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  1. Hardware Review: MCS Dual Drive Deluxe PC

    by , 04-04-2011 at 01:57 PM

    What is it?

    The MCS Dual Drive Deluxe is a pre-built mITX car PC system based on the new intel atom D525MW motherboard.

    The Verdict:

    The MCS Dual Drive Delux PC is a efficient and powerful car PC option. When coupled with the optional solid-state and secondary hybrid hard drives, it gives you the best of both worlds in drive performance and capacity. The Dual Drive Deluxe is only limited by its somewhat outdated I/O connectors, but those who own or wish to purchase a VGA monitor may find this system the best bet.



    What’s in the box?

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    The heart of the Dual Drive Deluxe PC is the black-box mITX enclosure and the Intel Atom D525MW motherboard. The motherboard comes with a 1.8Ghz dual-core processor. Pre-installed options include up to 2GB DDR3 single-channel RAM, a Crucial 64GB solid-state hard drive, and a secondary Seagate 500GB hybrid hard drive. The system is powered by a built-in M2-ATX automotive power supply. The system comes packed with wiring for system power, monitor power out, and 5v power out (for external DVD). Also included are CDs for drivers and support and an antenna for the built-in wifi device. Optionally, MCS will include a longer power wire, an extension wire for the wifi antenna, and auxiliary power button connector.

    Description:

    The MCS Dual Drive Deluxe is a car PC from top to bottom. The creators of this pre-built computing system took careful consideration to make it suitable as a car computer. The case, while larger than most other pre-built systems, is a perfect match for the Intel Atom motherboard's fan-less design. There's not a lot vent-holes for airflow, but the case itself is designed with thick aluminum fins to help dissipate heat away from the interior components.



    The case houses quite a bit of hardware. On top of the Intel motherboard, there's also a M2-ATX automotive power supply. This PSU has been customized with unique wiring allowing its power connectors to be run through a large barrel connector on the rear of the case. Also included in the unit I tested were 2 different hard drives. The primary drive is a 64GB SATA solid-state drive. This unit was specifically selected so that an operating system and programs can be installed without fear of data corruption within a moving vehicle. The second hard drive is a Seagate momentus XT 500GB hybrid hard drive. While not completely solid-state, this drive allows data to be shifted in and out of a 4GB NAND section of memory for greater accessibility. This design allows for an overall larger capacity for data with quicker access to the data users need most.

    The tested model of the MCS Dual Drive Deluxe came with 2GB of DDR3 single-channel RAM. There are two slots total on the Intel D525MW motherboard, allowing for a total of 4GB of ram.


    Because of the sleek and flexible design of the black box case, the connectors are all housed on the rear of the case. As seen in the photo, there are a plethora of connecting options, though, some are a bit past their time. There are a total of 6 USB connectors, and as anyone that has ever attempted a car PC install will tell you, you can never have too many of those. Also available is a VGA connector for monitor hookup. There's a SMA connector for the built-in wifi device that's connected to the motherboard. On top of the standard connections for line-out, microphone, line-in, MCS has generously added composite connectors for simple connection to an amplifier or other audio output device. With all these connectors there are a few that exist that just simply aren't needed. For instance, The D525MW comes with PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse. It simply baffles me how these connectors are still built into new motherboards when its near impossible to find PS/2 devices in an basic electronic store today. On the same line of extinction is a RS232 serial connector. This connector would have been a gem 5 years ago with the onset of serial GPS and OBD devices, but now the connector simply occupies space that would be better suited for HDMI or DVI connections. The third and perhaps most out of place connector is the parallel port.


    The performance of the MCS Dual Drive Deluxe is more than sufficient for car PC use. With the installed version of windows 7 32-bit front ends ran smooth and seek times were low. This is definitely where a solid-state drive helps in a car PC. The boot times for the device were on average 15-seconds shorter than my current car PC. Resume times were reduced as well. The only performance snag noted with the Dual Drive Deluxe is with high definition video. I tried several playback files encoded in 1080P MKV and each of them had a distinct delay in sync between audio-video that got worse as the video played to conclusion. That being said, there arent many car PCs out there that should worry about the performance of HD video on screens a mere 7-10" in size.


    The Positive:

    • Flexible and heavy-duty case with multiple installation options
    • Fan-less processor for near silent operation
    • Well thought out design for car PC implementation
    • Multiple hard drive/ RAM/ accessory options
    • Pre-installed wiring configuration for monitor and DVD drive power


    The Negative:

    • Outdated connectors tie up space on the rear of the PC
    • No DVI or HDMI display output
    • Larger case limits installation areas.



    The Verdict:

    The MCS Dual Drive Deluxe PC is a efficient and powerful car PC option. When coupled with the optional solid-state and secondary hybrid hard drives, it gives you the best of both worlds in drive performance and capacity. The Dual Drive Deluxe is only limited by its somewhat outdated I/O connectors, but those who own or wish to purchase a VGA monitor may find this system the best bet.