Portable Low Power Computers – and the winner is….

So, a little background to this post can be found here http://m0iax.com/2018/07/17/man-portable-computing-for-amateur-radio/

Ive been looking for the best solution for low power portable computing for Amateur Radio for a while, and Ive spent a bit of money on it, and it turns out I already had the best option.

I got a small portable windows computer, the GPD Pocket, which is a noice little machine and runs windows and has its own screen like a mini-laptop. which is great as there is a lot of amateur radio software written for window. The negative point for this computer is the screen is difficult to see in very bright sunlight, and it only has one USB port.

I also got a LattePanda single board computer. this board is slightly bigger than the more well known raspberry pi but its designed to run windows. plus points are much the same as the GPD Pocket as it runs windows. The negative point being that although it is powered from a USB port it needs quite a bit of power to run.

So the winner is <drumroll> the computer that I had right from the start. The Raspberry Pi 3B+. I did spend a little more money (GBP40ish) on a “PiJuice” hat which provides battery back up and a clock which is desirable but not essential.

It uses low power so I can power it from a USB phone charger. There is plenty of software available for it, not as much as windows but I haven’t found an amateur radio digital mode yet that it cant handle. Its very small and light, so small that you could easily carry a spare one in your pocket just in case something goes horribly wrong. It uses an SD card has a hard drive so you can easily carry a spare one with a backup of your OS and installed programs on it just in case something goes horribly wrong. And at the time of writing they cost about GBP32 so if something does go horribly wrong replacing it is very inexpensive!

The raspberry pi has become my goto computer for Amateur Radio, and a few other little projects I have. its low price and small form factor with great performance for its cost and size put it way ahead of the others.

If you are wondering, for the LattePanda and Raspberry Pi screen I have a portable monitor (powered by USB) or I use my iPad/Phone to connect via VNC to view. Both the LattePanda and the Raspberry Pi are set up to create an ad-hoc wifi network if none is available so I can connect the iPad via that, or of course I can share the iPad/iPhone 4G connection and allow the computers to connect to that which enables internet time sync and reporting to PSKReporter/APRS-IS etc.

2 thoughts on “Portable Low Power Computers – and the winner is….

  1. Two projects underway. Project 1 Sailaway Narrowboat Status: In the water awaiting lining out- Project 2 Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and FT8/JSCall Status: In the planning. Project 2 solves reducing volume of gear required and space it takes up. Also planning a boat monitoring system either Pi or Arduino. Interested to see the power pack for the Pi. 73 Nigel M0NDE

    1. Hi Nigel, Ive got a couple of options for powering my Raspberry Pis. On the boat I’ve got one powered by the boats domestic battery that one is going to be for boat monitoring, currently its just feeding AIS data to marine traffic.
      For my radio Pi I either use a small power bank – the type you can use to charge your mobile phone – the one I have has a solar panel attached so you can recharge it slowly it will power the Pi and a 10inch screen for several hours.
      And I can also use the LiFePo4 batteries I have to power my radios for the Pi, unfortunately most of the USB power sockets (marine and car type) I have used produce a little noise on HF so its not my preferred method until I find a HF quiet one!
      I will look at doing a post about the power supplies at some point.

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