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Old 17-10-2017, 08:21   #16
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

I'm going through the same thing right now, looking to buy a new machine.

Main nav device is a cockpit chartplotter with a tablet backup so it's probably not going outside ever.

I keep wavering between a laptop or building my own desktop in a tiny mini case being behind cabinets with a pull down monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse. I'd use it mainly for movies/the odd PC game/interfacing with the weather fax.

If i went the desktop route, I could source all lower power components which would be nice, but I wouldn't be able to use it in case of a power failure, unlike a laptop.
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Old 17-10-2017, 08:24   #17
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

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. . . These days, USB seems to handle most things that require hard wiring as best I can tell from the responses.. . .

Indeed, and more and more things. Modern laptops don't even have Ethernet ports anymore -- a simple USB adapter takes care of that via a USB port. And many of the very latest don't even have display ports any more -- USB-C will do it, and there are also USB3 display adapters.
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Old 17-10-2017, 08:32   #18
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

Connectivity: USB, WiFi, Ethernet.

USB/Serial adapters for NMEA-0183. I've not had any problems connecting the RS232 serial adaptors to NMEA-0183, although it's probably better to use a RS422 adaptor. This is complicated by the fact that many NMEA-0183 devices actually use a single-ended interface rather than the standard balanced RS422. If you use a NMEA multiplexer with a USB or WiFi port then that might simplify the NMEA connections.

NMEA-2000 will require an adapter of some type. Often the N2K nav instruments include a serial port, but this may not translate all the N2K messages. Look at Actisense (and others) for N2K interface gear.
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Old 17-10-2017, 10:03   #19
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

Unless you really need the carry-with-you aspect, an Intel NUC mounted to a big monitor on a swivel is IMO the best way to go.
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Old 17-10-2017, 11:24   #20
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

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Laptop on a cat is a different animal than one on a mono. .................
Now that's a stretch if I ever saw one!

It's just a computer. It doesn't know or care what kind of a boat it's on or even if it's on a boat. My laptop works just as well on or off the boat. Any computer the OP selects will do the same.
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Old 17-10-2017, 12:07   #21
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

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Now that's a stretch if I ever saw one!

It's just a computer. It doesn't know or care what kind of a boat it's on or even if it's on a boat. My laptop works just as well on or off the boat. Any computer the OP selects will do the same.
He means that on a cat, you don't have to deal with heeling

Or the rolling of a stabilizer-less power boat.

He's absolutely right. I'd probably still go with a built-in computer, but he's right that a laptop doesn't have the same disadvantages on a cat, and that was a useful correction to my advice earlier.
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I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
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We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 19-10-2017, 09:09   #22
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

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I am starting to see a faint glimmer of hope on the navigation horizon, and I appreciate all of the responses that are making it easier for me to sort this all out. Thanks to all who responded.
Not only connecting things together o board but connecting you to the outside world. Now in addition to some great wifi seeking stuff our little Mifi widget is a firm favourite giving us internet access anywhere that has a phone signal. Stick a sim card in with buy a data package and you are good to go. Can connect 5 devices up at the same time to the internet.

Change country? just buy a local cheap sim card. We don't even bother topping them up now as its cheaper to buy the sims on Amazon than top up with service provider in the UK.

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Old 21-10-2017, 07:30   #23
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

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Are you using the computer for navigation, like for OpenCPN? Or just for housekeeping and entertainment?

If you are using the computer more or less continuously while underway, then I would strongly recommend you consider using not a laptop, but a fixed installed minicomputer, like this:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bqeel-x5-Z8...+mini+computer

They are unbelievably cheap, unbelievably tiny, and use tiny amounts of power, compared to any laptop except maybe some netbooks.

Laptops on the nav table tend to fly around the cabin in rough weather, and are hard to use on a heel. I changed from a long series of laptops to one of these mini computers this summer, and it is SO great. A huge leap forward compared to using a laptop. I have a 22" 4k monitor fixed mounted above the nav table, and everything has hard wired 12v power supplies so I don't have to run the inverter.

Hook it up to a portable USB 3.0 hard drive for storage -- 2TB for $100 or so. Use an RF keyboard trackpad (or a full size USB mouse for more precise work in OpenCPN).

YMMV, but I find optical drives to be completely unneeded for anything I do.

The Bqeel computer I have has two video ports, so I can also connect my bulkhead mounted 32" screen I use for watching movies, OR I can put the chart up on it if I want to keep an eye on what's going on from inside the cabin.

I have not yet worked out a good audio connection, but there are several ways to do it.

It is SO great not to have the laptop occupying space on the nav table desk top. And not flying around in a seaway.

Bqeel is only one brand; there are many others to choose from.

I also have laptops on board, and I find that it is really great not to be using the same machine for my work, as the computer used for navigation and entertainment.


Note that these machines violate the advice given in the previous post to have big RAM memory and fast CPUs, and high end graphics cards. In my opinion, this advice is obsolete, because modern low power machines work differently. The Intel Atom Cherry Trail CPU used in this minicomputers has FOUR cores -- so it's like four separate CPU's. The board has built-in graphics which are highly advanced and optimized for video. It doesn't need as much RAM.

So my 100 GBP ($135) Bqueel computer with only 2GB of RAM runs OpenCPN MUCH faster and smoother, (plays 4K movies!) than my $4000 Sony high end laptop which is only a few years old, but a generation behind. Absolutely all you need for navigation or videos.


Dockhead, what voltage does the unit you described above run on? If not 12vdc, how do you power it? John.
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Old 21-10-2017, 09:08   #24
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

I like the idea of a mini PC for my boat, and I also like the idea of fanless.

