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Question

I'm having to buy a new laptop for the usual everyday Internet uses but also for astrophotography, remote telescope operation, and image processing (Paintshop Pro X9).  My former laptop was an Asus gaming machine which I chose because it was a beefy machine with more memory than usually found in lesser laptops and a dedicated video card with its own memory (I never played a single game!).  A computer repair technician suggested either a Dell Precision or a Lenovo Thinkpad with i7 processor with solid state NVMe drive, 16 GB RAM.  It has been 8 years since I had to think about buying a computer, and I've not kept up with advances in technology so the terms I see are new and a puzzle.  Are the Dell and Lenovo laptops, both of which are very expensive, really necessary for my needs?  Thanks in advance for any help on this subject.  BTW, I'll have deal with Windows 10 for the first time - good grief!

Edited by zelonisv_bob
To add the "Windows 10" remark

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Those specs are reasonable, but only because you want to process your images as well on that laptop.

The only new term here is the NVMe drive.  Just think of NVMe as the next generation of SSD drive.  An NVMe drive is an SSD, but 3 to 5 times faster.  It's the new thing.

As for the i7, it's a safe bet.  The recommended 16GB ram is also a good recommendation.  I would not go below 16GB for a processing laptop.

Regards,

 

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I would also suggest comparing the specs of the machine that you are looking at purchasing against the requirements of whatever software you are planning to use for image processing. Other things to consider are the USB ports and the speed of the video processor, since processing apps can use the video processor to speed up image processing.

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Thank you, Both, for your replies.  I was concerned that the suggestions offered by my "computer guy" were too over-the-top.  I've used, without problems, Paintshop Pro by Corel since version 5 with a desktop computer that's 10 years old. 

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There are two problems with the Class of Laptop which you describe:

  1. Power Usage / Battery Life - High End Laptops with i7-Core CPUs and large amounts of RAM are Power-Hungry Machines, and while Battery Tech has Improved the Trend today is to design these as Gamers Laptops where Battery Size is reduced in tradeoff for additional Internal Components AND additional Cooling (to get rid of the Heat generated by that Power Usage)
  2. Gamer's Laptop Designs - The combo of High Spec and High Price have pushed most Laptop Makers to orient these Laptops to Gamers - High-End Video Card to compliment the High-End CPU; FullHD or better LED Screen; Illuminated/Colored Keyboards; High-End Sound and Speakers

Perhaps you can overlook #2 - or even make use of the GPU to supplement the CPU for AP Image Processing (think PixInsight not PSP).  And maybe all of your Imaging will be performed near Power Lines to alleviate concerns over #1.  You'll LOVE such a High-End Gamers Laptop for AP Imaging if these are the case.

Or, you could consider another route:

  1. Low-End Image Capture Laptop - i3-Core Laptop CPU and 4-8GB RAM and 0.5-1TB SSD/NVMe and smallish LED Screen - and Largish Battery
  2. Well-Endowed Customized Desktop Image Processing PC - i7-Core or AMD Rizen3 CPU and 16GB RAM and 0.5-1TB SSD/NVMe backed with Larger HDD

The Laptop could be Energy-Efficient enough to operate a Full Night (or two) for normal Image Capture Duties.  And then the Desktop could be engaged in Image Processing when back at Home Base.  And, because the former is Cheap and Easy to come by, and the latter is Cheaper to Spec with Desktop Parts - the Duo may cost about the same as the Gamers Laptop.  (Just a thought)

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Be careful of the USB Ports as so many of the astronomy accessories are still very finicky with the USB port they will accept and sometimes adapters don't play well with astronomy products.

Randall

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15 hours ago, kaymann said:

Be careful of the USB Ports as so many of the astronomy accessories are still very finicky with the USB port they will accept and sometimes adapters don't play well with astronomy products.

This is usually only an issue when attempting to rely upon USB2-compatibility-with-USB3 (and vice-versa).  And even this has been mostly mitigated as Chip Designers improved their USB Chips, and PC Manufacturers learned from Feedback which Chips are still problematic.  But, if concerned, simply plug all USB2 Devices into a Powered Hub connected to a USB2 PC Port, and separate all the USB3 Devices to a similar USB3 Port. 

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As I look at laptops via the Internet and Google search, I'm not seeing USB2 ports as being included in in the specifications, only USB3 and Thunderbolt.  I hate to think I'll need to buy a refurbished older laptop.

