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rugged bright screen laptop

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I have been using various laptops since the inception of Nobeltec VNS with mixed results. I recently purchased a Lenovo T400 with the high brightness screen [over 600 nits] and I have found this to be deal for shipboard use including flybridge. I added a keyboard protector from Enjoy Computer and capped the unused ports. This is a highly recommended cost effective nav solution. Separately I am migrating to Rosepoint Coastal Explorer as the features over VNS now justifies the cost. In the spring I will add a second radar using Simrad br24 and nse12 so will appreciate any tips for those who have gone before on this.
I will install the nse12 on the flybridge where I now have no radar and use the nse12 dvi output to a dell monitor located at the lower helm. I have "volunteered' to Simrad and Rosepoint to be a beta tester if they ever get together on a br24 to PC support plan. We will see. Please let me know if any suggestons on all of this. Thank you, Brian

24 Replies

  • Thanks, Brian! The more people who volunteer to Simrad for that potential project, the better. Please keep us posted.

    For other readers, here's an interesting link about the T400 Brian recommends:

  • Here is the [expected] Navico repsonse and my reply. Brian

    At the present time, the BR24 Radar is only compatible with Navico produced displays available under the Simrad, Northstar, and Lowrance brands.
    Navico Technical Support

    Navico, Thank you for your response. I do understand the present status. I am simply volunteering for a possible future effort to expand your radar capabilities.

    For now I will be installing an nse12 on my flybridge and will output dvi to a monitor at my lower helm. As you have already done the work to link via ethernet to one other PC based nav product it just seems to make sense to further enhance your product capability with a SDK that all PC developers can use to expand your base.

    Look at what Apple has done with the Iphone by going from closed to open programming. In technology it always pays to get there first!


  • No matter what a manufacturer may claim for its magic combination of lense coatings, 890 nits just doesn't get it for sunlight viewing. It could work in an enclosed bridge with tinted windows, but not outside.

    It IS a step in the right direction though!

  • You may well be right about this laptop, Sandy, but I recall that the Raymarine E-Series clocked in at about this nit level, too, and I've often been told that nits are a flawed measure of real world visibility anyway.

  • I meant 680 nits isn't enough. 900 would be. I have only my personal experience to rely on lately, but I continue to try out new solutions (and pass them on to some less demanding ebayers) with no great success. MFD mfrs appear to snap up all the available production of these truly successful screens, and there doesn't appear to be any market for them as monitors to encourage the screen mfrs to expand production. I'm still waiting for broken 4xx8 to show up with a good screen that could be salvaged for my nefarious purposes!

  • After a fresh round of price requests, I've discovered no change worth noting. There is a very active circle of Boutique Builders vying for the gold plater market, assuming SOMEONE out there is buying 15" screens for $4000. Not in MY circle of customers and friends.

    Something has got to crack this case....

  • I have had 3 winters in the Florida Keys and Bahamas with my PDQ MV34. My 600 nit Toshiba Qosmio E15 laptop running VNS was easily viewable on my flybridge from all sun angles and with sunglasses on. That is about as good a test as I can think of. Brian
    PS - I traded equity options each winter from that same screen on the flybridge via a Verizon link and never had a problem with that.
    Called putting your money.........

  • I'm glad to hear that Brian. I will check that out. Glad to hear _from_ you too!

    As far as my money and my mouth are concerned my experience has been limited to trading condiment options at Dairy Queen!

  • I just went through some research on laptops and displays for daylight readability. It's interesting that Nits alone is not necessarily a good measure of that. It seems a more significant issue is the reflected light and effective contrast of the screen.

    See this link for a more detailed discussion:

  • Geoff Walker (the author of the article you referred to above) has a pretty firm grip on the issues, but I think he places too much importance on the utility of Coatings. They work well in camera lenses, after all. He is otherwise quite correct about interior air spaces compounding reflections which degrade contrast. However, the fact remains that coatings block light. When the industry hit the wall with the expense, fragility, and thermal issues of CCFL back-lighting, the then single remaining avenue for development was to try to compensate by blocking detracting elements. I seem to recall a parallel solution in 18th century medicine, called "blood-letting."
    I think engineers have gotten lost in the minutiae of scientific testing at the expense of answering a real-world question; can you read this thing in sunlight? Get out of the lab, away from the snazzy test equipment and optical mumbo-jumbo, and get some fresh air. Take it out side and look at it! Mount it on a blindingly white fiberglass coaming. Try to see it with cheap sunglasses. Splash your face with cold saltwater. Then advertise it as " so clear a 60-year-old man with trifocals can tell a Nun Buoy from a depth sounding!"
    I'm very excited about LED backlighting, and hope to see this solution become commonplace. The marine market will never be big enough to drive that development so there has to be another market that can yield economy of numbers. The military seems content with the muddy, dim and incredibly expensive ruggedized equipment they have been using, so it has to come from the consumer sector. Perhaps someone can promote a pool-side tablet, or a color Kindle. Perhaps a playground toy or a golf cart accessory would sell in big numbers!
    I build little computers as a hobby, but when it comes to navigating a sailboat in adverse conditions, I use a bullet proof chart plotter and marine network. I don't want to have to juggle an expensive notebook during a crash gybe.

  • I sure hope you're right about display technology. I think the consumer market is starting to do this now.

