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  1. Hardware Review: Lilliput 669HB

    by , 09-28-2010 at 04:49 PM

    What is it?

    The Lilliput 669HB is the latest version of the 669 series. It offers all of the benefits of the 669GL (reviewed here), with the added function of a high-brightness display

    The Verdict:

    The new version of the Lilliput addresses the one main complaint most people had with the original. The brightness of the display when in direct sunlight is definitely an upgrade over the 669GL, and while the difference may not be enough to upgrade, new potential buyers should look at the 669HB as the first choice in the lilliput product.

    See the Lilliput 669HB on the mp3Car Store here.



    What’s in the box?

    As with most of the Lilliput touchscreen devices out there, the box is packed with everything you need to use the device right away. Included is the 7" TFT display, an HDMI to HDMI/USB cable, DVI to HDMI/USB cable, VGA/composite cable with sub-connector, home power brick, cigarette port power supply, Remote control, touchscreen driver CD, and instruction manual.


    Description:

    As most of us know by now, the ability to clearly see and control the touchscreen in most car PCs is paramount to the system working as intended. With all of the technical innovations the first-gen 669 series Lilliput carried one gaping flaw in design was the "new" controller board's ability to only display with 200nits of brightness. This new display, the 669HB (high-brightness) addresses this issue. While its still doesn't boast the visual quality of the transflective units that are out there, it does have key features that they still lack. The 669HB excels at providing installation flexibility with it's 4 different methods of signal connection.

    While the VGA and composite cable option is still available (and frankly, still viable), the digital connection options (DVI-I and HDMI) allow for users to get the most out of there 7"-diagonal display. The digital connections allow for the bump in brightness to shine through in a greater light than the 669GL provided. Now you can enjoy the crisp colors and sharper contrasts in the daytime!



    450nits isn't the only change from the first-gen 669. Now also included from the factory is the accessory wire which allows the Lilliput to automatically change to the composite 1 connection upon powering. I found it pretty strange that this was excluded in the 669GL considering there are other, older Lilliputs which have the feature, but now it exists in the 669HB and works as described.

    The 669HB uses the same 5-wire touchscreen controller found in the 629 and 619 7" units now, and the uniformity should come in handy when installers look for double DIN options on the market now. The 669GL used a different, oddly shaped board which made the Double DIN frames available incompatible.

    The only holdover negative from the original 669 device is the lack of auto-dimming control found on many other Lilliput and Xenarc devices. While this technology generally doesn't make or break a monitor, it'd still be nice to have so users wouldn't have to look for alternative means of controlling the screen brightness at night.

    The Positive:

    • Brightness increase means the 669 is on par with other Lilliput LCDs in the daytime
    • HDMI connectivity remains a huge plus
    • Auto-Power and Auto-Switching available from the factory

    The Negative:

    • Still not transflective from the factory (see here for the new transflective version)

    The Verdict:

    The new version of the Lilliput addresses the one main complaint most people had with the original. The brightness of the display when in direct sunlight is definitely an upgrade over the 669GL, and while the difference may not be enough to upgrade, new potential buyers should look at the 669HB as the first choice in the lilliput product

    Updated 09-30-2010 at 04:22 PM by Sonicxtacy02

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  2. Hardware Review: Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio

    by , 07-23-2010 at 12:03 PM


    What is it?


    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio is a USB device which allows FM and DAB broadcast to be controlled and played through a computer.

    The Verdict: The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM USB Radio is a solid solution when searching for an FM capable radio device. The fact that it is controlled and powered but only usb means its easy to install and less susceptible to interference in a car computer setup. You wont get digital FM broadcast, nor AM radio, but the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio worked every bit as well as an OEM radio deck.



    What's in the box?

    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio comes with the radio module and a USB cable. It should be noted that the device does not come with an SMB to motorola cable which is needed to connect the Venice 7 to a car antenna in the US.


    Description

    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio is the latest in radio devices to hit the car pc arena. Its true claim to fame is the fact that it carries both FM and DAB broadcast within the same unit. There have been other devices on the market which have this feature, but the Ultimate Radio's reception quality rivals after-market head unit reception quality. No, it doesn't have digital or "HD" FM capabilities, but in all honesty, the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio sounds every bit as good as my HDRadio, and it has a smaller footprint as well.

