What computers do most teams use?

state why from an engineering point of view.

also, state why installing linux will help with VEXCode etc…

No half measures here - be specific about the problems you solve and the limitations when you send teams down the path of changing OSs - for Chromebooks, if it a school issued device, it is likely that the school will object as it will prevent school activities from running on them.

Also, what are the benefits from using Linux in terms of all the tasks teams need to tackle - is it good for CAD? if so, what packages? is it good for video editing, if so what packages to install.

This topic of platform choice is not just about budget, it is also about school constraints, and tasks teams want to perform. Not as simple as “dump the OS on the device, install linux, and PROS”.

Hopefully these questions and discussions will enable teams to realize there are more things to consider than one size fits all answers.

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  1. Expensive
  2. Doesn’t work with a lot of really cool open-source software
  3. You can get what you need done without it
  4. Screw Apple, Right to Repair is important, and people shouldn’t support companies that act to suppress it

ChromeOS doesn’t work out-of-the-box with a lot of software, such as VEXCode Pro, PROS, or really anything else used for VEX at a high level. With Linux, on the other hand, everything is just an apt-get away, and even if something doesn’t work on it (VEXcode) nothing is stopping you from using a VM (or Wine?) to get a Windows app working. It is trivial to get a Chromebook running linux. There are tutorials all over the internet.

OP asked for “new laptops for the robotics program”, so I assume that as long as they work for Robotics, the school won’t care what OS they run. Also, nothing is stopping Google Classroom from running in a web browser on Linux.

No. If you want CAD stick to Windows - and get a good computer. If you’re on a budget, RMS Mimic will work in a browser for CAD, but it’s not ideal. In general, budget machines won’t work well with resource-heavy software like CAD.

Google is your friend. I do not use Linux, and therefore I am in no place to make a recommendation

Generally I find that schools care much less about what happens with Robotics laptops than normal school computers. Every school robotics laptop I’ve seen isn’t even on the school network (which makes everyone’s life waaay easier.

Programming: Budget PC is fine, Linux/Win10/Apple will all work
CAD: Win10, get a good computer
Video Editing: Ok I guess macOS is kinda better here but honestly anything will work
Web Browsing: Anything will work


I had presumed that the OP was made generally asking about programming options, and my first reply was tailored around that. If we are looking for a budget machine to run programming, it very much is as simple as,

But if we want CAD and other such things there are, as you said, many other things to consider.


But then again, if we really want the cheapest option for programming only, this is still sound advice:

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not a specific enough.

you need to T.H.I.N.K with an engineering point of view and try again.

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look man we get it you love apple but can you please stop arguing every time someone says something bad about apple?

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OP talked about buying new laptops for the robotics program, so I’ll limit my discussion down to laptops only.

Most people in my family uses apple laptops, so I guess I can put some other perspectives into this. My mom uses a MacBook Pro 13in (2016) and my sister uses a MacBook Pro 15in (2018). Since apple tries to make their laptops as thin as possible, the keyboard is extremely thin. I actually just tried typing on a MacBook keyboard earlier and my experience with it was terrible - it provided barely any feedback at all and feels like tapping a single piece of metal. If I were to code for a day using a MacBook keyboard I’ll probably go mad due to how bad it is.

This is only talking about the physical limitation of a MacBook. MacOS itself is limiting for robotics as well. For example, 2 out of the 3 popular CAD software (Solidworks, Inventor) does not support MacOS. This means that the school might have to install windows 10 to be able to CAD. In this case, it might just be a better choice overall to get a windows laptop, which is already significantly more cost effective in terms of performance.

If the laptops you’re buying is used exclusively for robotics. I’ll suggest a windows laptop that uses workstation graphic cards (ex. Nvidia Quadro) rather than gaming graphic cards. From my experience, they handle CAD software a lot more smoothly as their are design for these type of use.

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For programming and such, computing power isn’t a big factor, the brand really doesn’t matter much, although the name brands tend to have good warranty. For CAD, you’ll need something a little more powerful, and if you want to step up from entry level software like inventor or fusion, to more advanced software like SolidWorks, you might want to look at this thread: CAD Workstation Recommendation from SolidWorks

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I’m pretty sure that the Microsoft Surfaces are good. I have one, and I don’t seem have any problems with it.

I’ve seen some of the Surface laptops as well, and they all seem to preform well (and they look nice too). The only con to the surface computers is the price, as you pay 200 dollars extra relative to other computers (e.g. Dell or Lenovo) to get the same performance.

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I think while macs are some of the best personal computers (especially with the new M-series chips), they just aren’t the best for VEX robotics, and they’re pretty expensive anyways, so they’re not worth it if your buying only to be used by your club (software aside)

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As far as expensive flashy laptops go, surfaces are pretty reliable, but if you want something that just works and lasts forever, yoy cant go wrong with Lenovo.

Also, lenovo laptops tend to have really good keyboards. HP also has good keyboards. but terrible build quality and reliability in my experience.

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Actually, I am steering the conversation towards informed decision making. For the record, our district uses only Windows based laptops (for staff) and Chromebooks for students. Further, the district manages all computational devices on their network - so, you can bring your own device and make it work, but your bandwidth will be severely throttled. For a middle school club, works ok on the tasks they face.

You can say I am a Mac fan boy, yeah that works great as an argument and later you will see factually incorrect, but does not meet engineering rigor for decision making - my like or dislike for anything has no bearing, nor should anyone be given a pass to say “dont buy XYZ” with no justification - and this applies to arguments about using VEXCode suite or PROS, or MathWorks.

