MHamburg

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 03:14 PM

Definitely stay far away from Lenovo. Haven't had anything to do with them since IBM sold them to China. Not convinced they're not conducting spying/monitoring at the chipset level either.

 

as for HP laptops, if you order direct for one of their better 15-17" Pavilions or one of their "Performance Series" systems, either with Intel chipset (no AMD) you should be fine.  I've had my Pavilion dv6 for going on 6 years and just finally replacing it with my move to Mac.  For any laptop or tablet no matter how tempted one might be or good specs appear, stay away from the Walmart offerings.

So I feel the need to defend my 4 1/2 year old Lenovo Edge 520. It has been a fail-safe workhorse for both my observatory's needs and also general usage. I did run into an episode of software malware last year, but this was a problem with the browser Google Chrome. I got rid of that, switched to Firefox, and installed another 4 gigs of memory (total of 8 now), and Malwarebytes (a great anti-virus program) and have never looked back.

 

Michael


Edited by MHamburg, 23 February 2015 - 03:20 PM.


#7 okieav8r

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 08:25 PM

Stay away from HP laptops for really poor hardware that breaks easily.

Also stay away from Lenovos for their REALLY bad spyware that comes pre-installed. 

http://marcrogers.or...omises-all-ssl/

 

Here is a release that is supposed to fix the issue.  Whether anyone trusts it or not is another issue.



#8 Ian Robinson

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 11:47 PM

Stay away from HP laptops for really poor hardware that breaks easily.
Also stay away from Lenovos for their REALLY bad spyware that comes pre-installed. 
http://marcrogers.or...omises-all-ssl/


Had lots of components fail in my wife's old HP desktop, including 2 motherboards. IMO HP are crap. I'll never buy anything made by HP ever again.

Whereas our 3 Dell laptops (10" , 15" and new 17") have the been trouble free, well only thing that's failed on the old 14 yr old Dell Inspiron 5100 SXGA was the keyboard, one of the key's broke off and I had to replace the entire keyboard.

I'd recommend checking out Dell's Inspiron Laptops , you can still get them with Win7 installed as the OS rather than W8 too if you drill down into their online sales pages.

I'd recommend if you can stretch your $ that far, getting a nice compact Dell 10" notebook for in the field , will be very small and compact and light and easy to pack and tote about and if you buy and install in it a high Ahr battery you'll be able run for entire nights without the need to recharge, and a high end Dell 17R (17" FHD i7) with maxed out Ram and heaps of video Ram for in the observatory or heavy duty image / number crunching where you are unlikely to want to tote it about much.

Edited by Ian Robinson, 23 February 2015 - 11:59 PM.


#9 rmollise

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 06:57 AM

Never, ever buy anything from the bunch calling themselves "HP" these days. TVs...laptops...desktops...all JUNK. They are the Packard Bell of today. Just maybe not quite that good. :lol:

 

Lenovo made some excellent hardware, but their desire to install spyware and who knows what else on 'em rules 'em out.

 

I have concerns about the reliability of Sony.

 

I've stuck with Toshiba. Never had a problem.



#10 jackofalltrades

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 05:04 PM

Yeah I'd have serious concerns about Sony repairs now. They've gotten out of the computer business completely, last year I believe it was. No guarantee on repairs or parts at all.



#11 turtle86

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 08:39 PM

Stay away from HP laptops for really poor hardware that breaks easily.

Also stay away from Lenovos for their REALLY bad spyware that comes pre-installed. 

http://marcrogers.or...omises-all-ssl/

 

 

Great info about the spyware.  The company that puts it out sure has an ominous sounding name--Superfish.



#12 okieav8r

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Posted 24 February 2015 - 11:18 PM

I've stuck with Toshiba. Never had a problem.

 

I agree Rod.  My Toshiba stood up to a lot of hard and heavy use over the last 6 or so years.  It was always on, and never gave me any problems.  I definitely got my money's worth out of it.  Toshiba was what I looked at first when I started shopping for a laptop a few weeks ago, but this time around, it seemed that Best Buy didn't carry as many Toshiba models as it did when I bought mine, and it just ended up that the Asus had more of the features I wanted in the price range I was shopping.  The reviews I read in Consumer Reports, PC World, and CNET were also a factor.  But the Toshiba's still rate well.

 

One thing I don't like about most any laptop these days is that it's getting really hard to find one that has a CD drive on it.  They're all going the ultra-thin route these days, trying to look like Mac Books.



#13 bluesteel

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 12:02 AM

 

I've stuck with Toshiba. Never had a problem.

