Client Devices (Laptops / Tablets) for RACHEL

I am frequently asked which device to pair with RACHEL when setting up a lab. For any sort of remote location in the developing world, I encourage you to find devices which have at least these features:

11.6" screen (larger drains the battery quicker, and power is usually your biggest problem)
32/64/128GB eMMC
Fanless design
2x2 WiFi (important)

Put the devices online a couple of times. Buy a clean version of Windows and provide that along with a product key to your community so that they can reformat the devices as needed.

Currently, the HP steam seems like an adequate device:

This is not my area of expertise, so if others have a better suggestion, please chime in!

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I would suggest SSD drives if you are using refurbished laptops, I have found replacing the PC base unit with the Raspberry Pi 4 gives good performance and greatly reduces power consumption. I use Linux rather than windows because of the virus issues. Monitors that come with a power “brick” can be run off a 12/24volt system, solar panels and batteries.
Hope this helps


I did a deploy to northern Ghana back in the fall of 2017. The user devices were Lenovo tablets with USB attached keyboards, cases and headphones. The goal here was to keep it as simple as possible given the conditions. The specific tablets are Lenovo TB-X103F. At the time they were about $110 each.

I would warn against 32 GB hard drives. There isn’t enough room on them to download all of the Windows 10 updates. You will have to create new Window 10 install USBs, delete the existing partitions, then reinstall. I tried deleting all of the extra programs shipped with the products, but to no avail. According to 3rd level tech support for a major computer company, the only effective way to delete all the extra “junk” loaded on a computer is to start with a fresh install (not a factory reset, but a fresh install).

The ironic part is, getting a 64 GB eMMC drive is only about $5 more when purchasing new equipment.

Also, most of the eMMC drives are soldered to the motherboard, so you can’t upgrade them.


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Hello @giakonda!

You mentioned solar power for a RACHEL Plus server and Raspberry Pi 4 clients and it peaked my interest.

Could I ask you what you have found out about power requirements for those devices?

I need to come up with a set of power requirements for a classroom to be equipped with one RACHEL and an x number of RPi4 workstations.

It is obvious that load will be higher for uses involving more intensive processing and heavier network traffic. Some assumptions need to be made for the sake of load analysis.

If you already have some analysis and computations, I would love to peek over your shoulder :grinning:

Thank you in advance,

P.S. I did mention to the engineers I have started working with that classrooms in Africa also need power for air conditioning and lighting for teachers and students, and the working group I joined is enthusiastic about solar electrification in general, but for now my task is to provide load requirements for one RACHEL server and a bunch of student workstations, specifically Raspberry Pi 4 clients.

Hi sorry to have taken so long to reply to your post.
WE have done something similar to what you intend at Bbakasa school in the lower Zambezi about 50 km from Siavonga, in Southern Province.
Bbakasa has 4 x 350 watt solar panels and 4 220 Ah batteries, this arrangement provides for led lighting in what was a library but now also contains 7 raspberry pi computers, version 4 with 8 gb ram, monitors, keyboards and mice. It also powers a wall mounted large screen TV, which we found preferable to a projector and 4 or 5 laptops running the Raspbian operating system
We also have a Raspberry pi running RACHEL and Kolibri.
We would have loved to be able to install more solar panels but just didn’t have the funds.
The whole thing, including the calculations, was carried out by Muhunya Solar in Lusaka, We have worked with them for 5 years now and they have always been very helpful.
Our usual contact is Stephen Chilese +260977771350 I’m sure you will find him very helpful.