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Boracay 25-04-2010 17:50

Laptop for Cruising...
 
I'm curious about what sort of specifications I should have when laptop shopping. My friendly local mega electronics store has such good salesmen that if I don't know what I want when I walk in I'll walk out with something that doesn't really suit.

I'm wondering which of the following I'd need, and what should be on the list.

* serial input
* multiple USB ports
* output to LCD TV
* memory chip sockets
* DVD burner
* 2+MHz
* Vista
* NMEA input
* CMap capable
* WiFi, Wireless and/or other net connections
* Linux capable

Any thoughts?

gettinthere 25-04-2010 18:05

what are your needs?
Simple e-mail and basic web surfing can be done by anything.
Photoshop & video editing are a different matter.

Do you want light weight portability or will it stay on the boat?

Wife just got an I-pad. Pretty interesting device. Much smaller/lighter than a laptop. Plenty of power for basic e-mail & wifi web surfing. But it may have other limits in it's capabilities

speciald@ocens. 25-04-2010 18:21

NOT Vista - use XP, some programs will not run on 7. Serial input is unusual any more. I have a ToughBook 52 w/ 1 serial input but use a serial/USB multiport for connecting SSB and AIS. A $300 note book may be all you need - small, lightweigh, enough USB ports if you use a powered port replicator. Look at an Ascus Eee running XP - should be available on line for about $300, $100 for an extra memory chip, and use a LCD w/ monitor input. It has WiFi and Bluetooth if you want it.

RainDog 26-04-2010 09:04

* serial input - getting hard to find. Probably not needed unless you have a specific application in mind.
* multiple USB ports - for sure
* output to LCD TV - HDMI Out if your TV supports it
* memory chip sockets - The only consideration here is if you are looking at a netbook. They are limited to 1 gig ram, which could be a problem. Any other notebook should support at least 4 gigs.
* DVD burner
* 2+MHz - see below
* Vista - Avoid Vista like the plague. I would go for Win7. XP would be my second choice.
* NMEA input - I do not think you will find a computer with a NMEA port. Most likely you will be connecting NMEA devices to a USB port.
* CMap capable - I would add a graphics card. See below.
* WiFi, Wireless and/or other net connections - you probably would have a hard time finding a laptop that does not have built in Wifi and an Ethernet port.
* Linux capable - any box that runs windows should run Linux


For processor, if you get a netbook, they use low-power processors that do wonders for battery life, but have trouble keeping up with intensive video rendering. If you buy a normal laptop, any processor should be cable of handling what you throw at it. If you are using charting software, you will need some help drawing the charts. You need a dedicated graphics card. I would focus more on that than on the processor speed.

What is your budget?

hummingway 26-04-2010 09:23

I have two laptops both of which are very good at video processing. Neither were cheap though. I use a Sony Vaio TZ-160 for chart plotting. It will run for more then five hours on its own battery but I usually have it plugged in when I'm sailing anyway. Small and light with a high rez sceen. The other is a Dell media laptop which is large and heavy but quite powerful. It would make a great chartplotter but I prefer the lighter and smaller Sony.

Mule 26-04-2010 09:29

What about a mini mac tied to a good antenna (wireless) tied to a flat screen tv and a sling box elsewhere and a cheap laptop for away from the boat for e mail if necessary? Also for good reception areas an off air conventional antenna for local tv.?

Maren 26-04-2010 09:46

Quote:

Originally Posted by Boracay (Post 442344)
Any thoughts?

Low power consumption should be on the list. That's also a plus for the mini and some netbooks which have a pretty low draw.

imagine2frolic 26-04-2010 09:55

We bought a Compaq Presario CQ60 for $325. It has Vista, and it was a nightmare. Until we were informed that you can run it in XP. We have since installed Maptech, GPS, & C-MAP quite easily. We installed C-MAP, and then right clicked the icon. Went into properties, and had the choice to run it in any past Windows.......i2f

hellosailor 26-04-2010 12:15

Boracay, the question is what do you need it to do?

