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I require a cheap and small computer to act as the monitor of a webcam-microscope. The computer must be able to display the output of the USB webcam microscope with as low a time delay as possible (<50ms delay) and display the output on a monitor with a wired connection (HDMI, DVI or VGA).

The computer, USB microscope and monitor are intended to be placed inside a biosafety hood much like this one. It will allow the user to be able to view and manipulate small objects under the microscope without needing to lift the glass safety sash, as one will need to do when using a normal binocular microscope.

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I have considered the Raspberry Pi for this purpose, but my question on the RBP SE seemed to suggest that it may not be fast enough for this purpose.

My requirements are as follows:

1: The computer must introduce less than 50ms of delay when displaying live images from a USB webcam with a resolution of 720p.

2: Under US$400 not including the monitor and microscope

3: Have at least one form of hardware video output and have at least one USB port.

4: Preferably fanless, as fans may disrupt the airflow within the biosafety cabinet.

5: Preferably has integrated Wifi and Bluetooth for remote access to save data without needing to place USB drives into the biosafety cabinet.

One method to quantify the webcam time delay would be to point your webcam directly at the computer monitor, and observe the nesting of images. The rate at which the images nest into each other allows the approximate time delay to be measured.

  • If you don't want a fan, you're looking at liquid cooling, which is an expensive option. – ArtOfCode Sep 29 '15 at 15:54
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    Your first requirement makes your question a little confusing to me. Are you wanting a low-latency monitor as well? Or are you actually looking for a laptop solution here? – Adam Sep 29 '15 at 16:12
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    Can we clarify: are you looking for a monitor, a PC and separate monitor, a laptop, or something else? – ArtOfCode Sep 29 '15 at 16:12
  • So, I can recommend something that meets the other requirements, but not sure about the 50ms delay since I use the device for something that is not latency sensitive in the slightest. Even if I used my webcam to try to estimate it, the latency could be down to a cheap webcam on my end, right? – Adam Comerford Sep 29 '15 at 16:27
  • @ArtOfCode I am actually looking at only the PC, the monitor does not have to be extremely low latency. By fanless, I mean a small, passively cooled computer which is under 10W TDP. – March Ho Sep 29 '15 at 22:46
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I had a similar set of requirements for a media center box in terms of Bluetooth, WiFi, fanless (and I also wanted IR built-in). I have bought and used the Cubox i series by Solid Run, specifically the i4 Pro personally. It has been a great little box and performs admirably in terms of rendering video at full HD, the IR works perfectly with my remote and the WiFi worked out of the box with several OS options that I tried (settled on openELEC for my needs).

I will say that I have since switched to wired for better video performance, but I believe that is likely down to poor signal quality to the unit in its current location (which is poor relative to my router). Other than that this has been running for over a year in its current configuration without an issue.

You can get a decent amount of local storage via the micro SD card, it has HDMI-out for the display, and it will easily come in under your suggested budget.

These systems are also available as bare board SOMs, so you could potentially go that route to get a customised fit for your environment too.

The one thing I can't speak to at present is the latency for displaying the webcam footage. I use the camera built into my laptop, and do not have a separate unit so I can't easily test using your suggested methodology.

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