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Product Reviews

  1. Software Review - Destinator 9 for iPhone

    by , 05-03-2010 at 10:06 AM

    What is it?

    Destinator 9 is Intrinsync's entry into the rather crowded iPhone GPS space. The app comes with real-time traffic, integrated maps, POIs, Weather, and Google search integrated.

    The Verdict:

    Destinator has made it's way onto the first page of my iPhone. The feature rich GPS app has replaced the multiple GPS apps if for no other reason than the superior graphical interface. Having tested the TomTom, Navigon, and Waze, Destinator seems to have the most updated maps, most features and the ability to route to contacts or google results is a huge plus. The ability to download a trial before purchase will explain why to spend the extra money on this app versus the others. The app is very large(updates are normally 1.6 GB+) and must be downloaded over wifi and tends to be slow to open. Once running it does not drain the battery horribly like the TomTom and if you close it the destination is retained so youc an conserve some battery on long drives.
    Navigator 9 is available now at ITunes StoreScreenshots

    Description

    Destinator 9 uses voice guided turn-by-turn directions with Navteq Maps with a graphical display in either 2D or 3D. Traffic conditions, points-of-interest information, and weather information are included when available. Multi-Stop trips can be imported or destinations can be set by tapping on a location on a map, selecting addresses from contacts, or using the traditional address import methods. To augment the address imports you can select by town, street, intersection, or Latitude/Longitude. The app is available as a free trial download with a splash screen that can be toggled off to try the app initially. Once you purchase the app, you get additional features including speed limit notification and warnings. Upon starting the app, you are able to control your ipod collection from within the program. You can also check the real-time traffic and weather from the bottom menu. During navigation the display will change throughout your trip to show the overhead signs on the highway, as well as lane directions to guide you both visually and vocally. You can view the directions either vertically or horizontally and the display changes automatically with orientation of the iphone. The app start up is very slow as I think it loads all the maps, however once it starts the gps finds your location very quickly. Much better than on the competing apps. The maps have been up to date and the app seems to be getting updated about once every couple weeks. The app is also available for Windows Mobile and Android

    The Positive:
    • Graphical Interface is easy to use
    • 3D view shows upcoming street signs
    • Background shows current weather
    • Google Search integration
    • Real-Time Traffic
    • Maintains Destination
    • Up-to-Date Maps
    • Ipod Controls Integrated
    • Speed Limit Warnings

    The Negative:
    • Slow to open
    • Very Large Download
    • Does not have the standard "Take me Home" option
    • $69.99 Price

    Updated 05-03-2010 at 10:12 AM by Heather

    Categories
    Products and Technology , Product Reviews
  2. Software Review: Jukebox Jockey Home Edition

    by , 04-27-2010 at 03:45 PM


    What is it?

    Jukebox Jockey is a touch-friendly media player and karaoke front end.

    The Verdict:The Jukebox Jockey software has been a joy to review. Its very feature-rich and some new innovations not yet seen in the car PC arena. The software is as simple or as flexible as you choose for it to be and never gets in a users way thanks to a clever GUI. Any mobile PC user looking for well-supported program to manage most of their media on the go should look first at Jukebox Jockey.

    Jukebox Jockey is available now at http://www.jukeboxjockey.com/



    Description:

    Jukebox Jockey is a windows application built to be a simple yet fully functioning media player. It’s different from the multitude of existing media player software in that Jukebox Jockey is built from the ground up to be touchscreen-friendly. This obviously has plenty of benefits on a small screened car PC, but Jukebox Jockey also shines in a party environment. Most of my review will focus on Jukebox Jockeys aspirations as a simple media car PC front end, but I will say the app is simply the best application out there for controlling music, video, and karaoke playback for a group of people.