And then you work backwards from there. If Linux is a priority, you decide what flavor you are going to use and then find out what notebooks support that--or live in driver hell.

Do you want low power consumption? Then you are looking for a 10-12" screen. High resolution for charting? Maybe 15" 19xx/1080 screen. Gobs of power and you want to watch movies as well? 18" screen.

Do you type or word process? HP makes great laptops, funny keyboards. Lenovo, great keyboards. Check the price with a 3 year "depot" warranty, Dell may be cheaper than those two--but costs more when you add up the extras. (And I hate Dell anyway.)

XP is no longer supported, there will be no security updates for it. Your laptop will come with Vista or Win7 and that's simply life, unless you can get a bare system from someone like Lenovo. Which is probably a mistake because you'll want a Windows OS to dual boot, odds are. Everything doesn't run under Linux.

Serial ports ain't gonna happen. You'll buy a usb-serial adapter, that is logo certified for your OS because the uncertified ones are less likely to work well. Or, a PCM (or other) slot adapter to do the job. Those are the most expensive and most robust.

There's also no NMEA input on computers. Serial input was equivalent but that's just not going to be found on anything made in the last 5 years. The adapter does it.

And you want an SD-HD card reader built it, very very handy to move backups to your GPS or cell phone or camera.

The rest depends on what you need the machine to do, and work with. They'll pretty much all have DVD built in, look for a writer not just a reader. You won't get BluRay (reader or writer) yet without paying a steep premium. WiFi will be in almost everything, quality varies but that's the tail wagging the dog, you can get outboard WiFi that will have much higher range.

Batteries, battery options, docks, audio (if you want it to be your media center)...and of course the price you aren't willing to exceed. Processors? Anything probably will do these days, more gets you faster but even the low end is fast these days, unless you're doing photo editing or other intense tasks on it.

jonc1948 26-04-2010 12:22

IN 2006 I purchased a Durabook by Twinhead international. It has the advantage of being a "semirugged" unit built to Milspec 801. It is water resistant to spills on the keyboard, resistant to vibration, resistant to drops from table top height and the screen has a matt finish allowing me to view it outside under the cover of my dodger. I have installed Maptech software for use with Canadian hydrographic charts and the unit works just great. It has a serial port for connecting a Garmin GPS . I have been really pleased with this unit and at the time it did not cost much more than a run of the mill laptop. If I were to purchase again I would go for the solid state drive option which makes the unit just about bullet proof.

Jim D 26-04-2010 14:45

If I was buying, I would bypass all those questions and specifications and just get a Macbook Pro. I like things that just work far better than things that have great specs on paper.

~

Boracay 26-04-2010 14:54

The story so far...
 
To summarize the story so far...

Many thanks to all for their help.

* serial input
* multiple USB ports
* output to LCD TV - HDMI
* memory chip sockets SD-HD card reader
* DVD reader/writer
* 2+MHz
* Vista Windows 7
* NMEA input
* CMap capable
* WiFi, Wireless and/or other net connections
* Linux capable
* spill resistant
* low power consumption
* dedicated graphics card
* DC/DC power supply

Budget is as required. Pointless to buy something that does not work.

Paul L 26-04-2010 15:00

Quote:

Originally Posted by jonc1948 (Post 442686)
IN 2006 I purchased a Durabook by Twinhead international. It has the advantage of being a "semirugged" unit built to Milspec 801. It is water resistant to spills on the keyboard, resistant to vibration, resistant to drops from table top height and the screen has a matt finish allowing me to view it outside under the cover of my dodger. I have installed Maptech software for use with Canadian hydrographic charts and the unit works just great. It has a serial port for connecting a Garmin GPS . I have been really pleased with this unit and at the time it did not cost much more than a run of the mill laptop. If I were to purchase again I would go for the solid state drive option which makes the unit just about bullet proof.

Was your Durabook one with Sunlight readable display? How well does it do outside? Also, do you know what it wattage it typically draws?