    I disagree that it takes "marine" equipment to be bullet proof. Properly selected, configured and installed PC's can do more for less than than standard marine electronics once you decide a 5-7 inch screen is too small. Not better, just less costly. Both initially and more interoperable in the future.

    The notebook does need to be mounted and even the ruggedized ones somewhat protected from water. I will admit that's generally easier to accomplish on a power boat.

  • Take a look at the panasonic Toughbooks. They make 'fully rugged' versions that all have daylight readable screens. I just picked up a used CF-29 on ebay, which is an older 1.4Ghz Pentium M machine, but with a sunlight readable display, touchscreen and is MIL SPEC:MIL-C-5015 certified, which basically means it is wind/water/dust/cold proof for basically anything you would see in boating. And best yet, a ton of these just came off lease and can be found for under $500 fully equipped!

  • I don't think toughbooks are that easy to see. Place one next to a same sized garmin chart plotter. You will discover that you have to stare at it for valuable seconds to get the information you can glean from the Garmin in a single glance.

    I think the best monitor for that purpose are the 8 or 10" LED backlit 1,000 Nits 800 x 600 Water-proof displays from VarTech Systems. Call John Cargile at (800) 223-8050. But the unit I would use costs $3400. Just for the screen! And it would offer the same view-ability as a Garmin 4208, AT HALF THAT PRICE!

  • Sandy,

    Have you looked at the Planar Embedded devices? I've got this on test for a installation later this year: Planar LX1200TI which is 12" XGA, 1100 nits. I like it better than Planar's Marine displays because of the assignable buttons. It's about $1000-$1200 -- not cheap but better than the VarTech displays. The LED backlight is very good, and it has touch screen that works with fingers & anything. There's also a USB port, speakers, remote PC power control. All in all a very impressive screen.

    If you care about how the rear side looks or don't like the look of those buttons you may want to go for the marine displays they have, but those are much more expensive.

  • The last transflective I considered looked muddy and washed out, so I'm looking forward to your results. Planar has been around for a very long time, and seem to have resisted falling into a particular niche. I'm interested in their ram-mount marine display as you say. My problem continues to be selling a $500 computer that needs an $1100 screen!

  • Just found this forum and thread on daylight monitors. Seems like the posts here match my experience to date. Found the Vartech and as soon as I saw there were no prices posted on their website and comment please contact us for a quote I knew they would be way out of my price range. When the rep called I had to ask why I could buy a complete marine GPS for less money than a display. The best they could do was we are small, they are large.

    I have tried PCs with displays advertised to be daylight readable and found them to be marginal at best. Have not tried a tough book but expect similar results.

    Of course Garmin and the rest use proprietary systems so one could not buy one of their units and connect it to a PC (unless someone out their has discovered the secret?).

    I do occasionally find monitors on eBay that claim daylight viewable. The latest is a Lilliput EBY701-NP/C/T. I assume most of the ones I have found were from China as they were no name brand or distributor I recognized. Has anyone been brave enough to try an eBay mystery monitor?

    We can only hope that time will bring the price down on daylight screens like it has on all other electronics. Meanwhile I'll keep searching.


  • I was surprised to get a thorough answer fro Lilliput. A literate engineer (?) responded that their displays are meant for a protected environment in a car. Heat vents are required to attain acceptable longevity, so the case can't be sealed to prevent water intrusion. There are tens of thousands of buyers for car stuff, and barely hundreds of boatechies (pronounced BO-TA-Keys) I, of course, paraphrase.

  • On a related note, Pixel QI is going to offer replacement screens for 10" displays on netbooks:

    which will be usable without a backlight... This could lead somewhere good for us boatechies, sometime, somewhere.

  • Here is another consideration in selecting a navigation laptop. I note that at least with my gps imbedded on the internal wwan card my Lenovo T400 laptop provides the gps data to however many apps are requesting it. This is very handy if you want to have, say, CE running and also google maps/world etc side by side or just to pick up additional POI info. You can also do this with additional 3rd party 'gps virtualizing' software and an external usb gps but not as simply or reliably. Brian

  • Brian,

    That's interesting. How does the internal GPS appear to software?

    Normally this is as a COM port. Are you saying you can open the same COM port in all apps?

  • Thanks Kees. the pixel QI is intriguing. Has anyone dug into this?

  • Kees. I am slow getting back but yes com5
    is recognized by all apps running. The thinkpad
    software is doing the port virtualizing.

  • Hi there,

    Are you aware of any Planar LX1200TI plug comaptible displays. We have designed our system with this display and now they have been discontinued. We need atleast about 75 numbers of LX1200TI or its equivalent. Any recommendations?

  • Just to bring this subject back to the table, I want to commend Pixel Qi. I mounted this screen in a Lenovo Notebook, and experienced a kind of success.
    In bright sunlight the color is washed out and the transflective function shows up. Clearly. Sweet. I took this little wonder to the BVI and spent a couple months using it. I would be very content with this combination, especially since I can take it ashore to a WIFI Café and take care of business. It worked fine with SailMail from SSB, (there really wouldn't be an issue there anyway) And watched movies on it. That was a stretch in the enjoyability continuum. But the point is, there is an inexpensive 10" color and transflective monochrome screen that could appear on a tough tablet when the spirit moves the electro-entrepreneurs to quit chasing each other around the feature bush.