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Old 23-11-2020, 10:19 PM
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Advice on new PC laptop for imaging

Hi all,

As detailed in my other post, I have a lowly Celeron & spinning hard drive laptop for AP, and I think its low specs have quickly become the bottle neck in my system. I've decided to upgrade given Black Friday is around the corner - I'm after advice regarding the price/requirements ratio.

I am leaning towards:
Intel Core i5 (i7 may be nice, but at higher price and hit on battery life)
256 GB SSD minimum
8GM RAM
Say 2 x USB 3 ports, 1 x USB-C port
Probably 15.6" screen
Tablet/touch screen function not required
Aiming around the $1,300 to $1,500 mark

Questions:
  • Is it better getting a laptop with the extended/numeric keypad ?
  • What about back-lit keyboards, do you guys find laptops with lit keyboards to be a good thing in the field?
  • Plastic or metal body, what do you recommend as better?
  • How do you guard against dew/moisture on the laptop?
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Old 23-11-2020, 11:16 PM
glend (Glen)
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Honestly a used laptop, cleaned up, from a second hand computer store might be your best bet, you certsinly Don't need the latest fastest one on the market. I am still running a give year old one with Win8.
As to condensation, you can get black plastic storage boxes from Bunnings, cut one side out to create a shroud for your laptop, I used one of these in the field for years. If your in an observatory you usually Don't need one if you have a work area desk.
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Old 24-11-2020, 08:57 AM
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Thanks for the advice Glen, I am probably leanings towards a new PC cos I may have additional uses for it down the road.

Another question: if you use one of those USB-C multi-port adapters to provide additional USB-3 ports, is there any problem with adequate power supply to drive cameras like the ZWO ASI224 MC ?
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Old 24-11-2020, 05:32 PM
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I got a more powerful laptop than your specifications for $640 off ebay.

I did have to buy a power supply transformer for it though and that cost something like $40.

I am using it to run my observatory after retiring a duo core machine from the 2005 era.

The problem with new laptops is many only have one or two USB ports which is not astro friendly and you end up
using a hub which another point of failure in your system.

Greg.
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Old 24-11-2020, 06:36 PM
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Just be careful with the specs.

Powerful laptops can chew through power when out in the field, and you never get the battery life they claim
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Old 24-11-2020, 07:17 PM
sunslayr (David)
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I've been a bit of a AMD fanboy as of late thanks to their new Ryzen processors and was thinking if I was to replace my laptop the Swift 3 laptop from Acer is the one I would go with. It has an IPS screen, 512gb ssd, 8gb ram and is on sale for $1300 (4300u has better performance than an i5). One of the usbs is 2.0 but the others are High speed usb 3 gen 2 one type a and one type c. It also advertises 11h battery life.

If you don't mind a much heavier laptop (2kg) the Aspire 5 is $1200 from Harvey Norman. Its more powerful but less portable and worse battery.

Last edited by sunslayr; 24-11-2020 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 25-11-2020, 07:20 AM
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Double the ram you won't regret it, make sure the laptop has an ssd as well.
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Old 25-11-2020, 09:49 AM
Startrek (Martin)
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PC Laptop for Imaging ?

No mention of which part of AP the PC Laptop is required for ? One can only assume no 3

1/ Image capture only ?
2/ Image processing only ?
3/ Image capture and processing ?

There is a difference between all 3 requirements !!

I use my laptop for image capture and processing ( no. 3 ) which is a HP Omen 15” i7 series 8 processor 32GB ram 1TB HDD 512GB SSD 3 x USB3 ports 1x HDMI port , 1 x network port etc.... black body with red illuminated keyboard. I bought the above high performance laptop as my processing software Startools requires a powerful processor to eliminate lag, plus the fits files from my 2600MC camera are huge ( 51,000KB )
So your Laptop choice depends on what part of AP you are using it for and what programs you will be using and their system requirements for reliable operation

Everyone’s circumstances are different !!
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Old 25-11-2020, 10:16 AM
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David, Nik, Martin RT al, thank you for the great advice. Not sure how easy it will be to order double the ram if I’m not getting a custom spec Laptop from a PC specialist store, but my intention is for capture and processing, although high end processing will likely be on my desktop. Fox
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Old 26-11-2020, 09:38 AM
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marc4darkskies (Marcus)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gregbradley View Post
....
The problem with new laptops is many only have one or two USB ports which is not astro friendly and you end up
using a hub which another point of failure in your system.

Greg.
I second that. I'm lucky that my ~2015 vintage observatory lappie has 4 USB ports (and I use all 4) but these days it's not possible to get that many. I absolutely avoid USB hubs - they invariably lead to communication failures.
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Old 02-12-2020, 10:33 PM
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Hi all,

OK, Update on my PC/ZWO camera issues:

1) In the belief that my HP Celeron laptop was causing my ZWO 224MC choppy video problem, I bought a new laptop. I reckon I got a pretty good deal - an HP model 15s fq1055tu. Basically 15.6" screen, Intel core i7, 8GB ram, 256GB SSD, extended numeric lit keyboard, 2 x USB-3, 1 x USB-C, fingerprint ID, for $788 at JB. It leaves the Celeron in the dust.

2) After installing ASCOM, ZWO drivers, and Firecapture all from scratch, the ZWO camera STILL shows choppy video! A 60 sec capture records say 18 sec of incomplete/truncated/choppy video. I'm an now left with the idea that the ZWO camera is at fault. I'll try giving a call to Bintel, but I also think the next step is to link up with someone and do a direct A-B side by side test with another ZWO webcam - or maybe I am doing something stupid from the get go (that's high on the cards as well).

3) I know the new laptop will still be needed in the long run when I start to get into deep-sky, multiple devices, and more demanding capture and processing software.

So the obvious question is: has anyone had experience with a ZWO camera playing up in such a way ?

Michael (aka 'Fox')
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Old 03-12-2020, 10:47 AM
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USB traffic is the culprit if you get choppy video there should be a setting in firecapture or sharpcap, turn it down!
Otherwise change the cables reload the drivers etc.

before you go down the faulty camera path
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Old 03-12-2020, 12:46 PM
Wilsil (Wilco)
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I am using my daughters 6 year old Lenovo laptop for capturing images. She has just finished Y12 so no need for it anymore.
It is good enough for running APT, NINA, PHD2, Stellarium, TeamViewer.
Processing is done on a desktop with more grunt.
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Old 03-12-2020, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikolas View Post
USB traffic is the culprit if you get choppy video there should be a setting in firecapture or sharpcap, turn it down!
Otherwise change the cables reload the drivers etc.

before you go down the faulty camera path
Thanks Nik, I’ll try it tonight!
Everything else seems to be fine with the camera, and I hope it’s something as straightforward as you suggest.
Fox
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Old 03-12-2020, 11:19 PM
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Hi Nik

I ran some more tests this evening. Changing the USB setting seemed to alter the results, but not fix it. At USB traffic setting of '100', a 2 min video recorded 46 sec, decreasing the USB traffic setting to '70' gave a 90 sec video, and the minimum setting of '40' resulted in a video of 1 min 43 sec (ie. all less than 2 mins).

Bintel asked me to send the camera onto them, they will likely ship it to China for examination. Not sure what I will do in the meantime, maybe look into a deep sky camera...

Cables... I tried a new USB cable for the camera, no change.

Many thanks for the advice all the same.

Cheers
Mike
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