Good laptop/tablet for BlueROV2?

What laptop / tablet are people using with the “advanced electronics” version of the BlueROV2? Ideally, it should have a very bright screen (400+ nits) and enough CPU and graphics power to handle the additional requirements of displaying HD video. So what’s working for you?

FYI, I’ve already tested the “standard” electronics" version (with separate composite video monitor) and everything from my $88 RCA tablet to an i5 laptop worked perfectly.

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Interested as well. Right now on my older Macbook for testing but something better is needed for field use.

I know one of the BR folks said they use a Surface Pro 4 in a ruggadized case.

@schoonerlabs - That was Kevin. The Surface Pro 4 has a very bright screen (400+ nits). Only issue I see is that is has just 1 USB port and no ethernet port. Hopefully Kevin can share some info on his set up and how well it works.

Blue Robotics was using a Samsung Notebook 9 Pro during the in the water demos at Oceans’16. Unfortunately, I never really got a good opportunity to see the laptop in operation. I did manage to give it a quick test before the demos and at its native resolution (3000+ pixel width) it didn’t seem to have any problems playing full screen, full resolution video at 30+ fps.

Here’s a comparison of laptops with displays 200 nits or brighter. Most are $1,000USD or more, which is more than I’d prefer to spend:

Here’s one I hadn’t thought of, the Lenovo Miix 700. I have an older model Miix tablet and the display is pretty nice:


You’re right, The Surface Pro 4 only has 1 USB connection, so I bought a Belkin USB 3.0 3-Port Hub with Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. Any hub with Ethernet should do, there are a few manufacturers, I just grabbed one this one at Best Buy when I was doing the kids camp a few weeks ago.

I installed the USB hub by itself and the Surface had no problems recognizing it. Then I installed the Logitech F310 gamepad and GlobalSat GPS individually, not connected to the hub, to make sure all the drivers updated. I adjusted the wired LAN settings and everything worked perfectly.

Ethernet Port=Topside Data

USB Port 1=Topside Power

USB Port 2=Logitech F310

USB Port 3=GPS receiver (I like to know where my base station is at when I am at sea)

Its a very easy set-up and everything fits in a small backpack and I can hand carry everything to my nearby pool and get set up at a table. There are still quite a few wires going everywhere so I’m thinking of designing a 3D printed mount that I can put the USB hub, GPS, and topside adapter on that will screw onto a few machine screw holes on the back of the mount. Just an idea to tidy everything up.

Would a Surface 3 work or too low of specs? What’s the min for the advanced HD feed?

Hopefully, we can get input from more people who have experience with this. It would be very helpful to know what the lowest spec machine is. My understanding is that you can change the video resolution, which will likely allow a much wider range of cpu / gpu support. The Samsung i7 I saw at Oceans’16 appeared to be running at full native resolution ( 3840 x 2160 ) which is much higher than you’d really need, considering most ROV systems are using composite video (roughly 512 x 480, depending on format).

The Surface Pro 3 and Miix 700 are very similarly spec’d. A bit of digging revealed that the Miix 700 has a 300 nit display. I haven’t found any info on the Surface Pro 3 display.

Here’s another, although not cheap, the Samsung Note 9 (400 nit display):

@Kevin - Do you have the i7 version of the Surface Pro 4? Using the USB hub and ethernet adapter, do you notice any stuttering of the video feed from the BlueROV2 at full UHD resolution?

I’m pretty sure this is the laptop Blue Robotics used at Oceans’16:

Yes, I have the i7, 16 GB RAM variant. I don’t notice any stuttering and the video is really smooth, but I have a feeling that has more to do with the Raspberry Pi 3 than the topside computer.

The video isn’t running at (3840 x 2160), it’s actually running in Mode 5 on the RPi camera v2, which is 1640x922.

Anyone have any updates or more info to share on this topic? I’m shopping for a new laptop that will be used primarily for the BlueROV2. Any input?

I use a General Dynamics Go Book VR2 with my home built ROV

I just looked up the specs for Brightness and it is listed at 500 nit

Some Panasonic Tough Books are rated at 1000 nit

Also in my search for a 7" Monitor I have learned that a nit is equal to a Candela (CD/M2) this is also how many of the smaller monitors are listed I have been looking at units rated at 600 to 1000 CD/M2 Some of the FPV monitors have DVRs built in but I don’t know much about them yet

@Joe - I wonder if a Core Duo, like your Go Book, will have the graphics / CPU power to display video from the Fathom-X / Raspberry Pie?

I’m getting closer to finishing my 2nd build. Hope to test it with all the laptops / tablets we have here.

I don’t know but I would think the newer versions of my Go Book or the Panasonic would.

Good luck with testing


I was wondering what connection is at the surface end of your tether to hook to a laptop or notebook especially the units running the advanced electronics


The “advanced electronics package” uses the Fathom-X board which connects to your laptop / tablet via Ethernet and an RJ45 connector.

A couple people here are experimenting with using a Nano Wifi Router to allow a wireless connection between the Fathom-X and laptop.

@Paul, I’ve been testing on a few different mid range linux computers (>2.4ghz, 4-8gb ram, 1gb video) and haven’t had any video performance issues with these. None of them had an acceptable display for daylight though - all around 200 nits. My solution was an inexpensive small form factor computer, a surplus open frame monitor (intended for daylight use - 1200 nits), and a pelican case - $300 total.

Unfortunately, this dedicated control computer is the only one I’ve had issues with. I was getting some stuttering and freezing in the video feed unless I dropped the RPi down to 540p. This computer was running Ubuntu 14.04, 2.2GHz i3 dual core, and only 2gb of ram with integrated video. Upgrading the ram to 16gb solved the issue (+$85) but I suspect I could have gotten away with 8, or even 4.

So, from my limited testing, on a linux platform, I wouldn’t go less than 2.2GHz dual core, 4gb ram, and 1gb video. Shy away from an integrated video processor if you can or go with extra ram. Everything else is about the monitor…

Thanks Jeremy. I did a quick “preliminary” test of the Advanced Electronics using a first generation i5 with dedicated GeForce graphics. The screen is only 1360x768 pixels but I didn’t see any noticeable issues with the video. I’ll do more testing tomorrow or Monday.