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Need laptop for AP

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#1 DuPont

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 07:55 AM

     Hi, I'm looking for a dedicated laptop for DSO imaging. I've been reading CN posts to get an idea for whats needed. I'm just getting in to this type of astrophotography. So I found this refurbished Dell Latitude for $289.99 & I'd like to see what you folks think.

Dell Latitude 3450 14" Notebook.

500GB HHD

8GB Ram

2.2 GHz Intel core i5-5200u duel core processor

2- 3.0 USB & 2-2.0 USB ports

I plan on installing ASCOM, EQMOD, probably editing software like APT, PHD2, Carts du Ciel, DSS, etc. I'm still researching software so I'm not sure exactly what route to take.

 

So, would a machine like this meet your needs? Are there other considerations that I need to take into account?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 Jim Davis

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 08:33 AM

That would probably be fine. I bought a similar used Lenovo Thinkpad recently for the same purpose.



#3 RSJ

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 08:38 AM

Recently, I also needed a laptop for AP. In February, after much consternation, I ordered a refurbished "Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series E7470 Ultrabook | 14in HD+ Anti-Glare LCD | Intel Core 6th Generation i5-6300U (2.4Ghz) | 16 GB DDR4 | 512 GB SSD | Windows 10 Pro (Renewed)" off Amazon. It works wonderfully, I regularly have PHD2, Carts du Ciel, DSS Live, Starry Night, CPWI, and Chrome running together during the evening.

Increasing RAM to at least 16GB and using a solid state drive (SSD) will improve performance.

 

EDIT/ I'll add that mine was ~$390


Edited by RSJ, 31 March 2020 - 08:42 AM.

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#4 bobzeq25

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 09:16 AM

The above folks are doing well.  What counts mostly is the availability of USB ports.  Acquiring data is realtime work, painfully slow for a computer.  Platesolving or examining frames in PixInsight with something like SubframeSelector needs a bit of horsepower, not much.   My i3 observatory computer (a low power NUC), 8GB, handles everything just fine.  The SSD mostly helps boot speed.

 

Processing is a _completely_ different story.


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#5 DuPont

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 09:47 AM

           Thanks everyone, I also found the same Dell laptop model (refurbished also) for $35.00 more. But this one has an SSD drive at 128GB instead of an HHD 500GB. This one only has 1 USB 2 port, other then that there almost the same.

 

One more thing, is there a need for a USB-C port?


Edited by DuPont, 31 March 2020 - 09:53 AM.


#6 SDTopensied

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 09:52 AM

The Core-i5 is probably the best value out there.  You're not going to get cheaper and faster. 

 

To echo Bob's comments...

Specs for an acquisition laptop are different than specs for a processing laptop/desktop.  If you're going to use your laptop for image acquisition, you can step down to a Core-i3 (go with as much memory as you can get and an SSD) and save some money.  If you're going to use your laptop for both image acquisition and image processing, the Core-i5 laptop you have spec'ed out will be fine.

 

For image acquisition, I use a BeeLink mini PC that runs on 12 volts and rides on top of my scope and I remotely connect over WiFi.  It has an Apollo Lake Celeron and 4 gigs of RAM which is more than enough for SGP, auto-focus, plate solving, Cartes du Ciel or Stellarium, PHD2, etc.

 

For image processing, I use a Quad Core i7 Macbook Pro that turns into a space heater when I run 2x Drizzle during processing.  I could use it for image acquisition, but it would be overkill.

 

All of this being said, if your budget allows for one machine, you'll obviously need to go with one that will do both and your Core i5 will do just fine.

 

-Steve


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#7 Oyaji

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 09:54 AM

The other important consideration is the laptop's battery life--unless, that is, your scope is always within easy reach of an electrical outlet (which mine rarely is). Google will help you find laptop models with the longest battery life.  If you look for, say, the longest battery life laptops as tested in 2017 or 2018 models, you can probably find a refurb in 2020 at a modest price.  

 

Why is battery life important?  Because your imaging laptop may to have to work reliably 6-8 hours in near freezing temperatures.  If your laptop has been tested as good for 12-15 hours, it's just one less thing to worry about.  


Edited by Oyaji, 31 March 2020 - 10:02 AM.


#8 Jim R

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 09:58 AM

I will add my thoughts.  8gb ram is good; 16gb is demonstrably better.  SSD definitely helps, especially in very cold weather.



#9 DuPont

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 10:02 AM

The other important consideration is the laptop's battery life--unless, that is, your scope is always within easy reach of an electrical outlet (which mine rarely is). Google will help you find laptop models with the longest battery life.  If you look for, say, the longest battery life laptops as tested in 2017 or 2018 models, you can probably find a refurb in 2020 at a modest price.  