    A person looking for a simple and powerful media player for their 7-inch touchscreen should seriously consider Jukebox Jockey. While it lacks the expansion that most other commercially available mobile PC front ends offer, it does what it’s meant to do with absolute ease. The entire interface is skinnable. The buttons are large enough to be pressed on your standard car touchscreen and for the most part they are text-labeled when they need to be. This means you know what the button does before you press it. While the application will run at 800x600, the developer is currently working on skinning options for resolutions that low. There is no “home” screen which houses all of the media options, rather a simple “Change Mode” button which brings up a small menu which allows selection.



    From there, it’s easy to find the media you’re looking for. The top portion of the application window allows you to select how you wish to find your media. Browse-by-album-art is present, and will perhaps be the preferred method. The ability to sort by decades is a new and welcomed feature when comparing to other vehicle front ends. There is also a pretty handy instant search function which searches for results each time a key on the on-screen QWERTY keyboard is pressed. All media is scanned into Jukebox Jockey via the options button on the top of the application. Scanning media is relatively quick, but it does have to be done each time new music/videos are added.



    Playlists are housed on the right side of the application window. Jukebox Jockey has a different take on playlist handling. By default, the playlist shrinks as songs are played. In Jukebox Jockey the playlist is more of a request list, and this makes sense considering the software doubles as DJ software. Overall the music and video players rivals most other media players on the market.



    What you won’t find in most media players and especially on car PCs is a karaoke mode. This mode was by far the most fun to use in a party environment, but I did have passengers in the car playing as I drove down the road. Jukebox Jockey is very easy for passengers and newcomers to control. There is even a specific party mode which administrators can enable to lock down settings and controls that secondary users would not need access too.

    The Positive:

    • Built to be touchscreen friendly
    • Built-in media library which organizes/searches media in a multitude of ways
    • Fully Skinnable• 2nd Screen support for media information and karaoke lyrics
    • Simple installation on any PC with windows XP or newer
    • Small footprint and doesn’t use too much memory
    • Easy to use for beginners, a huge list of options for experienced users
    • Bass audio engine for high audio fidelity
    • Actively supported

    The Negative:

    • Video player did not support h264 encoded videos

    • No current skin for 800x480

    The Verdict:

    The Jukebox Jockey software has been a joy to review. Its very feature-rich and some new innovations not yet seen in the car PC arena. The software is as simple or as flexible as you choose for it to be and never gets in a users way thanks to a clever GUI. Any mobile PC user looking for well-supported program to manage most of their media on the go should look first at Jukebox Jockey.

    Jukebox Jockey is available now at http://www.jukeboxjockey.com/

    Updated 04-27-2010 at 04:11 PM by Sonicxtacy02

    Categories
    Product Reviews
  3. Hardware Review: Lilliput 669GL-70NP/C/T 7" HDMI Monitor

    by , 04-26-2010 at 11:05 AM


    What is it?

    The Lilliput 669GL is a brand new 7” touchscreen monitor featuring HDMI connectivity.

    The Verdict:

    When weighing the new features with some of the things still missing in a 2010 Lilliput model, its clear to see that the 669GL is the first model in what many hope will be the future of small touchscreen monitors. Lilliput obviously spent time and focus on getting HDMI/DVI capabilities to work, and they DO work. This is the clearest Lilliput display out there, as long as you are not working in the sun.

    See the Lilliput 669GL on the mp3Car Store here.



    What’s in the box?



    The Lilliput 669GL comes packed with practically every kind of cable you would need to use with the monitor. Included is an HDMI to HDMI-USB cable, HDMI to DVI-USB cable, VGA to VGA-USB cable, and a DIN to composite (2 input) cable. For power, the 669GL comes with both a home A/C adapter plug and a 12v DC car charger cable. The 669GL also comes with a standard VESA mount, remote control with battery, touchscreen driver CD, and instruction manual.

    Description:

    The 669GL-70NP/C/T is the latest 7” touchscreen monitor Lilliput has released. To my knowledge it is the first 7” monitor of its kind to feature on-board HDMI connection. The creators were wise to leave compatibility with the tried and true VGA connection, and even threw a HDMI to DVI cable to further enhance compatibility. Regardless of your preferred input source, the Lilliput 669 has you covered.



