New computer for programming


I am new to VEX EDR and do not yet have any type of computer for programming my VEX EDR robots other than my school’s desktop which obviously won’t work for competitions. Would you please make recommendations for what I need to purchase? My funding is fairly limited, and I am open to writing grants and seeking donations. I just don’t even know what to ask for. Thanks for your help!


What programming environment are you planning on using? The upcoming VCS, PROS, or something else? What is your budget?


My club used Microsoft Surfaces for robotc when at competitions. I wouldn’t highly recommend them, but they worked just fine. With the new VEX Coding studio, though, you should be able to use a Chromebook, but unfortunately, robotc won’t work on a Chromebook, if robotc is what you are planning on using.


If you want a good keyboard (you probably do), go for a Lenovo Thinkpad, an HP EliteBook, or select Dell models.

To minimize weight, go for a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon or a recent-model Dell XPS.

To maximize value, buy used.

Whatever you do, do not buy ultra-cheap new computers!

If it uses an Intel Atom, Celeron, or Pentium-branded processor, the experience of using it is likely to be ridden with compromises.


What is your budget for the computer?


lenovo thinkpads are great.


Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I’ve had horrible experiences with my thinkpad. I’ve had my battery replaced, my screen replaced, my motherboard replaced, my screen replaced again, my motherboard replaced again, and on top of that stupid flickering issues persisted.
Here’s a video of them:

Not to mention that I’ve been told by customer service that my motherboard would have to be replaced because of bad video drivers (Which I later fixed by going into safe mode and reinstalling them).

Now of course it it is entirely possible that you will have none of these issues, but I for one will never buy a Lenovo product again.


The Thinkpads that make it onto the used market as working devices are tried and true, and you can get really good value for money buying them. Unsurprisingly, these are predominantly X and T series, as these are the most mainstream and bear the greatest potential damage to the Lenovo and Thinkpad names.

I similarly have no confidence in Lenovo’s customer service though. My Thinkpad’s UEFI had a major bug that literally made it unbootable. Customer service could only tell me about how my warranty was expired. I gave up and just replaced the motherboard myself.


I personally hate Lenovo’s. My Y50 also has the flickering problem and each time I get it fixed it starts flickering a month later.


Honestly I wouldn’t even begin to consider a laptop for myself with obnoxious red coloring and advertised for gaming, regardless of the brand. Terrible value* and engineered to drive components as hard as possible, not to mention the lack of actual portability

Seriously, though, @rkitz, I’m not going to pretend Lenovo devices don’t have (more than) their fair share of problems. But it’s hard to go wrong spending only a few hundred dollars on the most popular Thinkpads.

If you don’t want a Lenovo, that’s fair too. A number of other devices would be just as viable:


I disagree. Gaming laptops usually have the best performance per dollar and if you can put up with the accent colors (they’re actually starting to tone that down), it can mean the difference between a dual core and a 1050ti and a quad core with a 1060. Sure, it’s not going to be made out of a solid chunk of aluminum, but does it really need to? One thing I will give you is battery, for a gaming laptop with a good battery you’re looking at 4 hrs of battery, whereas with that dual core+1050ti laptop you’re more likely to get 6-8hrs out of it.


For my kids, few years back, I’ve got a older pre-owned Dells Latitudes. Battle-tested, with top chips (i7, even though a generation or two behind back then) and on the cheap side. They were greatly extensible too, easy to upgrade RAM (Fusion360 needs that RAM), mSATA slot for secondary SSD, …


I should have clarified properly:
The value is terrible for usage either as an actual portable device (big and heavy with poor battery life) or as a device for gaming/graphics processing (compare to desktops). If you must have both at the same time, then you don’t have many other options, but most people won’t benefit from anything better than integrated graphics anyway.

What I was trying to say was that long-term reliability is more questionable on gaming laptops than properly engineered business-focused laptops. Most obviously, the extra heat will take its toll on the components over time. Additionally, overclocking can prevent capacitors from fully discharging during operation, which greatly reduces the lifespan of the motherboard. Finally, gaming laptops simply aren’t optimized for reliability; they’re optimized for performance.

In any case, this debate is quickly derailing this thread. I don’t think anyone would reasonably claim that a gaming laptop would make a good budget VEX programming laptop. The extra cores and discrete graphics would be wasted. You would have to program at the charging station lest your battery die. You would have to carry a bulky device around to do last-minute programming in queue or at the field.


I am also a fan of Lenovo. The two laptops i have owned personally, and the laptop we use for robotics are all Lenovo. Mine were both Thinkpads, the robotics team uses a Flex 4.


if you’re going to use PROS and if it’s within your budget, you can’t go wrong with system76. If not within your budget, you can’t go wring with a used thinkpad. I’ve used PROS with the tablet version of this running GNU/Linux and the worst issue I’ve had is it eventually gave me a fan error, but I was still able to boot up and use it, not bad for a computer that’s over 10 years old. I’ve since upgraded but it still runs and is still a great laptop for GNU/Linux unless you want to do anything like CAD, play modern video games, or compile large programs by hand. I wouldn’t recommend buying that specific laptop because you can get more bang for you buck with something else, but a used thinkpad is a great option, especially if you don’t use windows. If you are going to have to use robotc, meaning you need windows, then you should spend more money because windows is incredibly slow and bloated and needs beefier hardware to compensate.


In my opinion, PC performance is less important than reboot speed. I have an SSD ($80) in my mid-range Acer ($500) and I can restart it in less than 30 second, and sometimes, you need to restart to download a program before a match coming up in 2 minutes. As far as I know, RobotC runs on anything (within reason) and will end up crashing on anything if you don’t do things right (such as leaving the debug window open while doing other things on your computer). I’ve run RobotC at competitions on several computers from a $250 Toshiba to a $2000 gaming PC without any problems (although my PC right now is my favorite since it runs Minecraft, Inventor, Fortnite, or whatever else totally related to robotics, easily). Be ready for frustrations if you get a really cheap computer ($200s) though. They can be pretty slow.


Is this a typo?


Nope, although reboot time is (inversely) proportional to pc performance


In most cases, reboot time and performance are positively correlated…

Edit: I’m stupid


Reboot time (secs) decreases as computer speed increases.

Reboot speed increases as computer speed increases.