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  • Laptop Recommendation

    We are a rookie team and need to purchase a laptop for FTC. Our school only has Chromebooks. We have a grant to purchase the computer but as rookies we are unsure of what would be the best configuration to purchase. Any recommendations? Thank you!!

  • #2
    This is a very open question that has no easy answer. It depends on what your team's need/requirements. We were in the same boat, got a grant to get team laptops.
    We ended up getting one of each of these:
    https://smile.amazon.com/ZenBook-UX3...rds=Asus+UX303
    https://smile.amazon.com/ZenBook-UX3...rds=Asus+UX303
    Our criteria:
    - Must be able to last a few years without being obsolete too fast (i.e. relatively powerful).
    - Must be shared between FTC and FRC.
    - Must be light weight and smaller form factor so it can be used as FRC Driver Station.
    - Must have touch screen.
    - Must have SSD at least 256GB, preferably 512GB (laptops used in competition tends to be roughed up so rotating hard disks are not recommended).

    So you need to list your own criteria and look around for laptops that fit them.

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    • #3
      This is a smoking deal. It has an i7 3720QM and 8GB of RAM.

      http://www.microcenter.com/product/4...bished_-_Black

      Comment


      • #4
        If you are using Android Studio, compared to those Chromebooks, the biggest requirement is that it run Windows 7+, OS X, or linux. (other requirements at https://developer.android.com/studio/index.html, section System Requirements)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by FTC10723 View Post
          If you are using Android Studio, compared to those Chromebooks, the biggest requirement is that it run Windows 7+, OS X, or linux. (other requirements at https://developer.android.com/studio/index.html, section System Requirements)
          This probably confuses the issue, but if you want it to run one of the major CAD programs you probably need to purchase a Windows machine. Autodesk Inventor, PTC Creo, Solidworks - all pretty much require a Windows machine, although some teams are now using online options running in a web browser. For those, you need to check the minimum specs for the software you want to install. Sone may not work with certain graphics chips.

          But as others have said, the answer is going to vary depending on what you need it to do.
          FTC 4962 / 3638
          FLL 11 / 21 / 9293

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by 4634 Programmer View Post
            This is a smoking deal. It has an i7 3720QM and 8GB of RAM.

            http://www.microcenter.com/product/4...bished_-_Black
            I would advise you to be careful about this laptop. I have some comments.

            Dell Latitude E6430 14.0" Laptop Computer Refurbished - Black; Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor 2.6GHz; Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit; 8GB RAM; 320GB 5,400RPM Hard Drive

            1. The fact that it is refurbished says it was broken and repaired. They never tell you what was repaired. Just keep that in mind when comparing new vs used. Now, I buy all my laptops refurbished, and lately have bought a few Dell E6430s on Ebay, but I work in the computer industry and do all my own config and upgrades. I would much rather buy a used Dell Latitude series, then a new crappy cheap laptop. The latitude series are the type of laptops that corporation buy, they are solid and strong. They came with 3 year warranties, which could be upgraded to 5.

            2. The i7 processor is nice, but not required. An i5 or i3 would be just fine. (I know because I have a few Dell E64XX with i3, i5, and i7s)

            3. Windows 7 is older, but preferred. I hate Windows 8 or Windows 10, too much in-compatibility sometimes. . Win 7 64-bit is rock solid and will be supported until 2020, so don't worry about it being too old. Win 7 works with everything.

            4. 8 GB of RAM is exactly what you need. Especially to run Android Studio and other apps like Creo or AutoCad. (I have 16 GB of RAM in my E6430)

            5. That 320 GB 5400 RPM hard drive is too slow. Trust me on this. You absolutely want an SSD Hard drive. Android Studio takes 20 seconds to open on our laptops with SSDs. Takes almost 4 minutes to just open with 5400 RPM Hard Drives. Compiling takes forever also. Get a slower CPU laptop (i3) with SSD Hard Drive and you will be great. (or, if you know how to reinstall Windows 7, buy a new 512 GB SSD on Amazon, I just bought 2 for about $125 each)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Tom E Reynolds View Post
              I would advise you to be careful about this laptop. I have some comments.

              Dell Latitude E6430 14.0" Laptop Computer Refurbished - Black; Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor 2.6GHz; Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit; 8GB RAM; 320GB 5,400RPM Hard Drive

              1. The fact that it is refurbished says it was broken and repaired. They never tell you what was repaired. Just keep that in mind when comparing new vs used. Now, I buy all my laptops refurbished, and lately have bought a few Dell E6430s on Ebay, but I work in the computer industry and do all my own config and upgrades. I would much rather buy a used Dell Latitude series, then a new crappy cheap laptop. The latitude series are the type of laptops that corporation buy, they are solid and strong. They came with 3 year warranties, which could be upgraded to 5.