 

I agree Rod.  My Toshiba stood up to a lot of hard and heavy use over the last 6 or so years.  It was always on, and never gave me any problems.  I definitely got my money's worth out of it.  Toshiba was what I looked at first when I started shopping for a laptop a few weeks ago, but this time around, it seemed that Best Buy didn't carry as many Toshiba models as it did when I bought mine, and it just ended up that the Asus had more of the features I wanted in the price range I was shopping.  The reviews I read in Consumer Reports, PC World, and CNET were also a factor.  But the Toshiba's still rate well.

 

One thing I don't like about most any laptop these days is that it's getting really hard to find one that has a CD drive on it.  They're all going the ultra-thin route these days, trying to look like Mac Books.

 

The other day I had to test a client's wired network connection.  I asked to borrow their laptop, since they were having issues with their network connectivity, and it didn't even have an ethernet port! Another reason I would never buy a mac anything.  There are barely any optical drives installed on laptops anymore no matter which brand.  Kinda sad, since you can't play a dvd or bluray movie on the laptop when travelling now without buying a usb optical drive that you have to tote around on top of the laptop and ac adaptor.

 

Toshiba and Asus laptops are pretty good from what I have seen... as long as you stay away from the bottom of their price lines... they have to cut a lot of corners to make the cheap price point. 



#14 Ian Robinson

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 12:27 AM

 

I've stuck with Toshiba. Never had a problem.

 

I agree Rod.  My Toshiba stood up to a lot of hard and heavy use over the last 6 or so years.  It was always on, and never gave me any problems.  I definitely got my money's worth out of it.  Toshiba was what I looked at first when I started shopping for a laptop a few weeks ago, but this time around, it seemed that Best Buy didn't carry as many Toshiba models as it did when I bought mine, and it just ended up that the Asus had more of the features I wanted in the price range I was shopping.  The reviews I read in Consumer Reports, PC World, and CNET were also a factor.  But the Toshiba's still rate well.

 

One thing I don't like about most any laptop these days is that it's getting really hard to find one that has a CD drive on it.  They're all going the ultra-thin route these days, trying to look like Mac Books.

 

My Dell 17R has a builtin DVD / CD burner reader combo.

 

IMO an optical drive capable of burning DVDs or at least CDs is a must in a computer.  Mind you if you don't have one built in , but have USB2 or USB3 ports, then there are plenty of very good external DVD/CD and even BlueRay combos that can be run entirely using USB ports for data and current supply.



#15 okieav8r

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 12:46 AM

Yeah, I did pick up an external CD drive, but it's just so much more convenient to have it onboard.  The external is just another thing I have to lug around at times, and being the klutz that I am, it'll probably be easier for me to break.



#16 rmollise

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 09:16 AM

 

I've stuck with Toshiba. Never had a problem.

 

I agree Rod.  My Toshiba stood up to a lot of hard and heavy use over the last 6 or so years.  It was always on, and never gave me any problems.  I definitely got my money's worth out of it.  Toshiba was what I looked at first when I started shopping for a laptop a few weeks ago, but this time around, it seemed that Best Buy didn't carry as many Toshiba models as it did when I bought mine, and it just ended up that the Asus had more of the features I wanted in the price range I was shopping.  The reviews I read in Consumer Reports, PC World, and CNET were also a factor.  But the Toshiba's still rate well.

 

One thing I don't like about most any laptop these days is that it's getting really hard to find one that has a CD drive on it.  They're all going the ultra-thin route these days, trying to look like Mac Books.

 

 

My three year old Toshiba has a DVD drive, but I probably wouldn't miss it if it didn't. It's easy enough to get a USB one, and the only time I ever use it is for initial software loading.



#17 jackofalltrades

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 09:57 AM

I agree Rod.  My Toshiba stood up to a lot of hard and heavy use over the last 6 or so years.  It was always on, and never gave me any problems.  I definitely got my money's worth out of it.  Toshiba was what I looked at first when I started shopping for a laptop a few weeks ago, but this time around, it seemed that Best Buy didn't carry as many Toshiba models as it did when I bought mine, and it just ended up that the Asus had more of the features I wanted in the price range I was shopping.  The reviews I read in Consumer Reports, PC World, and CNET were also a factor.  But the Toshiba's still rate well.


The other day I had to test a client's wired network connection.  I asked to borrow their laptop, since they were having issues with their network connectivity, and it didn't even have an ethernet port! Another reason I would never buy a mac anything.  There are barely any optical drives installed on laptops anymore no matter which brand.  Kinda sad, since you can't play a dvd or bluray movie on the laptop when travelling now without buying a usb optical drive that you have to tote around on top of the laptop and ac adaptor.

 

Toshiba and Asus laptops are pretty good from what I have seen... as long as you stay away from the bottom of their price lines... they have to cut a lot of corners to make the cheap price point. 