    Though it makes hardly any difference when connecting to 669GL to a standard computer, car PC enthusiast should find the HDMI connection a lifesaver when it comes to getting a monitor installed in a vehicle. This is of course is provided they have the motherboard and/or video card that accepts either an HDMI or DVI connector. Prior models of Lilliput and other small monitors in the car PC community have suffered from screen ghosting and/or flickering as a result of having to run long strands of analog cabling inside a motor vehicle where interference issues tend to be more prevalent. I made it a point to test this issue with a full-digital HDMI connection. My aging Lilliput 629 installed in the dash of my RSX has always had some level of flickering and the ghosting of images and text is just something I grew to live with. I’m happy to say that the connecting the HDMI from my Intel DG45FC motherboard directly to the Lilliput 669 immediately solved BOTH problems.



    I also noticed shortly after powering up the PC that the colors on the screen just appear deeper than with previous Lilliput screens. I don’t know if it’s the digital connection or perhaps the new LCD panel installed in the 669GL, but the color and contrast is among the best I’ve seen on a 7” screen. Text appears sharper than before, even in the 1024x768 photos shown above. With an HDMI connection the screen is fully capable with 1080i/p playback, a feat that's extremely impressive for a rather small screen.The Lilliput 669GL features an all new bezel, new LCD panel (Innolux AT070TN82), and a new, slightly larger controller board. This of course means someone wanting to upgrade from an older lilliput may find complications in there existing fabrication when switching to the 669GL. The HDMI sticks out more than the previous VGA cable. This coupled with the larger controller board means the 669GL is not easily compatible with enclosures such as the double-din enclosure that MP3car store sells. I was able to just barely make the enclosure work by using a right-angle HDMI adapter and alternate means of securing the controller board to the enclosure.



    The main problem you encounter with the 669GL occurs when you place this monitor into direct sunlight. For some unknown reason, the manufacturer decided to scale back the brightness on the 669GL. The rating in the monitor’s specification is just 250 nits. If there were one absolute bummer when it comes to the 669GL it’s that its just not meant to be used sunlight. The colors completely wash out, and because the screen is not transflective you must deal with a tremendous amount of glare before even beginning to interpret what’s on screen. Below are two comparison photos; the first is with no flash taken with my digital camera, the second with flash and a rather low ISO.



    Unfortunately, the brightness on the LCD isn’t the only thing missing from the Lilliput 669GL. It does not currently have the ability to automatically switch to an auxiliary input upon connection of a 12v source. This means us with rear-view cameras must come up with another plan to see what we’re backing up into. Prior model Lilliputs like the 629 had the ability to modify the controller panel to accommodate this feature but to this point it’s not possible to do on the 669GL.One feature that’s missing that perhaps will not affect car PC users is the lack of backlit buttons on the front of the enclosure. To my knowledge this is the first Lilliput that has had this missing. The power button lights up, barely, but the other buttons remain in the dark.The last feature that didn’t make the cut is the ability to control the screens brightness via a photosensor on the enclosure. At first glance it appears the IR receiver on the front of the Lilliput bezel has been modified to accommodate this in the same manner than competing Xenarc and other devices do, but in testing I see no difference in screen brightness between light and dark rooms.

    The Positive:

    • HDMI connectivity
    • Abundance of wiring options
    • Cleaner display with rich color and better contrast
    • Native resolution of 800x480, with the ability to display 1080p
    • Auto-power on when video signal is detected
    • Priced well to compete with other manufacturers

    The Negative:
    • Lower brightness rating than competing products
    • No auto-switch capability
    • No auto-dimmer found in competing products
    • STILL no transflective!
    • New controller board means incompatility with some bezels on the market

    The Verdict:

    When weighing the new features with some of the things still missing in a 2010 Lilliput model, its clear to see that the 669GL is the first model in what many hope will be the future of small touchscreen monitors. Lilliput obviously spent time and focus on getting HDMI/DVI capabilities to work, and they DO work. This is the clearest Lilliput display out there, as long as you are not working in the sun.