Perhaps the OP’s original post was ambiguous - there was insufficient information to make an informed decision. The subsequent poll was equally murky, a flavorful ratatouille of items that seems to taste great, but has no explanation as to why - by this comparing manufacturers of different OS platforms and no hint of suitability for tasks.

Now that I have elaborated about my posts suggesting that responses should have more information about context, why is it worthy of asking me to stop posting?

Back to Apple fan boy - prior to NeXT / Apple merger - I was focused on unix system development - I worked with Digital Equipment Corp computers - PDP-8/M, DecSystem 20s, VAX, micro-Vax. Digital lost its way, had the Rainbow and then ultimately DEC fell apart. Sun was the next “big thing” in labs, Silicon Graphics, etc… many UNIX work horses of the time. Mac did its thing and seemed to stay stuck. Jobs left Apple started NeXT - a computer for education - and it had a lot of clever engineers who really disrupted software development at the time - scalable graphics representation that was device independent! Threaded to handle distributed tasks not only on the device it was running on, but other devices on the network… Great academic platform as a proof of concept of what may be. This included development of the first WWW browser and servers by Timbl at CERN. Apple was a toy - was not keeping up by any means to what was happening. Finally, you had Apple bring Steve Jobs and his NeXT crew that totally turned the company around. Apple’s core technology is still NeXT based approach and GUI design/form is still apparent. So, I am a NeXT fan for many of their engineering marvels.

Back to question at hand - what platform should you invest? all depends on what you want to accomplish. Then you can determine OS, hardware, and budget.

btw at the time NeXTcubes were starting at $8k in 1989 dollars.

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Why? How do you determine “best”…

In my book, pick a platform you can get on your school’s network (if it is a district purchase), then make sure it hits on all the applications you will need to sustain your club, and then consider budget in terms of not only up front costs, but how long you need to have the investment serve the club.

Every platform has its tradeoffs - I like Chromebooks for middle school - Big Bang for the dollar - they can code robots, edit videos (we use WeVideo cloud editor in the district for middle school) and the weak spot is CAD.

For more sophisticated needs - what are the CAD / rendering suites that your club needs - that gets more complex. From there you can decide which manufacturer meets your district policies.

To be honest I believe most laptops within the $300-400 range is a relative ripoff. You’re likely to get better quality and performance at around the $600-800 price point, especially from companies like Lenovo.
If you want something that can CAD well, look professional, and last you years without having to upgrade immediately, I believe this Lenovo laptop from Walmart offers the best deal you can find on the internet at the moment hands-down

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Kind of reconsidering returning my new laptop and buying that.

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Careful! That’s a 1TB HDD and 256 SSD. I would not recommend a HDD in any new device unless you have a very specific reason for it. Might want to avoid a HDD if you expect a long lifespan.

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It’s normal and actually good practice to have a PC that has both an SSD and HDD. Having an SSD allows the system to have the operating system easily accessible and fast and the HDD allows large yet affordable storage options. But, of course SSD is always superior speed and reliability-wise but at the downside of being usually more costly. You can always pop open the HHD out of the laptop in the future and replace it with an SSD.

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My TiVo begs to differ - HDD might be effective for applications. No Engineering criteria stated to defend “long lifespan”

Solid state disk drives do offer faster bandwidth - but writes to device may be slower … So what is the defined needs may make SDD less appealing - and certainly reliability may be at stake ,

This might be kind of a dumb answer but we do most of our coding and stuff at home on my desktop and then we have a small laptop that we just use to upload code and tweak stuff for Auton. If you’re wondering what my desktop specs are, they are the following

  • Ryzen 5 3600
  • Rx5700
  • 16 GB DDR4 at 3200MHZ
  • Sabrent Rocket nVme 1TB M.2 SSD
  • X570 Motherboard (ASRock Steel Legend AM4)
  • 650w 80+ Bronze PSU
  • Noctua NH-U12S CPU Cooler
  • NZXT H500 Case
    The total cost of it was about 1100 or something, but with some deals and discounts I think it all came to about 1000 USD. This is of course not including keyboard and what not. It’s a really powerful system that does everything I want it do very well, and it will probably last me the next 6-7 years. If you want, I can make a PC part list for you at your desired price range, though keep in mind I am not the absolute best at such. Good luck on your computer quest!
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If you want a laptop I’ve heard great things about the ThinkPads and the XPS 13. Surfaces and Macs are a bit higher priced for their functionality, though they tend to have superior build quality and some niche features. If you’re just looking for a powerful laptop for coding/3D modeling, I think any of the two I mentioned above are great choices. I do own a ThinkPad (though it’s because my dad got one for free from his company), and it’s served me well for about 8 or 9 years now. It’s very hardy and hasn’t slowed down much. I’ve only ran into an issue with it once and that was solved by resetting Windows.

This is… not a helpful post. It is well-known that decent modern SSDs (basically anything but the cheapest SSDs from no-name brands) are far more reliable, no matter how you evaluate it, and sustain much greater write speeds than even the fastest spinning HDDs.

The only potential exception in terms of reliability is for extremely write-intensive use cases like video recording at high bitrates over many, many hours, since SSDs can only sustain a finite number of writes while HDDs usually keep operating until their mechanics fail. However, it is certainly possible for an HDD to fail before an SSD in this use case, and SSDs are so cheap nowadays that the added heft and physical fragility of an HDD is often not worth it.

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