I'm building a marine deep cycle (75Ah) battery box. My plan was to plug in my Bestek 300 watt inverter to the battery & use it to power my laptop.



#10 DuPont

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 10:07 AM

I will add my thoughts.  8gb ram is good; 16gb is demonstrably better.  SSD definitely helps, especially in very cold weather.

If I'm not mistaken this Dell can be upgraded to 16GB.



#11 Oyaji

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 10:09 AM

I'm building a marine deep cycle (75Ah) battery box. My plan was to plug in my Bestek 300 watt inverter to the battery & use it to power my laptop.

That, I'd say, is the functional equivalent of being within easy reach of an electrical outlet.  



#12 Jim R

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 10:23 AM

To step up from 12v to 110v and back down to 19v not the most efficient, and I can't confirm, but I have heard of some shock hazard when using inverters in the field.  A direct conversion from 12v battery to 19v laptop use is what I am currently looking for.  Experts, is that feasible?



#13 rgsalinger

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 10:39 AM

Yes you can buy these on Amazon but you will have to do some wiring. 

Rgrds-Ross



#14 Oyaji

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 11:04 AM

In response to Jim R (#12):  I'm no expert, but I use a PST-YD100W to power my mount, which will run off 12 VDC but prefers 16 VDC.  It works off either 110 VAC or 12 VDC; delivers selectable 12--24 VDC.  https://www.powerstr...om/AC-A0407.htm  


Edited by Oyaji, 31 March 2020 - 11:12 AM.


#15 Noah4x4

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 11:10 AM

The proposed i5 should be fine for single exposure Astrophotography.  But caution if you buy a large sensor, high resolution CMOS camera, and/or embrace multiple short stacking techniques (as in EAA). You might need more computing ooomph dependent on what route you take.

 

My 16 megapixel camera choked a seventh generation i5 with 4Gb RAM when stacking 5 second exposures. It ran, but slowly with 8Gb RAM. This won't matter for long exposure astrophotography where you might wait hours for a single image. However, to enjoy the near real time experience that I sought it needed an eighth generation i7 with 16 Gb RAM. A major problem is Windows 10 that steals system resources. Linux is better, but the learning curve is steeper. 



#16 mdavister

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 11:21 AM

In general, I think that the basic specs of the machine are fine. Here are some other thoughts I arrived at for my setup:

  • Most Dell laptops use a proprietary power connector, not the standard 2.1 or 2.5mm barrel connector, it means you have to use the Dell AC adapter, or find an after market DC supply.
  • When it gets cold out, a lot of commercial laptops have issues with drives spinning up, or being able to see displays.
  • Oopsies always happen in astronomy, from tripping over cables to just being plain clumsy (been there done that).

For my setup I opted for a Panasonic Toughbook, for that it works well. What I don't like is the screen is only 1024x768 and the colors and contrast aren't great. If I remote into it, then that's not a problem though.

 

My 2 cents on it. The big thing of course is just use it, what ever you decide! :) Clear skies!


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#17 Delta608

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 11:26 AM

Getting cheap in the final acquisition process is kinda silly..(IMO).., after spending all that money to get to that point...Like was said above, when your computer starts bottle-necking from your stacked  acquisitions and freezing you will wish you went a but more cores/memory/SSD...


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#18 DuPont

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 11:34 AM

             Well, the hunt continues. I seen this Dell on Staples website-in stock. I wanted to order from Staples because I just retired & received a $300.00 gift card but it can only be used at select vendors.  I have $174.00 left on the card, hence I needed 2 cards to make the payment. So I go over to the local Staples & the clerk looks it up & it's out of stock.........Oh wellfrown.gif

Once again, thanks for all inputsmile.gif.



#19 j.mobile

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 12:25 PM

I got one of these a while back for $250 (not sure why they are $428 now, maybe watch for a sale) and liked it so much I got another later for my dad.  Discount Electronics has a 1 yr warranty.

 

https://discountelec...-pro-ultrabook/

 

I added another 8gb of RAM and it works great and comes with Win 10 Pro.



#20 Oyaji

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 12:28 PM

mdavister said (#16):  "Oopsies always happen in astronomy, from tripping over cables to just being plain clumsy (been there done that)."

 

Truer words were never spoken.