Paul L

jonc1948 26-04-2010 17:12

Paul L
My durabook did not offer at that time a sunlight viewable screen but in the shade of my dodger it is fairly easy to view even on sunny days. I am not sure of the wattage as it uses a pretty standard 150 Watt power supply that I run off my inverter when I am underway. The company that builds the Durabook has changed its name but you can visit gowin.com to view their line of laptops. Hope this helps

chris07732 26-04-2010 18:14

Curious that no one really expressed a concern about durability in a marine environment. Other than the durabook that jonc1948 uses, everyone seems to use typical home use computers and is buying on features and price. Is it because you can never truly eliminate the marine environment issues and the CPU becomes a "disposable" item? It's kinda the way I feel, but I thought I was a "lone ranger" on this one

Chris07732

Jon D 26-04-2010 18:27

I went the pansonic toughbook route. did a lease turn in CF29. cost more than a comparable big box sourced unit but came with xp and i got a 3 yr no question extended warranty. most of the remanufactured units are coming out of law enforcement. so timing is everything. I had 2 other units give up the ghost over time but I use the laptop for navigation so paid more for extra reliability. I'll know in a few years if it was really worth it.

Sumner 26-04-2010 22:20

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this option....

Marine PC's & WiFi by IslandTime PC

....very low power consumption, serial ports for NEMA if you are using something like SeaClear II or Open CPN and about anything else you need in a computer.

I'm making my own....

https://purplesagetradingpost.com/sum...%20Shots-4.jpg

https://purplesagetradingpost.com/sum...lot-Index.html

...and it will serve as a computer and chartplotter using Sea Clear II and the NOAA charts and I've been also using free USGS downloads for inland lake charts. It will give us a DVD capability for movies, TV for weather, will download routes to a handheld GPS to use at the tiller, will handle WiFi, word-processing, spreadsheets, any other computer need we can dream of and still with the monitor operate at under 40 watts on 12 volts with no AC or DC adapter. The computer will fit into a very small space and I can use a cordless mouse/keyboard and the 10 inch screen.

If you aren't up to sourcing the parts and building it I'd go to Island Time PC and get one.

c ya,

Sum

Boracay 27-04-2010 00:36

Salty splashes...
 
I'm currently inclining to the view that everything on the boat might get a few splashes of salt water on it from time to time, so the Panasonic Toughbook or similar is gaining priority. There's a few reconditioned Toughbooks available in Sydney at the moment.

Anyone had any experience with reconditioned Toughbooks?

I doubt if there's too much WiFi available up the east coat of Oz and through SE Asia so WiFi is not a key requirement. We do seem to have good broadband that connects through the cell phone towers and a USB "dongle" so that's looking likely.

Some sort of future satellite connection would also be nice.

I also have the impression that it's nice to take the computer off the boat to cafes and the like so I'm not incling towards a desktop type.

Hud3 27-04-2010 04:56

Quote:

Originally Posted by Boracay (Post 442957)
...I also have the impression that it's nice to take the computer off the boat to cafes and the like so I'm not incling towards a desktop type.

Get a laptop. You'll definitely want to be able to carry it ashore, or sit in the cockpit, linked up to WiFi.

I had a standard Dell laptop aboard for over four years with never a problem. My company evaluated Panasonic Toughbooks vs. standard Dell laptops in RAM mounts in trucks for our troublemen, who went out in all sorts of weather (and weren't known to be the gentlest of users), and the Dells won out based on cost and user feedback.

jonc1948 27-04-2010 14:02

Boracay
I visited a couple of websites offering the Durabook for sale and find that a serial port is still being offered along with all the requirements that you need except for a dedicated graphics card. To me the most important thing about a laptop onboard is that it continues to work in spite of the exposure to high humidity, vibration and possibly being knocked about while underway. Most laptops I am aware of will not survive a drop from table height without pieces falling off or the screen being damaged. The most important thing is to survive what ever life throws at the device. So for very few dollars more than a standard laptop you can purchase a Durabook with a lot of ruggedness built in without sacrificing much in the way of performance. I use my Durabook for electronic charting , viewing movies at anchor and checking email and surfing the web when in range of a WiFi. That is all I want and it has performed very well indeed. To keep power consumption down opt for a smaller screen version or a low voltage processor.

hellosailor 27-04-2010 19:51

Dedicated gaphics card will conflict with low poer consumption--you generally get one OR the other. IIRC there are a very few new machines with the Intel i7 core, which have the ability to use a graphics core that is ON the i7 CPU, OR a higher end video card in the laptop. That's something brand new to address this issue and very likely to really restrict your options.

