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New Telescope pier side computer - fan-less

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#1 D_talley

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 11:53 PM

In my observatory I have two computer to run my scopes, one at each pier.  Problem is they had cooling fans and after a short while in this desert they would be full of dust and sand. So I decided to see what was available in a fan-less pc that would work better than what I had.

 

I needed the pc to have:

 

2 serial ports to connect to my LX200R mount, one for SGP and one for The Sky6 

1 serial port to connect to my Adaptive Optics  

1 serial port to connect to my rotator

USB 3 to connect to my ZWO cameras

USB 2 to connect to my other cameras

i5 CPU to run my software, no processing 

Enough ram for my software, again no processing

12 volt power supply

Windows 10 Pro 

Network connection 

SSD storage

 

A quick look on Newegg and Amazon showed that there were several types that matched my list of needs.  I went with the Kingdel Powerful Mini Desktop Computer that was offered on Amazon.  It came with 8gigs of ram, i5 processor and 1tb of storage with a 128 gb of boot drive. Fully licensed Windows 10 Pro was included with key being sent after purchase.  You can chose to determine the items you need installed.

 

Here is a shot of the front.

Plus it had two banks of USB connections, USB2 and USB3.  Four Serial ports on the back and two network connections round out the system.  It also had wireless which I will not use.

 

Being cautious I ran a virus check on the boot drive and it came up clean. I did not see any bloat ware.  I disabled the initial account after creating my own. Backup your boot just in case but you have the option to reinstall with the Windows 10 key.  

 

Quiet! This computer just sits there not making a sound.  It handled my software without issue and booted much faster than my other systems.  

 

With built in serial ports I don't have to deal with USB to Serial dongles anymore. 

 

I will have to buy another fan-less system to replace the other mount side computer.  

 

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#2 D_talley

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 11:54 PM

Here is a shot of the back of the unit.

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#3 D_talley

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 11:55 PM

The insides are not much to talk about.  Enough room for your boot drive and a spot to mount a second SSD to the frame top.

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#4 james7ca

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Posted 28 August 2019 - 02:05 AM

For others, here is the link to this system on Amazon:

 

  https://www.amazon.c...U_Q4HzDbF8Z1FXG

 

Kingdel seems to be one of the more popular Chinese-branded industrialized computers, but they often use fairly old processors and this model uses the i5-3317U which was released over seven years ago (it's an Ivy Bridge architecture). I'm not saying this is a "bad" processor, but its performance may be only slightly better than one of today's mid to high-level Gemini Lake processors like the J4105 or J5005 (which have a TDP of just 10W, whereas the 3317U is 17W). So, what you are paying for is the large number of i/o ports (a definite plus) versus something based on one of the more recent CPUs.

 

Also, many industrialized computers seem to use fairly "old" processors which may be related to cost or perhaps many years of field-tested design reliability (and there is nothing wrong with either of those two possibilities).

 

That said, you may need nothing newer and the CPU's performance should be more than okay for the typical astro-related tasks and the price at around $400 is quite attractive.

 

I would be interested in knowing more about the Windows 10 Pro license, since at least one of the reviews on Amazon seemed to question whether the license was fully legit.

 

Also, is the wireless card upgradable/replaceable?


Edited by james7ca, 28 August 2019 - 03:19 AM.


#5 D_talley

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Posted 28 August 2019 - 07:11 AM

The wireless card is hidden under the ribbon cable in my photo. It is replaceable. As for the license, I have backed up the the drive so will not need to reinstall the operating system.


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#6 mclewis1

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Posted 28 August 2019 - 11:11 AM

I have the 2 serial port version of this PC (almost identical hardware and from a different but similar vendor). It's been bullet proof for over a year now (resides in the observatory 24x7).

 

Mine is an i5 based model using the 7200u series chipset (with the 620 video GPU). You can now get these with 8000 series chipsets. One nice benefit of a lower level chipset is things are easier if you want to run an older level of Windows. In my case I'm still running Win7 in the observatory and it took a little bit of work to ensure the correct drivers were in place. If I had been running an earlier chipset it would have been easier to manage the drivers (particularly for the video).

