Laptop computer recommendations


Thread Starter

Bill Sturm

I may need to buy a laptop computer for industrial controls programming in the near future. I have been looking at Compaq, HP, IBM, and Toshiba. I have used Toshiba in the past and they have always had good serial port behavior. I have heard about Compaqs that won't connect to
PLC's. I recently tried to use an IBM thinkpad to program a Kollmorgen drive and it would not connect.

Does anyone have any advice, for or against, Toshiba, Compaq, IBM, or HP laptops for industrial use?


Bill Sturm
Livonia, Michigan
I had 2 Toshiba's. One got "killed" by production people using it. The other works well, but has limited battery life, even with a new battery installed less than a year ago.

I have since switched, and now have 2 Gateway Solo 2500 laptops. Excellent battery life, as well as all around performance. Only problems I have had are caused by Rockwell Software trying to interact with the NT Workstation OS. I am planning a transition of one of the laptops to Win98 to try to remedy this a bit. Otherwise, the Gateway machines have worked well enough
that I will continue to purchase them.

--Joe Jansen

R A Peterson

We have tried many different brands over the last few years including all the ones you mentioned except IBM. All of them seem to have some quirks. We eventually settled on Dell since they seem to have the fewest quirks and the best service. Service is particularly important on laptops because they tend to get beat up with travel and being used out on the plant floor, etc.

Bob Peterson
CM#1412 ANA#R-182415

Jerry Baucum


> Does anyone have any advice, for or against, Toshiba, Compaq, IBM, or
> HP laptops for industrial use?

Only have one word on laptops "lease".


Jerry M Baucum
Bullet Software
3213 Peppertree Pl.
Plano, TX 75074, USA
Tel: (972) 633-9111
Fax: (972) 633-9112
Email: [email protected]

Ranjan Acharya

Just opinions ....

Are you using legacy software (i.e. DOS-based applications)? If so then you have a problem because most of the new brand-name machines fiddle with the BIOS and memory map so much that you cannot run DOS correctly. There was a
thread on this topic some time ago. We have to run APT 1.9 (DOS-based) on Dell and Toshiba laptops. Luckily Siemens updated APT to handle the quirks (basically timing with the serial port that is no longer under direct control) of running it through a DOS box in NT (1.9 is OK, 1.6 may have problems). It is really a voodoo-type thing. We always have fun with pure DOS, 95, 98 and NT with legacy applications. Booting to DOS from 95/98 does not always work (or give you enough RAM -- the video ROM might be at E0000
which means that your memory manager might not provide enough UMBs or [in our experience] your third-party memory manager under DOS 5 or DOS 6 might not even run and you might have to use EMM386 / HIMEM with bugger all in high memory). We have had adventures with Compaq, Dell, Toshiba and IBM. I have no doubt that all the other brands have the same problems. Their technical support people are not much help because DOS is just not supported any more.

If you are not using legacy software -- only up-to-date tools designed for 32-bit Windows then I would recommend something like Dell or Toshiba. Buy the full-size laptop and not the thinned down one with no serial port and so on -- make sure that the laptop is not susceptible to overheating (the new mobile processors are hardly mobile -- they are actually toasters). Also make sure that the warranty is up to snuff. Buy it with Windows NT 4.0 and Service Pack 5. Do not get Windows 2000 until your tools fully support it and Microsoft releases SP1. Also do not try SP6 / SP6a on Windows NT 4.0 unless your tools fully support it.

I suspect that you may have to support legacy applications. Good Luck! Pick a well-known brand that gets good reviews in the computer press. We
have lately been purchasing the Dell Inspiron line for use with A-B, Siemens, Wonderware and various VFD / drive packages. So far so good but
tomorrow is another day.

Also just because two applications support 32-bit under Windows NT does not say much. One might require one version of a system DLL and one might
require another -- bad luck. Some applications are best installed on their own copy of Windows NT -- GET A MONSTER HARD DISK WITH PARTITION MAGIC 5.x AND BOOT MAGIC so that you can install two or three fully independent copies of Windows NT -- perhaps one for your day-to-day stuff and a few more for your automation tools and so on. I have multiple C: drives (hidden via Boot Magic) with multiple OS installations and then I have a D: for Program Files and an E: for Data (My Documents and so on). It means you have to be
careful when you are installing your applications to send them to D:\Program Files\ instead of C:. I set up D: and E: as FAT16 so that any OS can read it. C: is NTFS.

For your automation copies of NT, watch out for things such as suspend and APM. Turn off as many features as you can -- bay managers, docking managers et cetera. They all interfere with your OS. For automation copies I have set up, I do not install anything other than video and modem (if required). No sound, no power management et cetera.

Finally with Partition Magic and Boot Magic you can set up a small 120MB partition at the beginning of your disk and install DOS 5.X or DOS 6.X on it. Do not expect much from it on certain laptops. They may be so bad with DOS that they lock up at the DOS prompt (disable your APM). If it does work then you can read and write to files on D: and E: (FAT16) and run DOS-based legacy applications problem-free. This is a better way than the 95/98 boot to DOS since there are no cheesy Windows hooks. Again, though, 386MAX or
QEMM386 (and so on) might not work and you may be stuck with EMM386 and HIMEM for memory management.

The possibilities are endless. You could even set up a partition with Win3X on it for 16-bit stuff. Or alternatively you can cross your fingers and run 16-bit stuff through WinNT.