Spill resistant also is problematic. A number of laptops now have keyboards with drains in them, so a small spill may run through without getting into anything except the keyboard. Which can be removed and flushed. But even then, I'd want to shut down and clean out the whole machine immeidately rather than take a chance on what might have gotten into the guts. And that leaves, basically, only the Panasonic Toughbook series. Yeah, Dell has an imitation, but Panasonic has THE product for abuse outdoors. Again--the other options will be limited.

I'd probabaly also add a Hitachi Toughdrive to the list, that's a USB external hard drive in a cleaver rubberized shell, with the USB cable converted into a "strap" that secures around the drive, making it all a bit more robust than most USB drives. Buy one or two, make sure you have a good backup of your entire laptop and put the backup in tupperware because even the rugged laptops fail, sooner or later. If you pick a well-supported model and yours fails, you'll be able to buy a replacement a year or three from now for much less, then restore the backup onto it, and keep on going.

Of course with laptop prices where they are ($600-700 buys a lot if you cross off the exotics like ToughBooks and i7's from the list) you can also make a good case for buying two, and knowing you have that spare in the next drawer, live and tested and ready to go.

Masquerade 27-04-2010 20:52

Wet laptops
 
The last comment is something I have considered as well. My view of laptops and cruising would be that two or three cheap ones that will do the basics (plotting, mapping etc email and so on) would be better than one with a little more grunt and a larger screen. I could be wrong (as I often am) but having had some discussions with a few cruising folk I have come to the conclusion that for a lot of the time the laptop should be in a waterproof, shock resistant case because that nasty wet stuff and humid salty air create some interesting problems with laptops. So I would like some comments on this...

hellosailor 27-04-2010 21:13

When my nice got pleasantly surprised with a new (and not cheap) laptop before she went off to college, I told her straight up that it probably could not be replaced, and that they were damned delicate, as I knew from mine. Trying to keep it simple, I said "Just treat this like a big glass plate. Don't toss it, don't throw it, don't sit on it. Just pretend it is made of GLASS and you'll get through jut fine with it."

She's post-grad and the machine is still totally undamaged, just needed a new battery.

I keep mine in a padded (neoprene) case and follow the same "GLASS" handling for it. And it works. I won't open it or use it in the wet, and I'd rather put the neoprene case in a hard shell (Pelican or Halliburton) if I had to stow or transport it physically out of my hands. 2" of foamed rubber in a storage case, even if that's a used Samsonite attache case for $5 from the secondhand store--will protect all sorts of delicate things. Optics, computers, electronics...not totally waterproof but damned cheap.

The salt air itself is more problematic, it may affect motherboards and literaly de-tune them so they stop working. Not much to do about that, because even if you use a conformal coating--that can cause the same problems! So you do the best you can, and remember that in two years, you'll be able to buy 4x as much computer for 1/2 the price. Or, you can try buying one of those 'all hazards even dropping it' plans.

MarkJ 27-04-2010 21:59

Hey Chris! :)

We bought a brand new laptop in Singapore for about $1,000 (seems a lot for those in the USA but cheap for Australia).

Its unique competitive advantage is its 8 hour battery life. It outlasts the old laptop by 4 to 1 effective!
Obviously we don't get 8 hours but we get close to 6 hours where the old laptop gets less than 2 hours.

Someone here slagged my chioce as the brand is Acer. But I have found it fine.

