This a post that will guide you on how to choose the best computer for connecting you weather station and feeding you weather tracking hobby.
If you really want to use a dedicated laptop or desktop computer to receive, store, and read your data, instead of using any of the already available web solutions, this is the post for you.
Using dedicated PC is not in any way necessary, but can be very convenient, especially for DIY enthusiasts among you.
For example, one useful scenario can be running nonstop weather data collect and then publishing the data locally or on the Web – thus learn about weather and in the same time gain knowledge about web servers and website creation. A win, win situation if you ask us.
However, today we are not going to talk about webservers and weather station software and focus only on the hardware aspect of the problem – laptops, desktops, and mini PCs.
What are the types of computers you can use for your weather station setup?
1. Laptop Computers
There is no need to chase the latest modern standards. Buying a laptop with a premium graphics card, processor and monitor with 4K support is not necessary. You need a simple, cheap device, which will run quietly 24/7 with enough processing power for your weather software and simple web server. Good rigid build is optional, but good to have.
That is why the best option is refurbished computer and in this case refurbished laptop.
You will easily find super powerful and well build refurbished solution for the fraction of the price of a new machine. Check this site out; they have some interesting refurbished computers reviewed there.
Two great models that will run both Windows and Linux OS with good driver support are the Lenovo Think Pad and the Dell XPS.
Here we are looking for something in the range of 4th Gen i3 or i5 Intel Core processor with 8 Gigs of ram.
Two models we like a lot are Lenovo Think Pad T440 and Dell Latitude e7440. You can find them locally or online. They are top of the line business laptops and were used extensively 4 -5 years ago by corporations, so plenty of stock both online and offline.
2. Desktop Computer
With desktops, we are looking for something similar in terms of requirements – cheap without dedicated graphics card.
For about $100 to $250, you can buy fourth Gen Core i3 or Core i5 processor with 8 Gigs of ram. In addition, the desktop category gives you the option to own a very compact machine with small or tiny form factor.
Models that cover this requirement are:
- Dell Optiplex 790 Small form factor
- Dell Optiplex 9020 Tiny
- Lenovo Think Centre
- Dell Precision
- Intel NUC
These models have all the ports as well as the power to run any weather station and the connected software. You will have no problem running Widows and Linux on them.
3. Single board computers
SBCs have everything necessary for their work assembled on a single board. As a rule they have CPUs, GPUs, USB and network interfaces – both wired and wireless. Video outputs is usually HDMI but you can find and the outdated VGA standard as well. They are powered trough USB connector and require a current in the range of 500-1500 mA. This low power footprint can be useful feature if you are going to use the device in low power setting like off grid house.
Typical devices in this category are the Raspberry Pi and the BeagleBone.
The Raspberry Pi is the device that marked the beginning SBC mania. The first model appeared in 2012 and caused a stir in the DIY community. It is powerful, has a size of a credit card, and it is super cheap – costs around $35.
Raspberry Pi equips:
- GPIO – universal ports for working with any device;
- Composite video output;
- 5 mm audio output;
- MicroUSB (power);
- Memory card slot.
The PI has different configuration and specification, but as a rule of thumb if you are buying this for your weather tracking setup, get anything after the model B and you are good. The model B mode has 512 MB of memory, Ethernet and more USBs (2 or 4 depending on the model). The 2B model is even more powerful, with a four-core processor, 1 GB of RAM and, in general, is objectively better than previous models.
There are many different OS distributions for this board – mainly software based on the Linux kernel, but there are exceptions: for example, RISC OS or FreeBSD.
The Raspberry Pi foundation even have their own weather station project mainly targeted at kids.
With the Beagle, the focus is on the presence of a large number of universal ports. In addition, the BeagleBone has good sets of accessories. There is no wireless module though. The processor is 1 GHz Cortex-A8 with 512 MB RAM plenty for your use case.
Like all the other single-board computers, you can install Linux. The huge number of expansion ports allow you to implement anything, and peripheral boards can really affect the capabilities of the device.
- power connector;
There are many options for dedicated weather tracking PC, with different specifications, price, and size.
But the truth is, you must look no feather than a cheap refurbished model. They have plenty of power to run Windows and Linux with any kind of weather software like Cumulus or Weather Display.
If you have really low budget for this project consider getting one of the single board computers – Raspberry PI or BeagleBoard.