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Recommend a robust Laptop

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#1 mikehager

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 10:47 PM

What is the key to reliable, laptop performance, regardless of the season of use?  I've been through several PC's in recent years, all giving me those occasional, performance issues, such as imaging sessions, that just freeze up, forcing a system reboot. 

 

However, last night it was a power issue that got me, while my laptop was plugged into line current, via 100 foot extension cord.  My two year old, Huawei laptop, did not seem to charge its battery, as I swapped power cords, tried external battery, brought back into house for a short cord run, etc.  Eventually, inexplicably, after an hour of troubleshooting, it started charging again.  I'm left thinking this may be an indication that the internal battery is going down, soon(???)...I really don't know.  

 

So, this leads me to ask if you have recommendations on robust laptops, that just keep on working?   Do I need to consider something like a Panasonic Tough Book, or, a Dell Lattitude 5420?  These were named by someone with military computer experience but I have no first hand experience with these brands.  Specifically, I like smaller laptops, 14 inch screen, for portability.  The PC is used for image and scope controls (Sequence Gen. Pro), as well as image processing (PixInsight, Deep Sky Stacker, Registax).  I'm guessing that the image processing is the most performance, demanding application, that I ever use.  

 

I see, in other threads, that there is a general consensus that computer specs are not a big deal for the tasks I've listed.  But I think this is an assessment on performance, more so, than ruggedness.  Maybe, I should alternatively invest in a cheap backup, redundant system?  Just don't like the risk of things going awry, when, so often my imaging window is narrow, or I've travelled to a darker sight, away from home.  I should have noted that 90% of my astrophotography, since Aug. 2019, is conveniently, from backyard observatory.  This week, however, it was a remote location.

 

 



#2 infamousnation

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Posted 07 April 2021 - 10:51 PM

My main concern would be moisture condensing in it. Unless it’s waterproof and air proof, I would imagine water could get inside. I would think heat would be the best way to keep moisture from condensing. Just some random thought


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#3 Boeglewatcher

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 01:12 AM

I use a cheap laptop in the field, always covered by a box to avoid moisture. Works great, also because I can power the laptop w 12V from my battery. It’s a PEAQ slim S130. I think no need for special specs as long as I use a box cover as weather protection.

cs Joachim 


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#4 chanrobi

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 01:17 AM

Reliable?

 

Thinkpads are the toyotas of the laptop world

 

I just bought a thinkpad t420 with an i7 proc + ssd + 8gb ram off marketplace for $50.

 

Runs everything I need to in good speed


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#5 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 01:56 AM

What was the temperature?  Lithium batteries cannot charge below freezing.


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#6 alphatripleplus

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 08:15 AM

I use an old refurbished corporate Dell Latitude out in the field. Pretty rugged, but I'm careful to use a box cover on nights with a lot of dew. No issues for me.


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#7 mikehager

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 09:20 AM

What was the temperature?  Lithium batteries cannot charge below freezing.

This week, the temperature was above 50F, at night, (North Carolina location).  However, most of prior troubles occurred on much cooler nights (25-40F).  Usually, I do use a corrugated plastic laptop 'tent' to cover while using at remote sites.  Perhaps, I should be more consistent with this practice, though.



#8 mikehager

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 09:23 AM

My main concern would be moisture condensing in it. Unless it’s waterproof and air proof, I would imagine water could get inside. I would think heat would be the best way to keep moisture from condensing. Just some random thought

Fishing for ideas here...What sort of heat pad solution are people using? 



#9 michael8554

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 10:07 AM

Mobile technicians working outdoors used to have Panasonic Toughpads - moisture proof, HD and case can survive drops.


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#10 EmeraldHills

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 10:15 AM

+1 for Thinkpads. Not sure what your budget is... but to me, these 11th generation Intel processor-laden T14S Gen 2 laptops are golden. They're just ... bullet-proof. They just WORK.

 

https://www.lenovo.c...l/p/22TPT14T4N2

 

I believe Lenovo when they write, about these machines, "Smarter means tougher: ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 14 inch laptops are tested against 12 military-grade requirements and more than 200 quality checks to ensure they run in extreme conditions. From the Arctic wilderness to desert dust storms, from zero-gravity to spills and drops, you can trust these laptops to handle whatever life throws your way." Sounds like astronomy. : )


Edited by EmeraldHills, 08 April 2021 - 10:26 AM.

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#11 alphatripleplus

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 10:38 AM

I have an old used IBM T42 Thinkpad that is still running. However, my old corporate issued Lenovo T500 Thinkpad (newer than the T42), of which I was the first and only owner, finally croaked a couple of years ago. I was surprised, as the IT guys at my old job told me it was pretty indestructible.


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#12 mikehager

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 08:19 PM

Interestingly, I had bought a ThinkPad E470, to have as my backup, a couple years ago.  But I gave it to my wife when her computer died and she had to teach, high schoolers, remote.  It's a cheaper version of Thinkpad, as I'm thinking I paid about $500 or so.  I don't mind paying more if the quality difference warrants.  This, though, is one reason I'm asking the question.   Will spending more significantly improve the probability of a durable computer?  Related question, will the Thinkpad line all have similar ruggedness, differing mainly in performance specs?  Hope that makes sense.