It has Windows 7 which is SENSATIONAL! Far better than any previous windows. I don't think it has ever crashed.

A booklet type laptop is no good because they dont have a DVD drive and as a crusier you need one because all the cruisers share stuff via DVD and thumb drives.
Sending backup photos/docs home by DVD is good and charts, well, they are too big for anything but DVD.
And you can watch movies :)

No laptop will have a seriel port now.

Ours goes off the 12 volt cigarette lighter socket into an step up voltage thingy that puts out 19 volts. Its good, silent, cheap, about $40

Now we have 2 laptops both running nav software, Google earth, gps etc we are great in the redundancy bizo so if one dies we are ok. So maybe instead of shelling out for the most expensive you could think of 2 cheaper ones, or one now and one when you get to asia?


I am sure, as the person on here told me I am a fool, idiot and moron for buying my computer, but I sure as hell love it! And its sure as hell worked so good for us I can now have it on all the time instead of having to 'quickly' turn it on just before we plow into some headland :)


Mark

Cormorant 28-04-2010 07:14

We took our old full-size Gateway laptop to the Bahamas for two months recently. We didn't use it for navigation (though we have SeaClear on it, with a USB GPS antenna). But we did use it for downloading photos from our camera, and daily emailed blog posts via our Iridium phone. Plus uploading larger amounts of photos to the blog on those rare occasions when we had wifi access. Here are a few thoughts/tips:

-- Our laptop is a power-hog -- and has a battery life of only about two hours. Totally frustrating. We only had a small solar panel, plus our outboard to recharge the boat battery (100 Ah). We often found ourselves running the outboard just to be able to use the computer. I will get a low power consuming netbook next time. That plus a bigger solar panel. . . .

-- To attach the Iridium phone to the laptop for data calls, we needed a serial port. The laptop did not have one. So we tried a USB-serial adapter. Two generic adapters would not work with the Iridium phone. The one that finally worked is a Tripp Lite Keystone USA-19HS. For anyone contemplating using Iridium or other fussy serial devices via USB -- get the good one first!

-- We kept the laptop in a large zip-loc plastic bag originally meant (I think) for clothing. We threw in about a dozen silica gel dessicant packets. These packets can have their moisture-absorbing properties renewed by being baked in a low-temp oven. So each time we used the laptop, we tucked the packets under the battery area where it gets quite hot. No idea if this really maintained a protective level of absorption, but it gave me peace of mind that at least we were attempting to thwart moisture-related trouble. . . .

The laptop made it home still in find shape, for whatever that's worth. We also backed up all our photos on an external hard drive. These are getting quite cheap, and with USB plug-and-play connectivity they're very convenient.

Sumner 28-04-2010 08:34

One more comment on getting a computer like I'm building or that you can buy is that $120 to $140 will get you a new motherboard. Everything on it is modular, so any of it is easily replace and it doesn't take an electrical engineer to do it. It won't get dropped as you have it mounted out of the way someplace.

To us the other big thing is that it uses 1/3 to 1/2 the amps than what most laptops use. We have room on the boat for about 180 watts of solar panels and want to run the generator as little as possible, so the reduced electrical needs saves us space and money as we don't have to generate as much electricity.

We will still have at least one other laptop with us as a backup and for one of us to use if we need it and the WiFi system will be available to it.

c ya,

Sum

hellosailor 28-04-2010 11:37

Mark, don't fret over Acer. They're only the second largest computer builder/seller in the world, behind HP.