 

Ideally you want all the up to date drivers on some reloadable media ... and as a bonus a bootable image of the OS would be good too. Most of the time you have to do this work yourself.

 

By default most of these PCs ship with a cracked version of Windows and most folks won't have any problems but for a minimal amount (in my case something like $35) you can get the fully licensed OS.

 

IMHO most of the time these PCs are a better idea for observatory type of use than the brand name (HP, Dell, Intel) mini/micro PCs.



#7 airscottdenning

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Posted 30 August 2019 - 10:54 AM

I got one of these too, and it's wonderful.

 

Great to have so many ports, straightforward 12v power, and small form factor at a very reasonable price.

 

And the fanless design means it doesn't get clogged up with dust and crud over months in a plastic box outdoors.



#8 KShank

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Posted 30 August 2019 - 11:39 AM

Hi I have two of the Kingdel units, one for my observatory one for the travelling scope.   I got all USB connections, as lol... i am sure one day the astro gear will move away from serial ports.....    The ones I got were NOT licensed so had to pay to get them up to Win10Pro.

 

I really like using them with TightVNC, use my laptop or ipad from a distance with no problem.  I did also add on a 4 port ethernet hub for the field version that is 12vdc as well, so I can ethernet into the unit from inside my RV since the wifi has problems with that.   It is really great that everything can run off a 12vdc power system now.



#9 rgsalinger

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Posted 31 August 2019 - 09:15 AM

Has anyone measured the power that these Kingdel computers need? I'm looking for low powered solutions - 3 computers for my observatory because I am powered mostly by solar panels and watts are hard to come by.

Rgrds-ross



#10 airscottdenning

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Posted 31 August 2019 - 11:02 AM

Has anyone measured the power that these Kingdel computers need? I'm looking for low powered solutions - 3 computers for my observatory because I am powered mostly by solar panels and watts are hard to come by.

Rgrds-ross

 

Mine draws about 1.5 amps most of the time, spikes to maybe 3.5 for brief periods when doing something significant. 

 

Mostly it's just idling when imaging though 



#11 james7ca

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Posted 31 August 2019 - 11:03 AM

Has anyone measured the power that these Kingdel computers need? I'm looking for low powered solutions - 3 computers for my observatory because I am powered mostly by solar panels and watts are hard to come by.

Rgrds-ross

The KingDel website has some information on power consumption and power supplies. However, they have a lot of different configurations and it will depend somewhat on how many devices you have connected to the computer, but as an example the power supply for a unit that is similar to the OP's has a claimed output of 60 watts (12V, 5A). But that unit has a 15W CPU and a slightly different set of I/O. Note that the OP's unit has (apparently) an Intel i5-3317U which has a 17W TDP.

 

However, the power supply output may have little to do with the actual power consumption (other than the peak power consumption should be lower than what the power supply can deliver). I know that my headless GigaByte BRIX-S with a quad-core J4105 (TDP 10W) and 8GB of DRAM draws a multi-hour average of about 8W when running SGP and PhD guiding (capturing one sub every 15 seconds from an ASI183MM Pro and saved to an internal NVMe SSD). That also includes a few serial port devices and ethernet (all, probably, very low power). This also includes a Remote Desktop connection.


Edited by james7ca, 31 August 2019 - 11:10 AM.


#12 mclewis1

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Posted 02 September 2019 - 11:43 AM

Has anyone measured the power that these Kingdel computers need? I'm looking for low powered solutions - 3 computers for my observatory because I am powered mostly by solar panels and watts are hard to come by.

Rgrds-ross

Ross, I'd really take a good look at a Raspberry Pi based system for at least some of your requirements (assuming that you can find the appropriate software). Yes you'll probably have to learn a little Linux to manage the system but the trade off is very low power requirements. You may even be able to use a PI zero for one of your computers which would really offer the lowest power requirement.

 

You can certainly find some nice small box fanless packages (smaller and simpler than what we've been discussing in this thread) that run Windows, but PI's will still generally have a lower power consumption.


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