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AntHart

Cheap laptop for imaging?

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Hey :)

im looking for a laptop for imaging...scope control/APT, guiding control/PHD, stellarium/eqv for goto etc.

Only really looking to ‘Capture data and control’...not looking to edit and process images with it....I have a decent desktop pc for that. 

Am I right thinking even a low power( cpu/ram/ graphics laptop would be ok as just acquiring data doesn’t need that much , it’s the processing and stacking and photoshop type stuff that needs a powerful machine?

I have a MacBook atm and the software is either bit naff or costly compared to windows so looking for a windows 10 laptop, 15 inch Full HD screen with about 8 gig of ram and a ssd hard drive plus Ethernet port and usb3/type c....ideally no more than £500

 

I’ve also thought of going for an ASIair and iPad...if that’s a good choice ?

 

just assumed a pc with windows rather than a tablet with apps would be better?

 

im certainly open to all ideas :)

cheers

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Hi,

i recently bought a second laptop also just for capture, process i do on a more powerful laptop.

It's an HP 14 - cf0087nb Azerty, quite happy with it, details here

76927C48-660F-4661-9ACC-85A37D8AC5AC.thumb.jpeg.8b64be94d7d9a01e0cf9fb066b74de43.jpeg 

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Hi. I’ve just installed virtual box and then I built a windows 10 virtual machine for free. No licenses needed for either. I can now run the windows software on my Mac

Edited by IvorHogseye
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1 hour ago, IvorHogseye said:

Hi. I’ve just installed virtual box and then I built a windows 10 virtual machine for free. No licenses needed for either. I can now run the windows software on my Mac

Technically you still need a licence for W10 whether or not it’s running on a virtual machine. 
 

To the OP - have a look at laptopsdirect.co.uk, they have a good range of refurbished ones that are very good. I’ve bought from them before and the service is excellent. You easily find a decent one in your price range. 

Edited by dannybgoode

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This depends on your setup but I can say from my own personal experience that one of the best moves I made over the last couple fo years (in astrophotography 🤣) is to setup a dedicated astro computer which is used for nothing else. I did consider a laptop but I've had many problems due to the fact that a Laptop will be moved around, might need a USB hub,  needs longer cables, etc.

I've decided to buy a small form factor PC which is attached to my mount. To use it I either do a remote connection (if I have WIFI) or I use a 3m HDMI cable, external screen and bluetooth mouse and keyboard (remote connection will not always work so this backup is a must). The cabling I leave the same (or if I need to remove a cable then I will always use the same USB port - everything is labelled). Once the computer is setup, I don't connect it to the internet and because I have the Pro version of Windows 10 I also disable updates. I don't use it for anything else apart from controlling my astro setup. I rarely update any software I use (Voyager, PHD2, drivers, etc.) unless I REALLY need a new feature.

Since I've done the above - happy days, no software/computer related issues at all.

Maybe it all sounds a bit complicated and might be too much for what you need but if your setup gets more involved I think this kind of approach is essential. The good news is that this is actually not that expensive! You can use a fairly low powered device, an Intel NUC or Compute Stick for example with an i3 or i5 processor. These come up second hand a fair bit for a reasonable price. An external HDMI screen is also not very expensive so all in you should stay below your target.

PS: You will thank me later! 🤣

PPS: I've had lots of problems with USB devices and virtual machines. I would avoid this.

Edited by AngryDonkey

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I have used various second hand laptops and netbooks over the last few years but all of them have eventually succumb to the damp  ( I dont have an observatory, I set everything up on a portable bench).

The most recent purchase and most resilient is a secondhand Panasonic ToughBook.   ( picked up for about £250).  It has Win 10pro , USB3 + USB2  and an SSD drive.

The USB cables have failed before this beast.

 

Sean.

 

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1 hour ago, IvorHogseye said:

You don't need a license to run the Windows 10 software.

It's working fine for me

https://www.howtogeek.com/244678/you-dont-need-a-product-key-to-install-and-use-windows-10/

That article is from 2017 and Microsoft have technically ceased to offer W10 free. The technique still works but you are technically in breach of the EULA. 
 

Whether that bothers anyone is a separate debate :)  
 

Note also W10 isn’t activated using this method. At the moment this doesn’t really affect anything but things like security updates and service packs may become restricted. 

Edited by dannybgoode

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I use a couple of HP laptops with my systems and have found them to be very reliable and resilient. Using them at -8/9 during winter nights they operated without a hitch unlike my NEQ6 which needed a grease change.

There are many available second hand at a great price.

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I use a Samsung n220 plus netbook. Does the job nicely. I run eqmod, sharpcap, cartes du ceil, astrophotography tool and phd off of it with no problems. I also use it to stack all my image files in deep sky stacker. Its nice and small too so doesn't take up much room. Dirt cheap on eBay too. Wouldn't use it for anything other than capture and stack though. Photoshop work is done on my Mac.

IMG_9953.JPG

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Gonna put in a pitch for the Pi here. A Raspberry Pi 4b with 4 GB RAM will set you back all of US$56. It has plenty of snort to do sequencing, guiding, plate solving, autofocus, while running a planetarium program too. A Pi 3 like ASIAir will struggle a bit doing all that.

You can purchase turnkey software for US$49 from Stellarmate, or go free from the ground up if you prefer. There are at least two known good platforms (Stellarmate and Astroberry) to choose from. For that matter, you can buy a Pi  3 and case with everything preloaded from SM for US$149.

