The transreflective daylight readable screens are still a bit difficult to find and a good deal more expensive than standard LCD screens.
As for which is better... a properly designed marinized micro-ATX desktop computer is going to do better in a salt-water humid air environment than a non-ruggedized notebook computer. A fully-ruggedized notebook computer will survive longer still. By properly marinized, I mean one that has had the circuit boards sprayed with a conformal coating, the help protect the electronics from humidity and corrosion. Another route to go is the multiple, identical, cheap laptops route—this is not a bad way to go, especially given the relatively low processor requirements of most navigation software.
Having two notebooks or two complete systems (screen, CPU, mouse, and KB) will give you some redundancy, provided you have the same software installed on both machines. I would highly recommend that you use two identically equipped machines, and make a Ghost or DriveImage snapshot image of them, so that you could restore them back to working order as quickly as possible.
I would also second Cam's suggestion of backing up your files on a regular basis to an external drive.
BTW, one of the things that will prolong the life of the computers more than anything else is keeping them running and on all the time. While this can be a problem for your boat's electrical system, by doing so, you cook off the humidity and moisture that leads to corrosion and keep the system's internal components in better shape by doing so.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.