 

I'd much rather not have an internal DVD.  Reliability, cost, and weight savings are a big factor.  For only a few buck comparatively (on a laptop) you can get a really good USB DVD writer, and if it goes bad, just pick up another.  By comparison, built-in drives on laptops cost quite a bit more, especially when they go bad and need to be replaced. 

 

In all my years of computers, including ten years IT support, I've only ever had TWO internal drives that did not go bad, and both those were the internal, slot-loading Pioneer(?) drives on my old pre-intel MacBooks.  Kind of invalidates the no mac argument.  Everything else I've ever had or worked with, including countless Dell Inspiron and Precision laptops and desktops at work had their drives go bad.

 

For me, the choice is to get an external drive.  Most of the time anyway, I never use it, I just have all my software saved as ISO images and simply mount them from USB when needed, including Windows.  Plus, you're going to save a lot of weight and bulk not having internal drive.

 

All that said, I'll agree with pretty much everyone here on their Toshiba recommendations.  Just don't look for me to give any Acer, Lenovo, or maybe Asus (just not sure about yet) recommendations.



#18 rgsalinger

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 06:18 PM

Rather than brands, though, look at features. What you want is something with a large screen, lots of USB ports and a back-lit keyboard and which uses as little power as possible. Windows 8 is fine - you can turn it into Win7 as I did by downloading and installing "classic shell" which is free - but I still recommend Win7 probably because I'm familiar with it. If you will be processing the pictures then you need as much memory and as fast a CPU as you can afford (not cheap). If you're just using it at that telescope as I do, then don't spend more than 5 or 6 hundred bucks but look for features, not brands. 

 

Rgrds-Ross



#19 rmollise

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 08:54 AM

Rather than brands, though, look at features. What you want is something with a large screen, lots of USB ports and a back-lit keyboard and which uses as little power as possible. Windows 8 is fine - you can turn it into Win7 as I did by downloading and installing "classic shell" which is free - but I still recommend Win7 probably because I'm familiar with it. If you will be processing the pictures then you need as much memory and as fast a CPU as you can afford (not cheap). If you're just using it at that telescope as I do, then don't spend more than 5 or 6 hundred bucks but look for features, not brands. 

 

Rgrds-Ross

 

 

All true, but you have to look at brands when there are outfits like HP and Lenovo out there right now. Steer a course around 'em, shipmate. ;)



#20 bluesteel

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 10:48 AM

 

I agree Rod.  My Toshiba stood up to a lot of hard and heavy use over the last 6 or so years.  It was always on, and never gave me any problems.  I definitely got my money's worth out of it.  Toshiba was what I looked at first when I started shopping for a laptop a few weeks ago, but this time around, it seemed that Best Buy didn't carry as many Toshiba models as it did when I bought mine, and it just ended up that the Asus had more of the features I wanted in the price range I was shopping.  The reviews I read in Consumer Reports, PC World, and CNET were also a factor.  But the Toshiba's still rate well.


The other day I had to test a client's wired network connection.  I asked to borrow their laptop, since they were having issues with their network connectivity, and it didn't even have an ethernet port! Another reason I would never buy a mac anything.  There are barely any optical drives installed on laptops anymore no matter which brand.  Kinda sad, since you can't play a dvd or bluray movie on the laptop when travelling now without buying a usb optical drive that you have to tote around on top of the laptop and ac adaptor.

 

Toshiba and Asus laptops are pretty good from what I have seen... as long as you stay away from the bottom of their price lines... they have to cut a lot of corners to make the cheap price point. 

 

I'd much rather not have an internal DVD.  Reliability, cost, and weight savings are a big factor.  For only a few buck comparatively (on a laptop) you can get a really good USB DVD writer, and if it goes bad, just pick up another.  By comparison, built-in drives on laptops cost quite a bit more, especially when they go bad and need to be replaced. 

 

In all my years of computers, including ten years IT support, I've only ever had TWO internal drives that did not go bad, and both those were the internal, slot-loading Pioneer(?) drives on my old pre-intel MacBooks.  Kind of invalidates the no mac argument.  Everything else I've ever had or worked with, including countless Dell Inspiron and Precision laptops and desktops at work had their drives go bad.

 

For me, the choice is to get an external drive.  Most of the time anyway, I never use it, I just have all my software saved as ISO images and simply mount them from USB when needed, including Windows.  Plus, you're going to save a lot of weight and bulk not having internal drive.

 

All that said, I'll agree with pretty much everyone here on their Toshiba recommendations.  Just don't look for me to give any Acer, Lenovo, or maybe Asus (just not sure about yet) recommendations.

 

That is an interesting observation.  I had the exact opposite observation working on warranty repairs for laptops that were purchased through a university that students brought in.  The only time the optical drive went out was when people shoved things in there that did not belong... like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.  I had infinitely more motherboard replacements than optical drive failures.