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On 1/24/2020 at 6:55 PM, s3igell said:
  • Low-End Image Capture Laptop - i3-Core Laptop CPU and 4-8GB RAM and 0.5-1TB SSD/NVMe and smallish LED Screen - and Largish Battery
  • Well-Endowed Customized Desktop Image Processing PC - i7-Core or AMD Rizen3 CPU and 16GB RAM and 0.5-1TB SSD/NVMe backed with Larger HDD

I have almost worn out my finger tips, eyes and patience as I've search for a proper replacement for my dead Asus ROG laptop.  The advertisements and reviews of new models of all brands seem too much for my old brain to sort out.  s3igell , your suggestion to use a lesser-powered laptop to gather raw data from camera and auto guider seems reasonable even though my rig is permanently mounted and its laptop operated via an ac power supply.  The same laptop would have to control my CGEM mount, auto guider, remote focuser, and camera as well as handle the associated software.  Image processing can be done on my HP desktop machine.  I have no way of knowing how much of a processor I would need.

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Bob,

Systems tend to be matched, so if the CPU is fast enough, the USB ports should also be more than adequate. I would say that getting a laptop with a mid-range i7 processor, 8GB of memory, and USB 2 and 3 ports would be fine for controlling your equipment and temporarily storing your raw images. That is what I have and have never had an issue controlling the same mix of gear as you outlined in your previous post.

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11 hours ago, zelonisv_bob said:

s3igell , your suggestion to use a lesser-powered laptop to gather raw data from camera and auto guider seems reasonable even though my rig is permanently mounted and its laptop operated via an ac power supply.  The same laptop would have to control my CGEM mount, auto guider, remote focuser, and camera as well as handle the associated software.  Image processing can be done on my HP desktop machine.  I have no way of knowing how much of a processor I would need.

One additional benefit of the 2-computer scenario, given that you have a permanent Pier at your house:  You can set the Laptop pier-side, and Remote Control it from the Living Room or Den or Kitchen Table - looking in to confirm that BYE is still working through the Imaging Plan and that your PHD2 Guiding is still on-track.  You could even peek in at the Image Files and perhaps even perform a Live Stack.  This Remote Control takes little more than your Home WiFi or Wired Network and any of a half dozen Remote Control Apps.  (Of course, this can also be done if the more powerful PC is out at the Pier - even a decent Android Tablet can run Remote Control Apps.)

(Sorry, probably adding to the Confusion while pointing out these scenarios...)

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12 hours ago, zelonisv_bob said:

I have no way of knowing how much of a processor I would need.

11 hours ago, astroman133 said:

a laptop with a mid-range i7 processor, 8GB of memory, and USB 2 and 3 ports would be fine

Bob, Rick and I are making somewhat different suggestions for the Laptop Requirements because we are suggesting different Roles for it.

  • If the Laptop is to be your All-In-One including Image Processing, then I second Rick's suggestion of a mid-range i7 processor and 8GB RAM (16GB RAM wouldn't hurt - but would definitely push Laptop into Gamer territory).  I'll add/stress that it should also have a large-ish 512GB-1000GB (1TB) SSD (preferably NVMe) for Image Processing - Disk Speed is more detrimental to DSS and PixInsight than RAM on a Laptop.  Any decent i7 Laptop will have a 2nd Drive Bay into which you can later add an SSD for additional Bulk Image Storage (if that doesn't get offloaded to elsewhere for safe keeping).
  • If the Laptop is only intended for Image Capture and Mount/Scope Control (and Remote Control Host), then a modest i3 processor with 4-8GB RAM and smaller 256-512GB SSD will more than suffice.  The i3 (or older i5) can readily handle BYE and PHD2 and ASCOM (and Plate Solver and...) processes at the same time.

As for where to find your Perfect Laptop:  There probably is no PERFECT Laptop - every Unit will be a bit short on something or have a few less-than-stellar reviews from someone who expected more from it.  But, if you set your Shopping List of Required Components and keep to the major players - ASUS, MSI, ACER, DELL, HP (for me in that descending order) - and find something within your Budget, you shouldn't be disappointed.

 

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This should end the discussion (for now):  I've made my choice and purchased a Lenovo LEGION which might be overkill, but I'm pleased so far.  One has to go through a lot of Windows 10 hoops to get the machine set up, made more complicated because an also-purchased Bluetooth mouse wouldn't connect.  Fortunately, the wireless mouse that I use with my Chromebook got me through that barrier.  I'm looking forward to returning to astronomy rather than computer-hunting.  Again, thank you all for your advice.  😎/

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My new laptop computer specs:

Lenovo y540 LEGION  with 9th gen Intel Core i7-9750HF processor;  Windows 10 Home 64 OS;  16GB DDR4 memory;  1TB HDD;  17.3"display;  NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti 6GB graphics;  256GB SSD PCle second hard drive;  backlit keyboard.

Having to learn Win10 after my Win7 laptop died after 8 years, I did a lot of head scratching, sweating and cussing to reload all my astro and photo processing software.  The only glitch was that the installation CD for my Celestron CGEM mount wouldn't run.  I found a link to Celestron's download site and successfully loaded the NexRemote software.  Luckily I still had the original "license" for that software.  Never throw anything away!   

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