Jump to content

1912116577_Solarchallenge2022banner.jpg.913a200cf105ddeae9f37765cb1d0c73.jpg

Laptop recommendations?


Recommended Posts

Hi ladies and gents, 

I bought a chromebook a few weeks back, but have since realised it was a mistake - a chrome OS isn't what I needed. 

I'm looking for a laptop that I can use Microsoft Office with, a place to put all my childhood pictures etc, but I need something I can eventually use for astrophotography - running software, CD drive, USB ports etc. Something rugged enough to survive long cold nights, accidental drops and bumps. Probably be looking at £400 tops. 

What do you use? What do you recommend and why? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think a recommendation as such is necessary - any machine that runs Windows and isn't ancient should be adequate.  Ebay is awash with ex-business laptops running Windows 10, refurbished and sold on by dealers, going for low prices.

And don't put all your childhood pictures on a laptop or any other machine unless you have a backup.

The #1 problem with slimline laptops is the hinges - they get stiff and rip the screws out of the slim plastic mouldings.

I use a Dell Vostro 5468 which is several years old.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use a Lenovo Thinkpad refurbished from Amazon. Had it 2 years. Tough as old boots. I5 processor, 500GB HDD, 8GB Ram. Runs SGPPro, Sharp Cap Pro , PHD2 and Autostakkart. Had condensation running off it and no issues. £170!  You don’t need a powerful computer to rum imaging software. HDD size is more important. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you. I was thinking it'd need to be some high spec jobby, glad it doesn't have to be so high end. 

The pictures are all backed up at my old man's place - he's given me a USB stick to copy everything, hence the chromebook as I wanted to see them again. 

As long as I get a few years out of it and gets my feet into AP I'll l be happy 🙂

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bear in mind that if you ever do planetary imaging with an high speed camera then you would need a fast frame rate and hence fast storage.  I highly counsel you look for a laptop with USB3 ports and with an SSD.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, howzat said:

I use a Lenovo Thinkpad refurbished from Amazon. Had it 2 years. Tough as old boots. I5 processor, 500GB HDD, 8GB Ram. Runs SGPPro, Sharp Cap Pro , PHD2 and Autostakkart. Had condensation running off it and no issues. £170!  You don’t need a powerful computer to rum imaging software. HDD size is more important. 

Second this. The Thinkpad T440p is a great old laptop and easily upgradable if you also like to tinker. A back lit keyboard really helps in the dark and if you get one with Windows 10 Pro then you can connect remotely from indoors too using the Remote Desktop app.

Edited by Hughsie
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, kirkster501 said:

Bear in mind that if you ever do planetary imaging with an high speed camera then you would need a fast frame rate and hence fast storage.  I highly counsel you look for a laptop with USB3 ports and with an SSD.

As Kirkster points out,  planetary and especially Lunar imaging with large sensors are hard on hardware.    By what I read above this is not the case for DSO.   

 

My passion is shooting the moon.....  and I want  minimal steps in my capture  process.   I had a cheap HP with decent specs,  USB3.0 ports and an SSD harddrive.   Was OK....  but not quite getting the speeds the cameras should do - I made do.   It was a pain though capturing to the laptop SSD, then copying over to an external...  then copying that to my PC, so, I bought a Samsung T7 USB3.2 V2 external SSD figuring the 5gb/sec data rate on laptop of usb 3.0 would be enough.....   NOT so - in spite of the numbers that said it would work....  it did not.   When I tried to run my camera saving directly to the T7 it slowed dramatically once buffer was filled - this was using my 20mp 183MM camera rated for 20fps 8bit raw output.   I got about 15-16fps straight to laptop, but it dropped to about 8-10fps straight to to T7.   My 2mp 290MM was not TOO bad, acceptable to me at a rate of 140fps instead of the rated 170fps (to both laptop and T7).     Anyways, I got tired of the issue and bought a used Dell XPS laptop with USB3.2 V2....  was pricey, but worth it.   Battery awesome for one, with plenty of hours, but, I now do ALL my imaging at full rated camera speeds recording straight to my 2TB Samsung T7 external flash drive only dipping into my large available buffer by a frame or two occasionally.   SO much better.  :)

 

Best of luck!!

 

Mike

Edited by WestCoastCannuck
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Using a 183MM at full resolution in a 1000mm telescope gives a resolution of 0.5 arc/sec per pixel. Given the seeing is usually 0.8 to 2 arc/sec using full resolution for planetary imaging is not providing any benefit in image detail. It would be better to bin 2x2 and reduce resolution for an increased resolution and frame rate. The most popular planetary camera is the 174M with 2.3MP and 5.86 micron pixels vs the 2.4 on the 183MM. I have a 183MM and love it. For moon and planetary I drop the resolution and bin and still get great detail with my old Lenovo SSD USB3 machine. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow now we're getting technical. I thought planetary imaging would be the easiest due to being able to take a 30s webcam type video and stack individual frames. Have I understood this wrong? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, OK Apricot said:

Wow now we're getting technical. I thought planetary imaging would be the easiest due to being able to take a 30s webcam type video and stack individual frames. Have I understood this wrong? 