 

I may shop all the brands named and see what the price points are.  Sorry, don't have a fix on my budget for this, yet.  In the mean time, my current (Huawei) computer is behaving fine again.  I still don't understand what happened with the charging issues the other night.  It has me nervous, though, that it'll die on me at some inopportune time.



#13 EmeraldHills

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 09:46 PM

In my opinion, Thinkpads took a bit of a developmental hit when the line left Armonk. But even so, I STILL feel that they are just SLIGHTLY above most other brands in quality. However, I don't have a quantitative study to back that up. So you'd better as 100 other people to verify. : )



#14 catalogman

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Posted 08 April 2021 - 11:39 PM

+1 for the Panasonic Toughbook

 

For the OP they have the highest rating for particle protection,
the third highest rating for moisture penetration, and must run
at temps from 140 F to -20 F and survive between 160 F to -60 F
when turned off:

 

https://www.ocrugged...mputer-ratings/

 

-1 for the IBM Thinkpad

 

The older, classic Thinkpads were metal-cased and almost as durable as a
Toughbook but they did not support PAE for Linux. Lenovo Thinkpads do
support PAE for Linux but they are made of cheap, brittle plastic.
(Drop it once and pieces break off, then more pieces chip off, ad
nauseum.) From experience, I say STAY AWAY.

 

-- catalogman



#15 alphatripleplus

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Posted 09 April 2021 - 07:28 AM

 

 

So, this leads me to ask if you have recommendations on robust laptops, that just keep on working?   Do I need to consider something like a Panasonic Tough Book, or, a Dell Lattitude 5420?  These were named by someone with military computer experience but I have no first hand experience with these brands.  Specifically, I like smaller laptops, 14 inch screen, for portability.  The PC is used for image and scope controls (Sequence Gen. Pro), as well as image processing (PixInsight, Deep Sky Stacker, Registax).  I'm guessing that the image processing is the most performance, demanding application, that I ever use.  

 

 

Do you have a budget in mind? For example, something like a new Panasonic Toughbook 33 is not cheap.



#16 mikehager

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Posted 09 April 2021 - 10:55 AM

On the budget question, I'm leaning to a limit of $900.  I feel like that is a range that replacement is not so painful.  So my strategy is to have two working laptops available, with the older as a backup.  Therefore, I anticipate replacing one every two(+) years.  I've decided to not go with an 8 pound, pricy, rugged model, but would love to find a moisture resistant, semi-shock resistant computer for under $900.

 

Because of the ever-evolving, technologies, in computing, it makes sinking big sums, less palatable.  Guess I'm going the direction of compromise in the cost-vs-benefits, on this ruggedness premium.


Edited by mikehager, 09 April 2021 - 11:00 AM.


#17 chanrobi

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Posted 09 April 2021 - 03:58 PM

On the budget question, I'm leaning to a limit of $900.  I feel like that is a range that replacement is not so painful.  So my strategy is to have two working laptops available, with the older as a backup.  Therefore, I anticipate replacing one every two(+) years.  I've decided to not go with an 8 pound, pricy, rugged model, but would love to find a moisture resistant, semi-shock resistant computer for under $900.

 

Because of the ever-evolving, technologies, in computing, it makes sinking big sums, less palatable.  Guess I'm going the direction of compromise in the cost-vs-benefits, on this ruggedness premium.

That's a super crazy fast replacement schedule.

 

The T420 i'm using was released in 2011, and it STILL competes with the mid range models offered *today*, with maxed out upgrades.

 

Just because the laptop is "new" or expensive, doesn't mean it's better. $900 USD is a hilarious budget for a laptop. Check this one out for  $600 USD that is current, and highly spec'ed thinkpad -

 

https://forums.redfl...-stock-2456045/

 

This will last MANY number of years



#18 mikehager

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 09:58 AM

That's a super crazy fast replacement schedule.

 

The T420 i'm using was released in 2011, and it STILL competes with the mid range models offered *today*, with maxed out upgrades.

 

Just because the laptop is "new" or expensive, doesn't mean it's better. $900 USD is a hilarious budget for a laptop. Check this one out for  $600 USD that is current, and highly spec'ed thinkpad -

 

https://forums.redfl...-stock-2456045/

 

This will last MANY number of years

LOL!  Yeah, I kind of misspoke here, based on my recent history of giving two such laptops to family members with more critical need.  Hopefully, I can resume a more reasonable replacement schedule.

 

Almost pulled the trigger on this one:

https://www.newegg.c...=9SIA2G8CB71486

-but it employs the 200nits display, which may not be suitable(?)



#19 mikehager

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 04:07 PM

Posing another question on the Lenovo lines:  Has anyone had experience buying upgraded (by third parties) Thinkpads, via Amazon?  I like the idea of upgraded memory components, something like this,  https://www.amazon.c...18067196&sr=8-3


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#20 galacticinsomnia

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 05:10 PM

For the cost of a laptop, you can get a MiniPC, and a tablet which will easily manage your tasks.