    See the Lilliput 669GL on the mp3Car Store here.

    Updated 04-26-2010 at 11:14 AM by Sonicxtacy02

    Categories
    Product Reviews
  4. Hardware Review: Mini-Box M3-ATX-HV Power Supply

    by , 03-24-2010 at 11:52 PM

    What is it?

    The M3-ATX HV is a 95-Watt DC to DC smart automotive power supply.

    The Verdict:

    The M3-ATX HV is an impressive little power supply. The manufacturer appears to have harnessed the core features of previous smart power supplies into a smaller and more efficient form factor. The only true sacrifice for M3-ATX HV users will be total power output. If you can accept this, you get a high-quality smart power supply which will work for vehicles based on 12v OR 24v systems.

    Buy the M3-ATX-HV 95 Watt - Smart Automotive Power Supply on the mp3Car Store now.



    What’s in the box?

    The M3-ATX comes with only the power supply and a series of mini-jumpers for timer settings. All cables used by the M3-ATX are soldered directly to the board.

    Description:

    The M3-ATX HV is a fully RoHS compliant DC/DC ATX converter module capable of powering computer systems with up to a 120-watt demand. Constant power usage should be limited to the suggested 95-watt capacity. The M3-ATX HV appears almost identical to the 125-watt M3-ATX but offers a wider input range to allow for greater flexibility in installation platforms. Whereas the input on the M3-ATX is limited to 24v, the HV variant allows up to 34v. Needless to say 24v systems would be run at greater efficiency with the M3-ATX HV.

    The M3-ATX HV is considered a PICO-PSU. Its intended purpose is for small, efficient, power-sipping systems such as the latest Atom-based boards from Intel. I initially tried powering my core-2-duo Intel DG45FC board with the M3-ATX HV but I was unable to get past POST messages. My less-powerful Intel D201GLY board however was able to run successfully with a host of USB devices connected. The obvious benefit in using the M3-ATX HV other than its voltage capabilities is its size. When compared to the older M2-ATX it’s easy to see how the M3’s PICO form factor could come in handy in car PC or even embedded platforms


    M2-ATX on the top, M3-ATX HV device on the bottom

    My initial reaction to the size of the M3-ATX HV was very positive. As a car PC hobbyist I know that we feel “the smaller, the better”. Upon installing the device I did run into a problem that could end up being a problem for anyone installing a M3 into their system.


    As shown above, the M3-ATX HV comes in contact with a USB header on the rear of the D201GLY motherboard. Though the power supply works as installed, the ATX connector does not quite sit flush, and a jolt from a pothole or speed bump could very well dislodge the component touching the header.

    Overlooking the fitment problem, I continued the installation of the M3 HV. The power supply has only a specific set of wires which makes installation easy when compared to other PSUs on the market. Simply connect your 12V, GND, and ACC lines to the RED, BLACK, and WHITE wires respectively. Then connect the SATA power or MOLEX connector to your hard drive or split these wires to extend power to multiple components. The only wire that actually needs to be manually plugged into the M3-ATX HV board is the motherboard power switch wire, and the 3-pin female end of this included wire only fits one way on the power supply. Optionally, you can connect the white wire on the 3-pin cable to your car’s amplifier to provide a delay which will prevent the speaker “THUMP” that occurs in some systems.

    Completing these steps alone allows the M3-ATX HV to work as a dummy mode PSU. For smart power supply settings, the M3-ATX HV has a set of pins which can be jumped for shutdown timing options. There are 4 options which allow a simple jumper or two to set the shutdown/hard off time. A fifth option which allows user-customized settings is available, but such a task requires a separate cable which I have no access to at this time.

