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Best laptop for astronomy?

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#26 scope dog

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 08:01 PM

I seen a engineer/ manufacture company the heavy loaded processing machines are only Alienware and they run every day. I had the R1, R2, R3, R4 and now the M17X. The current M17X so far has been basically trouble free over 1.5 years, except for the battery and was replace under warranty. I have seen programs that were develop for a business that just tend to cause issues and problems. There may be programs that mostly use and load up cpu extensively more so if it's running 8 hours a day may cause issues. Some machines like my server T5500 12 core, are built with fans on everything as this is design to stay on all the time with heavy cooling an amazing machine. The alienware machines were design for heavy gaming and run the most loaded games out there fast. I had other laptops and running and stacking would freeze and over heat. I have not had this issue. If I had a issue Alien support is very good I have no complaints and always resolved the problem.



#27 jackofalltrades

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 10:08 PM

That's good to know.  Let me ask this, from how I read your post it sounds like Alienware's quality has improved since Dell bought them out, is that true?  All the ones I dealt with they were on their own, prior to Dell.



#28 AstroEthan

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Posted 15 March 2015 - 08:57 PM

I thought Alienware laptops were geared more for gaming purposes. Would the benefits Alienware laptops have for gaming help in Astrophotography?



#29 walter a

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Posted 16 March 2015 - 02:24 PM

I looked in this forum hoping to learn what i would need in the way of a laptop for video astronomy. I was leaning towards a toughbook cf 30 because it had a lighted keyboard it is waterproof and had a heated hard drive,enoug usb ports and you did not need a carrying case for it and on the used market could be found for a fair price.These come with a carry handle so after you fend off wild dogs and a bear you can drive your truck on it to change you oil. I will check out this forum again to see what else there is to learn.   cds



#30 zawijava

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Posted 16 March 2015 - 02:58 PM

Panasonic ToughBook CF-52 running Windows 7 Pro, highly recommended from this multi decade Apple user. It's the ONLY non-Mac computer I've ever owned, and I like it allot!



#31 bluesteel

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Posted 16 March 2015 - 10:44 PM

Those Panasonic ToughBooks are pretty rugged machines! There is on flaw with the water proofing though, and that is the "channels" they have in the keyboard to get the water to run out of it.  If clogged up with mud and dirt, the channels will not let the water run out, and eventually, it will seep through, making the keyboard not function, or have stuck keys. The rest of the laptop will still function though.



#32 scope dog

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Posted 18 March 2015 - 12:57 PM

I have the cf29 for years now and is my last xp computer, at work I used the cf 30 and 31 and now the FZ-G1 tablet its ok. They are tuff machines, the new ones are expensive. But I like my sons e6430 atb more, because I was able to get the larger battery giving a long life unplugged also its thinner and lighter and super fast with the 500 ssd a tuff machine w/handle no case needed, as he takes to college 2 years now. I learned about the E6430ATB when checking out schools as this was recommended and were on lease for students.



#33 MikeAllNight

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Posted 20 March 2015 - 05:07 PM

Consider a 'Business Class' notebook. These are usually designed with travel in mind so they tend to be sturdier.

+1 on the Toughbook if you have the $$$.

HP consumer stuff gets a bad rep, but their business class hold up well.
YMMV of course, but I've had the same HP 6710b laptop since 2007. Runs great with the 250gb SSD I just added.

Maybe just put an SSD in the one you have? 




 



#34 giorgio_ne

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Posted 22 March 2015 - 05:59 PM

I'm getting a 2nd hand thinkpad x201 from eBay for approximately $200. They are as hard as a nail, I dont need much power for astronomy yet the specs are very good: 4gb of ram, Intel core i7 and 320GB hard disk. I'll upgrade it to a 120GB SSD drive and install Windows7 64 bit professional. I think it'll be perfect for running Sequence Generator Pro on the field. It's three USB ports are perfect to drive mount, ccd and autoguider. I'll do all the image processing on my desktop.



