Laptops for Boats and Vans without spending a fortune!

The Lenovo 300e 2nd Generation in laptop mode.

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:

It even fits in the Peli 1400 Case whilst in its bag (just)
  • 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.
In its stand up mode, ideal for watching videos
  • 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.
…and folded right back so it can be used with Navionics in the RAM Mount
It fits snugly into the Ram Mount TAB17 when folded right back on itself
  • The keyboard is splash proof and will withstand spilling a glass of water onto it or presumably a splash from a rogue wave.
Great clear key markings and splash proof too!
  • 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.
My little matching bag

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!

Technical Details

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.

While moored in Kyle Rhea we watched the documentary about the Prince of Muck. The laptop was held by suction to the mast in its RAM mount.

4 responses to “Laptops for Boats and Vans without spending a fortune!”

  1. Alasdair ….. what satellite networks is the Lenovo enabled for? Searching online but can’t find ….. although some suggestions that Chromeboks don’t support GPS.


    Greg at Twister @ casuarina1967

    1. Hi Greg,
      Firstly I must point out that I find everything IT very confusing indeed! Next week we had planned to get everything set up and running although it has just been delayed until after May 9th. It looks like we wont be using the Lenovo laptop for the sat phone link up. This is because Windows 10 automatically updates, and we are informed the only way to avoid it is to fork out on a piece of expensive hardware. So our current plan is to re-use the old Toshiba laptop purely for downloading the ice charts and grib files. It operates on Windows XP which apparently doesn’t automatically update. That said, a friend of mine happily used his laptop with Windows 10 connected to his sat phone totally oblivious to this apparent major problem and had no trouble at all. As for being GPS enabled, Google Maps thinks I am in Newcastle and I am in Oban so it looks like it isn’t! I seem to remember having to use a dongle on the old Toshiba so maybe that will need to be resurrected. Hopefully all will become clear when we finally have our test session. We would have done it earlier but that involves enabling the sat phone at considerable cost for little use. I’ll update you when I know more. Lovely boats, Twisters. I see Truant is being restored.
      Best regards,

  2. […] some onboard entertainment we watched the documentary about the Prince of Muck on my amazing little laptop. … and so we decided to go there. After passing through Kyle Rhea with hardly a ripple of […]

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