14th December 2021 Rotherhithe
Although I am more than happy to leave my laptop resting at home, there are certain voyages when they can be useful, or even virtually essential. I need one for my next trip to Greenland so that I can download ice charts and grib files*. I rather liked my old Toshiba Notebook which I took on my Jan Mayen expedition but because it is now just 11 years young, it is no longer possible to run the latest Microsoft software, so it was time for a forced change. I had a hankering for a Panasonic Toughbook but when I actually picked one up, I was surprised at their weight and bulk. Even a second-hand CF20 Toughbook can cost over £1,000 but new ones seem to be around £2,500.00
My friend Gerry has been helping me sort out all the things relating to IT for my expedition to Greenland. I am pretty hopeless with these things and normally function by using laminating “Idiot Sheets”. Gerry spotted this little Lenova 300e 2nd Generation Laptop and sent me the details. My thoughts so far are:
- The size was perfect as it would fit into my existing Peli 1400 case. It also exactly fitted the RAM mount that I use for the iPad. (Details at end of post). The laptop weighs just 1.35 kg so, coupled with its compact size, would be perfect for shore jaunts to cafes with wifi.
- It has a really robust feeling hinge which allows the screen to fold right back so it can be used like a tablet or stood up for watching films.
- The keyboard is splash proof and will withstand spilling a glass of water onto it or presumably a splash from a rogue wave.
- The keys are clearly marked with big white letters unlike some trendy keyboards in soft greys which are nearly unreadable in poor light
- The whole unit is ruggedized and capable of being dropped 750 mm. It complies with military spec. MIL STD-810G
- The battery life is stated as 10 hours which certainly knocks the spots off my Surface Pro.
- It has a touchscreen which I like
- It will recharge via the mains or via a 12v cigarette socket by using the Lenovo 65W USB-C DC Travel Adapter. The 12v charging is perfect for the boat or the camper van.
- Sounds expensive? No its cheap as chips! I paid £202.49 plus £23.62 for the 12v travel charger (ex VAT). A total including tax of just £271.33 which feels like a total bargain. The only reason I can see why this lovely laptop is so cheap is that it is designed to be used by school children.
- I’ll be using it to send emails via a satellite phone and download ice charts and grib files. Hopefully it will be perfect for all those tasks. (it wasn’t – see below!) I wouldn’t want to run Photoshop on it but I don’t need to. On the basis that laptops seem to go obsolete after ten years, why spend £1,000 on a piece of kit with built in obsolescence.
- Any downsides? The speaker volume is rather low for my ears but there is probably a way around that, otherwise, so far, it is genius.
I love it so much that I’ve made a little bag for it!
I’m currently on the train going to the Arctic Club Annual Dinner and I’ve found that it fits nicely on those little fold down trays. I forgotten how hard it is to type on jerky trains!
It was purchased from Digital River at a good price and swift service. (no connection) Update: It was actually purchased direct from Lenovo, Digital river are just their fulfilment company.
The RAM mount that I use is Tab-Tite part number RAM-HOL-TAB17. To attach it via a suction mount to a bulkhead, you will also need a ball mount RAM-B-202, a suction base RAM-B-224-1 and a short arm RAM B-201_A. It is perfect for mounting an iPad as well.
The Panasonic Toughbook CF20 dimensions are 272 x 233 x 33.5 mm and weighs 1.76 kg
The Lenovo 300e 2nd Generation laptop dimensions are 290 x 204 x 20.85 mm and weighs 1.35 kg
Full technical details of the actual laptop are probably best via Google as these things change.
*Update 23rd April 2022 We have since discovered that any laptops using Windows 10 are potentially problematic with sat phones. This is because the operating system wants to automatically update which is not possible over the sat phone. There is a piece of expensive hardware that can resolve this “problem”, they are often referred to as The Red Box and cost about £500.00. I say “problem” because a friend who was oblivious to this updating problem used his Windows 10 laptop to download grib files and ice charts with no problem at all. Our current, and as yet untested, wheeze is to resurrect the old Toshiba Windows XP laptop and use that for linking with the sat phone.
Update Autumn 2022. I took both laptops on my trip north. The old Toshiba performed fine for receiving data over the sat phone and my little Lenova was just the ticket for everything else, including evening entertainment.