You can remote in wirelessly from a tablet, phone, or laptop, or connect an HDMI display and USB keyboard and mouse if you prefer. Whole thing will easily run all night off any battery that can power your mount and camera.

I won't pretend I"ve never had any problems getting things working from time to time. (Few astronomers can!l But it largely Just Works.

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13 hours ago, AntHart said:

Hey :)

im looking for a laptop for imaging...scope control/APT, guiding control/PHD, stellarium/eqv for goto etc. .................

I’ve also thought of going for an ASIair and iPad...if that’s a good choice ?  .............

 

Having gone down various routes as I climbed the steep learning curve of Astrophotography there is no doubt IMVHO that the ASIair is the way to go. Every thing you need to control the mount in one small box. Minimum number of cables, just one taking power to the mount in my case with the Air mounted on the tube. Control over WiFi from an iPad or Android pad, direct or over your house WiFi. EQMod control, no hand set. Use of the internal target listings or SkySafari. Live stacking. etc. 
Principal drawback is that only ZWO cameras are supported together with a whole batch of DSLRs.

Need I say more!  😁

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Cheap second hand laptop with as many USB ports as possible!  I used this company Morgan on several occasions (usual disclaimer).

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I should point out that I do understand that requirements may vary. For me, a laptop would have to have a 12-hour battery life to suffice as my main/only imaging computer. My multiday trips totally divorced from mains power are few, but they're CORE. The Pi-based gadgets have the advantage that the current-eating devices (i.e., those with screens) need only be operating while you're actively interacting. For the long hours of sequenced imaging, you can run your rig on the Pi's trickle of battery power. My Pi 4 gets its juice via a Waveshare stepper-motor control board, so I don't even have to have a converter -- just plug another barrel connector in.

Sometimes when I've worked in the back yard, I've used the high-end MacBook Pro on which I develop software for a living. 2-second plate solves, I'm down with that! But then I have to worry about leaving it outside all night. If the Pi gets rained on or possum-gnawed, meh, it was $56.

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7 hours ago, rickwayne said:

Sometimes when I've worked in the back yard, I've used the high-end MacBook Pro on which I develop software for a living. 2-second plate solves, I'm down with that! But then I have to worry about leaving it outside all night. If the Pi gets rained on or possum-gnawed, meh, it was $56.

I can relate to that. I’m currently using my Dell XPS 13 fully loaded i7 but I get very nervous about leaving it - even just out in the garden. I’m in the process of getting my old laptop back off a friend I lent it to a year or so ago. 
 

I bought it for imaging but was then ill for ages so didn’t use it but will be far more comfortable leaving that out :)  

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I decided to not leave my laptop outside , so I brought a Tiny Levono Computer and put in into a case that can me left outside unaffected by frost and damp It’s  in that orange case . The case is foam lined and I cut ventilation holes in either side , and arranged the foam to hold the computer but allow air to flow through for cooling ..  works a treat . eBay , I paid £89 for mine .. 

it was a Levono Thinkcentre M93p Intel i5   120 GB SSD , 4 GB RAM  .... 

C8D8949F-89E2-4414-9257-16F339B50B47.jpeg

7F59251B-17A5-4EEB-872D-511DCF8D8B9B.jpeg

302E4685-164E-429A-8E95-C621EC9C3522.jpeg

B2AE813A-ECB1-4CFB-9F93-4BB0FC953F23.jpeg

Edited by Brian28
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The other option I have and someone mentioned it above; because my scope is usually on the patio I could just run a long USB lead out of the dining room window where my main computer is. Be nice and warm inside then! 
 

Now I can plate solve etc it’s a very tempting option. 

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33 minutes ago, dannybgoode said:

The other option I have and someone mentioned it above; because my scope is usually on the patio I could just run a long USB lead out of the dining room window where my main computer is. Be nice and warm inside then! 
 

Now I can plate solve etc it’s a very tempting option. 

Depends on your distances... I know you can get boosters for USB cables , I tried one option with Long Ethernet cables ,it worked for some of the equipment but others bits did not want to connect and it obviously introduces more connections into the signal path ..  so more chance of damp and corrosion in the connectors ... I decided to keep cables short and solve the problem as above .. 

remotely connecting to the computer in the box .. and it operates just like a normal laptop..

SGpro ,iOptron commander , PHD2 , Cart du ceil , are all loaded onto it .. as per normal .. 

anyways .....I’m sure everyone else has a different method and ideas .. .. 😉👍

 

Edited by Brian28

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Hi, 

this is a really cheap Lenovo  laptop with Windows 10 pro and You get a very good performance with it. 
it costed me 333€ , with 512 gb SSD /12gb RAM and 4 Thread CPU , it will be enough for imagining for next decade 😉
this Module is in German eBay, I’m sure you’ll find the same model in GB:

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.de%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F184110599429
best regards, 

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If you are looking for a cheap laptop then the Motile (Walmart's own brand) M142 is worth a look at $350ish - eg https://www.newegg.com/p/1TS-00AF-00006

It's got plenty of I/O, full HD screen (1080p) and you can upgrade both RAM and storage easily (NVMe, so fast storage at that). The AMD 3500 is a great part.

I'll definitely +1 the Raspberry Pi 4 approach though. I have one which lives on the telescope tube (under a Telegizmos 365 cover) attached with adhesive velcro in a Maplins project box, holes cut for USB etc. Just make sure you run Ethernet in, WiFi will let you down!

Edited by discardedastro

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