No not  at all. A webcam is fine for this. Remember you are relying on “lucky imaging” whereby the stacking program looks at the quality of the frames and then stacks the best % that you specify.  My point is that you don’t get more detail with more tiny pixels because the limiting quantity is the atmospheric disturbance. Use Autostakkert for you videos it’s free and great. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/03/2022 at 17:51, OK Apricot said:

Thank you. I was thinking it'd need to be some high spec jobby, glad it doesn't have to be so high end.

The high spec (expensive bits) are the scope and accessories, not the laptop itself :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

So.. I'll chip in with a used macbook suggestion.

all SSDs - super super fast. firecapture works great. And unlike a windows laptop, it'll be worth much the same as you bought it 3 years down the line.

400 quid will get you a decent macbook 3-5 years old where depreciation pretty much levels out, whereas for windows laptops they become worthless really.

comes with apple's suite of apps which include pages for word replacement. Of course you can buy word for it if you want.

here's an example of the sort of thing:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/175033325757?hash=item28c0cc98bd:g:aHAAAOSwAjtiPLSo

vastly better screen than nearly all windows laptops. SSDs usually much much quicker, and built to last.

Oh, I will say if you intend to process on the mac too, then you WILL need vmware fusion (free), and a windows VM (windows licence available on ebay etc for a fiver). Then you can run windows when you need to alongside mac os for stuff like registrax, autostakkert, etc as there are no real mac equivalents for those - but they will run as well or better on the mac imho*

Course if yer stuck on windows ignore me.

stu

mac fanboi

*lots of folk say macs are the most stable windows machines they've ever owned using vmware to run windows - you can backup, restore, snapshot, etc as well as keeping multiple versions of it if required, etc.

Edited by powerlord
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd recommend a Lenovo T-Series Think Pad for a few reasons.

They are primarily designed for highly mobile users, so are better designed for being "ragged" about.

Dual Batteries (Internal and external), provides longer battery running time and allows for the external battery to be changed live
More rugged case/shell compared to consumer laptops
Back lit keyboard which is handy in the dark
An actually useful trackpad + joystick mouse


I have the T470 which gives nvme and thunderbolt 3 making it ideal for most astro tasks. Plus I have 4g modem built in; which is handy.

 

Looking on that popular auction site, they seem to be amazingly priced for what they are circa £200-£250; so maybe a T490 might be in your requested price range.
 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

26 minutes ago, powerlord said:

400 quid will get you a decent macbook 3-5 years old where depreciation pretty much levels out, whereas for windows laptops they become worthless really.

Pah, Linux and Indi drivers would sort that out; many a forgotten laptop has been given years of life that way 

#notamacfanboi :D

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, qisback said:

Pah, Linux and Indi drivers would sort that out; many a forgotten laptop has been given years of life that way 

#notamacfanboi :D

 

Got to be honest and say I'm not either. In fact we've just been swapped to iPads at work now and I hate it 🤣

@qisback the Lenovo T470 looks pretty good indeed, within budget used. Looking like I'm limited to the refurbished market.

To summarise, key features need to be:

SSD, USB 3.0, i5(+) processor...? Computers never have been my thing - I feel like I'm in my 80s when my brothers or friends talk about them, I've got the slightest of clues (no offence intended) 🤣

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well on the Lenovo laptops (until they renamed them recently) it's easy to tell the type/age

Letter / Screen size (prefix with a 1) / year released (201#) / cpu type (0 for intel, 5 for amd)

T470 = Travel series / 14 inch / 2017 release / Intel

I'm sure other vendors do equally good kit; but I've had first hand experience with most of the Lenovo laptop range.

 

For a £400 budget I would recommend "used with warranty" from a reputable refurbishing company; fortunately these days that just means eBay with a high feedback rating or laptops direct.

https://www.laptopsdirect.co.uk/nav/mc/48361/pmlld/intel-core-i7/pmlld/intel-core-i5/popularfea/ssd-drive/pt/laptops?sortOrder=1&rangeattribute=1~100~400

This link should give you a good view within budget and requirements.