Sumner-
"To us the other big thing is that it uses 1/3 to 1/2 the amps than what most laptops use." There's no magic in building it yourself. If you are using less power, you are either running fewer systems or using a lower power CPU. Odds are there's a lower-power laptop optimized to do the same thing. Build it yourself with no expensive case and bulkier generic parts, and sure, you can lower the cost again. But for the average SAILOR that also means no warranty, no service, no support. All of which might be worth the extra hundred bucks. And no operating system. (Which costs less than half of whatever you paid, when a manufacturer buys it and bundles it.)

osirissail 28-04-2010 12:24

Any "discount/chain" store selling lapbooks/notebooks will have units for great prices. I always look for "widescreen" with a lot of "brightness/contrast," beside the other items already listed in the revised listing post #12. A readable screen that is bright and clear is a must in the tropics. Most everything else is standard these days with little choice beyond the size of the hard drive. Get one with the biggest hard drive you can afford.
- - You can check them out at the discount/mega stores and then go on the internet and find the same unit for great savings over store prices.
- - Make sure the unit has internal WiFi that can be physically turned off. Then buy the best amplified external WiFi antenna system you can afford, preferably 1 watt (1000mW). Also an amplified USB extension cable - 15 or 20 ft so you can use the computer down below while the external antenna hangs from the spreaders.
- - I buy the best and latest for about 1/2 to 1/3 of the store prices - which sometimes come down during pre/post Christmas sales to match the on-line prices.
- - Also get a Pelican Case to fit for those times when you must take it ashore.
- - For a second computer get one of the "netbooks" - they are fabulous in that their size allows them to fit inside a gallon ziplock bag and then into your backpack or your wife's canvas carrybag. Lugging a heavy computer with or without a Pelican case while you are grocery shopping or doing other errands is a royal pain. The "netbooks" are perfect in these circumstances - but buy a pair of 3X reading glasses so you can read the screen without going blind.

rebel heart 28-04-2010 12:49

Our netbook (Asus 1000HE) gets a lot of use. You can get a 12v charger otherwise you'll be wasting a lot of power in the AC-DC transformer: Newegg.com - TIFA BG-C02-1203-475 BlackGem Car Charger For NetBook(ASUS, GIGABYTE)

You can get a USB DVD drive:

Amazon.com: Samsung USB 2.0 8x DVD Writer External Optical Drive for Mac and PC SE-S084C/RSBN (Gloss Black): Electronics

Netbooks are small and cheap; they work great.

rebel heart 28-04-2010 12:52

Here's a $360 netbook (the newer model than mine). Toss in another $20 to double the RAM, and you're set. 10+ hour battery life, no cables everywhere which is the biggest problem I've had onboard.

Amazon.com: ASUS Eee PC Seashell 1005PE-PU17-BK 10.1-Inch Black Netbook (Up to 14 Hours of Battery Life): Computer & Accessories

Tinkerer007 28-04-2010 13:57

LED monitor?
 
Is anyone finding a LED TV / monitor that runs on 12 volts? It seems that this would be a great solution with the lower power usage.

I did a search on DC-DC ATX PSUs and found a place that has most of the stuff you would need to build your own. Another plus with these systems is that you can build them with serial ports.

sailorgal 28-04-2010 14:03

We got two of these
ITRONIX IX260+ GoBook III RUGGED LAPTOP TOUCHSCREEN GPS - Bay Liquidation Inc.

We have SeaClear and Open CPN loaded on them plus some other stuff. We got them on eBay for a little less than the price shown on the website. WE bought the docking stations and have those permanently attached to the flybridge helm station and the inside helm to keep the laptops stable while underway. The laptops themselves can be dismounted from the docking stations and can be taken ashore in the dinghy or wherever. They have internal GPS already installed. Supposedly, they can withstand rain and cold, etc. WE are very happy with them so far.

Sumner 28-04-2010 18:42

Quote:

Originally Posted by hellosailor (Post 443651)
There's no magic in building it yourself. If you are using less power, you are either running fewer systems or using a lower power CPU. Odds are there's a lower-power laptop optimized to do the same thing. Build it yourself with no expensive case and bulkier generic parts, and sure, you can lower the cost again. But for the average SAILOR that also means no warranty, no service, no support. All of which might be worth the extra hundred bucks. And no operating system. (Which costs less than half of whatever you paid, when a manufacturer buys it and bundles it.)