Kirk S. Hegwood

Use Dell. They actually have a refurbished site with standard warranties. A lot of the laptops are new and never opened because they are returns from large corporations - can't be sold as new.
Save some bucks and they are quality laptops with good service and support.

Kirk S. Hegwood
Signing for Hegwood Electric Service, Inc.
hi all:
i have been using compaq armada for the last 9 months for PLC programming. it does not give any problems

You might want to add Dell to your list. I used a Dell Latitude when I was in the field 4-5 years ago. I loved the machine, and the service was great, too.

Dan Hazel
Rockwell Automation

Simon Martin

I have always had good results from Dell and Toshiba. Never used any others on the factory floor so I can't comment. At the moment I have a Mitac, and it's been doing good service, but I haven't ahd chance to get it dirty yet...

Debian GNU User
Simon Martin
Project Manager
mailto: [email protected]

Gilles Allard

I'm succesful with Acer laptops. The problem is generally not with the hardware; the biggest problem is the operating system. Some softwares do not work under Win95, some work (most of the time) under NT and some of them only works with DOS. So, when somebody reports problems with a laptop manufacturer, they should also specify the operating system and the application. Then somebody can generate a 3D matrix (application/OS/hardware) to summarize the results.


Leo Olshansky

Try Dell's, you'll see a flying difference. I use various Dell's laptops for 5 years by now. Never had any problems other then regular windows and
Rockwell Software ones.

PMSC Control System

Free advice:

Look at how the Laptop is to be used....then look at the software. Most common Laptops are not built for the workin man in the field . Something I hate is the laptop that automatically 'dims' when running off the battery . Running this sucker outside in the sun is the ultimate test .

Com1: and the Operating System --

Some of the software I have to use is DOS based . We all know that running DOS based software under Windows is a crap shoot anyway . I use a dual boot
system with DOS 6.22 and NT4.0 sp4 . Use NT with NTFS to keep the riff-raff out of your development area , boot into DOS to use those 'legacy programs' whenever the Serial Port is used .

Lastly, Stay away from any laptop vendor that requires 'their version' of Windows to run on the target machine .

from Sunny Arizona,
Dave Gunderson Hoover Dam Comm & Control Group

Christopher Di Biase

I've seen some strange quirkiness with Compaq and newer HP machines. Other than that I've seen Toshiba, Gateway and especially Dell machines work very well.

Christopher Di Biase
[email protected]
A client of mine is using Dolche laptops. They were having a few problems with the PCMCIA adapter but otherwise it looked like a nice rugged little machine.

Sorry don't have a URL.


Geoff Moore
Straight Forward Solutions Ltd
Maynooth Road, Prosperous, Naas,
Co.Kildare, Ireland
Ph : +353 (0)45 892739 Fx : +353 (0)45 893880
email : [email protected]

Kim Gutierrez

Subject: Re: PC: Laptop computer recommendations

I've been using an IBM Thinkpad for the past several years and wouldn't trade it for anything else out there. It has put up with fuel farms, power plants and, I hate to admit, being dropped a few times. I started with a dual Windows 95 / Windows NT setup for those situations when applications get a little less than cooperative, but now use NT exclusively. I've also
encountered no problems handling any of the DOS configuration programs we've encountered for various equipment. Cons: The battery only lasts one to two years, get as much RAM as possible (but that's an OS problem) if you'll be
dealing with large files. But this is just another opinion!

Kim Gutierrez
[email protected]

Bob Peterson

I suspect that you may have to support legacy applications. Good Luck!
Pick a well-known brand that gets good reviews in the computer press. We
have lately been purchasing the Dell Inspiron line for use with A-B,
Siemens, Wonderware and various VFD / drive packages. So far so good but
tomorrow is another day. >>

I have had good luck supporting legacy DOS applications on my dell Inspiron that has NT4.0 loaded on it. what I did was "borrow" a windows 95 startup floppy from a win95 machine.

when I have to run DOS programs I just boot off the floppy. my HDD is setup as FAT so DOS can read anything on the hard drives and I just install my dos programs like normal on the HDD.

so far, this has worked for every DOS program I have tried that would not run in an NT command window. You'd be amazed at what will run in a command window, although you won't be able to access the serial or parallel ports.

Bob Peterson
CM#1412 ANA#R-182415

Pierre R. Hinse CET

I have been using a brand from Ottawa, Canada, called Eurocom. I have had very good service from these laptops, since they have a very similar bios
set-up to desktop computers. They call their laptops desktop replacement systems. The Pentium 75 is now 5 years old and still running, the Pentium 333 is now a year old, and running all my apps no problems( TISoft, Modsoft, Intouch, VB5, VB6, Modbus DDE, Modbus+ DDE, GE ethernet, GE serial, and more). I have partitioned the drive into two operating systems, I boot into w95 when I need Modsoft on Modbus, but everything else is NT4. You will find them at:
We have Toshibas and IBM Thinkpads and have not experienced problems with connecting with a huge variety of PLCs, drives, stand-alone MMIs
and servo controllers except when using Win98 . . . very unreliable with some software products. Once all units were converted to NT 4.0, the
serial port problems seem to have gone away. My 770X has been working well for about 1.5 years.

Ken Brown
Applied Motion Systems, Inc.