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Computer recommendations

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#1 ChathamCounty2020


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Posted 05 December 2021 - 11:11 PM

Not sure if this is the right place, moderators please move if necessary.  Just getting started to seriously pursue this hobby after a year of using a Celestron 6SE mainly for viewing so I purchased an iOptron GEM 28 to use with a 72mm refractor. Will be using 294MC for imaging and for at least a month will be unguided so I realize I need a good polar alignment if I want to get any sort of image.  Will be adding probably the 120 for a guide camera in January.


Eventually I will most likely go to an ASI Air Plus but for the time being, let's say I want to consider a PC laptop. Just need it for managing the mount and taking images.   Longtime Mac user, last version of Windows I used was probably XP. I will be using PixInsight, PS, and Siril for processing so I can stay on the Mac there.  Have to say I part of my interest is what seems to be the ease of use from NINA and Sharpcap compared to some Mac programs.  I was considering running it all on Parallels but I've seen a few articles where Sharpcap doesn't always recognize the camera through Parallels on Mac


It's been over a decade since I've considered specs, RAM needed, etc. so I'm looking for advice.  Will 4GB RAM work or do I need 8GB?  Will be saving the images on an attached SSD to transfer to the Mac desktop.  Any specific laptop recommendations appreciated as well


Thanks in advance.

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#2 bobzeq25



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Posted 06 December 2021 - 12:08 AM

You don't need much.  This is very slow for a computer.  USB ports are handy, some equipment doesn't like hubs.


No need to get fancy fiddling with systems (like Paralells on a Mac).  I used a used Dell laptop off a 3 year business lease.  I believe it was just 4 GB, but that was a few years ago.  Most laptops you'll be looking at are likely to have 8.  These are widely available and cheap, work just fine.  More complicated setups don't work any better.  There's really no need, unless you simply _must_ fuss with computer systems.  Just keep it simple.


This quote is illuminative.


"I support advanced imagers and science astronomers for a living. My highest maintenance customers by far are IT/software/computer (and those retired from same) people. Carpenters, artists, teachers, not so much ha ha. They get “simpler is better” and also don’t have the religious biases."



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#3 alphatripleplus


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Posted 06 December 2021 - 08:53 AM

I'm still using an old Dell E6400 corporate laptop with 4GB RAM as my scope laptop. It runs SharpCap, PhD2,  camera control software, ASTAP and various planetarium programs fine. However, it's too slow if I try and run NINA on it.  

#4 Sacred Heart

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Posted 06 December 2021 - 09:00 AM

I use a $300  refurbished Dell laptop.  Basic, well I say basic,  Win 10, 8G ram, 128G SSD, 2 USB 3, 1 USB 2.  Got it from office max online.   I run Sky X,  and Sharpcap,  no sweat.   Joe

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#5 doole


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Posted 06 December 2021 - 10:59 AM

Eagle 4.

#6 bobzeq25



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Posted 06 December 2021 - 01:00 PM

Eagle 4.

Lots of capability.  $1000.  Less expensive options work just as well, but require a bit more effort to setup for the first time.

Edited by bobzeq25, 06 December 2021 - 01:02 PM.

#7 astrohamp


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Posted 06 December 2021 - 02:56 PM

Why migrate to an ASI Air Plus from any platform rather then going 'Air' right from the start.  Learning curve for any other tech may not apply well to the 'Air'.

Why a laptop and not a headless NUC, mini-PC...  although learning curve on a Windows laptop can migrate well to a non-laptop PC platform.  This allows at scope dedicated astro PC that can be local remoted via Windows Remote Desktop (or equivalent) to a comfortable workplace.

Some programs may use dual-channel mode to increase transfer speed via twin RAM modules.
SSD or M.2 storage drives avoid spin drive problems with temperature and handling.  NvMe rather then SATA for sheer speed but probably not essential.

Processor PassMark scores greater then 3000 have been working well for me.  Much debate for i3 vs i5 with i7 overkill most have said.  I would look hard for 12v DC power on any device if you are thinking in-field off-grid use at any time.

