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  1. Hardware Review: Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 Wireless Computer Headset

    by , 03-11-2013 at 10:52 AM

    What is it?

    The Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 is a Wireless Computing Headset featuring digital audio enhancement and noise cancellation.

    The Verdict:

    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



    What’s in the box?

    The WNC-1500 Comes with the headset, a 2.4ghz USB adapter, USB charging cable, a convenient carrying case, and an instruction manual. Software is also available for download from AndreaElectronics.com


    Description:

    Andrea Electronics is widely known in this community for the stellar series of Superbeam USB microphones. When installing a automotive PC, the Superbeam was the best available option for hands-free audio communication for a very long time. The quality of the Superbeam bundle has been reassembled into a wireless audio headset named the WNC-1500.


    Each part of the WNC-1500 package has been considered for fit and finish. The headset itself is extremely comfortable, which each part of the headset which touches your ear cushioned more than adequately with genuine leather. The attached microphone with included pop filter rests away from the face but in ideal position for vocal clarity. Microphone placement was considered not only for clarity, but it stays out of the way during video conferencing for the most part. The headband is also cushioned and does an excellent job of securing the headset speakers comfortably. Being wireless, the device is made to be mobile, and consideration was certainly made to keep the headset snug without being painful.


    The WNC-1500 comes with a convenient set of controls on the right earbud. Included buttons are for volume control, music playback next/previous track, power, and configuration. The buttons are raised with a firm press, but unless you use the headset often, you may find using conventional computer controls more friendly. I find myself hunting for the proper control through trial and error too often.


    The most endearing feature of the WNC-1500 set is the audio quality. Its crystal clear that in it's out of the box form, the headset is made for verbal communication. Despite being wireless, I could effectively speak and listen as if using a landline form of communication. There was simply no static or filtering noises with callers, and they never reported issue in response to my end. Andrea calls it "military grade acoustic noise cancelling technology", I'll just say it does the job and then some. The headset does just enough to filter ambient noises locally as to not disturb what your ears are hearing through the 40mm speaker drivers. By default, the headset doesn't thrill in regard to music or gaming enjoyment, but the included software has a 10 band graphic equalizer to aid in this regard. Despite this, I still felt at times that the headset muffled the audio experience while gaming at its most ideal setting. The virtual surround sound feature was lacking.

    The WNC-1500 is powered by a built in lithium-ion battery. Simply plug in the WNC-1500 with the included USB cable and it will charge fully and relatively short time. The LED indicator on the headset will indicate when charging has completed. During testing, I observed battery life in the 5-7 hour range, more than enough for one sitting. The wireless range too was outstanding as audio clarity would hardly be affected until I was some 40 feet from the USB adapter. This far exceeds any bluetooth headset I've used to date.

    The Positive:

    • Terrific audio quality and noise cancellation
    • USB rechargeable
    • Comfortable design and secure
    • Fold away design and included carrying case means the headset will go where you do
    • Excellent battery life and range

    The Negative:

    • Not immersive sound for gamers
    • Must use device manager to enable/disable the USB adapter as your primary sound card


    The Verdict:


    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



  2. More on CES: "Square" your car PC away with Xi3

    by , 01-16-2013 at 01:10 PM

    The Xi3 booth at CES was jam-packed with these ultra-cool x86 computing systems. Shown above is the Xi3 5A. This 4" modular cube houses a 1.8ghz dual-core AMD CPU, 2GB of system RAM, and up to 1TB of solid state storage. It's modular design allows for a host of peripheral devices, with multiple options for USB/ eSATA, and display ports. The 5A does include a fan for system cooling, but I can say after demoing the device it's indeed silent. It sips power at only 20 watts, and can be powered from 12-24v.






    So what's missing from making this a go to Car PC option? The only downside i see is the lack of the smart automotive power management that we know from Opus and Minibox systems, but because the device is modular and Xi3 is looking at the device to be installed anywhere possible, the engineers eyes lit up at the idea of creating a automotive add-on module to handle that. ETA is of course unknown, but it's great that there's another company out there that gets frenzied up for car PC goodies.


