Jump to content

A Pier Side Mini PC


Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

With my new Todmorden style pier meaning that I have less concerns about cable snags and a forthcoming autofocus system planned (as soon as the ZWO EAF is back in stock anywhere) I decided to look at having a small pier side mini-pc which would be quick and easy to set up and could be controlled remotely. I did not want to spend too much on this and felt that since it will be purely for imaging it did not need a particularly high spec. But I wanted reasonable RAM to ensure that all the components of an imaging session (Stellarium, APT, PHD2, Sharpcap and the remote system  I use Anydesk and Chrome Remote Desktop) could work together without issue. I also wanted plenty memory as a full nights imaging with the ASI 2600mc, including flats/dark flats in the morning can take up a fair bit of memory space.

 

So rooting around on amazon I found what seemed to be a good deal;

 

NiPoGi Mini PC, Ιntel Celeron J3455 8GB RAM/ 128GB ROM Mini Computer with Windows 10 Pro, Micro PC Support Dual HDMI 4K, Wake On LAN, Tiny Desktop PC for Business, Meeting, Office, School and HTPC : Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories

 

This link includes the option I took of 8Gb RAM /256Gb ROM

 

Now one point, when I ordered this the price I got (including vat at Irish rate of 23%) was £162 - I ordered last Thursday. The price seems to have gone up now to £194 which seems strange but that's Amazon I guess.

 

Anyway. Ordered Thursday delivered Monday.

 

Initial impressions

Packaging is very good with a high quality feel and excellent protection. The unit itself seems to be of a good build quality, sturdy enough with a nice finish. There is a removable lid which allows access to an expansion slot where you can add an additional ssd - but I cant see that I'll need that. The lid fits well and removes/replaces easily with a good solid spring connection

 

This unit has plenty connectivity options with Bluetooth and WiFI, 2 X USB2, 2 x USB3, 2 X HDMI ports, an ethernet port and a Micro-SD slot.

 

There is amounting plate which is intended to be placed on the back of a PC monitor and which will hold the mini-pc in place but allow it to be removed without the need for tools. I think I will attach this to the pier and hang the PC from it. I dont intend to leave the PC out so this should work fine.

 

Set Up and Perofmance

Initial start up and windows set up (Windows 10 Pro) was quick and easy. A note on the website says that one should get windows fully up and running before connecting to internet and thats what I did. There appears to be no bloat-ware on the system so only around 25Gb of the memory used at that point. Installing all the necessary programmes (Stellarium, APT, PHD2, EQMod, Ascom platform Sharpcap, Anydesk) was without issue.

 

Performance wise it seems much much better than I had anticipated. Edge starts up only slightly slower than on my good spec, main laptop. Streaming videos from YouTube etc works seamlessly with no visible jumps or lags. Stellarium runs without jumps or lag also. I had APT, PHD2 and Stellarium all running at the same time and talking to each other as normal without any problem. Platesolving in APT with ASTAP is a bit slower than on my current  laptop but it will still blind-solve in 10-15 seconds and near solve in 2-4s.

 

I've not yet been able to connect it up the the scope & camera  (its all outside on its pier and its raining!!) but I don't foresee any issues there. I'll report back if I hit any.

 

Overall, for what I paid for this unit I think it is an excellent buy and will definitely do the job. It seems to have no issue with running the programmes and  I feel it would probably be capable of doing more but imaging is all I need it for. I would highly recommend this mini-pc particularly at the price break I got, but even at the higher £194 it is still great value.

 

David

 

Edited by Dmack1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the write up, it sounds very capable. I'm very interested to hear how these celeron mini pcs with astro apps perform. I've been eyeing them as a possible refresh. (I'm in no rush, I anticipate my laptop lasting another season at least)

 

Are you using the WiFi? How does it compare to say your mobile phone's wifi range?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good review David, and that's a very good price. The Celerons have no issue running a capture stack. The J3455 is a lower spec than the MeLE Quieter 2Q that I use which has a J4125, and apparently there's a Quieter 3Q on pre-sale now with a N5105 but I don't really think that it will make a huge difference. I suspect the amount of RAM installed is much more important. You probably won't need Stellarium running once you've planned your targets and you're up and imaging?

 

I added a 1TB SSD card (less than €100) but as I'm not using it for long-term storage, it's not essential. I copy off a night's imaging the following morning and leave the SSD blank. I find the fastest way to copy is using a USB stick; I don't know if it's how I've set up my network but I'm not getting Gigabit Ethernet speeds even using a network cable.

 

Wifi connectivity can be very iffy, and a cable is a much more reliable option all round if you are within 100m of the house. I've had some very nervous nights where Remote Desktop won't connect over wifi, but I can see/hear the mount slewing, focusing and changing filters so I just have to trust that it's doing its thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks @paul

 

So I ran a full dummy imaging session last night - daylight and cloudy but.... needs must as they say. I had already transferred all setting from my current imaging PC (for EQmod, PHD2 and APT) and confirmed that was all good.

 

The only problem I hit was I could not connect anything to the cameras (ASI120mm and ASI2600mc) 10 minutes faffing around then I realised that while there are drivers in APT you still need to install the ZWO drivers (I'm really not much of a PC whizz!) Once they were on everything went as normal. I slewed around using goto's, took locations from both the Objects menu and from stellarium, platesloved to images from last real session and passed those to stellarium for "framing check" and ran an imaging sequence within APT. I connected both PHD2 saved new darks and connected it all up. No stars so no guiding but short of that everything seemed good. The mini PC was well capable of having all those running together without any lags or stutters and everything was playing together nicely. RESULT!

 

Thanks @Padraic M 

 

I'm pretty lucky on the wifi - my pier (and my old set up location) is about 15m from the window of my home office which has a wifi extender near the window. So there was no issue whatsoever with the wifi connection. I have used my laptop out there for the last few years and it always been fine and the mini PC was showing a stronger signal.

 

I keep all my data on an external HDD and I have always transferred to that, via usb, in the mornings leaving the computer SSD clean for next session. I then copy the data to my processing PC for use, leaving the external HDD as raw data back-up.

 

I may just keep doing that now also. But I was thinking to perhaps put a 128Gb sd card in the slot and save data directly to that then pull it out and transfer the data to both the external HDD and the processing PC. But I'm not sure how safe that would be in terms of data potentially getting corrupted - what would you think. (Your discussion of processors above tells me you know much more about these things than I do 😊

 

Anyway - roll on a clear night when I can use it all in earnest.

 

Take care

 

David.

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good going, you won't know yourself! I'd probably stick with the HDD, it may be faster than the sd card but depends on the type of drive (USB 2 or 3, and I presume hard disk rather than flash drive?), and more reliable. As long as you keep at least two copies you should be ok.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Looks to be a very capable mini PC, i have this one and it works great, 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B09322672V/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I have mine mounted on the OTA along with all cables and connections, so only 2 cables off the mount, one for power the other to the mount control box. I'm able to lift the whole lot off the mount after an imaging session and not no need to flaf around with cables apart from the two mentioned. I also added a mini router to it as well for remote access via tablet when away from the house, also on the OTA. I've added a 500 Gb ssd for imaging files on top of the 256 it came with. It also can with win 11 pro installed rather than win 10, i've not found any issues with it with all the software installed.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...