Laptop Drivestation

We are looking for a laptop which can run code well for a drive station but with a good battery that will hold a charge because our current laptops will die after about 10 minutes of being unplugged we would like to keep the price below 1000 probably around 500 would be best if possible

Although the document is a little old most of the information is still relevant.

Here are some relevant threads from just this year. Plenty more if you use the search feature.

Congrats on the new mask-less profile picture :laughing:

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My favorite driver station laptops are off-lease business class notebooks from enterprises. For example, Dell Latitudes, HP EliteBooks, Lenovo ThinkPads. My personal preference is something in the thin-and-light category (13-14" screen, around 0.6-0.7" thick, 3lbs, etc.) so that it can easily be moved from pits to fields and back.

Here’s why I like this approach: Enterprises usually lease their computers for around 36 months at a time, and then they are returned in mass quantities back to the manufacturer. Then they’re sold to wholesalers who usually sanitize the the devices and prepare them for resale as individual units. You can then buy them from places like eBay at a fraction of the original price. A laptop that may have been $2,000 - 2,500 new will be $300 - 500 just a few years later.

Business-class notebooks are great for FRC use (abuse) because they are designed with much stronger chassis, hinges, screens, etc. than consumer notebooks. Usually aluminum or magnesium alloys versus plastic. Likewise they are often designed for very easy replacement of individual components. Where a consumer notebook will often have a combination of torx screws and single-use plastic tabs on its chassis covering individual components (which may actually be soldered to the main board and not replaceable), a business notebook will usually have only a few screws, metal locking tabs, and sometimes even tool-less swaps for RAM, SSD’s, batteries, etc. that you may want to replace over time.

My recommended specs:

  • 13 - 14" screen with 1080p or higher resolution and brightness of 300+ nits
  • CPU of 8th generation Intel or newer (Core i7 preferred)
  • RAM of 16Gb or more, ideally DDR4 not DDR3
  • SSD of 256Gb or more, avoid traditional hard drives due to boot times and wear properties
  • Weight of under 4lbs
  • Dedicated USB-A ports for controllers, HDMI port for external monitor, and gigabit ethernet port for field/robot connectivity

My recommended laptops:

  • Lenovo ThinkPad T480 or T480s
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 6
  • Dell Latitude 7390
  • Dell Latitude 7490
  • HP EliteBook 840 G6
  • HP EliteBook 830 G6

Where to buy:

  • eBay - my preferred outlet where most wholesalers list their devices
  • Newegg - an option sometimes but low selection and high prices
  • Amazon - can be hit or miss, but good/easy return policies
  • Facebook Marketplace - YMMV, very location-dependent but can be great if you’re lucky

Hey – thanks for the shout out on the white paper. That version is now obsolete – we moved all of the content into the WPILib documentation, where it’s kept current.

Driver Station Best Practices — FIRST Robotics Competition documentation (