    If the 1.8 dual core isn't enough power for your setup, Xi3 has other builds that might work. The X7a, while slightly more power demanding at 40 watts, packs quad core power and more memory to boot. It's plenty powerful enough for the user who needs to video edit or game on the go.

    The Xi3 modular systems start at just $399.

  3. More on CES: Your automator is safely automated

    by , 01-11-2013 at 05:40 PM
    Another slice of the massive tech showcase known as CES was spent focusing on the trends that should have an immediate impact in the evolution of automotive automation. Many aftermarket manufacturers have inched past the practice of trying to safely deliver content to the car in lieu of using hardware systems to process content to create a more engagement and safe automotive environment. I spent the majority of Day 2 scouring the North Hall booths for demos of the gear that will bring some of the high end OEM systems to the aftermarket. The top buzzword from both OEM and aftermarket companies when referencing these systems is the "Connected Car" concept, a term that most people in the mp3Car community have run into in previous years.




    Among the coolest gear in this Connected Car category is Delphi's new OBD-II based Bluetooth 2G adapter. Developed in partnership with Verizon, this device not only has the ability to monitor car systems and control routine functions like car start/stop, but it also can harness available data received and provide users with recommendations on how to automate driving tasks. For example, the device can take user driving habit along with the power of the Verizon mobile network to suggest new routes based on time, distance, or even environmental impact. Of course, another key feature of the Delphi adapter is the ability to control car functions like locks, engine start, and geofences from anywhere. Accompanying apps for the web, Android, and IOS are already available. Unfortunately, the current iteration of the device is limited to 2G communications, making unable to be used as a infotainment hotspot.




    Globalstat's TR600 tracking system is another automation powerhouse. In short, the TR600 is a GPS, GSM, and CANBUS capable I/O device. The TR600 has a total of 9 I/O points (3 Input/ 6 Outputs), and with add on sensors can monitor most any vehicle event and automate tasks based on them. GSM capability means users can also remotely monitor and control I/Os. The TR600 can be used fully autonomously or as a standalone device to control relays via an included serial interface.


    The Mobileye Series 5 is a product aimed specifically at adding collision avoidance systems for any vehicle. The Series 5 is essentially a advanced camera which can identify objects and their respective distances from the vehicle in real-time. The camera can then relay information to either your Android or Apple smartphone, or to the included display module. Multiple data points are available and instantly updated including lane departure warnings, following time indicators, and road sign recognition and indication. On top of these monitoring capabilities, the Series 5 can also automate tasks such as headlight and high-beam control for an active safe driving experience. This is a fascinating system which can be easily tucked away behind the windshield of any vehicle.



    More from CES 2013 to follow.
  4. Recap of a Jam-Packed Tegra Powered CES Day 1

    by , 01-09-2013 at 11:29 AM

    Tablets, telematics and gaming dominate the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show! The highlighted hardware of the show so far seems to be the brand new Tegra 4 processor from NVIDIA. The processor was on display in a series of touch displays ranging in size from 5 to 50 inches, and was shown at the heart of the new wave of gaming platforms and digital dash displays. Could the days of a Tegra-based ready built automotive platform finally be here?

    Other quick hits and misses from Day 1.

    Hits:
    -Parrot Corp has again invaded CES with a variety of embedded automotive systems. Last year I highlighted the Double-Din Android powered Asteroid system, which has seemingly been replaced by a host of new Asteroid line products. More information soon!

    -US Globalstat, makers of the popular BU-353 USB GPS module, have released a series of automotive automatation devices aimed at bringing OEM vehicle accessibility to the aftermarket.

    -Electrobit had a live demo of their EB Street Director, a QNX based telematics navigation platform. This new package, built specifically for the "Connected Car", allows real-time information updating from online content into the navigation system.

    -Vehicle Telematics and Digital Health seem to be growing components of what CES is about. Various vendors have released new lines of Telematic devices, ranging from Belkin to Verizon. Seems telematic systems will soon be mainstream.