    Another key feature of the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio is the fact that its powered by only a USB cable. Again, there have been other devices which have been USB-only, but none that I've experienced can match the sound quality of the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio. The obvious benefit to being powered by USB is the ease of installation. To get the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio radio working you simply need to connect the USB to your computer. The drivers are windows standard drivers, so no CD or download is necessary. After the driver installation, connect your factory antenna to a SMB to Motorola adapter cable (not included) for FM signal. The last step simply involves running a 3.5mm patch cable(also not included) from the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio device to the line-in on the computer. Sadly, there's no USB-over-audio applied.


    Once the radio is installed, its just a matter of finding a program for the computer to manage it. Impressively enough, there are already plugins for both RideRunner and Centrafuse front ends available prior to the formal release of the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio. There's also a standalone application available from the designers website. All applications for the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio are built to manage both the FM and DAB radio functions of the unit.

    The Positive:

    • High-quality sound in FM mode (could not test DAB)
    • Both DAB and FM work through 1 antenna port
    • Smaller than most high quality radios available
    • USB controlled and USB powered. Installation is a breeze

    The Negative:

    • No casing
    • Lacks AM radio
    • May require purchasing extra accessories

    The Verdict:

    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio USB radio is a solid solution when searching for an FM capable radio device. The fact that it is controlled and powered but only usb means its easy to install and less susceptible to interference in a car computer setup. You wont get digital FM broadcast, nor AM radio, but the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio sounds every bit as well as an OEM radio deck.
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  3. Secure Print Start Fingerprint Car Security System Review With How-To Video

    by , 07-07-2010 at 02:14 PM


    What is it?

    The SecurePrint Start Fingerprint Security System is a car security device which allows engine starting and vehicle access to be controlled by fingerprint identification.

    The Verdict: The SecurePrint Start Start At Once Fingerprint Car Security System is a great solution for individuals or companies looking to add additional security to their vehicles. Once installed, the system seamlessly integrates and effectively protects a vehicle from theft. However, the system is not designed to replace components already installed if the vehicle for starting.

    The SecurePrint Start system is available now at the MP3Car store

    Embed this video





    What's in the box:


    The SecurePrint Start system consists of the main brain box, a fingerprint scanner, a dialpad, 2 wiring harnesses, a voice-command speaker, an instruction manual, and a wiring guide.

    Description:

    The SecurePrint Start Fingerprint Car Security system may just be the answer for someone looking for added security for their vehicle. The system clearly goes above the standard OEM car security featured in most cars today. With the power of fingerprint technology, the SecurePrint Start system deters anyone from stealing your vehicle without your clear consent.

    I was initially surprised at the ease of installation. Most self-installed security systems come with hardly legible, confusing instructions and wiring diagrams. The SecurePrint Start system however is pretty much a breeze to install. The wires are clearly numbered, and the wiring guide uses the numbers to show where each wire needs to go. There is some factory wiring you need to cut, specifically the wiring to the starter, fuel pump, and vehicle ECU, but this is standard fare with do-it-all systems. You certainly don’t have to have a Master’s degree in electronic engineering to install the unit into the vehicle. The configuration of the system once installed is easy as well. The system uses the combination of the fingerprint scanner and the accessory dial-pad to allow users to enter new fingerprints. Each entry on the dial-pad is greeted with a loud and clear (yet somewhat disturbing) voice confirmation through the systems included speaker. This system is infinitely more efficient than the trial-and-error or dip-switch type systems I’ve installed in the past. At an estimated guess, I would say it would take the average DIY installer no more than 2 hours to wire and configure the entire system. A video showing the ease of fingerprint enrollment can be found below.


    Once installed, the system is activated as simple as pressing your enrolled finger into the fingerprint scanner. In my testing it took less than a second for my finger to be identified and the vehicle to start. Unfortunately, it takes far longer for me to reach into my pocket, take out my key, and turn the ignition. Yes, you still need to do this in order for the SecurePrint Start system to activate. A friend had mentioned perhaps tucking the ignition cylinder away with the key in it, but this is not feasible because the unit depends on removing the key to turn the engine off. Once the vehicle is started the SecurePrint Start system is completely passive. You will still need to use your keyfob for vehicle entry, so people looking for an easier alternative than the factory systems today should look elsewhere.

    The SecurePrint Start system allows up to 9 different enrolled fingerprints and 3 different categories for users, so multiple drivers, families and fleet vehicles can all enjoy the benefits of added security.

