Laptops with ExpressCard slots for use with fast planetary cameras

Choosing laptops and other computers that can handle Firewite 800, GigE or USB3 cameras

ExpressCard adapter can provide a Firewire 800, USB3 or GigE interface to your laptop. It's mostly useful for handling Firewire 800 cameras like Flea3. However number of laptops with ExpressCard slot is falling down as this slot isn't so widely used. I went through few shops to find laptops with such slots and found quite nice amount of 15.6 and 14" laptops with such slot. Starting from cheapest to most expensive.

Firewire 800 is used by noticeable amount of machine vision cameras like Flea3. This interface isn't available in laptops (in general). ExpressCard is needed to provide them. GigE cameras use Gigabit Ethernet network cards. Nearly every laptop has a GigE card, but some may have slower 100Mbit cards - and then you also need an ExpressCard with true GigE performance. GigE is used by some PointGrey cameras (Blackfly, Flea3 GigE line, Basler Ace and more). USB3 is getting quite popular, but still not every laptop has it. It is used by a new line of Flea3 cameras or Ximea xiQ cameras. ExpressCards can provide support for those interfaces - but we need a laptop with an ExpressCard slot.

Below you can find a list of laptop families that usually have ExpressCard slot. Check specific model if it actually have it (not every model from a given family may have it and laptop evolves quickly).

Laptop families with ExpressCard:

  • Fujitsu / Siemens Lifebook
  • Acer Extensa
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Edge
  • Hewlett-Packard ProBook
  • Toshiba Tecra
  • Dell Vostro
  • Some Samsung and Asus laptops without a family name

Alternatives to laptops and ExpressCard

If you can provide constant power supply then other computers became a valid alternative. Small nettop computers like Foxconn nT-A3500 provide good performance, USB3 and ability to mount custom HDD (fast enough to handle the camera). They usually also have Gigabit Ethernet card for GigE cameras (but check if it's not only 100Mbit - found in some nettops).

There are also nettops, small PCs that offer a PCI-E slot. If you have a PCI-E slot then you can add a PCI-E card that can provide the same or more than available ExpressCard cards. Just add a screen, mouse and keyboard.

If you have a stationary observatory then plain PCs are an option. If you don't need PCI-E then also all-in-one computers mounted inside a screen.

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