#35 Rusty

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 09:52 PM

Like several brands, HP has several lines; the Elitebooks (business class) are pretty good; mine's 4 years old and trouble-free (so far).  That said, my 11 year old Dell Inspiron X1750 is still fine, but my Toughbook 29 has stopped recognizing its optical drive, and the 1.5GHz Pentium and IDE HDD were making it slow.

 

I do like Alienware, Asus, and MSI; all make robust gaming/desktop replacement laptops;  I expect I'll get one in the future, but I have no need yet.  I've never forgiven Toshiba for selling top-secret material to the USSR.


Edited by Rusty, 25 March 2015 - 09:57 PM.


#36 TimP

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Posted 29 March 2015 - 12:56 PM

I think people go with a brand that they have had the most luck with. When you take a leap of faith and buy a certain brand computer, Telescope mount , Ect..... and it does what you want it to do for an extended amount of time you have a tendency to not stretch your luck  when it comes time to replace it, You go with the same brand. I have decided to go a different route after doing some research for a new laptop. I have had many HP laptops. For me, None of them have ever failed . I take that back , I put a SSD drive in an I7 HP and the drive failed at the first star party I took it to. No fault of HP. I have found in my research that the components that todays laptops are made of pretty much come from the same place. As does the software.  With that in mind I bought a Lenovo 17inch I 7, X70 gamer laptop.

It came with a solid state drive. It has big exhaust ports for the fans on the back for when I'm doing solar on a hot day. It has 2 video cards, One with 4 gig of video memory . You can put up to 32 gig of regular memory in it. Plus it has a touch screen and red backlit keyboard. I really like this laptop. I was also looking for a Windows tablet to use as an alternative hand controller for my CEM60. I found a refurbished 10inch Dell with an I3 processor and a 128  gig Solid State Drive. It also has blue tooth so I can wirelessly control my mount. It was 330. dollars since it was a refurb. I loaded it with ASCOM and Stellarium. I also loaded Sky Tools Pro on it. Now I need to find a blue tooth controller to hook to the mount. Best laid plans .LOL.

 

Tim



#37 Antonio Spinoza

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Posted 29 March 2015 - 10:51 PM

I use a Mac Powerbook 17", 16 Gb,  dual boot - run native Win 7 for analysis (PEMPro, PHD2), telescope control (TheSkyX) and image acquisition (TheSkyX, Nebulosity, CCDOps), and for image processing I use Win7(CCDOps, Nebulosity, PixInsight, Registax) and Mac OSX (Nebulosity, PixInsight, Photoshop, Topaz Labs).  It's handy to have both in one laptop, and I find the Mac OS a little faster and smoother in general than Windows on the same hardware.   Telescope control and image acquisition with TheSkyX, Stellarium, Nebulosity and a few others can easily be run from a Mac, but more software is available for the PC.  Also, with the Mac one has to cover up the pesky glowing apple.  The keyboard light can be turned off and red screen drivers can be used (or the old-fashioned red film), but I've never found a way to turn off the glowing apple.  If my Macbook dies (the 17 is no longer made), I'd probably go with an Asus.



#38 Jeff Struve

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Posted 21 April 2015 - 09:47 AM

I'm def not a MAC user... to me, software seems more readily available and work natively with Windows... next, fast lots of ram and lots of hard drive... I do imaging so speed and size is important... I want a small screen, not large... 13" 15" max... more portable so it fits in my mini laptop tent and leaves plenty of room for my usb cables not to get squashed by the sides of the tent. I don't need a huge screen when I am running programs and imaging.... when I get home I can either use a desktop for processing or plug a large monitor into the laptop... I always want a cd/dvd burner built in... a little thicker, but less parts to carry around, less cables to go bad... it takes up a usb port... ya never know when you want to burn something, or use the laptop in a manner that requires the disk... hard to find the previous with a red back lit keyboard...  



#39 Angel baby

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 09:33 AM

Hi I realise the age of this topic is getting on a bit but I find myself in the situation of investigating the purchase of a new laptop. There are plenty to look at. I thought I had settled on an Acer Aspire e5-571 with 8gb and priced below £400 but then someone mentioned Panasonic Toughbook, which are water and dust proof but are low on spec and high on price. Dew may be an issue as on very old dewy nights it could, over time, find out the weaknesses of the normal laptop,and start to cause problems. Any thoughts?