It may just be worrying on my part, but it seems that your cooling fan will draw many thousands of cubic feet of sea air over your circuit boards. Maybe eventually leading to corrosion or a short circuit or some other mystery ailment....

So all other things being equal, I'd go for the fanless mini.

Here's one for $170 on Geekbuying, with processor and memory specs similar to Dockhead's:
https://www.geekbuying.com/item/MINI...PC-372395.html

and they have a few dozen other models ranging up to $500 for an i7 fanless mini.

https://www.geekbuying.com/search?ke...20pc%20fanless

BTW, if you're not familiar with Geekbuying, they're a reliable source of inexpensive computers and phones direct from China. I've bought many items from them over the years, and aside from 2-3 weeks shipping time, it's all good.
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Old 21-10-2017, 09:34   #25
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

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Dockhead, what voltage does the unit you described above run on? If not 12vdc, how do you power it? John.
I am usually quite picky about giving electronics exactly the voltage they say they want. So I have a lot of buck converters on board, some of which I have to shut down when using HF radio.

But I decided to take a risk and hook this thing up directly to 13.6v. It says it wants 12v. My ship's DC power is 24v, but I have a 13.6v bus for different devices which don't run on 24v.

Since the thing only cost 100 pounds, I decided the risk was acceptable.

Running perfectly after three months.
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I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
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We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 21-10-2017, 09:39   #26
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

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I like the idea of a mini PC for my boat, and I also like the idea of fanless.

It may just be worrying on my part, but it seems that your cooling fan will draw many thousands of cubic feet of sea air over your circuit boards. Maybe eventually leading to corrosion or a short circuit or some other mystery ailment....

So all other things being equal, I'd go for the fanless mini.

Here's one for $170 on Geekbuying, with processor and memory specs similar to Dockhead's:
https://www.geekbuying.com/item/MINI...PC-372395.html

and they have a few dozen other models ranging up to $500 for an i7 fanless mini.

https://www.geekbuying.com/search?ke...20pc%20fanless

BTW, if you're not familiar with Geekbuying, they're a reliable source of inexpensive computers and phones direct from China. I've bought many items from them over the years, and aside from 2-3 weeks shipping time, it's all good.
I think you're right about fanless.

But for sure, fanless means less power and less (that is, no) noise -- so fanless is all good.

If you want a really cheap Windows box, it needs to have no more than 2g of RAM and no more than 36g of hard drive space. That makes it a "media computer" in the eyes of Microsoft, and they give the Windows 10 licenses for really cheap, cheap enough to enable these things to be sold for these ridiculous prices.

And I say again -- you don't need i5 or i7 processors and you don't need more than 2g RAM, if you have one of these modern Atom boxes which are specifically designed for playing video and doing other stuff which is exactly like what we are doing running O and so forth. They work amazingly well. Save your money!

I am really delighted with my super cheap Atom box, which is much faster running O and playing movies, than my old $4,000 Sony high end laptop. There has been a huge amount of progress in design of these systems.
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We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 21-10-2017, 09:44   #27
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

One to consider that does not sit out in the open all the time where it gets in the way and is prone to damage.

https://www.intel.com/content/www/us...-kits/nuc.html
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Old 21-10-2017, 09:46   #28
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cormorant View Post
I like the idea of a mini PC for my boat, and I also like the idea of fanless.

It may just be worrying on my part, but it seems that your cooling fan will draw many thousands of cubic feet of sea air over your circuit boards. Maybe eventually leading to corrosion or a short circuit or some other mystery ailment....

So all other things being equal, I'd go for the fanless mini.

Here's one for $170 on Geekbuying, with processor and memory specs similar to Dockhead's:
https://www.geekbuying.com/item/MINI...PC-372395.html

and they have a few dozen other models ranging up to $500 for an i7 fanless mini.

https://www.geekbuying.com/search?ke...20pc%20fanless

BTW, if you're not familiar with Geekbuying, they're a reliable source of inexpensive computers and phones direct from China. I've bought many items from them over the years, and aside from 2-3 weeks shipping time, it's all good.


Thanks Cormorant. This thread and Dockheads suggestion has also sparked my grey matter. I have lost too many laptops over the years due to the fans continually sucking salt laden air into them and the harsh banging of the boat when beating for days on end into a crappy sea. Like us humans, mechanical hard drives tend not to like it! Also, I have had pretty much enough of the fan on my HF / SSB radio sucking corrosion into the boards all the time. The "fanless" option sounds just what is wanted. It is now just to sort out the power side of the mini-computer. To me, it is pretty daft having a fanless computer that is powered by an inverter using a fan to cool it down. If the mini is 12vdc, problem solved. However, I cannot find the power required by most of these on the Internet and the few that do disclose the supply required all appear to be 19vdc. Thus my question to Dockhead.
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Old 21-10-2017, 09:53   #29
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

We are very happy with a Microsoft Surface Pro. Biggest advantage is its low power consumption.

It is also very easy to work with Win-10, SSD, good connectivity (but these are common to most Win-10 machines). We don't mind the lack of an internal DVD drive.

We use with a powered USB hub to connect to the boats system, including NMEA data, Pactor modem and SSB. With an NMEA Wifi multiplexor, can disconnect and use as a portable tablet with all nav systems up. Hard to do that with a micro such as RPi. Plus, requires little Geekness to get it up and running with most nav and communications programs.
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Old 21-10-2017, 09:56   #30
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Re: Best Lap Top Computer for a Cruising Boat

I use a mini ITX fanless atom PC, 120 watt 12vdc Pico power supply, 19" led tv (hdmi) ubiquity bullet, open cpn and 250 gig sub SSID. Computer and power supply mounted in a plastic electrical box. Has worked great for three years.
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