eHam Forums => Computers And Software => Topic started by: NT9E on June 09, 2002, 01:26:23 AM

Title: Best Laptop for Ham Shack use
Post by: NT9E on June 09, 2002, 01:26:23 AM
Looking for ideas on the best laptop to use for ham shack use. General useage, Contesting, Rig Control, lowest RFI, etc.

Title: Best Laptop for Ham Shack use
Post by: K3AN on June 10, 2002, 07:45:31 PM
For hamshack use, a laptop has a lot of advantages, including lower RF noise, takes up less space on the desk, and can bridge momentary as well as extended power outages with its built-in battery.  

Disadvantages include inability to use stand-alone sound cards like the Sound Blaster, so you may not get the best performance on the so-called sound card digital modes.  Also a laptop may have only one COM port, which a contester (who wants the computer to do rig control plus rotator control plus other tasks) may not be able to live with.

The IBM Thinkpads are acknowledged to have the best keyboards.  My old 760 Thinkpad has a much better keyboard than any of the succession of Compaqs I have been issued at work.  It coexists peacefully with my 100 Watt HF station.  I can even connect the sound card ports directly to the rig, using simple shielded cables.  Each cable has a resistor in series with the center conductor to attenuate the audio signal.  No Rig Blaster or other interface device has been required.

In last year's Field Day, each Thinkpad we used (including newest vintage) worked fine.  However, one other computer (I wish I could remember which brand) locked up hard when any of the HF rigs put out RF.

My suggestion would be to go with a Thinkpad.

Title: Best Laptop for Ham Shack use
Post by: K3AN on June 10, 2002, 07:48:20 PM
But whatever computer you buy, make sure you can return it for a refund if it turns out to not work in your station environment (interference, lockups, etc.).

Title: Best Laptop for Ham Shack use
Post by: KF6IIU on June 19, 2002, 02:47:06 PM
Make sure it has a serial port. See my thread about using a USB adapter with the Icom T2/W32 software. The Icom software does not work with most USB to RS232 adapters. This may apply also to other rig control protocols escecially those like the Icom that share RX and TX on the same wire. Also the USB adapters may not toggle RTS or DTR or whatever line your adapter uses for TX/RX control.

My USB adapter DOES work OK to program by Bearcat scanner, and for all apps that have separate RXD and TXD.

Ham software is going to have to address this issue. Real soon now, very few new computers will be sold with actual RS-232 serial ports. USB 2.0 is going to be the standard.

Title: Best Laptop for Ham Shack use
Post by: KF6IIU on June 19, 2002, 02:51:13 PM
By the way, I have a Compaq Presario, which is a total piece of junk but DOES run off 12V, a useful feature. I can plug it in to whatever 12V source I have lying around. 90% of the RFI from the unit (it is otherwise RFI clean) is generated from the AC power supply.

The Compaq AC power supply puts 14V of floating AC voltage on the unit - which explains why you might have horrible noise in your sound card connection until you ground the computer to the rig. (Your audio connection likely does NOT ground the computer to the rig.)

Title: Best Laptop for Ham Shack use
Post by: W5WJP on July 10, 2002, 09:04:05 AM
I have used an IBM Thinkpad and a Sony VAIO. Not a bit of trouble from either and virtually no RFI. Both are alittle long in the tooth, the IBM is some thing like a 300-350mHz class and the Sony is a 500mHz machine. They both can do any of the soundcard modes or run any logging program.

IBM has factory refurbished units, usually older machines, for VERY, VERY reasonable prices on their web site. Just make sure that you get one with enough memory for your intended use.