#40 Jeff Struve

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 09:57 AM

Hi I realise the age of this topic is getting on a bit but I find myself in the situation of investigating the purchase of a new laptop. There are plenty to look at. I thought I had settled on an Acer Aspire e5-571 with 8gb and priced below £400 but then someone mentioned Panasonic Toughbook, which are water and dust proof but are low on spec and high on price. Dew may be an issue as on very old dewy nights it could, over time, find out the weaknesses of the normal laptop,and start to cause problems. Any thoughts?

 

 

I am thinking of doing a desktop w/o keyboard and monitor at the scope and wirelessly remoting in via a lesser laptop... the desktops seem more beefy, more powerful, and less costly... I'm thinking that it doesn't take much of a laptop to remote access a main computer... still in the thinking stage tho!



#41 rgsalinger

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 07:35 PM

First of all the most important things you need if you are using a laptop for astronomy are a large screen and a backlit (preferably red) keyboard. Beyond that if you are going to also use that computer for processing your images, it needs to be as powerful/fast with as much memory as you can afford. Personally, I'm not convinced that looking at branding is very important. However, if you want to use two laptops or two computers and you have a router then use RDP (if you can get it to work) or Teamviewer which always works including cross platform. In my case, I use my android tablet to look at how my session is going. I wouldn't want to try to do much beyond that on a 9" screen but I can see if all is well. If there you don't have a router to spare look for "Virtual Router" which sets up an ad hoc network with RDP or Teamviewer can use. I use this configuration at the dark sky site I use because I like to be outside the observatory when I'm imaging (it's small and I'm big) and it works fine.

Rgrds-Ross



#42 catalogman

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 11:47 AM

First of all the most important things you need if you are using a laptop for astronomy are a large screen and a backlit (preferably red) keyboard.

<snip>

 

 

Inspect the laptop for bright white light from panel lights or escaping from around the keyboard and esp. the

screen.

 

For these laptops, the red night vision feature of apps like Distro Astro won't cut out the blinding white light.

 

                                                                                                                                 -- catalogman


Edited by catalogman, 10 June 2015 - 11:49 AM.


#43 rgsalinger

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 01:17 PM

I really have to say that people make way too much out of stray light unless the scope has some kind of open truss. I've done the experiment with my setups and there is just no discernible difference in image quality that comes from having a bit of white light escape from the laptop. Having said that, I understand that keeping night vision is important and other people nearby should be considered (particular if they are visual). I have my own little corner to work in and as I say, it just doesn't seem to matter much if the backlight on the keyboard comes on from time to time. I normally use a piece of red plastic over my screen as I've found repeatedly that the night vision modes of most astro software are really not adequate. (Sometimes I wonder what they are thinking.)

Rgrds-Ross



#44 Jeff Struve

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 01:29 PM

I really have to say that people make way too much out of stray light unless the scope has some kind of open truss. I've done the experiment with my setups and there is just no discernible difference in image quality that comes from having a bit of white light escape from the laptop. Having said that, I understand that keeping night vision is important and other people nearby should be considered (particular if they are visual). I have my own little corner to work in and as I say, it just doesn't seem to matter much if the backlight on the keyboard comes on from time to time. I normally use a piece of red plastic over my screen as I've found repeatedly that the night vision modes of most astro software are really not adequate. (Sometimes I wonder what they are thinking.)

Rgrds-Ross

 

I tend to agree, although if given the option, I'd prefer to keep everything as 'red' as possible... right now, my laptop does not have a lite keyboard... I purchased 2 goose neck red led lites that plug into the usb... one on each side of the keyboard... and I use a red plastic shield over the screen... and my laptop is in one of those mini tents made for this purpose...