Wireless strength can be augmented by using a USB travel router at the scope.  USB performance may be hit or miss covering the ports you may need by instrument choices.

I operate my installation on a local only network without any direct www connection.  The NUC I use hasn't seen the 'web' or otherwise been 'updated' in months.  The astro NUC is more of an 'appliance' rather then a computer.

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#8 Rasfahan



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Posted 06 December 2021 - 03:00 PM

I use a (real) NUC from 2017. It has a dual-core i5, 8GB, and a 128GB SSD for the OS + programs. It‘s plenty fast enough for DSO imaging with any software suite I used on it. It’s also ok for basic planetary. I remote into it with LAN or wirelessly, the screen was only needed during initial configuration. It has been kept under a TG365 for 1.5 years now and shows no signs of aging. I wouldn‘t recommend less than 128GB program storage, as some catalogs for platesolving are quite large (not sure if there even are any PCs available with less). I‘ve installed Windows 10 Enterprise to defer updates for 30 days. No update has failed me so far.

I’ve added a 2TB SSD for image storage, since I’m doing multi-night projects with 100 flats for each night and channel with a 47MP mono cam, which adds up quickly. For the 294MC and single-night, another 128MB in your external SSD will be good enough.


If you want even lower budget, a Mini-PC will be enough for DSO imaging. I had the NUC lying around from another project, so took that. As Bob said, probably the most important spec is the number of USB ports. You really want 6: Imaging cam (USB 3 is preferred here), Guiding cam, Mount, external SSD, and for future extensions two more for filterwheel and Focuser. If you need to use a hub, invest in a decent, powered one. Your ASI294 already includes a serviceable 2-port USB 2.0 hub (for guider and focuser, say). It‘s good to be able to power all equipment with 12V.


I would step away from the Mac for imaging. I really like my Mac and use it for postprocessing. I also like my Linux workstation for PI preprocessing (and some calculation-intensive post), and my Linux servers for various tasks. But for image aquisition Windows is the standard platform with the most software, drivers and (also important) the largest community. Most of the drivers for astro equipment are very close to the hardware and many of dubious quality. Trying to use them in a VM is not a good idea.


People will recommend KStars/Ekos on Linux or Mac, and I like its architecture, but my experience was of an uphill battle with little reliability. I feel the windows applications like NINA and SGP are much more newbie-friendly. If you learn NINA you will have no need for the ASIAir.

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#9 MJB87



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Posted 06 December 2021 - 03:29 PM

Moving to Astronomy Software & Computers for a better fit.

#10 tjz


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Posted 06 December 2021 - 05:31 PM

I had been using an old NUC7 but have just gave this MeLE Fanless Mini PC a try, based on the review by "Cuiv the lazy Geek" on YouTube:




You can get the 8GB RAM model with 128GB disk and Win10 Pro here:




I would recommend adding a nice fast NVMe disk such as this and not use the 128GB disk that it comes with (except to register your windows license 1st):




If you're handy with cabling tools and want to make your own powerpole cable, grab one of these, cut off the power brick and make one of your own:




All told you can have a great imaging PC for less than $400. It's fan-less, low-power, comes with 4x USB3 ports, and seems to have a decent wifi adapter. The only complaint I have is the power-button lights red when off (yay!) but turns blue when on (boo!).


Clear skies!



#11 Pictor


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Posted 06 December 2021 - 08:10 PM

As others have said, no need for a high-end PC.  However, USB speed, which is VERY CPU dependent, will benefit from a i5 or i7 if you plan on doing planetary work.  With that said, you might be better off just going the bootcamp route if you have the drive space on your Mac.  If you want to go the VM route, I've used VMWare Fusion without issue to image.  Most of the time I use bootcamp on my MacBook Pro and for long DS sessions, I use a PrimaLuce Eagle 4. 

#12 StephenOTT


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Posted 27 December 2021 - 10:25 PM

Here is a example of a build with the mele quieter2 and powerbox. All runs on battery and is very performant.


Remember this is a capture build. It is not designed for post processing: transfer your photos to a laptop/desktop and run processing there.

Edited by StephenOTT, 27 December 2021 - 10:26 PM.

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