New Driverstation laptop Recommendation

We are looking to upgrade / purchase our driver station laptops. What are ideal specs for laptops to run the software? What are the current 2023 recommendations. I know laptops with ethernet seem to be going out of style.

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I know we used this brand of ethernet adapter this year and didn’t seem to have any issues: Amazon.com

Personally, I’m looking at 8th gen or greater business laptops (we have been with Dell Latitudes for a while) with i5 or i7 and at least 8 GB RAM. But it depends on what you are using it for, we typically have a dedicated laptop for the drive station.

They’re still quite fashionable in business-class laptops. Dell Latitude, Lenovo T-series, HP EliteBook, ones like that. You can snag an off-lease one with great specs in great shape for well under $500. Here’s a sample search:

We got one used in 2018 that is still our driver station. Might finally retire it in the next year or two, or will more definitely whenever the driver station software quits supporting Windows 10.

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Are there any known issues with windows 11 over windows 10 ?

Nothing that I am aware of specific to the driver station. And with Windows 10 going EOL in October 2025, it’s reasonable to be planning for the future.

That said, I’m running Windows 11 on a small PC and it drives me nuts to no end. Lots of forced design changes and “oh let’s squeeze them for a little more revenue through this ad” for negligible gain over Windows 10. Maybe being a Mac guy for so long has me more sensitive to it.

So if I have the option to stay on Windows 10 and no currently-compelling reason to move to Windows 11?

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Right! Too bad driverstation has zero mac os x support. It’s a real shame to be honest. As far as I can see theres no plan for it either. I would be looking for the laptop to be usable for a while so maybe stuck getting a Win 11 anyways.

No amount of RAM is enough for Shuffleboard🫠

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:rofl: , so a raspberry pi wont cut it ?

can confirm a Latitude works well we used it for our driver station just fine (besides the computer seizing up twice during practices but I don’t think that’s the fault of the computer)

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There are a number of similar threads on CD, and they all end up pointing to the same place: Driver Station Best Practices — FIRST Robotics Competition documentation

Follow those recommendations and you’ll be just dandy.

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Personally, I’d prioritize a built in ethernet port; it’s just one less thing that can fail, and you don’t want your ethernet connection failing during a match.

Sadly, I’ve seen built in Ethernet ports failing in a way that the Ethernet cable can wiggle inside the port and lose connection. Had to use a USB to Ethernet for the rest of the competition.
Maybe it doesn’t happen with all the brands but I don’t remember the brand this happened on.

I’ve been trying to talk my team into picking up one of these to replace our aging driver station.

It’s a bit overkill for just the DS, but we also like to use OBS to screen record the driver station and robot camera feed for later diagnostics, and the extra processing power should allow that with little to no impact on the DS itself, plus it’s a bit more “future proof” that way.

Video recording aside, these are the specs I would look for (some of these are personal preference):

  • Size: 17.3" w/ Numpad (makes it easier if you’re also doing any programming on the DS; Also easier to view more dashboard/camera information at once; obviously, some teams Driver Station trays/cases/etc may have max size limitations though)
  • CPU: Intel i5 or better (AMDs are often a better value, but I’ve personally had issues with drivers in the past that have caused crashing so I avoid them now)
  • RAM: At least 16GB (modern Windows OS uses 6-7GB of RAM at idle, if you’re buying a laptop with 8GB in 2023, you’re getting ripped off; that said, many laptops can have RAM upgraded for minimal extra cost)
  • Storage: At least 512GB SSD (this is more of a “companies really shouldn’t be selling smaller drives than this in 2023” thing)
  • Other: Must have built-in ethernet port, preferably not a “hinged” port (even if you prefer to use a dongle, having the built-in port as a backup never hurts)

For the added video recording capability, I also had a “any dedicated graphics card” criteria for our teams DS, to better offload OBS recording, rather than have it run on the CPU with everything else. It doesn’t take much, so any non-integrated GPU will do, even a very low-end/cheap one. Again though, you’re teams requirements may vary. Also, note that if you don’t need the large screen, there are generally FAR more options available in the 15.6" form-factor.

If the only thing you’re doing with the laptop is running the DS software and no Shuffleboard or anything else, you can probably get away with less than these specs (though, then I would probably question why you’re not running anything else). The DS software doesn’t have particularly high requirements

Good comments! i was wondering about amd support. to me buying a laptop with only 8gb seems like a bad idea since everything has moved to a 16GB format. Im looking at my employer discount site and they seem like there’s some great thinkpad options in the i5 with 16gb range for 550$ not including shipping.

I’ve personally stuck with asus and apple myself for personal use.

Also, don’t forget USB ports. Using a hub has pros and cons (it’s an additional point of failure, but will help protect the laptop USB ports from wear and tear). It’s also good to have extra ports in case a port does break or you need to swap to a USB to Ethernet dongle if the built-in Ethernet port breaks. I would say 3 USB ports at a minimum. USB-A vs USB-C is an interesting debate as joysticks are USB-A, again comes down to pros/cons on dongles/hubs vs wear and tear.

In general, I’m a fan of having Ethernet/USB pigtails (mounted to the DS console rather than free floating)–it’s much easier to replace one of those when it wears out or gets damaged by someone forgetting to unplug the field Ethernet than it is to replace the laptop!

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I’m partial to Asus and MSI myself. I’ve gotten both for myself and family and they’ve been absolutely rock-solid. No bloatware either, which is always nice.

My work used Lenovo Thinkpads for a while before switching back to Dell Latitudes after encounting issues with them (though I suspect ~75% of the issues were due to the absolute garbage imaging process my work uses).

Good points! It’s easy to take it for granted the idea that laptops just come with a decent amount of ports, you definitely need to be checking those kinds of things these days with the move to USB-C or just removing ports altogether.

One thing we found out the hard way too is that not all USB Hubs are created equally. We had been using an Amazon Basics hub for a while, but it caused all kinds of issues with our Xbox Elite controllers (weird disconnects and such) and only when we switched to a higher quality hub (something like this would probably be comparable, since they don’t sell those other ones anymore), did we realize what the problem was.

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If you’re worried about not having the ports you need or ports failing, I would recommend a framework laptop. I’ve been daily driving one for a while now and have absolutely loved it. Being able to swap ports to whatever I need at the moment has been very nice for frc.

They’re expensive, but since they are so upgradable you’ll probably save some money in the long run because you won’t have to completely replace it. You can also save some money on them by getting the DIY version and buying the storage and ram yourself, but you will need to open it up to install them.

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One thing to be cognizant of with the framework is that due to its 4:3 aspect ratio display, it is substantially deeper than other laptops with similar screen size. Most 17.3" laptops are 9" to 10" deep, but the Framework 16 is 10.6" or 11.4" deep. Just something to keep in mind when thinking about integrating it into an existing or new console, as the max operator console depth is 14".

We had a very similar Asus laptop last season, and we loved ours! Huge display (17.3 in), built in ethernet port, and had no problem running all of our software.

Only problem was having to get a bigger laptop bag to fit it!

the horror! a bigger bag.

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