    The Positive:
    • Added peace of mind from an additional layer of security
    • Easy to install
    • Voice guided configuration
    • Limits access to vehicle and Car PCs
    • Cuts power to fuel pump, starter motor, and ECU
    • Fingerprint scanner easily molds into most vehicle dashboards

    The Negative:
    • Does not replace vehicles factory ignition
    • Length of proprietary cables limits installation flexibility

    The Verdict:

    The SecurePrint Start Start At Once Fingerprint Car Security System is a great solution for individuals or companies looking to add additional security to their vehicles. Once installed, the system seamlessly integrates and effectively protects a vehicle from theft. However, the system is not designed to replace components already installed if the vehicle for starting.

    Updated 08-11-2010 at 09:57 AM by optikalefx

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  4. Hardware Review: XoByte miniSpark Startup/Shutdown Controller

    by , 05-17-2010 at 10:11 AM


    What is it?


    The XoByte miniSpark is a startup and shutdown controller that uses Wake-On-LAN capabilities to handle startup and shutdown of your laptop or PC.

    The Verdict: If you use a laptop or netbook as your car PC you should own a miniSpark. The people at XoByte have seemingly created the perfect solution to handling the startup and shutdown of a computer and it's associated accessories in the car. The one thing that impresses me the most is the control it gives the user, all while using only your LAN port and saving a precious USB port.



    What's in the box?

    The XoByte miniSpark comes with the main controller box, a 6-wire connector, and a pair of automotive fuse adapters for 12v power.


    Description:

    The XoByte miniSpark is a powerful device which allows control of a netbook,laptop, or personal computer's startup and shutdown capabilities through Wake-On-LAN technology. The real power in the miniSpark comes from the user's ability to control its various functions all from within the miniSpark Configuration GUI. This tool is compatible with Windows computers running XP or higher, and allows even beginner users to control the miniSpark's functions with both ease and simplicity.


    After a brief period in which the miniSpark checks to see if the device is connected, the GUI is presented. The top left box in the GUI is nothing more than a set of status indicators which give you the real-time view of each of the 2 inputs and 2 outputs of the miniSpark. If a WOL shutdown event occurs the miniSpark GUI will display the system status on the LED images and also via a pop-up which counts the time remaining to shutdown.


    The bottom left gives users the ability to use either of the 2 inputs to run the appropriate user-configurable shutdown command with the shutdown and startup delays specified. As if the basic settings weren't powerful enough, XoByte allows configuration of both outputs independently. This allows one miniSpark unit to individually shutdown and power up 2 different devices with there own unique settings. For advanced users this capability is invaluable because you can control things like USB hubs, lighting, and other self-powered devices independently of the PC. Each output can be controlled with either included inputs or totally manually through the miniSpark configuration utility. The outputs can also be delayed at startup or shutdown after the PC has been started or shutdown. The ability to set your pulse-width for outputs and to set repeating triggers means the XoByte miniSpark is as flexible as you will ever find a shutdown controller to be. There is even an API available which allows the control of the miniSpark configuration utility to be harnessed in a user-selected front end.


    Despite the flexibility of its software setup, the miniSpark is just as easy to install as any other automotive power supply. Because its not a fully-functional power supply, the miniSpark's red power wire can be powered through an 1-amp automotive fuse. XoByte was even kind enough to include a set of automotive fuse adapters so you can just plug into your vehicles fuse box to power the device. The black wire as in most cases is the ground. The white and green wires are input #1 and #2 respectively, and would in most cases be connected to the automobiles accessory or ignition lines. Should you only wish to use a single input the green wire can be ignored. Lastly, the brown and blue wires are #1 and #2 output wires. PCs that are not "magic frame" WOL capable will need to use one of the outputs to power on the PC through the ACPI lines.

    Once wired, the XoByte miniSpark hardware is ready to go. The only other notable feature would be the single green LED which shows the status of the miniSpark through a series of blinks.