 

This is one reason I don't want to fool with an external laptop power supply--be it attached to a 12 V battery or be it attached to an electrical outlet--powering my laptop when I can use a laptop with extended battery life.  I have plenty enough cords and cables to manage as it is powering and connecting my 12 V battery, mount, dew heaters, cameras, focuser, USB hub, and laptop--each an oopsie waiting to happen.  If I can eliminate another cord, I'm all for it.  Plus, my laptop doesn't always stay put on my table.  The fewer cords connected to the laptop (I have a single USB connection going to the hub, and an ethernet connection to the mount) the better if one wants to move around a bit with laptop in hand. 


Edited by Oyaji, 31 March 2020 - 12:37 PM.


#21 t-ara-fan

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 12:55 PM

To step up from 12v to 110v and back down to 19v not the most efficient, and I can't confirm, but I have heard of some shock hazard when using inverters in the field.  A direct conversion from 12v battery to 19v laptop use is what I am currently looking for.  Experts, is that feasible?

Stepping up to 110VAC then down to 19V is not the optimal efficiency. But my 250W inverter is 95% efficient which is close enough.  

 

Going direct 12-19 is slightly more efficient, but then you have to find the right connector for your laptop.

 

OP: a laptop can draw >5A from your battery when charging.  So I would start with a fully charged laptop and run it down to 20% battery. THEN charge it, but only partially. Maybe to 50% if I thought that would last the night.  That way my big 12V battery had the best chance of keeping the scope and camera running longest.

 

 


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#22 DuPont

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 01:10 PM

Stepping up to 110VAC then down to 19V is not the optimal efficiency. But my 250W inverter is 95% efficient which is close enough.  

 

Going direct 12-19 is slightly more efficient, but then you have to find the right connector for your laptop.

 

OP: a laptop can draw >5A from your battery when charging.  So I would start with a fully charged laptop and run it down to 20% battery. THEN charge it, but only partially. Maybe to 50% if I thought that would last the night.  That way my big 12V battery had the best chance of keeping the scope and camera running longest.

Thanks for the tip on charging a laptop. I'll keep that in mind.



#23 jakecru

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 01:36 PM

I am not sure about the AP part, but I would try to get a laptop with a SSD. It makes a huge difference in overall speed, and I am guessing it helps with loading photos, etc. 



#24 DuPont

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Posted 31 March 2020 - 06:02 PM

I got one of these a while back for $250 (not sure why they are $428 now, maybe watch for a sale) and liked it so much I got another later for my dad.  Discount Electronics has a 1 yr warranty.

 

https://discountelec...-pro-ultrabook/

 

I added another 8gb of RAM and it works great and comes with Win 10 Pro.

J, thanks for the link. Looks like a good deal on refurbished laptops. Being able to upgrade at those prices could seal the deal. More research to be done first.



#25 Noah4x4

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Posted 01 April 2020 - 04:15 AM

In general, I think that the basic specs of the machine are fine. Here are some other thoughts I arrived at for my setup:

  • Most Dell laptops use a proprietary power connector, not the standard 2.1 or 2.5mm barrel connector, it means you have to use the Dell AC adapter, or find an after market DC supply.
  • When it gets cold out, a lot of commercial laptops have issues with drives spinning up, or being able to see displays.
  • Oopsies always happen in astronomy, from tripping over cables to just being plain clumsy (been there done that).

For my setup I opted for a Panasonic Toughbook, for that it works well. What I don't like is the screen is only 1024x768 and the colors and contrast aren't great. If I remote into it, then that's not a problem though.

 

My 2 cents on it. The big thing of course is just use it, what ever you decide! smile.gif Clear skies!

I am curious at the sentence "if I remote into it, then that is not a problem". I think this could benefit from slightly more clarity. What I think you mean is that you <save> data at full resolution for later post processing and viewing on a more powerful, higher resolution PC and merely observe during capture at 1024 x 768.

 

For example; if your PC has (or is connected to) a 1024 x 768 display that will be the native resolution that will be replicated if observing over remote desktop on another PC indoors, even if the second PC display is 4K UHD. I made the mistake of affixing a 720p monitor at scope and foolishly expecting to see 4k UHD indoors. I was disappointed to still see 720p! 

 

What I now do is run my scope side computer 'headless' at a 4K UHD resolution, then view indoors via a second computer with 4k UHD monitor. To achieve an end to end 4K UHD system does require a lot of processing power, quality 802.11ac WiFi and disabling RemoteFX compression in Windows 10 Pro Remote Desktop can assist. This tip is obviously only of relevance to EAA observers wishing to (near) live observe in their high resolution CMOS cameras native resolution. For regular AP,  then data capture on one modest PC and later post processing on another higher resolution/specification machine is entirely feasible. 




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