 

If it was my money, I'd short list in this order

CPU, try to get the latest generation, i.e. 4xxx = 4th gen intel, 11xx =11th gen intel
Memory, 16GB+
Storage, 256GB+ NVMe (or SSD if thats all there were)
Network/USB ports
Laptop Size / style
Backlit Keyboard
Power Source / Charger Type / Batteries

Once you get past the CPU / Memory / Storage, you should find that (as long as it isn't tablet style) you will have 2-3 USB 3+ ports, Wifi 5 (or 802.11 AC) and an Ethernet port, then it's looking at the laptop size/style or make sure it's "mobile"; I know it sounds silly, but a lot of laptops; just arn't, they've been designed to live on a desk; you want something a little more business and designed for people who carry them about for work (and to an extent don't care about looking after them because they're work devices). Then it's just looking for the best laptop in budget with as many fancies you can get; back lit keyboard, dual batteries, a power source which isn't chipped / encoded (I've seen laptop only used approved chargers, which is a pain when powering from 12-19 volt leisure batteries).

Linux/Mac/Windows, joking aside; it is completely a personal preference. You can use any of them to get really really good results in astro and they all have productivity tools of one form or another; as you've mentioned Microsoft office (although Open Office and Libre Office do exist) this will limit you to Windows or Mac if using the native applications; or any OS when using the web based tools (which are pretty decent to be fair).

Go have a look at the laptops direct link and you should get a feel for what you want; pop some models in this thread and I'm sure someone will give further advice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

keep an eye on ebay. I got a Lenova Yoga 460 i7 8gb memory, 256ssd for 179 quid in feb.

these are rotatable to a tablet and have touchscreen. they also have a very decent 1080p IPS display, good keyboard, and a decent trackpad.

I got it for obsy duty for planetary stuff where I don't care so much if something happens with it being out all night.

I'd disagree that you need 16gb of memory for astro stuff tbh. usb3.0 and ssd are your main biggies. Nothing is too taxing on CPU with astro software. Or at least, the stuff that is (PI, etc) is so badly written that it rarely uses more than one CPU core.

You can easily run to 500MB/sec write when doing planetary - so SSD is a must, but usb3.0 will do that fine with an external ssd so don't sweat it too big on having internal space. Once you've done your capture and stacked, etc you probably don't want to keep 20GB+ of video anyway, so you just need the space to last a session. The Lenova above does around 500MB/s - so is fine.

this is the seller I used, but they have none of the above in stock.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/283606063064

stu

Link to comment
Share on other sites

27 minutes ago, Mr niall said:

+1 Thinkpad. They’re everywhere and really cheap.

I’m still on a ten year old one for work (T430) and it runs some fairly hefty GiS software ok.

Another one for Thinkpads.
Mine is a 2nd hand T430 from Ebay, not sure what I paid but it was not expensive and still works like a good un.

It did start running slow form time to time (very slow) and thought its time was up and started looking for a replacement. Then I noticed how hot the bottom of the laptop was and installed some temperature monitor software and the CPU was over 100 C so I bought a replacement cooling heatsink and fan. That was only £15 and found easy instructions on line how to replace and since CPU temperature has never gone over 65 C and is usually 55 C and never seen it running slow since, so really happy with it.
Whilst I was searching for the fan/heatsink found that most components for this laptop are available (I guess most rescued from dead laptops but my fan heatsink certainly looked new) at very reasonable prices.

I am no Guru when it comes to Laptops / computers but I believe if you intend to use Remote Desktop to control a remote computer at the mount then you should make sure it had Windows 10 Pro (or I guess Win11 if you want) and not the Home version but I could be wrong on that just what I understood.

Steve

Edited by teoria_del_big_bang
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 29/03/2022 at 20:27, powerlord said:

I'd disagree that you need 16gb of memory for astro stuff tbh.

I don't think anyone has stated that you need 16GB for astro, and I agree with you all the Raspberry Pi's manage fine with 4GB (although I'd get 8GB for a Windows setup).

However it was mentioned by the OP that the laptop will be used for other tasks, such as office and storing photos (which I took artistic license to mean editing them too); of which both tasks will eat RAM; so if it was my money I would look for 16GB which should be more than plausible with the budget.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 30/03/2022 at 09:28, teoria_del_big_bang said:

I am no Guru when it comes to Laptops / computers but I believe if you intend to use Remote Desktop to control a remote computer at the mount then you should make sure it had Windows 10 Pro (or I guess Win11 if you want) and not the Home version but I could be wrong on that just what I understood.

You are correct, the home version doesn't come with the ability to be Remote Desktop'ed into via RDP (although you can bodge it)

However in these instances a third party solution can be used; Zoho, Team Viewer, Open/Tight/Real vnc, etc.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for your advice and recommendations. I just bought a Lenovo Thinkpad T430 from laptops direct - i5 processor, 128GB SSD, there's a USB 3, seemed like a decent enough spec to get me going but most importantly, left me some change to spend on other astro... I mean SAVE 🤣

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.