Capable, Affordable Team Computers

My team is looking to get a couple new laptops or desktops for CAD, two driver stations, and possibly new programing laptops. In the past members have used their own desktops/laptops because ours are so outdated, but with most of those members graduated or about to graduate we are looking to update our computers while trying to stay relatively cheap, any ideas? We don’t have a specific price point, as long as it can run solidworks.

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Ask around and see if any sponsors/other businesses have any decommed systems they’re willing to donate. If you want new, build your own desktops. Laptop wise, used Dell Latitudes are the way to go.

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If you’re in the mode of purchasing some things - “Off lease” business class laptops from ebay or other auction sites can fit the affordable requirement. You’ll want to carefully inspect the listing to see just how “capable” the hardware will be.

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This. Pandamaniacs swear by few-years-old ThinkPad T-series laptops for programming, driver station, scouting, and even some Onshape stuff.

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Check with local hospitals, we picked up ten decent performance laptops as a donation a few years back and continue to run them for drivers stations, Onshape, and presentations. We do our CAD heavy lifting on a dedicated gaming desktop.

The hospital was super easy to work with and their green team was super happy to help us out with getting wiped computers into local schools.

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Going to 3rd this. Ask your mentors to check with their employers as well. UTC used to donate their old workstations to teams (not sure if they still do) and they are pretty capable machines for FRC.

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My go to has been to find older used Thinkpad laptops on Ebay. If they are off-lease as @gerthworm mentioned, even better! Like @Billfred and the Pandamaniacs, I stand by older T-series (and W-Series) Thinkpads.

Currently, 3468 has 10 Thinkpad T440p laptops. Each of these has a 4th gen i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, and 140-250GB SSDs. We acquired these in three batches, from three different sellers on E-bay, and after replacing the stock trackpads (i personally dislike the stock ones they came with) on all 10, and putting SSDs in the ones that came with Hard Drives, we paid an average of $176.30 each for them (I provided the labor to replace the trackpads, SSDs, and re-install Windows or Linux on them). I’ll include a price breakdown at the bottom for reference purposes.

These machines are older, sure. From around 2013-2014 I believe. However, they are tough and durable machines that will handle anything programming, marketing, research, ect. Need for them. They’d probably also still handle CAD, though perhaps not as smoothly. I’d probably try to find something a little newer for that.

168.50 Thinkpad T440p i5 - 8GB - 240GB SSD
139.50 Thinkpad T440p i5 - 8GB - 240GB SSD
106.00 Thinkpad T440p i5 - 8GB - 240GB SSD
102.50 Thinkpad T440p i5 - 8GB - 240GB SSD
113.75 Thinkpad T440p i5-4200m - 8GB - 128GB SSD
113.75 Thinkpad T440p i5-4200m - 8GB - 128GB SSD
160.00 Thinkpad T440p i5-4300m - 8GB - 500GB HDD
160.00 Thinkpad T440p i5-4300m - 8GB - 500GB HDD
160.00 Thinkpad T440p i5-4300m - 8GB - 500GB HDD
160.00 Thinkpad T440p i5-4300m - 8GB - 500GB HDD
199.80 4x 250GB Crucial MX500 SSD
179.17 10x "3-Button" Trackpads for T440p
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On powerful and affordable desktops my vote goes for HP Z420 or Z230.

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I use a Z420 as a server, they’re rock solid machines. One thing to look out for is that the older version of the Z420 can only take Xeon E5 v1 CPUs, while the newer ones can take either v1 or v2. The only way to tell if you have a new or old one is to check the boot block date in the BIOS. There are methods to flash from a ‘v1’ system to a ‘v2’ system, but you risk bricking the machine and having to get a new BIOS chip (if you can).

Also, they only officially support 64gb of RAM but you can put 128gb in no problem

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Government surplus is another possible auction site - I’ve seen some nice hardened laptops for sale there in lots of 6 or 12 before.

Not seeing a ton in MI at the moment, but you can get an ambulance for $500. Seems like a pretty sweet way to transport your robot.

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If you want a great price/performance gpu for cad you can’t beat the WX4100 or P620

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Take the used/refurbished route and also check local surplus auctions. Don’t be afraid to build either.

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Based. Thinkpads are great for machines that “just work” and take punishment, especially since you can actually buy replacement parts.

signed, a W541 user and supporter of the /r/thinkpadcirclejerk

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We just picked up a E5570 Dell from University Surplus for ~$150 to be a DS computer. Luckily our newest mentor had a friend that was working there and was able to find one for us. I told him keep eyes out for more, because I think it is a pretty decent price for specs.

Generally, I’ve been looking to get 3-5 year old laptops and computers, instead of some of the 8-10 year ones we have limping along. We got some desktops Optiplex 3020 from a school connection which helped our situation. But I think we still our needing to make yearly upgrades to keep from falling too far back.

For reference the E5570 has a i7-6600u (6th gen processor was a spec we thought looked like a good balance for price, old enough to be available secondary, and better performance). The 3020 has a i5-4590, which have decent single threaded performance and I haven’t got major complaints about Inventor on them (but then again I prefer Onshape personally) and so it may be worse than I know. They were donated.

One potential thing to do is look up Ebay refurb laptops, and sort the results by distance. You might find a local reseller that you could directly contact who might help you out. I’ve been meaning to contact a reseller I know about nearby, but haven’t yet, so I can’t say how well it could work, but seems worth the try.

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Going to add another voice of support for Thinkpads. Built for work, take a beating, and will still work when you break something.

Signed, a W540 user on their third thinkpad.

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Of course, I’ve already said I love Thinkpads, but nice to see other W540/W541 users!

Signed, a W540 user

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As someone with a Thinkpad right now, I can confirm it still is operational with no flaws after a couple unintentional tumbles and some impact from the floor when I’ve used my non-laptop padded backpack :slight_smile: Admittedly the one I have currently does run on the pricier side, looking at the P1 I have right now from college, a new one runs 1.5k+, but I think they stand the test of time and just general use and wear: the hope is mine can stretch a couple of years after college. That being said used older ones seem to work just as well as people above have mentioned :+1:
Signed a P1 user

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I posted a question on our local reddit sub and somebody just gave us a slightly older lenovo – put in an ssd and it does everything we need.

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