Actually I could buy a laptop for less than what it will cost to build the whole computer system, but for us that isn't the point. This one will run the same chip set as in the ASUS Eee, so it has the same computing power, which isn't as powerful as most other laptops, but I don't see where that is needed for what we are doing. What we gain and is also the reason an Eee will run so long on batteries is that this chip set is very low power. Is this setup for everyone?? Absolutely not and I'm not saying that it is. I'm just putting an alternative out there for anyone who might want to think about it. It will do more than most laptops that I'm aware of since it can be configured with serial ports and not have to use USB/serial adapters.

It has 12 volt power and low wattage like the Eee, but a lot more features than an Eee. If I wanted a low power laptop it would be the Eee.

It is more compact than a laptop and if you don't want to build one yourself I gave the link to a supplier that will build one and "support it" just as he does for his long distance WiFi solutions.

You can also build a computer with more power if you feel you need it that will still use considerably less electricity than the typical laptop.....

How to build a plug 'n play 12 volt mini computer:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tinkerer007 (Post 443718)
Is anyone finding a LED TV / monitor that runs on 12 volts? It seems that this would be a great solution with the lower power usage.

I did a search on DC-DC ATX PSUs and found a place that has most of the stuff you would need to build your own. Another plus with these systems is that you can build them with serial ports.

We got our 12 volt 10 inch monitor that uses less than 10 watts from here....

new 10.4 Desktop TFT LCD Monitor w Touch Screen + VGA

...it won't work in the cockpit in direct sun, but we will have it mounted just inside the cabin where I can see it from the cockpit. Of course we only have a little sailboat so someones else results will vary. We are happy with it and the quality of the picture...

https://purplesagetradingpost.com/sum...%20Shots-1.jpg

If you haven't found them here is a good place for power supplies and a lot of other items.....

small PC ATX power supplies with 12V or 6-24V input

.....and I'll sooner or later have a complete listing of parts and where I got them on my site.

Good luck,

Sum

rover88 28-04-2010 19:56

Another vote here for the fully rugerized Panasonic Toughbooks. Although a new CF-30 will set you back over $3k, a P4 model CF-29 can be had used in good shape for about $500. If you want smaller, the CF-18 is a good choice at about the same price. I've had my CF29 for about four years now and it is bulletproof. All the bells and whistles of newer laptops are useless when the thing packs up from the harsh marine envirionment. Oh, and I'd always budget and extra $100 for a Pelican case to store it in.

richardhula 29-04-2010 05:48

The problem with Toughbooks is the expense added to the fact that Panasonic are very conservative with component specs. This means that the unit soon becomes slow and outdated when running the latest processor hungry programs. I know I had one for five years - for the same price I could have bought a state of the art new laptop every couple of years.

For the record now on my second Acer. The first one (TravelMate 8600LMi) is still in everyday use by my partner having previously been used on my sailboat for three years and 15,000nm including Atlantic crossing. Despite being six years old and only having single core processor it's now running Windows 7 very smoothly. I haven't found a single program that can't be made to run on this OS yet.

My ideal future laptop for use on board boat would need as a minimum:

15" screen with 1680 x 1050 WSXGA display from dedicated graphics card
Low power but fast dual core processor - maybe Intel i7-620M - 2 x 2.66Ghz for 35 watts
4MB DDR3 RAM on 1066Mhz bus
Large battery - maybe 6 cell 5200ma/h
Large partitioned hard drive ideally solid state >= 250GB
At least three USB 2.0 ports
WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth adaptors
Built-in webcam & microphone
DMI digital video output
Option for custom expansion box/dock so connections to boat systems remain whilst laptop is removed for use ashore.
Multi-type memory card read/writer
Blue Ray disc drive with at least DVD/CD write capabilities.

rover88 29-04-2010 06:54

Quote:

Originally Posted by richardhula (Post 443969)
The problem with Toughbooks is the expense added to the fact that Panasonic are very conservative with component specs. This means that the unit soon becomes slow and outdated when running the latest processor hungry programs. I know I had one for five years - for the same price I could have bought a state of the art new laptop every couple of years.

