Like many, I used to use my trusty laptop to control my telescope and astrophotography setup. While it worked well, the main drawbacks were getting all the USB cables connected to it and the power consumption, which is an issue when you run off batteries in the field.
So I decided to test an interesting minicomputer from Mele, the Quieter2Q, that costs from $199 to $330, depending on options. The Quieter2Q comes preloaded with Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 and has a number of very useful features for astronomy.
I’ve now used it for imaging sessions for six months.
Size and Weight
The most interesting feature of this computer is its physical size and weight. It is smaller than a smartphone and easily fits in the palm of your hand, measuring 131mm (5.1 inches) on its longest side and weighs in at just 217 grams (7.7 oz.) with the extra storage installed. The small size and light weight mean less bulk to carry in the field compared to a laptop. Even better, it can be mounted on the telescope (optional mounting brackets are available), thus simplifying USB cable connections from the cameras, filter wheels, and accessories to the PC.
I expected a budget computer to be made all plastic. Instead, the outer case and lower removable lid are constructed out of aluminum, with a nice solid feel.
Removing the lower cover panel reveals the neat interior with a single board where the user can add an extra M.2 NVME hard drive. I added a 500GB drive to mine.
I was particularly interested in the power requirements of the Quieter2Q. It uses 12VDC, which is very convenient for use with the rest of our astronomy equipment. More importantly, power consumption is very low, peaking at 25 watts but usually running between 5 and 15 watts (0.4 to 1.25 amps).
This means needing a smaller battery in the field than with a laptop, usually needs 2 to 3 times the power plus an inverter for the charger. The Quieter2Q comes with an AC mains power adapter, but I run it directly from my onboard 12V power using a 12v to USB-C convertor cable.
Another great feature is that the computer uses passive cooling, with no cooling fans or openings that allow moisture, dust, bugs, pollen, or other foreign material to enter. The entire aluminum case is essentially a heatsink and it has small fins that act as a radiator. I have had no issues with it overheating, even under full load.
Not only is it silent, but the lack of moving parts or openings means its more reliable in field or open observatory use.
Ports and Connections
Astronomy rigs often require a lot of USB connections, and this little PC has four USB3.0 ports, which surprised me. It also has two HDMI 2.0 ports to connect to monitors (I use a small portable tablet-style monitor) and it supports a 4k display. There is also a Micro SD slot in case your images fill the hard drive.
Connectivity includes Bluetooth, WI-FI, and a very useful ethernet port that I use to run the system remotely. It also has the “wake on LAN” feature, meaning you can turn it on remotely as well.
Is it Powerful Enough?
The Quieter2Q comes with an Intel J4125 quad core CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB eMMC hard drive. A useful feature is the expandable M.2 slot that I used to add an extra 500GB drive (an even larger drive could be added, if needed).
The efficient CPU isn’t the most powerful, so I need to make sure it doesn’t crash during my imaging sessions, but so far it’s handled everything I’ve thrown at it.
I tested the Quieter2Q by running all my usual applications simultaneously. This includes operating my entire automated observatory and imaging setup with a large 61-megapixel full-frame camera that creates 120MB of data per raw image.
The hardware and software running simultaneously during this test included:
- Camera: QHY600 (full-frame 61 megapixels)
- Mount: Astrophysics AP1100 with APCC running a full-sky model
- Software: NINA Imaging Suite
- Guiding: PHD2 with the ZWO ASI174mini
- Focuser/Rotator: Optec Gemini with Commander software
- Dome: Fully automated Nexdome with Beaver software
- Power: Pegasus Ultimate Power Box 2 and software
- Telescope Heaters: Planewave PWI3
- Sky Chart: Cartes Du Ciel
Surprisingly, the computer ran all these programs and applications without any issues, which is quite a feat given its small size. There was even extra CPU and memory headroom as well.
I installed a full version of the processor intensive Pixinsight on the PC and ran a benchmark test. The overall score was quite low at 2723, which is about ten times slower than my water-cooled purpose-built desktop PC.
While the Quieter2Q could be used for image processing, it would be time consuming. It’s always a good idea to use a separate, powerful PC for image processing, anyway.
I initially considered this little PC as a possible solution for an upcoming dark site trip. Its performance and reliability surpassed my expectations, however, and it is now running my entire observatory permanently. It has been running nonstop for six months, with only occasionally restarts for updates.
Users who already have, or don’t need, a power distribution solution will find this computer more than adequate to control a telescope and all the associated hardware and applications. It has enough CPU power, RAM, ports, and connectivity to manage everything required in most situations.
Besides the very reasonable price, the Mele Quieter2Q has a lot of features that are very well suited for astronomy setups, including small size, light weight, and extremely low power consumption. I find it to be a very good choice for both a permanent observatory and field trips.
Note: Mele has recently released the Quieter3Q, with the same chassis and components but using the Intel Celeron N5105 CPU, which scores 35% higher on standard CPU benchmark tests.
MSRP: $199 to $330
Authors website with recent images taken using the Quieter2Q PC: http://rouzastro.com/