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Walking on the Moon

laptop or net book for astro work?

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has anyone got any experience [or knowledge] of using a net book, these smaller £200+ laptops that are becoming more popular. I am thinking of buying one for astro work but as I am a beginner to this stuff want to make sure it's powerfull enough.

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I assume by 'astrowork' you mean imaging, image processing and general stuff like planetariums etc?

I have a fair bit of knowledge when it comes to computer specs, (don't wanna sound too big headed tho!) and would safely say that you would be better off with a laptop rather than a netbook.

Netbooks are exactly what they say on the tin; a user friendly, basic platform for running text based applications such as internet browsers and spreadsheet programs.

Going by the specifications for these devices;

Single processors <1Ghz, 1GB RAM, <60GB's Hard Disk and very basic graphics along with a small screen then they are not comparable with a laptop.

Take the laptop I am on now for example, the average price of a netbook is around £200/250 (some are cheaper but for a good model) for £100 more you could have a laptop such as mine which has;

dual core processor @ 2Ghz, 3Gb's Ram, 160GB's HDD, large screen, semi-dedicated graphics running DirectX10 (which are pretty good actually).......very useful for image processing and running planetarium software.

I would stick with a laptop!

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There's some netbooks that have a bit more zip to them now. Not least the Acer Aspire A150. While it still won't bother a big laptop, it's specs maybe fine for field work, leaving the processing side of things to a more powerful desktop PC.

The Atom powered Netbooks have incredible battery life. Which is very appealing out in the field.

The A150 is available from Play.com for £199 and it's basic specs are:

Intel Atom 1.6ghz

512Mb ram expandable to 2Gb

120Gb HDD

3 x USB 2.0

The on-board graphics are the usual Intel fare but that is on a par with any £300-350 full size laptop. So Stellarium will run equally well on the netbook as it would a cheap laptop.

Depends if the idea of tiny laptop appealed and whether you intended to do everything on the laptop.

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thanks guys. this forum is the best thing since sliced bread!. since I joined I've had nothing but stellar advice [excuse the pun]. your advice is very helpfull, as in all things there are pros & cons but I feel I am able to make a more informed choice now.

Ian :hello2:

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I am still swithering between laptop and net book. BTW Make sure it is not one of the cheap ones like I saw that run Linux and only have a basic webbrowser. Nothing against Linux folks, I am meaning these latops are really only for surfing the web and have a couple of things like a text editor. The Notebooks around £250 are pretty good, as Rus says the battery life is great. If you are looking for it to use to control the scope and run a couple of apps in the field they are great, for image processing I would suggest a decent laptop instead.

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Laptop everytime. We wanted one for our astro activities and got a bargin from PC world on line reconditioed machines. Processing power is important as is disc space for applications. We use a USB external disc to store data from imaging if we have a shortage on the laptop which isnt very often.

Good luck in your deliberations

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I'd go with a laptop too - I have both a cheapish full size laptop (cost around £300 just over a year ago) and an Asus Eee PC 901 netbook. Even though they both have 1.6Gz processors and 1Gb RAM the laptop is noticably quicker and easier to use due too larger screen & keyboard etc

Go with the laptop - much more suited to astro work (although netbooks are great.. :hello2: )

www.ebuyer.com usually have some good prices/deals

good luck,


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thanks for the input. another question when considering laptops. I have read that xp [which I have on my desktop] is miles better than vista, with some users of this forum saying they would be better off reloading xp as it is easier to run some of the astro software. should I go for xp?

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Here's an email I have written to a coupl eof clients who were doing hte netbook/laptop toss up. I'm a big fan of dell kit (fair quality/build, easy to get parts for etc). Prices are retail from me and are in the region of 25 - 40% behind the dell/street price.

My own laptop is a Dell D430, (1.2 or 1.4 Ghz Core 2 Duo, 1.5Gb ram, 80Gb Hard disk, 12” screen, no DVD/CD drive, built in WIFI and sound). I have had it for about 8 months and can’t fault it. cost ca. £ 425 + VAT. They also do a 3g data card add-on that is internal so you can use a 3g (mobile) connection without the need to plug in an external usb modem.

