Marinized computers and you

Computers of all shapes and sizes are being installed into everything you can imagine nowadays and the marine industry is no different. Staying connected will always be a bullet point for almost everyone in the marine community. From weather file downloads to emailing friends and family, to blogging voyages and vessel tracking. All of these great passions or pastimes are centered on you having a working computer when you’re underway. So what’s the right choice for you and your vessel? What will stand your test of time and the elements? What computers will serve your needs correctly? When these questions start popping up and all of the sudden you’re being asked things like “do you want a marinized computer or is a ruggedized computer going to do the trick?” things start to blur a little. Below you will find some tips and insight into the computer world as it appli es to you.

The terminology
With all the different buzz words and phrases that permeate the technology industry, why should this be any different? Here is your quick rundown of some terms you will hear while shopping for a computer in the marine industry.

Marinized computer: this term is keyed to exactly what the industry thinks you need to hear to sell you a computer or laptop for use in the marine industry. Typically, a marinized machine comes with a large price tag. Being marinized gives it the extra protection, like being able to take a wave (but not be submerged in water). You will find rubber seals on things like USB and network connections and an accelerometer to predict falls and bangs and so on. The hard drive will be shock mounted so as it is running, if it took a bump or a fall it would be less likely to break. The case will be metal and able to take a blow. All in all they are superior machines for marine applications.

Ruggedized computer: Another term often thrown around is ruggedized, which is basically saying that it has everything that the marinized unit has but it doesn’t cope with liquid nearly as well. With its lack of rubber seals, the unit won’t be happy if it takes a wave, but it still includes the better hard drive mounting, metal case and so on.

Laptops broken down
Laptops seem to be the way to go in a lot of cases. If you are a power-conscious boater, a laptop will drain far less of your batteries than a traditional desktop or mini PC with similar specs. Additionally, laptops have their own batteries allowing them to run independently from your ship’s main battery or power-generation units. A typical setup that I like is to use two identical laptops with a docking station. Have your computer integration company initially set them up to have all the same software and configuration on them in regard to the ship’s functions. Begin using one for the ship’s computer and the other for everyday use or store it as a backup. If you ever get yourself into the worst case scenario where your main computer goes down, it is quick and easy for you to undock one and dock the other, getting you back up and running in minutes and while you are underway.

Mini PCs and small-form factor computers
These smaller-than-average computers pack the same punch as their larger counterparts typically seen in the office as a desktop. With their smaller stature they install more easily and can be counseled away to cater to smaller vessels or your aesthetic needs.

Regular computers and PCs
These guys are traditional computers found throughout your everyday life and possibly in your home office. With a larger size, you normally have better options for upgrading an existing unit and getting a longer life span out of it by updating instead of buying a new one. They take up a lot of space in comparison to a laptop or mini PC and normally will have fans that create more noise than the small units.

Applying the terminology
Going back to the term ruggedized, we remember that this includes shock-mounted hard drives, metal cases, an accelerometer to predict falls and bangs and so on. You will find that laptops are inherently being built to these specs. Out of the box, even some of the more economic-based laptops have these features, making them great choices for bumping along in the ocean. Additionally, computer manufactures are building small-form factor, mini PC, and full-size computers to be ruggedized. Adding in the extra quality in parts makes these normal computers able to hold up to the everyday bumps and bangs underway. Looking for marinized computers you will find that the price jumps drastically. A marinized computer is an amazing piece of work, it will take a wave, a fall off your chart table and just about anything you can throw at it in a normal situation. On the other side, it has been my experience that my customers are going through computers every two to three years. Between chang ing specifications and new technologies coming out all the time, I am finding more and more customers looking to upgrade and buy completely new computers each time. In these types of cases, which have now become my norm, I am no longer recommending customers buy $6,000 computers when they are going to want something different in just a short time. With a good installation, a regular computer will do the trick for the duration of time needed for your everyday casual sailing. For those racers needing the best and most reliable, and for the really serious adventurer who wants the top of the line, there is still nothing that can replace a truly take everywhere, marinized PC.

For questions or comments please drop me a line at Finding the right computer for you is just one of the many things Marine Computer Systems and other great marine-electronic experts do.

By Ocean Navigator