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Hardware Review: ISEE IGEPv2 embedded computing platform

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by , 12-20-2010 at 10:35 AM (9549 Views)

What is it?

The IGEPv2 is a fan-less, low-power computer system featuring an OMAP3530 processor.

The Verdict:

The IGEPv2 is a car PC hacker’s dream platform. It's a true power-sipping design with enough processor to handle most embedded car PC functions. The real benefit to the IGEPv2 is its flexibility. However, the fact that it doesn’t run windows adds complexity to the software installation process and restricts front end options. The fact is, unless you are a Linux programmer the IGEPv2 may be more trouble than its worth.



What's in the box?

The IGEPv2 board.

Description:

The IGEPv2 is the latest of a batch of ultra-portable, low-power embedded systems available to consumers. Measuring it at 3.7 x 2.5 X 0.7 inches, the IGEP has connectors for everything an installer could need to run the device as a primary car PC. Included is 1 DVI over HDMI port, 1 micro SD port for external storage, 1 USB OTG port, 1 USB host port, 1 stereo audio-out and 1 line-in port. Also included is a built-in wireless b/g card, built-in Bluetooth, and a RJ-45 Ethernet port. As if that weren’t enough the IGEPv2 has a RS232 serial debug port and several connectors for daughterboard add-ons. Conceivably, you could use the IGEP with any existing hardware you have.




The IGEPv2 comes with an embedded Texas Instruments OMAP3530 processor running at 720mhz. While nowhere near top of the line, the processor will adequately perform tasks. The IGEPv2 has 4GHZ of flash NAND memory. This allows a portion of the on-board memory to contain the operating system files and boot configurations. The IGEPv2 features an OpenGL ES 2.0 capable graphics accelerator. While it’s certainly not capable of running HD video, it’s more than capable to run front ends like Open Mobile and MeeGo. That is of course, if you can figure out how to install them. Because the IGEPv2 is built on ARM architecture, it will not run your standard windows operating systems and front ends.


Without windows as the standard go-to operating system for car computer installations, IGEPv2 is capable of utilizing several other alternatives. The IGEPv2 comes with a Linux distribution named Poky. While not pretty, poky is capable for use as a front end in itself. It loads quickly and has an easy to use (if not generic) interface. Honestly though, most purchasers of the IGEPv2 will use one of the many alternatives such as Ubuntu Linux, Android, Windows Embedded, or MeeGo. This flexibility is truly the key benefit of a device like the IGEPv2. Advanced users and people familiar with linux technologies can design and build a custom version of software which will allow them to optimize the lower-class specifications of the board. For my review, I allowed the users of the mp3Car forums to decide which operating system to install, and they chose Ubuntu Linux. Installing Ubuntu was not easy. There are instructions installers can find through the manufacturer website that show how to easily install Ubuntu via SD card. The problem is to the best of my knowledge, these instructions are incomplete. After several days of attempts, I finally caved in and got my Linux buddy to build and install for me.


Once installed, the IGEPv2 can run Ubuntu smoothly. There are moments where you can tell the OMAP processor is being tested, such as during video playback or loading a large flash file, but the overall experience was pleasant. There shouldn’t be a problem running Open Mobile. The main problem with running Ubuntu on the IGEPv2 is wifi and bluetooth connectivity will not work as there are currently no drivers available.So with software installed, you have yourself a neat little Car PC, barring you can overcome a few other drawbacks. Because the IGEPv2 requires a clean 5v, you still will need some sort of automotive power supply in order to power it. The obvious benefit of usually only 5v is the power savings. I can run my IGEPv2 in car for 5 days without worrying about my battery not starting. But I think the device should have some method of 12v-5v voltage regulation on board. The second omission on the IGEPv2 is the lack of any kind of battery. This means your system will require a pretty reliable internet connection to show the proper time and date. This problem becomes more prevalent when you figure that some front ends and their associated plugins require clock-based functions. The last and perhaps smallest issue is that the host USB port requires a self-powered usb hub. I was unable to use my single-cord usb keyboard and mouse combo until i connected a 12v powered usb hub in front of it.

The Positive:

• Small form factor and built for low-power operation
• Flexible software options
• Various expansion options
• 100% silent, fanless operation

The Negative:

• Requires an automotive power supply for the 5v
• Software installation is for the advanced only, few front end options
• No CMOS battery
• USB Host mode requires a powered usb hub

The Verdict:

The IGEPv2 is a car PC hacker’s dream platform. It's a true power-sipping design with enough processor to handle most embedded car PC functions. The real benefit to the IGEPv2 is its flexibility. However, the fact that it doesn’t run windows adds complexity to the software installation process and restricts front end options. The fact is, unless you are a Linux programmer the IGEPv2 may be more trouble than its worth.

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Updated 12-20-2010 at 11:47 AM by Sonicxtacy02

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