Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

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Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby aardvark_admin » Thu Nov 28, 2019 4:33 am

This column is archived at: https://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2019/1128.shtml

What would be your choice of portable computing device with support for the Chrome browser, X86 executables (under Win10 or Linux) and a decent screen?

Is taking a punt on second-hand a reasonable option or would a lesser-spec'd "brand spanking new" device be better?

Your thoughts please...
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Re: Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby Malcolm » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:26 am

The warehouse has a bunch of cheap Windows 10 laptops. They only have very low-end Atom type CPUs and 2 or 4GB RAM and a small amount of flash storage. But they start at around $150. Not sure on screen quality but you could probably check that out in store.
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Re: Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby DaveT » Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:28 am

Personally, I use HP thin clients everywhere. There are many types to choose from ranging from those with parallel ports for CNC control, to those that have graphics that make them great Kodi media players. The advantage of a thin client is that they have no moving parts to get gummed up in the workshop, no fan and no spinning hard drive to crash when you bump it. The SSDs in them are normally small <16Gb, but often one can add more, though with Linux there is no need.
I use them for OctoPrint servers, Linux CNC hosts, print servers, workshop test equipment interface terminals and for the all-important background music.
The better ones are running quad cores, with 4GBram (more can be fitted), and perform like a low end laptop.
First thing I do is blow away windows and put the latest release of Linux Mint on them.
Your local IT scrap yard should see a lot of these come thru, and they are normally in good condition having been pulled out of some Govt Dep as part of the 3 yearly update cycle. I have seen them being sold for anywhere between $30-$100.
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Re: Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby paulw » Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:50 am

"Chances are it's a BGA (ball grid array) integrated circuit that has suffered thermally induced stress fractures of the delicate soldering joints that connect its myriad of pads to the PCB to which it is mounted. This is a not an uncommon fault in modern electronic devices and although there's a chance of repair, I'm really past getting that deeply into "the guts" of it." Or the magic smoke got out.

Looking for a new laptop myself. Want one with a 256Gig SSD and 8 Gig of RAM. PB Tech sometimes has some good deals on these but I always seem to miss out. Maybe the Boxing day sales.
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Re: Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby hagfish » Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:55 am

I used to have an Apple iBook whose graphics chip was slowly losing its connection to the motherboard. To begin with, I had a G-clamp over the affected spot, and that worked for a while. Then I started wedging business cards between the case and the motherboard just under the graphics chip, and that worked for a while. Finally I opened it right up, masked off the graphics chip with tinfoil, and played a heat gun over it to reflow the solder. After that it worked great for about a year. Then it became a 'headless' server for a while, and then it passed away.

I can recommend the Asus C302 (if you can still find one) - it's speedy, silent, cool, nicely-constructed, powerful enough, and cheap. The screen isn't 'retina-nice', but it's a full 1080 and reasonably bright. It lasts me for days on a charge, has a 'tablet' mode (that I hardly use) and is 1/3 the price of a new MacBook. It even has an SD-card slot (EDIT and the keyboard works). The new version is more expensive, larger, heavier, but still comes in under $1000. For running Windows/Mac-only software, I used Google's remote desktop, which runs so incredibly well I have to wonder how long it will be before the likes of Adobe tries to nerf it.
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Re: Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby aardvark_admin » Thu Nov 28, 2019 10:42 am

paulw wrote:Looking for a new laptop myself. Want one with a 256Gig SSD and 8 Gig of RAM. PB Tech sometimes has some good deals on these but I always seem to miss out. Maybe the Boxing day sales.

I just got an email from PBTech... they've got a "Price Blackout" sale on tonight with lots of ex-lease laptops (albeit most of which only have 4GB of RAM).

https://www.pbtech.co.nz/promotions/pri ... m_03_1.jpg

Don't you go stealing the one I want :-)
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Re: Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby id4 » Thu Nov 28, 2019 1:41 pm

aardvark_admin wrote:
paulw wrote:Looking for a new laptop myself. Want one with a 256Gig SSD and 8 Gig of RAM. PB Tech sometimes has some good deals on these but I always seem to miss out. Maybe the Boxing day sales.

I just got an email from PBTech... they've got a "Price Blackout" sale on tonight with lots of ex-lease laptops (albeit most of which only have 4GB of RAM).

https://www.pbtech.co.nz/promotions/pri ... m_03_1.jpg

Don't you go stealing the one I want :-)


We have had a number of the PBTech refurbished PC's though here and I've been very happy with them so far. The one that had a noisy fan we got a credit for no questions asked. I'd agree with the 8GB RAM and 256HB SSD as the starting point. On PC's the 4th/5th gen Intel i5 CPU's have been fine with 8GB with Windows 10 as a simple low end office type PC, tho with a laptop it might be worth trying to get something a little newer if the money can squeeze a little more out.

https://www.pbtech.co.nz/category/compu ... west_price
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Re: Entry level computer choices (28 Nov, 2019)

Postby greven » Thu Nov 28, 2019 4:43 pm

All affordable Android tablets are garbage. Get yourself a Chromebook & cobble together a desktop for flashing firmware & anything else a Chromebook can't do.

If you were closer to my end of the country, I could probably sort you out with something. Shipping a retired laptop/desktop up to Tokoroa just isn't worth the money or effort required.
Is there anyone a bit closer to Bruce who has a stockpile of old dungers?
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