 

If I was only going to have 1 computer for the scope... it would be a fast laptop with a large hard drive... I still would want a small screen... I don't want to lunk around another huge hunk of gear... I'd go 13" - 15"... mine is in that range now, and I have no problems doing Maxim... Planetarium... Mallincam... what ever on-the-field stuff is required... for processing, which I don't do yet, I'd do that on a desktop with a color corrected screen a regular keyboard and peripherals.... 



#45 Pauls72

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 04:09 PM

I  have had my HP laptop for 4 years with no problem other than having to replace the battery once.

19" screen, Core i7, 8GB memory, 750GB and 1TB hybrid drives. (I replaced the original 500GB hard disk)

I travel all the time for work with it.

 

Before that I had a Compaq for 6 years and had to replace the motherboard when it quit charging the battery, replaced the power brick when the old one melted & died and replaced the keyboard when it was getting flaky. I still use occasionally it for some old software on XP.

 

Before that I had a Toshiba and several Dell's.The Toshiba the middle of the screen when dim and had to be replaced. One Dell was good the other went in for warranty repair several times.

 

My co-workers have an assortment of HP's and Dell's. There have been good and bad in both brands.

With the consumer grade laptops it seems to be more the luck of the draw whether you get a good one or a lemon.

 

My HP is big to lug around and it is a power hog. I use it occasionally here at home for astronomy when I have 120V AC available. When remote, I am using an older Asus Net Book to control the mount, camera's and guide. The Net Book is a little bit of a pain due to the low screen resolution (scrolling window), but it has more than enough processing power and long battery life.The Net Book is only Windows XP and I don't use it for processing the images.  I am getting a Nextbook Flexx 11.6 for fathers day to replace the old Net Book. What is most important to me is long battery life. I'm not going to be doing image processing in the dark while at a star party or camping. That's why I opted for a low end PC to do everything outside of image processing.

 

There is a free red screen application for Windows you can download here:

http://www.astrodigi...en_windows.html

 

If you can't find red plastic or cellophane, AstroGizmos sells both the hard red acrylic and the soft plastic stuff that clings to your screen in different sizes. Both of these work better than red cellophane.

I use a narrow Velcro strip along all 4 edges to mount my hard red plastic.



#46 rgsalinger

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 05:23 PM

If you want one laptop for imaging as well as processing then the best bet is to get the most powerful laptop you can afford. That would be one that have a lot of memory and a fast processor. SSD's and Graphics are not important because all the astro software that I know of works in memory. If you get to the point where you're paging out, even to an SSD, then you've lost the battle and should change your software  ;). On the other hand, I find that I don't stay up all night so I don't ever process on my laptop. Instead I just copy over my data in the morning and work on it at my desktop. Personally, I wouldn't take an expensive laptop out into the dew, dust and dirt but that's just me. It's also the case that the only thing that a thief would want at a dark sky site if probably that laptop. You can eliminate the need for a large screen on the laptop by just connecting a second large monitor. That's my situation  these days, modest laptop in the observatory plus a large screen both covered in red plastic. If I had a 13" or 15" that would be what I'd do. Again, if what you want is one computer to do everything then you need as much puff as you can afford. Even then a large screen and a backlit keyboard will be good things to put on the must have list. I never consider battery life to be important since I have either a big battery or AC power everywhere I go. If might be something to consider if you planned to operate without much of a battery and had no access to other power at your preferred site.

Rgrds-Ross



#47 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 02:23 AM

You can't turn off that pesky glowing Apple on a Mac laptop because it's lit by the screen backlight.



#48 jackofalltrades

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 05:20 AM

My HP laptop is the same way with the big LED backlit HP logo on the lid. What I did for that is cover it and all the small lights with red taillight repair tape. Worked like a charm.



#49 Jeff Struve

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 09:37 AM

I bought an ASUS a few years back... I went into Best Buy asking for a gaming laptop... I assumed gamers would really tax a laptop... big programs... fast... over heat protection... and it does a great job... I generally run Maxim, and Stellarium at the same time... Maxim does the imaging and focusing and filter wheels and guiding and I use Stellarium for slewing and planetarium... I'm due for a new rig tho...




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