              2. The i7 processor is nice, but not required. An i5 or i3 would be just fine. (I know because I have a few Dell E64XX with i3, i5, and i7s)

              3. Windows 7 is older, but preferred. I hate Windows 8 or Windows 10, too much in-compatibility sometimes. . Win 7 64-bit is rock solid and will be supported until 2020, so don't worry about it being too old. Win 7 works with everything.

              4. 8 GB of RAM is exactly what you need. Especially to run Android Studio and other apps like Creo or AutoCad. (I have 16 GB of RAM in my E6430)

              5. That 320 GB 5400 RPM hard drive is too slow. Trust me on this. You absolutely want an SSD Hard drive. Android Studio takes 20 seconds to open on our laptops with SSDs. Takes almost 4 minutes to just open with 5400 RPM Hard Drives. Compiling takes forever also. Get a slower CPU laptop (i3) with SSD Hard Drive and you will be great. (or, if you know how to reinstall Windows 7, buy a new 512 GB SSD on Amazon, I just bought 2 for about $125 each)
              1) Possibly, but it could also be a computer returned in sub-mint condition, or refurbished after 2-year lease.

              3) +1 for loving Windows 7 and hating 8 & 10!!! Although personally, the first thing I'd do would be to split the HDD into two equal partitions and dual boot with Xubuntu/Mint.

              5) I disagree. My team doesn't have the funds to even go out and buy a $350 computer, so I have to do my programming on an old desktop with an AMD Athlon B28, a 250GB HDD, and 4GB of RAM running Xubuntu. (it had W7 originally, but Xubuntu was actually quite a bit snappier.). It's a bit slow, yes, but totally doable. Android Studio does take a while to open and to the first compile, but subsequent compiles are very quick.

              Besides, that i7 will blow any i3 out of the water four times over. (Slight exaggeration, but VS. an i3 3220 (desktop class)... scroll down to where it says "benchmarks."

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Tom E Reynolds View Post
                I would advise you to be careful about this laptop. I have some comments.

                Dell Latitude E6430 14.0" Laptop Computer Refurbished - Black; Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor 2.6GHz; Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit; 8GB RAM; 320GB 5,400RPM Hard Drive

                1. The fact that it is refurbished says it was broken and repaired. They never tell you what was repaired. Just keep that in mind when comparing new vs used. Now, I buy all my laptops refurbished, and lately have bought a few Dell E6430s on Ebay, but I work in the computer industry and do all my own config and upgrades. I would much rather buy a used Dell Latitude series, then a new crappy cheap laptop. The latitude series are the type of laptops that corporation buy, they are solid and strong. They came with 3 year warranties, which could be upgraded to 5.

                2. The i7 processor is nice, but not required. An i5 or i3 would be just fine. (I know because I have a few Dell E64XX with i3, i5, and i7s)

                3. Windows 7 is older, but preferred. I hate Windows 8 or Windows 10, too much in-compatibility sometimes. . Win 7 64-bit is rock solid and will be supported until 2020, so don't worry about it being too old. Win 7 works with everything.

                4. 8 GB of RAM is exactly what you need. Especially to run Android Studio and other apps like Creo or AutoCad. (I have 16 GB of RAM in my E6430)

                5. That 320 GB 5400 RPM hard drive is too slow. Trust me on this. You absolutely want an SSD Hard drive. Android Studio takes 20 seconds to open on our laptops with SSDs. Takes almost 4 minutes to just open with 5400 RPM Hard Drives. Compiling takes forever also. Get a slower CPU laptop (i3) with SSD Hard Drive and you will be great. (or, if you know how to reinstall Windows 7, buy a new 512 GB SSD on Amazon, I just bought 2 for about $125 each)
                My tips would be:
                1) to get the SSD drives (120GB range for single OS, 250GB+ for dual OS). 5400rpm hard drives are too slow to do basically anything.
                2) Don't get a new computer with less than 8GBs of memory (I am also implying that you shouldn't get a 32-bit computer).
                3) With the i7 processor generation, you are talking about I would be getting an i7. i5 minimum for any new (or hopefully donated computer).
                4) Get Windows 7, 10 or some Debian variant (like Xubuntu) installed on the computer. Windows 8 is usable, however it isn't that productive of an operating system. I would look at giving careful thought to computers running Windows 7 as support expires on 2020 (not that far away).

