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  #1  
Old 06-21-2008
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Laptop/Chartplotter

I've downloaded a free chartplotter program to run on my laptop using a cheap USB GPS. The program (SeaClear) seems to meet my needs very well, though it is not the most intuitive program I've ever seen, I've figured out how to create a route and other basic funtions and confirmed it works.

The question is, how to run my AC powered laptop while sailing. I've looked at the posts refering to inverters, but there seems to be a mixed bag. It looks like the cigarette lighter plug inverters leave a lot to be desired while hardwiring one or using a portable clipped to the battery has their own drawbacks.

So how should I proceed? I definitely want to power the laptop and I'd like to be able to power an LCD TV, but that is not as important as being able to run the laptop.
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Old 06-21-2008
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There is a bunch of car adapters for laptops available. Every manufacturer offers one for the brand as an option. They are 12 DC to whatever DC your laptop uses. Technically speaking, all laptops are DC powered, and most of them are 12V DC, same as a boat.
Small 300-400 watt DC to AC inverters are quite reliable too. Problems starts when they are either less or more powerful. Less powerful ones can not handle current fluctuation, more powerful ones require permanent installation and careful wiring.

I used both approaches in my truck and the boat with success.

Last edited by CrazyRu; 06-21-2008 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 06-21-2008
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I've used a West Marine 400w plug in inverter, and am currently using a Kingston adapter w/built in inverter, that plugs into a cigarette lighter outlet, as well as having a AC plug as well. The WM inverter is much cheaper, and I only bought the Kingston because my AC to laptop adapter went out. Both have worked well for me.
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Old 06-21-2008
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Originally Posted by midlifesailor View Post
I've downloaded a free chartplotter program to run on my laptop using a cheap USB GPS. The program (SeaClear) seems to meet my needs very well, though it is not the most intuitive program I've ever seen, I've figured out how to create a route and other basic funtions and confirmed it works.

The question is, how to run my AC powered laptop while sailing. I've looked at the posts refering to inverters, but there seems to be a mixed bag. It looks like the cigarette lighter plug inverters leave a lot to be desired while hardwiring one or using a portable clipped to the battery has their own drawbacks.

So how should I proceed? I definitely want to power the laptop and I'd like to be able to power an LCD TV, but that is not as important as being able to run the laptop.

Why not a dedicated chart plotter that can be mounted at the helm? They are far more reliable, I find substantially easier to use, plus they draw MUCH less current than a plugged in laptop. My MacBook Pro can draw up to 7 amps through the inverter. There are no 12v adapters for the Mac. My PC based laptop draws about 5.4 amps through a manufacturer supplied 12v charger..

I used a PC based plotting system and canned it very quickly in favor of a dedicated chart plotter. Having it at your finger tips/helm is priceless and many of the Garmin's now come PRE-LOADED with all the US charts..

I still run chart plotting software on my PC (not my Mac) but I never actually use it for navigation just planning..

I purchased a 19" Polaroid TV at Target that has an AC to DC converter and it runs on 12v.. With the DVD running it draws about 5.2 amps..
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Your best bet is a power supply with DC adaptor, such as Igo or Targus. These will provide the correct DC power for the laptop. They can also charge a second device such as cell phone or music player. They come with changeable tips so you can use with new devices with different power requirements.
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Old 06-21-2008
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Our Fujitsu laptop with a core-duo processor is currently drawing 2.5 amps through a west marine 150W cigarette plug inverter. Simple, and works well. If you buy a chart plotter, you do get the advantage of a chart at the wheel but the disadvantage of paying extra to buy charts and the proprietary version of every technological advance like AIS.
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Old 06-21-2008
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Quote:
Our Fujitsu laptop with a core-duo processor is currently drawing 2.5 amps through a west marine 150W cigarette plug inverter. Simple, and works well. If you buy a chart plotter, you do get the advantage of a chart at the wheel but the disadvantage of paying extra to buy charts and the proprietary version of every technological advance like AIS.
True, but if any water hits your laptop, kiss it goodby and if you keep it below and singlehand ....... You get the picture.
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I'd second getting a dedicated chartplotter. The small Garmin units, like the older 192C or the newer 440 come with all of the US Coastal charts pre-loaded. They're IPX7 water resistance rated, and are very simple to use and draw much less power than a laptop. They're also usable at the helm and not going to die if they get splashed.

However, if you're talking about using your laptop on the boat, that's a different story. I just don't think using it as a chartplotter, while underway, is all that great an idea. It is far more prone to failure than a dedicated chartplotter and uses far more energy.
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Old 06-21-2008
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I had a similar challenge. I solved it by buying one of those car jump start battery systems. It has about 30 amps of juice and charges when the engine is running or from my solar panel. It alone runs my laptop for about 8 hours (it is an old laptop). I find it quite convenient. It also has many other uses onboard.
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Targus Group | Leading Provider of Laptop Cases, Bags and Accessories is the way to go. Cheap, reliable, and very efficient. You'll find tons of options there. This is how I power my/wife laptop ....
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