    -Seemingly every automotive electronics affiliate misses our very own Rob Wray!

    Misses:
    -Double-DIN computing platforms are all but extinct this year. It appears that vehicle design engineers have successfully phased out the days of simple add-on systems.

    -Not much has been updated in the world of 7" touchscreen.

    -Windows CE 6.0 is still seemingly a viable platform for embedded systems.


    Much more information and photos to come!
  5. Hardware Review: MIMO 720F USB Touchscreen Monitor

    by , 12-16-2012 at 02:51 PM

    What is it?

    The MIMO 720F is a USB powered touchscreen monitor with a built-in fixture style mount.

    The Verdict:

    The second iteration of the MIMO 720F touchscreen monitor features improved performance all around. The colors are brighter, touch layer seems clearer, and drivers are more stable. Whether the 720F is the best for you simply depends on your mounting preference, as the mount design can make or break your install.



    What’s in the box?

    The MIMO 720F box comes with the touchscreen monitor, single power/control USB cable, driver CD, mounting screws, and instruction manual.


    Description:

    Ever since the USB Touchscreen Showdown I have received request for a more in-depth look at the MIMO 720F USB Touchscreen monitor. Having had a second go-round with the display, I can confirm basically all of the pluses and minuses from 2011. The 720F is a fantastic option if considering to add an additional monitor your car PC setup... provided you engineer a manner to mount it.


    Easily, the most differentiating item on the 720F is the "flex" mount. Where most 7-inch screens are going to come with a removable bottom mount solution, this version of the 720 system comes with four non-removable mounting arms. MIMO suggests that there are thousands of applications in which to use this unique design, and honestly, I can see many methods in which the mount would be preferred around the house or at work. The available suction cup mount means you can practically mount the 720F on any stationary mounting surface. There's also a headrest mount for display on the go. However, if you're the type who plans an installation that looks like it's meant the be there, the flex mount will more than likely be a hindrance.


    So while prospective purchasers may have a decision to make regarding the 720F's backside, no one will have a problem with the business end. The MIMO device is easily the nicest looking USB touchscreen to date. The bezel is sleek and clean with no forward facing buttons to speak of. Aside from the MIMO logo on the bottom of the bezel, the 720F can absolutely look OEM properly implemented in a car. Even the power light seems to be considered, as it is offset and not blindingly bright at night.


    The good looks continue when your operating system loads and the display comes to life. Where the first generation was inhibited with some pixilation and color banding issues, "Season 2" of the 720F has drastically improved visuals whether during movement or stationary. I'm not entirely positive if it's the improved DisplayLink drivers or the hardware itself, but rest assured the 720F will display the way you desire. Keep in mind though that you're still limited to a fixed resolution of 800x480, and USB display means your operating system must load before the 720F will work.


    As with all USB touchscreens, the driver requirement put Windows users first in terms of display and touch screen support. The included DisplayLink drivers for Windows have been improved and the result is an increase in stability. I have not experienced the problems resuming from suspend modes as I had in previous iterations. Mac OSX users have been added to the list of users that can take advantage of the MIMO display, provided they don't mind having to purchase a third-party USB driver. Android users may not be left out for long, as there are efforts to bring a Android-friendly driver to the front as well for host-mode compatible devices.

    The Positive:

    • Superb display quality which rivals HDMI competitors
    • Uses a single USB
    • OSX and Android driver options are now available in limited capacity
    • Sleek bezel design


    The Negative:

    • Mounting system may limit install capabilities
    • Still requires Windows to load before it will display
    • Single USB cable may cause problems with some USB hubs

    The Verdict:

    The second iteration of the MIMO 720F touchscreen monitor features improved performance all around. The colors are brighter, touch layer seems clearer, and drivers are more stable. Whether the 720F is the best for you simply depends on your mounting preference, as the mount design can make or break your install.

    The MIMO 720F is available on Amazon

    For a video comparing the 720F with the other latest USB Touchscreens click here