OpenCPN an excellent marine navigation software package. However, you need a reliable and suitable laptop to run OpenCPN on. What are the system requirements for a PC for OpenCPN? OpenCPN is an efficient piece of software with fairly low system requirements. I supply waterproof navigation laptops with GPS, AIS, 12V, touch screen, and OpenCPN loaded and configured. If you want to get one from me, I would be happy to assist you with choosing a suitable model for your vessel. I also have a OpenCPN tutorial page. Please get in touch with any questions regarding getting a computer for OpenCPN.
Top 10 things to look for in a laptop for OpenCPN – requirements
- At least 2GB RAM, with 4GB being optimal. If your Windows is clean with zero junk (like I configure on my navigation laptops), 2GB should be fine for Windows 7. Windows 10 should have at least 3-4GB to run well enough.
- A solid state drive (SSD) is highly recommended to speed up load times. SSD is also reliable, so a great thing to have on the water regardless. 128GB or above is usually enough. If you have other needs such as storing photos or videos unrelated to navigation, a larger size may be warranted. OpenCPN charts can take up around 10GB.
- Integrated GPU is OK. OpenCPN is not picky.
- Integrated or external hardware GPS antenna is a must. If you don’t have this, you won’t have real time position. I supply high quality GPS antennas with my units for those who need them.
- A rugged laptop is best in a marine environment. You want the PC for OpenCPN to stand up to vibration, be drop resistant, and waterproof or water resistant. This is why I use Panasonic Toughbooks for my navigation laptops. In my opinion, having supplied >3000 units they are absolutely the best for use on boats.
- A matte display can be important on the water. What good is a navigation system if you can’t see anything? If you use it down below only, a glossy one may be OK. However, outside or in a bright wheelhouse an outdoor viewable display is the best way to go! Again, some of the Panasonic Toughbook models I carry such as the 10 inch and the 13 inch are such screens with a strong anti-glare coating as well. This is pretty rare in laptops, and it’s one of the reasons why I use Panasonic Toughbooks.
- A stock installation of Windows is poorly suited for marine navigation. Windows constantly runs all kinds of background tasks and can decide to restart and update for an hour when it feels like it. I absolutely reject this behavior – it is unacceptable. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t offer any ways to turn this off. On my systems, I tweak Windows 7 and 10 to turn off all this Microsoft junk and to adapt the system and give you the control you need for marine navigation. On my systems, Microsoft has NO control and you have ALL the control.
- A laptop for OpenCPN (and marine navigation in general) must be reliable. I cannot stress this enough. Hardened laptops with a solid state drive like Panasonic Toughbooks are the best choice. Many of them are MIL-SPEC and can even be used outside in salt water spray.
- Don’t rely on battery power alone, have a way of charging it onboard. Preferably, more than one way. I have native 12V chargers (cigarette plug adapters) which are a very popular option people order with my navigation laptops. In my experience, most people just run their units on 12V constantly rather than using the battery power of the laptop. Make sure to have a way of charging your computer for OpenCPN on board while navigating.
- Make sure your computer for OpenCPN has enough ports to connect whatever external equipment want to connect. A GPS antenna usually requires one USB port. An AIS receiver might take another port. An NMEA adapter of some kind may require another port. Some older equipment you may have might need an RS-232 serial port. All of my 10 (2 x USB), 13 (3-4 x USB), and 15 (4 x USB) inch navigation laptops have a native RS-232 serial port as well. I also have an internal expansion card which adds 2 x USB ports to any of my units.
- BONUS: One of the most important things on the water is redundancy. Do not make your OpenCPN laptop your only navigation system. Please make sure to have some sort of a backup system as well.
Any questions about getting a PC for OpenCPN? Please contact me!
Premium laptop for OpenCPN
These are the highest performance and brightest screen units in their respective sizes that I carry. The 10 and 13 inch models are the most waterproof (full rugged) and are suitable for use outside.
Midrange computer for OpenCPN
Any questions about getting a computer for OpenCPN? Please contact me!
Why get a PC laptop for OpenCPN from me?
My navigation laptop or tablet systems can be much more affordable than Garmin, Lowrance, Simrad, B&G, Furuno, Humminbird, Raymarine, Si-Tex. I will also support my units forever! Furthermore, I believe that some of the commercial chart plotter brands gouge their customers. Large companies force their clients to upgrade by no longer supporting older units with chart and software updates. In addition, they charge outrageous fees for simple things like a larger screen size. I don’t do any of these things, and never will – guaranteed! In addition to these, please take a look at other advantages as well.