                Comment


                • #9
                  There is something new that the new version 2.20 Driver Station and Robot Controller located here https://frc-events.firstinspires.org/FTCImages/2016 . The new feature is called Programming Mode. This mode makes the robot controller phone a WiFi hotspot and all you need is a computer that has a wifi adapter and a browser. We have tried this and taught it to a rookie team already and they love it. If you make a new app in the Virtual Box App Inventor, the Programming Mode is there as well.

                  The plus sides to the new programming mode is that it is extremely fast to program in an App Inventor like development (10 seconds to make a change and test it) and any computer with wifi can connect to it.

                  The down side is that the App Inventor development environment does not have vuforia or the on board phone features like gyroscope and text to speech and we don't know yet if it can support the old NXT sensors or legacy devices (we haven't got that far yet). However, external sensors can still be used. Also we need to ask if it will be allowed at competition to use since it creates a WiFi hotspot and they are specifically banned from the events.

                  We do our Virtual Box App Inventor programming on a Windows 8.1 Dell Inspiron Laptop running an i5 processor and it works very very good. Our old dual core XP laptop really really struggled with compiling (10 mins just to compile a simple program) in App Inventor. On the Dell we could also easily install Android Studio and program with no problems but we found App Inventor way easier to understand than AS. The computer was $500 on sale at Walmart back in 2014.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by FTC4217Coach View Post
                    There is something new that the new version 2.20 Driver Station and Robot Controller located here https://frc-events.firstinspires.org/FTCImages/2016 . The new feature is called Programming Mode. This mode makes the robot controller phone a WiFi hotspot and all you need is a computer that has a wifi adapter and a browser. We have tried this and taught it to a rookie team already and they love it. If you make a new app in the Virtual Box App Inventor, the Programming Mode is there as well.

                    The plus sides to the new programming mode is that it is extremely fast to program in an App Inventor like development (10 seconds to make a change and test it) and any computer with wifi can connect to it.

                    The down side is that the App Inventor development environment does not have vuforia or the on board phone features like gyroscope and text to speech and we don't know yet if it can support the old NXT sensors or legacy devices (we haven't got that far yet). However, external sensors can still be used. Also we need to ask if it will be allowed at competition to use since it creates a WiFi hotspot and they are specifically banned from the events.

                    We do our Virtual Box App Inventor programming on a Windows 8.1 Dell Inspiron Laptop running an i5 processor and it works very very good. Our old dual core XP laptop really really struggled with compiling (10 mins just to compile a simple program) in App Inventor. On the Dell we could also easily install Android Studio and program with no problems but we found App Inventor way easier to understand than AS. The computer was $500 on sale at Walmart back in 2014.
                    1) The "Programming Mode" is pathetic in it's current state.

                    2) App Inventor may be easier to understand, but it's going to get messy very quickly when you start implementing all you PID algorithms, recursive averagers and the like.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 4634 Programmer View Post
                      1) The "Programming Mode" is pathetic in it's current state.
                      Would you like to put that in context, or perhaps elaborate on your declaration?
                      Blanket statements like that aren't useful to anyone.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        our teams are using donated hardware, half of which came with blank hard drives. Our fastest is a laptop with an i5 4 core processor (2.5Ghz) and around 4 Gb RAM, and our slowest - but still acceptable - is a 6YO Pentium with 4 GB, and running at 1.6-ish GHZ. Android studio takes about 30 -40 seconds to load on one, and 25-30 on the other. Build times are 10-20 seconds so far. This is consistent with the times from the machine we borrowed from the FRC team last year.

                        We share space with an FRC team, and can use one of their "gaming" Win7 desktops for CAD, if need be.

                        In order to keep my job as simple as possible, we're using bog standard Debian 8 with Gnome (although XFCE or Openbox look like they'll work too), and putting Oracle's Java 1.8 in /usr/local/bin. Looks like it will take the OS install time plus about 15 minutes to configure a new machine with copied ADK and FTC App Master. With the same bootable USB stick, we can install, configure, and create user accounts in about 90 minutes to 2 hrs (including updates), so long as it runs at about 1GHZ or better and has 2Gig of RAM or more. Installs OK on Mac hardware as well. My bad dream is dealing with Win7, Vista, 8, and 10 all at once.

                        I will probably try ArchBang or Bunsenlabs on my own computer to see if I can drop that to something more like 60 minutes, plus pick up a little performance.

                        We do have one donated all-in-one with Windows 10 on it, but it is dreadfully slow. Had another donated laptop with Win7 on it. May wipe it and go with the "standard" install.
                        Mentor, teams 8578 & 11959

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