    The Positive:

    • Small hideaway box, but so much power and control capabilities
    • Allows startup/shutdown control without opening up a laptop
    • Uses WOL technology, saving a USB port• Efficiently runs on less than 1 amp
    • A simple GUI which continues to be updated with more control features
    • Ability to control multiple accessory outputs with multiple individually controlled inputs
    • API available for front end integration

    The Negative:

    • Windows XP+ only
    • Computer must be WOL "Magic Frame" capatible for WOL use

    The Verdict:

    If you use a laptop or netbook as your car PC you should own a miniSpark. The people at XoByte have seemingly created the perfect solution to handling the startup and shutdown of a computer and its associated accessories in the car. The one thing that impresses me the most is the control it gives the user, all while using only your LAN port and saving a precious USB port.

    Updated 05-17-2010 at 12:24 PM by Sonicxtacy02

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  5. Hardware Review: Habey USA BIS-6620 Ultra-Compact PC

    by , 05-12-2010 at 11:53 AM

    What is it?

    The Habey BIS-6620 is a SFF PC powered by an Intel Atom Z510 processor.

    The Verdict: The Habey USA BIS-6620 is an absolute marvel of a design. The manufacturer has created fully functioning PC cable of running the latest software in a form factor which can fit in the palm of your hand. Quite frankly, the BIS-6620 could be used at home, in the car, or as an embedded platform. Unfortunately it’s small size and power-sipping capabilities mean this PC would probably be a lot more comfortable with Windows Embedded than with Windows 7.

    The BIS-6620 is available now at the MP3Car store



    What's in the box:


    The BIS-6620 comes with the PC, a PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse splitter cable, 12v power brick, and driver and utilities installation disc. Also included are four long screws for VESA mount support.

    Description:

    Right out of the box the Habey USA BIS-6620 has a certain “wow” factor. Measuring at only 4.5 x 4.5 x 1.5”, it immediately has the potential to be everyone’s dream car PC. The BIS-6620 is also built with a completely fan-less design, making it silent in operation. It’s powered by a single-core Intel Z510 processor clocked at 1 GHz and is built to use up to 2 GHz of SODIMM (laptop) ram. Despite its size, the BIS-6620 is surprisingly flexible when it comes to drive storage. Internally, the 6620 accepts a 1.8” SATA hard drive. However, thanks to a bios setting which allows removable drives to be emulated as physical disks, you have the option to install and run your primary operating system from a compact flash card. There is also an SD card slot on the front of the PC just adjacent to the CF slot.

    The BIS-6620 is powered by a simple 12v power brick, further enhancing its potential to be used as a car PC. The computer is a true power-sipper, and can be run with less than 10w and 2amps. It’s hard to imagine that a PC that’s fully capable of running windows 7 can do so with less power than your average car speaker requires to play sound.

    Upon installing the components required to make the BIS-6620 power up, I connected a USB DVD-Rom and installed a fresh copy of windows 7 32-bit. Once installation was complete I was brought into the OS. I quickly noticed that the BIS-6620 doesn’t support Aero, or the transparent glass effects on a standard non-Aero windows 7 installation. Moving through windows dialogs seemed to occur with ample speed, but waiting for basic programs like Wndows Media Payer and Centrafuse 3 became quite the chore even at their most basic program settings. It’s clear that while there are many pros to the BIS-6620, the obvious setback is the 1 GHz processor. That said; the BIS-6620 handled MP3 playback with ease. It will even play 1080p videos with little to no skipping and video sync issues thanks to hardware decoding.


    Video is provided only via VGA or S-Video connections. There is no support for DVI or HDMI and based on the form factor of the BIS-6620 (Habey has different models that do have DVI & HDMI output in the same form factor), you probably won’t be adding a video card capable of such. There is a single audio output jack on the front, and a microphone input just next to that. The lack of a line-in jack means your radio and other input devices better have “audio over USB” support. There is a single LAN port, a total of 4 USB ports, and a single PS/2 which can provide both keyboard and mouse support with the enclosed splitter cable.


    The case of the BIS-6620 is a marvel in itself. The finned design on the top serves as a fully functioning heat-sink for the Intel processor. Because of this design the casing does run hotter than your average computer case, but never to the point where the case was simply too hot to touch. On the edges of the case are four holes which allow the BIS-6620 to be mounted on a VESA mount. All this allows for the BIS-6620 to truly be an ultra-compact, silent, and unseen fully functioning PC.

    The Positive:

    • Small design but capable fully functioning PC
    • Flexible storage options
    • Performance and reliability of the Intel Atom product
    • Energy efficient design (

    Updated 05-26-2010 at 12:33 PM by Jensen2000

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