    The Positive:

    • Small form factor increases installation flexibility
    • Wider range of input voltages than most PSUs on the market
    • Ability to customize shutdown/hard off times
    • Built-in cables means less can go wrong for beginner installers

    The Negative:

    • Only 95-watts sustained output means your limited to VIA/Intel Atom products
    • Form factor can impede installation on certain motherboards



    The Verdict:

    The M3-ATX HV is an impressive little power supply. The manufacturer appears to have harnessed the core features of previous smart power supplies into a smaller and more efficient form factor. The only true sacrifice for M3-ATX HV users will be total power output. If you can accept this, you get a high-quality smart power supply which will work for vehicles based on 12v OR 24v systems.

    Specifications:

    Dimensions: 40x43mm
    Efficiency Rating: up to 94%
    5v Output: 7A Max, < 30 Sec.
    3.3v Output: 7A Max. < 30 Sec
    12v Output: 5A Max, < 30 Sec
    -12v Output: .10A Max, < 30 Sec
    5VSB Output: 2A Max, < 30 Sec
    Input Voltage Range: 6VDC to 34VDC
    Deep Discharge Shut Down: 11.2V
    Operating Temperature Range:-40°C to 65°C
    Operation Modes:
    -5 Seconds soft off, 60 seconds Hard Off
    -1 Minute soft off, 5 minutes Hard Off
    -30 Minutes soft off, 2 hours Hard Off
    -2 Hours soft off, 2 Hours Hard Off

    Buy the M3-ATX-HV 95 Watt - Smart Automotive Power Supply on the mp3Car Store now.
  5. Hardware Review: ToughBox 15 Chenbro Based Intel D510MO Mini ITX System

    by , 02-26-2010 at 12:59 PM


    What is it?

    The Mp3car Toughbox 15 is a Chenbro based mini-ITX computer built with an Intel D510MO motherboard. Mp3car allows a full line of customization options with the Toughbox 15, and the price for a self-installed Toughbox 15 starts at only $279.00

    The Verdict:

    The Toughbox 15 is perhaps the most versatile bundle that Mp3car has currently. It seems to have the flexibility to find a niche no matter where it’s installed. Everything with the Toughbox 15 works… and it works quietly, elegantly and efficiently. Whether you’re looking for a do-it-all car computer platform, a sturdy quiet and energy-efficient workstation, or a stable and reliable embedded application, the Toughbox 15 from Mp3car can work for you.

    See the ToughBox 15 on the mp3Car Store here.



    What’s in the box?


    The base Toughbox 15 system consists of a Chenbro mini ITX enclosure, an optional vertical stand, an Intel D510MO motherboard with an integrated Intel Atom D510 processor, 512 MHz of DDR2 ram, and a 160GB laptop grade hard drive. The Chenbro case has openings for 2 front USB ports and connectors front-case audio. The Toughbox 15 also comes standard with a 60w power supply and A/C adapter. The Toughbox 15 differs from the previous systems sold by Mp3car as it comes fully tested and assembled with no extra cost. Optionally, Mp3car allows expansion of the Toughbox 15 by adding a 2 port USB module, a Panasonic UJ-875-A slot-load DVD/CD drive, 2GHz of DDR 2 Ram, an Intel 80GB solid-state hard drive, Nano USB Bluetooth dongle, and an external USB 802.11B/G/N Wifi Card. To further aid in the installation process Mp3car will optionally install Windows 7 Professional operating system, and add a M2-ATX vehicle power supply. The total price for the Toughbox 15 with all included options is $967.94.

    Description:

    The Toughbox 15, like the Toughbox 14, is a small, lightweight and powerful dual-core computing system. Its design and specifications prove the Toughbox 15 is worthy of more than just a basic car PC installation. In fact, with the look of its sleek and elegant case, the Toughbox 15 may be better suited as a workstation or an embedded platform. The Chenbro case is simply the best looking case I’ve seen to date in the hobby. There’s a large chrome colored power switch on the front of the case which illuminates with a bright but not intrusive blue ring of LEDs. The edges are curved and the included vertical stand shows the Toughbox 15 would be right at home on any desk or HTPC rack out there.