What do you really need a Laptop for? 

I don't use the Pi systems because they are too slow for my tastes, and far too unreliable and too much messing around.
A Dual or Quad core minipc will run off a power brick easily all night, power a dslr and guide scope, so that has been my choice and recommendation.

Just remote in with a laptop, phone, desktop, whatever.  :)  Easy peezy.

As far as laptops go.  I do use old Dell's, and can find them pretty inexpensive at tekmobilitypc.com
Our family has purchased 4 different systems, only one problem and they were pretty quick to solve the issue.

Clear Skies..

 


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#21 mikehager

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 07:54 PM

For the cost of a laptop, you can get a MiniPC, and a tablet which will easily manage your tasks.

What do you really need a Laptop for? 

I don't use the Pi systems because they are too slow for my tastes, and far too unreliable and too much messing around.
A Dual or Quad core minipc will run off a power brick easily all night, power a dslr and guide scope, so that has been my choice and recommendation.

Just remote in with a laptop, phone, desktop, whatever.  smile.gif  Easy peezy.

As far as laptops go.  I do use old Dell's, and can find them pretty inexpensive at tekmobilitypc.com
Our family has purchased 4 different systems, only one problem and they were pretty quick to solve the issue.

Clear Skies..

 

I see that a lot of people go this direction.  Part of my hesitation is my unfamiliarity with mini-PC's and how to interface with them.  Laptops are cheaply available and, to this point, I do my acquisition and processing on the same computer.  That gives me easy portability (from my backyard observatory (routine use), to field use (about 6-10 times per year).  Perhaps I have the wrong perception of mini-PC's and would like it if talked into it(???)   So, indulge my laziness for not having researched mini-PC use, please.  Let me ask the basics on what hardware you would need; mini-PC, a keyboard, and monitor; I presume?   Or does the tablet serve as the monitor and keyboard?   Sorry, I'm not that computer savvy.  If I can find my tablet, it's something like a 7 year old, I-pad mini.  Would that work?


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#22 organge

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Posted 10 April 2021 - 09:21 PM

+1 for Thinkpads. Had them since 1999. Currently have model P52. Fast, silent and good battery performance (not like Macbooks though). It's not very portable though as quite heavy but there are slimmer models available. Thinkpads are also generally upgraded easily.


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#23 alphatripleplus

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 07:58 AM

As far as laptops go.  I do use old Dell's, and can find them pretty inexpensive at tekmobilitypc.com
Our family has purchased 4 different systems, only one problem and they were pretty quick to solve the issue.


 

I wasn't familiar with that website, but you are right, they do carry older business laptops from Dell as well as Lenovo Thinkpads. I have two older corporate Dell Latitudes that are running fine, and I will probably replace them with Dells again.


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#24 Boeglewatcher

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 08:01 AM

I see that a lot of people go this direction.  Part of my hesitation is my unfamiliarity with mini-PC's and how to interface with them.  Laptops are cheaply available and, to this point, I do my acquisition and processing on the same computer.  That gives me easy portability (from my backyard observatory (routine use), to field use (about 6-10 times per year).  Perhaps I have the wrong perception of mini-PC's and would like it if talked into it(???)   So, indulge my laziness for not having researched mini-PC use, please.  Let me ask the basics on what hardware you would need; mini-PC, a keyboard, and monitor; I presume?   Or does the tablet serve as the monitor and keyboard?   Sorry, I'm not that computer savvy.  If I can find my tablet, it's something like a 7 year old, I-pad mini.  Would that work?

You need to check first if the software needed to connect to the mini-pc (like desktop remote, etc) can run on the iPad in question.

also, Remote Desktop needs windows professional (I had to upgrade my laptop) and can connect remotely with my iPad Pro. An earlier version of iPad doesn’t run the Software. Once it works, you don’t need an extra keyboard or monitor. All goes through the iPad.

cs Joachim 


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#25 galacticinsomnia

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Posted 11 April 2021 - 04:19 PM

MiniPC's are basically Laptops without the screens.  Most new ones have Windows 10, which is fine when you disable the updates. :p
So you get a minipc, a quad atom processor, a dual or celeron, or dual or quad i5,i6,i7, and they range from 100.00 to 1000.00 or more.

MiniPC is easy to setup.  Connect to a screen, mouse, keyboard, then create your user account or username, don't need to be connect to any internet.

Once your username is set up on the minipc load up RealVNC server, or TightVNC so you can remote to your new minipc.

 

At this point you can disconnect the monitor and keyboard and remote in, and do all your software, monitoring, installing, modifying whatever remotely.

On mine, I run APT, PHD2,iCap,Firecap, Platesolving, Stellarium, various image utilities.  It remains on my mounts, and controls my sessions easily.

I still use memory cards in my camera, and just upload those to my main use computer for post work. 

You can see the little box on the mount.  It's a miniPC and it handles the load free software.

Developed IMG 2020 08 08 23 20 13

Clear Skies !!


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