 

Having an ISO image of media is one thing... but creating a bootable USB drive from it is another that takes a bit more effort.  I guess I am still old school though because I still put a 3 1/2" drive in all my new builds to run bootup scripts quickly and painlessly without any emulation or extra drivers being utilized. 

 

Also mentioning mac's being reliable is one thing, but you are mentioning them in their pre-intel days, in which they are not available at all to purchase new.  I do not think that invalidates the no mac argument at all.  You are getting most of the same "guts" of the laptop nowadays, but you are paying for the case and brand much more so than other manufacturers. 



#21 jackofalltrades

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 11:25 AM

I was simply meaning that the no macs (or any other brand) argument based solely on having no optical drive is meaningless; there are far more important things to consider than features.  I do appreciate your observation re creating bootable thumb drives, and is something I'm working on right now.  But only two of my DVD images are OS's that need to be booted, the other 90% do not need to be booted, but rather mounted for install from the desktop shell.  So all I was saying is that I, like a great many these days, prefer not to deal with the bulk and reliability issues of internal optical drives on a laptop, with no guarantee of finding a replacement when it goes bad (at least not at a reasonable price).  As for 3.5" media?  Wow!  I didn't even know anyone still used them these days.  My parents at one time had archived all their genealogy files on floppy and lost quite a bit due to them going bad just setting on the shelf; that's one media I've never and will never trust.  Good riddance floppies.



#22 rgsalinger

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 11:44 AM

The best laptop I ever owned was a 500 buck Acer that I recently put out to pasture mostly because I wanted to be able to do some processing in the field and the acer couldn't handle the load. I work for a lot of large IT departments and I've never seen the purchasing guys recommend one brand over another for reliability reasons. Happy to see some stats to the contrary but I think that if reliability is your prime criterion, there's no recent data around that I can find to help you in this. A brief search uncovered this

 

http://www.pcmag.com...,2452946,00.asp

 

but it's not clear that PC mag readers are a random sample so who knows.

 

What I can say is that if you don't get a big screen and a backlit keyboard you won't be happy, and an SSD with fast boot time is a really nice thing to have when the software starts acting up at 2 AM and you need to reboot. I suspect that the reason Apple wins these surveys every time is simply that they spend more on quality control and then charge the customer for it, it may be "all profit" but I don't think so.

 

My own canary in the coal mine is my son who normally destroys a laptop in 2-3 years but is now in his forth year of MacBook Air ownership (second kid on the block). On astro imaging machines the DVD drive is really just unnecessary unless you are really price sensitive. You can get a nice external SATA 1 TB drive for under a hundred bucks and (if I remember to back it up :)) will pretty much hold about 3 years of data for most of us. You save a pound or two off the weight and some bucks. That pound or two is worth more to my aching back than Toshiba vs. Dell and the money better put to more memory and an SSD.

 

Rgrds-Ross



#23 AstroEthan

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 11:05 PM

I am looking to upgrade my laptop. I want an SSD drive, USB 3 ports, 8 to 16 Meg's of ram. Preferably Windows 7. Any suggestions? Thanks.
Jim

 

I haven't read the posts above so maybe this was already recommended, and I'm not exactly sure if this fits the requirements for ram even after a little searching, but I love both of my Macbook Pros (Mid-2010, 13 inch and Late-2013, 15 inch) for astronomy. Load it up with Bootcamp and Windows 7 and to spend some money and you'll be good to go. Bonus points if you go for Windows 8 instead since it's slightly faster in my experience.

 

I ultimately think the important question is, "What's your budget?"



#24 scope dog

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Posted 03 March 2015 - 08:48 AM

The best PC is the Alienware series. I have a M17 it will crunch a1gb stack in about 10 seconds, 4gb graphic card. Field use is another story, Though I had it outside 9F. I would suggest. E6430 ATB, with a 500gb ssd and intel graphics and lighted keyboard and touch screen. It has long batt life and seems problem free being everything is intel it can be pump up to 16gb of ram. Also get the handle as this could be used as a weapon to fend off wild dogs and bears.

 

PS i installed my own SSD hds, M17 Has 3 hds 2 SSD.


Edited by scope dog, 03 March 2015 - 08:54 AM.


#25 jackofalltrades

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Posted 03 March 2015 - 09:15 AM

I've been really turned off by Alienware, and strongly warn everyone against them.  In my last job before I retired from IT support, we ordered 9 Alienware laptops for our web developers, and within 6 months all 9 failed, the CPU's overheating so much the fans seized (or vice-versa) and causing the the laptop case covering the CPU to literally melt.  Either Alienware didn't give enough attention to detail wrt ventilation or they use substandard parts in the ancillary components to keep costs down, or perhaps a combination of both.




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