    The Toughbox 15 also improves on its power specifications from the Toughbox 14. It uses the new Intel D510 dual-core processor. Though its clock speed varies only slightly from the Atom N270 (1.66 GHz vs. 1.6 GHz), the D510 handles itself quite well with video playback and more CPU-intensive programs. The Toughbox’s processor is passively cooled, which means less noise in your workspace, while taking up less than three quarters of the size of today’s conventional desktop workstations.




    I feel it’d be a shame to take the design of the Toughbox 15 and install it in a trunk or behind a panel in an automobile, but that doesn’t mean the Toughbox 15 isn’t ready for the task. Simply remove the standard 60w PSU and mount a M2-ATX automotive power supply, and the Toughbox 15 will handle any car PC task. It runs Flux Media’s Centrafuse Auto on its highest graphic and effect settings with no lag. iNav iGuidance and iGo 8 PC will run embedded into a front end flawlessly.


    As with most computers, the magic is inside the case. Removing the outer shell of the Chenbro case revealed the D510MO motherboard with a fan-less heat sink covering both the embedded processor and chipset.


    To my approval, the 2 available RAM slots are spaced far enough from the heat sink that installing a chip of RAM isn’t nearly as painful as with most embedded dual-core setups. To the right of the motherboard in a vertical mount is the included 60w power supply.




    The standard power supply connects to the outside 12v A/C adapter through a barrel connector on the rear of the case. This same connector can be connected to the optional M2-atx, meaning less loose wires cluttering up the rear of your case in the event you want to install the Toughbox in a vehicle.

    Unlike the Toughbox 14, the Toughbox 15’s enclosure has enough space to house a laptop style slot-load dvd/cd combo drive. This again shows that the Toughbox would fit right at home or in the workplace. The combo drive’s wires are all run to the motherboard, meaning no USB slots are taken like with most car PCs. Sharing a bracket with the combo drive is a 160GB laptop grade hard drive. Mp3car does have options for hard drive installations in the Toughbox 15, and most car PC users should probably elect to use the 40GB ruggedized drive or perhaps the 80GB solid state drive available.

    The rear of the Toughbox 15 is of standard ITX PC fare, the only real difference is the presence of the barrel-connector mentioned earlier. There are 4 USB ports assuring an abundance of connectivity options. There’s your standard VGA connector, Ethernet connector, and the standard 3 audio connectors. Instead of opting for more USB or firewire connection options, Intel decided to keep standard ps/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse. It baffles me why they decided to keep these connectors on a new motherboard, especially considering most hardware manufacturers don’t even make ps/2 keyboard and mouse devices anymore. The rear is also missing a DVI port, something that’s been included in nearly every other motherboard Intel has released in the last 2 years.


    Aside from those 2 questionable calls, the rear connectors on the back of the Toughbox 15 are clean and nicely spaced, allowing for hassle free installation in both the workplace and the car.

    The Positive:

    • Absolute beautiful and well thought out casing
    • Customizable to individual user needs
    • Performance and reliability of the Intel dual-core product
    • Energy efficient design
    • Flexible enough to be installed in the home, work, or car
    • Small form factor which allows for multiple mounting options
    • Comes with power supply for the home and options for the car

    The Negative:

    • Sacrifices USB connectors for legacy ps/2 connectors
    • No DVI display output
    • Use of more than 2 channel audio requires an additional header connection
    • Cost when compared to self-built self-sourced system

    The Verdict:

    The Toughbox 15 is perhaps the most versatile bundle that Mp3car has currently. It seems to have the flexibility to find a niche no matter where it’s installed. Everything with the Toughbox 15 works… and it works quietly, elegantly and efficiently. Whether you’re looking for a do-it-all car computer platform, a sturdy quiet and energy-efficient workstation, or a stable and reliable embedded application, the Toughbox 15 from Mp3car can work for you.

    See the ToughBox 15 on the mp3Car Store here.