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Hardware Review: Element 7" Touchscreen Display

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by , 01-25-2012 at 09:40 AM (27942 Views)

What is it?

The Element is a 7" Touchscreen display which features HDMI, DVI, VGA & composite video connections.

The Verdict:

The Element 7" display is a well-received competitor into the small touchscreen genre. In its first revision, it seems to incorporate most of the criteria which makes a touchscreen device usable in the car. Those looking for a budget display device with great quality and community recommendation should look at the Element as their device of choice.



What’s in the box?

The Element comes with the 7" Touchscreen monitor, power supply, a remote control, and a 3.5mm to composite video connector. HDMI is not included, however because the Element uses a separate mini-USB connection for the touchscreen, any HDMI cable will do.

Please note at the time the photos were taken the Element monitor came only in open frame form. A case is now available for the device.


Description:

Every once in a while, sites like ebay turn up a gem for the small market Car PC world. Such is the case with the new Element 7" touchscreen monitor, a device that community member RipplingHurst found while sifting through the items available on that website. His intrigue, which lead to this massive thread of information regarding the device, inspired me to contact the displays creator to review the device's uses for Car PC.


With that massive thread in mind, lets summarize some of facts regarding the Element display. It is a 7" Samsung monitor with LED backlighting, overlayed by a resistive 4-wire "sunlight readable" touchscreen input device. Note that it is not transflective, but it does a fairly decent job in high sunlight conditions. I would put the device right on par with the high brightness Lilliput displays of recent years in terms of the amount of screen visible when the sun is bearing down.


The controller for the device supports the famed 800x480 resolution from any video device which supports it. This means sticklers car PC pixel perfection can use their compatible video cards with the Element without the hassle of custom resolutions or firmware hacks. Oddly enough, the device supports many different resolutions all the way up to 1920x1080, far higher than most Lilliput and Xenarcs dare go. Now, most people wont ever use a 7" monitor at that high a resolution, but the ability to do so is worth a bragging right or two.


Another built-in feature that was kindly considered is the ability to auto switch to composite AV1 on signaling. This request has become more popular with the installation of rear cameras in car PC setups. Auto-on/Auto-off and input resume are all there as well. The creator as definitely done their research in regard to what car PC hobbyist are looking for from their touchscreens. They've even done away with the dreaded "blue screen of boot" no signal screen. Instead of retina burning bright blue, the screen is a subtle black.


The display quality of the Element display is darn nice at factory settings. Colors are rich and deep, and there's not any noticeable "pixel effect" or ghosting at low resolutions, no matter what input you choose to use. The only poor aspect of the viewing quality was the off-axis viewing angles. Colors quickly turn dark when viewing at modest angles. Unfortunately this is a trait of near all resistive touchscreen monitors, and the Element makes no strides in this regard.


Installing the open-frame Element in to your car shouldn't be any more difficult than normal. The device will fit into mp3Car's double-din kits available, albeit with some minor controller mounting and cable interference issues. The display fits nicely into the opening of the bezel, with only a minor smidgen of touchscreen white-space showing through. The developer for the device kindly included a long strand of cables connecting the controller board to the button panel, meaning the buttons can be neatly tucked away, or the IR sensor for the remote can be mounted away from the dash panel.

A minor matter of contention I have with the Element is of personal opinion. The device uses separate USB and HDMI cables, meaning there is one additional wire required to tuck into the dash and extend out to the PC. The benefit to this is the ability to use any HDMI cable, instead of the stiff and often difficult to replace HDMI-to-HDMI/USB cables found with Lilliput and Xenarc monitors.

The Positive:

• Above average sunlight readability
• High quality display with extremely rich color and contrast
• Includes features car PC installers demand
• High selection of available resolutions
• True native 800x480 support
• Buttons can be easily mounted elsewhere for space saving in installation


The Negative:

• Requires a mini-USB wire for touchscreen
• Uses proprietary touchscreen drivers
• Height of controller and angle of connectors mean some hacking required for double-DIN kits
• Poor off-axis viewing angles



The Verdict:

The Element 7" display is a well-received competitor into the small touchscreen genre. In its first revision, it seems to incorporate most of the criteria which makes a touchscreen device usable in the car. Those looking for a budget display device with great quality and community recommendation should look at the Element as their device of choice.

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Quote Originally Posted by chris350 View Post
I guess CES was lame this year cause y'all didn't put anything up as in previous years.
According to many it was a down year on nearly all accounts. There was some fairly big news in terms of the smartphone market with the Galaxy Note and Droid 4 being out in the wild. Nothing really that new in the car audio world that i noticed. The Car PC world is getting some new material with the Parrot Asteroid 2Din and single din android powered systems. There were a few new devices in the vehicle security arena which like the Connect2Car unit I reviewed use cell networks to provide security and vehicle tracking services. But overall, there was nothing that jumped out as "brand new tech".

I can tell you that I was most impressed by the innovations that ford has made to there in car entertainment and telematic systems. The new version of Sync is butter smooth, voice commands are now done via Nuance voice recognition technology, and they continue to add more of the mission critical components to their dash system. They have come a LONG way.
I guess CES was lame this year cause y'all didn't put anything up as in previous years.
If you don't know who Xilinx is, then here's a quick rundown, they are a microchip manufacturer specializing in FPGAs.

There were a few vendors in their meeting space booth showing off some very cool prototypes based upon their chips.

The first was an HDTV, which in and of itself is not that surprising, but its refresh rate of 1200Hz on 1080p video certainly is. (That's 20x that of older LCD TVs, 5x faster than that needed for 3D TVs, and 2x as fast as plasma TVs.)

The second was a setup combining the input video streams from 4 separate cameras around an RC car. In real-time, it seamlessly merged the video streams to make a single video with a perceived bird's eye view completely eliminating blind spots around the car. And wouldn't this be the best way when trying to parallel park (even better than the simple backup camera).

Disclaimer:
I do not work for any of the companies listed or referenced and only attended CES as an 'Industry Affiliate'