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Old 23-07-2011, 14:13   #1
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New Laptop

any advice on a laptop to use for charts, navigation, email and whatever.
my wife and i want to go from San Francisco to Florida through panama canal.
we would like to get a new laptop computer for the trip ( a new one should have a clean slate an prob faster than our current one which has a bunch of junk on it) and what ever apps and programs that would be helpful.
does anyone have any info or advise... thank you
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Old 23-07-2011, 15:07   #2
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Re: new laptop

Hi pdnervo

You don't say what you're budget is for this new laptop. $500? $1500? Or what the intended usage - meaning what types of programs will you use? If it's just "charts, navigation, email", then anything will work. If you're going to do a lot of photo/video editing as well, then that should be taken into consideration.

These days, pretty much any new laptop will serve your needs. I personally wouldn't get one with less than 4GB of RAM (memory), and make sure the hard drive is a 7,200 rpm variety and not 5,400 rpm which is common. The faster spin rate will help a lot with how fast programs start. Hard drive size might be another consideration, but without knowing if you're going to be putting a lot of photos or video on the laptop, it's a bit difficult to make a recommendation there.

The most important thing though, is to figure out what programs you're going to install and if they'll work with the operating system that comes with the laptop. For example, if the laptop comes with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 (which is fairly standard), then you want to make sure all the programs you want to run will work with that. If the laptop is going to be a MAC, then of course everything needs to work with the MAC.

Hope that helps some. If you want to provide more details or your budget, I could give better specifics on what type of laptop configuration I'd recommend.


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Old 23-07-2011, 15:21   #3
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Re: New Laptop

Any cheapie laptop will do - anything made in this century is more than fast enough and will have plenty of memory. I would recommend going with a PC rather than Mac - Macs are better computers but they are better and more expensive than you might need, and you would probably also have to get a Windows emulator.
CPN program for navigation, SailMail or Winlink for email; some kind of external wireless antenna so you can do email with the computer down below or get stronger antenna systems for greater distances; WxTide for tides; an inexpensive astronomy program to identify planets and stars at night.
I have found that external memories work well for media - DVDs and music. It doesn't clutter up the laptop's memory and makes the stuff easier to share.
And I wouldn't go for a screen wider than about 15.5 inches - if you have to go on laptop battery once and a while, the smaller screen (for whatever display type you have) will last longer. The smaller laptops are also more mobile.
Most laptops run on 12 volts DC but need a higher voltage to charge the battery. To prohibit interference on the HF radio, I use a DC-to-DC converter (12V to 19V for me) when doing email.

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Old 23-07-2011, 15:47   #4

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Re: New Laptop

Any laptop will do these days, but for charts you want a large high resolution screen. HP makes some good deals in 17" screens aimed at multimedia, some with very nice audio built in as well. HP also has some "the whole computer is in the flat screen monitor except the keyboard" units with 22" or larger monitors. A nice option for a compact system if it is going to be installed and kept in one place.

Lenovo will cost you a bit more but has the UltraNav "joymouse" and some very high resolution (1900, not just 1300 or 1400 width) screens although I think they top out at 15.6", they might have larger ones as well.

Nothing is going to be daylight-readable on deck though, unless you buy one of the really expensive machines designed for just that.

And if you're rough on harder, a Panasonic Toughbook is expensive--but arguably the most water-resistant and rugged alternative.

Prices? From $499 to $2499, more for the daylight reaedable systems.
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Old 23-07-2011, 16:13   #5
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Re: New Laptop

I would recommend the large screen one for planning and multimedia/videos aboard, but for daily navigation or going ashore for local Internet access, get a $300 netbook. It will use half the amps of a large screen unit, be easy to carry and easy to afford if anything bad happens to it.
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Old 23-07-2011, 16:29   #6
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Not the main plotter...

I trust that you are planning to use at least a small plotter as well.

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Old 23-07-2011, 16:30   #7
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Re: New Laptop

Without knowing what you are comfortable with, it's hard to give advice. I'm currently working from an Aspire One, which is a dinky little netbook, running Linux Mint Debian, and I have charting software, an office suite, sound/video/photo editing software. Total cost and investment of $234 Canadian for the machine, software, wireless mouse, and a 4GB thumb drive (which I used for the initial OS upgrade from Windows.) The screen is extremely cramped for navigation, but I can manage it. Better than the handhelds we all live with most of the time!

I picked this set up because it's light/small (I bike/walk most of the time), and it's cheap (I won't have to kill myself if it drops overboard.) With a rugged external drive for backups (and my fatty 300GB music library), and a smart phone with a digital service, I'm pretty well set for internectivity and digital life on a budget.


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Old 23-07-2011, 16:34   #8
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Re: New Laptop

Save your program in a good waterproof box and buy a cheapie they all work today I use an HP and before that a dell and cant remember before that, because that takes me back 17 years, I do have a hard dodger that it sits under tho

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Old 23-07-2011, 16:54   #9
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Re: New Laptop

Worth considering power budget, as well as financial priorities. Low power budgets will also favour netbooks, whereas if power consumption is not an issue a full sized laptop might be preferred. As Chris and Michael say, a lot depends on what else you want to run, and how much you want to spend on other components of the system (e.g. AIS inputs).
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Old 23-07-2011, 18:45   #10
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Re: New Laptop

Do most of the current cruisers use their main navigation laptop as their multimedia device (vids and music) or do you, as once advised by someone else to me, use a seperate laptop so as not to run the chance of crashing the nav software. Along the same lines of reasoning, he strongly recommended that the nav computer always be left on board and the other laptop be the one used to access the internet, if taking ashore to hook up to an outside source, so as not too get viruses.
An opinion offered to me - necessary?
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Old 23-07-2011, 19:00   #11
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Re: New Laptop

My chartplotter and paper charts provide primary means of navigation, so I am quite comfortable with using my laptop for other purposes. The PC is not 'mission critical'.
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Old 23-07-2011, 19:04   #12
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Re: New Laptop

I use two computers, but in a different way. The first (oldest) is velcro-ed to the nav table and does the navigation and email; also wifi and sometimes playing a video. The newer computer - backup - does most of the media stuff and goes ashore for wifi and trading stuff with others happens on a USB external drive.
When the original computer crashes, the back-up backs it up. When the original finally packs it in, the back-up takes its place (already been loaded and tested with the programs I like) and I go out and look for a new "back-up".

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Old 23-07-2011, 21:08   #13
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Re: New Laptop

As others have said any inexpensive laptop will do. I purchased a Motion Computing tablet which I have mounted at the helm. It will run navigation (OpenCPN) with output to the autopilot. I have a second laptop at the nav. table to use as a backup if needed. It's nice not to have to duck below to check the "chart" and it has a daylight viewable screen which is good most of the time.
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Old 24-07-2011, 02:12   #14
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Re: New Laptop

Just for OP information, there is a lot of ex-military/police CF-18 Panasonic Toughbooks on auction sites. I got one recently for an equivalent of 250US$.
One catch, screen could be brighter. As it stands, it is not really full daylight readable.
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