Pics and review here: http://www.trustedreviews.com/notebooks/review/2007/09/27/Dell-Latitude-D430/p1

Dell also do a tablet version of this one called a Latitude XT. (Tablet means the screen rotates and folds flat on the keyboard to allow you to “write” or draw directly onto the touch screen). Costs Ca. £725 + VAT. Its reviewed here: http://www.trustedreviews.com/notebooks/review/2008/04/30/Dell-Latitude-XT-Tablet-PC/p1

There are also about a dozen “netbook” laptops around now. Most use a very low voltage processor from Intel called an Atom. They run at the lower end of the speed ratings so as to reduce the power consumption. They are very small/light and portable. Most have a 9” screen with no cd/dvd. Some run Linux some run Windows XP. Most have built in Wifi and some have 3g too. Some have solid state hard disks (ie no moving parts) some have traditional spinning disks. Cost wise they are all in the £ 250 - £350 band (inc VAT). A few are “free” with a mobile data subscription of £30 per month.

Group test here: http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/09/12/rh_bg_netbooks/

Dell do a 12” version too here: http://www.euro.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/laptop-inspiron-12?c=uk&cs=ukdhs1&l=en&s=dhs&dgc=ST&cid=5186&lid=121454

So, portable = 12” screen or smaller. A portable laptop WILL be at the slower end of the scale (Lady G’s current lap top is a 16.Ghz Core 2 Duo I believe) and will have less storage space and ram than a conventional notebook. (though not an issue to most).

Given the small screen there are sometimes issues with font size (too small for comfortable reading), this can be corrected by making the fonts bigger but this has a knock on effect of making menus and other text items unwieldy on such a small screen. (Has she tried to use Adam’s sony? This has a 12” screen).

Here’s a guide to the various types of laptop (ultra portable, thin and light etc etc with pros and cons)

I think the 3 biggest drivers will be: readability of (small) screen, learning new software (mac vs PC) and storage space.

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its quite a difficult time to be buying at the moment...yeh everything is slightly cheaper than it was (january sales & VAT discounted a little & companies want you to buy things) but you are based with the dilemma of:

1) will things get cheaper

2) are netbooks going to become as powerful as laptops in a fairly quick time period (i.e. <6 months)

3) is it worth buying one now when in a few months you can get a far better spec for a similiar price.

Take 'mjcp's' post above, his lappy is 8 months old and he paid well over £400 for his, now the one I am on at the moment only cost £350 incl. VAT and is a better spec (Dual core 2Ghz, 3GB ram, 160GB HDD, 15.6 inch 16:9 screen, DVD +/- RW, good sound, n-wifi, good graphics, 5in1 card reader, 3 hour battery life and weighs about the same as a bag of sugar!)

But this will be eclipsed in a few months for an even better machine..........

If your out and about wanting to use imaging programs and virtual planetariums, then the small size screen of a netbook might be an issue.

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As a Mac user on my desktop I can say I would rather give up computing than use Vista. If you have used a Mac you can see what an abomination Vista is. It came installed on my laptop and the first thing I did was go back to XP.

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Think we can all agree that Windows 98 was the best, ME was rubbish.

Best to leave Win98 in that happy place and not revisit it. i was given an old PC to repair recently. Got it working no worries and found it was running Win98. Thought oh bliss lets have a trip down memory lane.......within a minute i thought get me out of hear, this is awful. It's so clunky and drab. Quickly booted up XP and all was right in the world again.

I don't mind Vista either.

As for no right click, how can that be called an operating system? Only joking of course. Macs are nice to use and i suppose you get used to having no right click.

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I wouldn't be surprised, their specification lists are normally pants.

Also found this laptop on Ebuyer:


Swings and roundabouts with the specs. Has a better processor, larger HDD, better graphics card. Only down on RAM at 2Gb. But ram is real cheap at the moment and easily upgraded. Graphics and CPU are not.

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