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Old 16-03-2011, 04:22   #1
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Best Computer for Dedicated Navigaton

I'm currently running OpenCPN on a Dell Inspiron E1505 under Windows 7 with a BU-353 gps. I would like to purchase something smaller (and cheaper) and dedicate it to navigation. I am a PC user not a MAC user. I could run Windows or Linux (Ubuntu). All things being equal I would prefer a touch screen so that keyboard could be eliminated assuming I don't give up too much functionality. The cost should be less than $400 and preferably less than $300. This computer would be a backup to my Garmin 441s which has only a 4 inch screen. Suggestions please. Thanks
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Old 16-03-2011, 04:52   #2
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

LOL!! You don't ask for much... There are loads of great laptops out there - but for that price I doubt you will get a touchscreen. However, there are great smartphones (hubby just bought a great htc that could probably run all that stuff...)
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Old 16-03-2011, 05:03   #3
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

No touchscreen sorry. You really need to be shopping at the discount web sites like TigerDirect and looking for refurbished deals so you can get the ram and graphics power. Netbooks are not that cheap. I would hope to get built in WiFi. A returned Acer might be found but a little more money would get a decent inexpensive laptop.

Be sure to get the 12 volt adapter as at this price you get about 2 hours of battery time.
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Old 16-03-2011, 05:42   #4
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

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No touchscreen sorry. You really need to be shopping at the discount web sites like TigerDirect and looking for refurbished deals so you can get the ram and graphics power. Netbooks are not that cheap. I would hope to get built in WiFi. A returned Acer might be found but a little more money would get a decent inexpensive laptop.

Be sure to get the 12 volt adapter as at this price you get about 2 hours of battery time.
Thanks. What about the Archos 9? It seems that it's being used by a number of OpenCPN users.
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Old 16-03-2011, 06:07   #5
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

As others have written, the used/refurb market opens up all kinds of possibilities. I use a Toshiba netbook. A little over $300 new and it draws a fraction of the amps of a full laptop. Add $50-100 to max out the RAM for performance. Battery life is almost 12 hours too, so it's very portable if you want to take it to a café or elsewhere.
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Old 16-03-2011, 06:18   #6
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

There is some pretty good information in this thread:

12vdc Marine Computers
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Old 16-03-2011, 06:24   #7
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

Refurbished Panasonic Toughbooks are a great deal. They have sunlight viewable screens, water "proof" cases, can be dropped, stepped on and abused and are usually available at a deep discount compared to new ($5000+) because government agencies, police,military, release thousands of them from lease on a regular basis. Plan on buying a new battery.
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Old 16-03-2011, 06:52   #8
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

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As others have written, the used/refurb market opens up all kinds of possibilities. I use a Toshiba netbook. A little over $300 new and it draws a fraction of the amps of a full laptop. Add $50-100 to max out the RAM for performance. Battery life is almost 12 hours too, so it's very portable if you want to take it to a café or elsewhere.
Thanks. That's the right price range; what size is the screen?
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Old 16-03-2011, 06:54   #9
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

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Refurbished Panasonic Toughbooks are a great deal. They have sunlight viewable screens, water "proof" cases, can be dropped, stepped on and abused and are usually available at a deep discount compared to new ($5000+) because government agencies, police,military, release thousands of them from lease on a regular basis. Plan on buying a new battery.
Thanks. I'm familiar with those computers. That's not really where I'm headed. I'm looking for something smaller and simpler. A touchscreen tablet might be good if the screen was big enough. Basically, I'm looking for a chartplotter that runs Windows (or Ubuntu).
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Old 16-03-2011, 07:30   #10
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

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Thanks. That's the right price range; what size is the screen?
Pete
10.1 inch. I suggest you upgrade the RAM to 2GB. It doesn't have a DVD so you can't use it for videos, but it has an SD card reader so if you have a 4GB+ SD card you can copy programs to the card on another computer and load your software that way, or buy an external USB DVD drive.
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Old 16-03-2011, 08:16   #11
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Re: Best computer for dedicated navigaton

Also use a VERY small Dell Mini, completely stripped of all other software except nav (sailcruiser) and charts. It actually fits in a large ziplock bag when open and can be mounted anywhere. It does NOT have a sunlight screen and will probably shatter if/when dropped. If I get it wet it will be good for some sort of fishing lure. Have the Toughbook mounted with a couple of pad eyes right atop cabin, under the dodger. Works out pretty well for being able to see detailed charts when close-in. Also make booklets of printed charts in magnifications that are easy to see for places where zoom really helps. Good also to write log notes on. I use a Garmin 376C for Gps function, tied into computers (with an old hand-held GPS for emergency). It has a nice screen but is very small. The charts for it are ridiculously expensive, so have found that using C-maps, Sailcruiser is much cheaper and works well on computers. Can also use Seaclear but the Sailcruiser program is worth the money.
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Old 16-03-2011, 17:29   #12
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Re: Best Computer for Dedicated Navigaton

I didn't mention it, but a daylight visible screen is not important to me since I plan to use it down below at nav station. For the same reason it doesn't need to be watertight.
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Old 17-03-2011, 04:08   #13
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Re: Best Computer for Dedicated Navigaton

After googling a bit it seems like a tablet PC would most closely match my requirements. It need not have a CD/DVD drive and it need not be daylight visible nor waterproof since it will be mounted at Nav station. The idea of not having a physical keyboard or mouse appeals to me. As mentioned, price is high eg, $500. I would require several USB ports since I must connect to both gps and VHF radio (for AIS input). Anyone successfully using a tablet PC with OpenCPN and if so, what are the pros and cons? Thanks
Pete
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Old 17-03-2011, 08:34   #14
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Re: Best Computer for Dedicated Navigaton

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As mentioned, price is high eg, $500
Can't get there except maybe in a used ebay machine. The toughbook is nice but it's out of the price range by a fair leap. You need to raise the stakes or eliminate the tablet option. The cheap laptop could work very well below decks. At a chart station the tablet advantages are not so much. I've done that for years taking the old laptop after a new one is purchased and designating it for the boat.
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Old 20-03-2011, 04:11   #15
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Re: Best Computer for Dedicated Navigaton

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Can't get there except maybe in a used ebay machine. The toughbook is nice but it's out of the price range by a fair leap. You need to raise the stakes or eliminate the tablet option. The cheap laptop could work very well below decks. At a chart station the tablet advantages are not so much. I've done that for years taking the old laptop after a new one is purchased and designating it for the boat.
Thanks. Basically, I'm looking for reliability and simplicity more than capability. The tough book is going in the wrong direction. The tablet seems ideal in the sense that it's compact, simple and lacks the complexity of a full-fledged laptop. I've noticed the Dell Duo which is convertible from tablet to computer with keyboard. Of course, it's above the price range mentioned. I wonder if anyone out there is using a tablet PC in combination with the free navigation program, OpenCPN?
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