The Acer is a fine machine representing good value for the money, yet the fact remains that the "sea is a harsh mistress" and in my experience she has a particular distaste of all things electronic - especially consumer grade electronics. The bottom line is that whatever computer is chosen for a boat, the limitations of each brand must be respected and performance weighed against reliability. Toughbooks are big, heavy, inferior in performance and expensive. Yet in the places many of us travel - or plan to travel - buying a new laptop and recovering all the data on a dead one, is not an option ever year or two.

richardhula 29-04-2010 07:57

Quote:

Originally Posted by rover88 (Post 443991)
The Acer is a fine machine representing good value for the money, yet the fact remains that the "sea is a harsh mistress" and in my experience she has a particular distaste of all things electronic - especially consumer grade electronics. The bottom line is that whatever computer is chosen for a boat, the limitations of each brand must be respected and performance weighed against reliability. Toughbooks are big, heavy, inferior in performance and expensive. Yet in the places many of us travel - or plan to travel - buying a new laptop and recovering all the data on a dead one, is not an option ever year or two.

I agree with your comments but was relating my own experience with several laptops. The Toughbooks only advantage was when I spilt beer on the keyboard. The Toughbook survived, the Acer required new keyboard although it still worked minus a couple of keys, also the events happened ashore.

Data transfer and recovery is not the daunting experience most people think. Windows 7 installs on a modern machine in less than 30 minutes. Add MS Office & your favourite progs & you are almost back to normal on a new machine within a couple of hours. Changing your machine regularly keeps you up to speed on OS and program installation.

I regularly copy my whole system partition to one on an external drive (takes about 70 minutes for 50GB). In the event of internal drive failure I simply slip in the external drive which having a bootable copy of my OS instantly gives me a working machine again.

BTW I use Outlook as my main email client as this uses just one folder to contain all email data. I set up the folder on separate partition so I have quick and simple access to backup & restore.

hellosailor 29-04-2010 08:07

" Then buy the best amplified external WiFi antenna system you can afford, preferably 1 watt (1000mW)."
Gotta watch that too. Legal max power in the US, is illegal high power in some other places. There was a small brouhaha in the papers last week when Israel started banning iPads arriving at the airport--because they exceed WiFi power limits and as such trash other WiFi devices and users. (Didn't see specifics about power levels mentioned.)

Somewhere, some clever soul is going to figure out what a Ubiquiti Bullet looks like, and just how much mordida they can collect by asking to ignore them on incoming boats. "Si, you must place all your guns, liquor, money, and WiFi adapters in bonded storage until the morning of your departure." !

Sumner 29-04-2010 08:16

Quote:

Originally Posted by richardhula (Post 443969)
............Despite being six years old and only having single core processor it's now running Windows 7 very smoothly. I haven't found a single program that can't be made to run on this OS yet..........

Are you or anyone else running SeaClear on Windows 7? I have Vista on two computers and 7 on the latest. I don't like Vista and on the new boat computer was going to put XP, but am considering 7. I think with the Intel® Atom™ Processor N270 the XP might be better (faster).

On the dual core vs. single core there are still some single core processors (AMD Sempron single-core) that will really run fast and usually if you software doesn't support dual core it will run faster on the single core machine.

Thanks,

Sum

richardhula 29-04-2010 08:30

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sumner (Post 444025)
Are you or anyone else running SeaClear on Windows 7? I have Vista on two computers and 7 on the latest. I don't like Vista and on the new boat computer was going to put XP, but am considering 7. I think with the Intel® Atom™ Processor N270 the XP might be better (faster).

On the dual core vs. single core there are still some single core processors (AMD Sempron single-core) that will really run fast and usually if you software doesn't support dual core it will run faster on the single core machine.

Thanks,

Sum

Yes Seaclear runs fine under Windows 7.

Dual core processor allows 64 bit OS to be installed which in turn makes full use of the 4Mb of RAM I have. 32 bit programs in general install & run fine on 64 bit OS. They reside in separate "Program Files (x86)" folder.


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