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  1. Hardware Review: Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 Wireless Computer Headset

    by , 03-11-2013 at 10:52 AM

    What is it?

    The Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 is a Wireless Computing Headset featuring digital audio enhancement and noise cancellation.

    The Verdict:

    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



    What’s in the box?

    The WNC-1500 Comes with the headset, a 2.4ghz USB adapter, USB charging cable, a convenient carrying case, and an instruction manual. Software is also available for download from AndreaElectronics.com


    Description:

    Andrea Electronics is widely known in this community for the stellar series of Superbeam USB microphones. When installing a automotive PC, the Superbeam was the best available option for hands-free audio communication for a very long time. The quality of the Superbeam bundle has been reassembled into a wireless audio headset named the WNC-1500.


    Each part of the WNC-1500 package has been considered for fit and finish. The headset itself is extremely comfortable, which each part of the headset which touches your ear cushioned more than adequately with genuine leather. The attached microphone with included pop filter rests away from the face but in ideal position for vocal clarity. Microphone placement was considered not only for clarity, but it stays out of the way during video conferencing for the most part. The headband is also cushioned and does an excellent job of securing the headset speakers comfortably. Being wireless, the device is made to be mobile, and consideration was certainly made to keep the headset snug without being painful.


    The WNC-1500 comes with a convenient set of controls on the right earbud. Included buttons are for volume control, music playback next/previous track, power, and configuration. The buttons are raised with a firm press, but unless you use the headset often, you may find using conventional computer controls more friendly. I find myself hunting for the proper control through trial and error too often.


    The most endearing feature of the WNC-1500 set is the audio quality. Its crystal clear that in it's out of the box form, the headset is made for verbal communication. Despite being wireless, I could effectively speak and listen as if using a landline form of communication. There was simply no static or filtering noises with callers, and they never reported issue in response to my end. Andrea calls it "military grade acoustic noise cancelling technology", I'll just say it does the job and then some. The headset does just enough to filter ambient noises locally as to not disturb what your ears are hearing through the 40mm speaker drivers. By default, the headset doesn't thrill in regard to music or gaming enjoyment, but the included software has a 10 band graphic equalizer to aid in this regard. Despite this, I still felt at times that the headset muffled the audio experience while gaming at its most ideal setting. The virtual surround sound feature was lacking.

    The WNC-1500 is powered by a built in lithium-ion battery. Simply plug in the WNC-1500 with the included USB cable and it will charge fully and relatively short time. The LED indicator on the headset will indicate when charging has completed. During testing, I observed battery life in the 5-7 hour range, more than enough for one sitting. The wireless range too was outstanding as audio clarity would hardly be affected until I was some 40 feet from the USB adapter. This far exceeds any bluetooth headset I've used to date.

    The Positive:

    • Terrific audio quality and noise cancellation
    • USB rechargeable
    • Comfortable design and secure
    • Fold away design and included carrying case means the headset will go where you do
    • Excellent battery life and range

    The Negative:

    • Not immersive sound for gamers
    • Must use device manager to enable/disable the USB adapter as your primary sound card


    The Verdict:


    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



  2. More on CES: "Square" your car PC away with Xi3

    by , 01-16-2013 at 01:10 PM

    The Xi3 booth at CES was jam-packed with these ultra-cool x86 computing systems. Shown above is the Xi3 5A. This 4" modular cube houses a 1.8ghz dual-core AMD CPU, 2GB of system RAM, and up to 1TB of solid state storage. It's modular design allows for a host of peripheral devices, with multiple options for USB/ eSATA, and display ports. The 5A does include a fan for system cooling, but I can say after demoing the device it's indeed silent. It sips power at only 20 watts, and can be powered from 12-24v.






    So what's missing from making this a go to Car PC option? The only downside i see is the lack of the smart automotive power management that we know from Opus and Minibox systems, but because the device is modular and Xi3 is looking at the device to be installed anywhere possible, the engineers eyes lit up at the idea of creating a automotive add-on module to handle that. ETA is of course unknown, but it's great that there's another company out there that gets frenzied up for car PC goodies.


    If the 1.8 dual core isn't enough power for your setup, Xi3 has other builds that might work. The X7a, while slightly more power demanding at 40 watts, packs quad core power and more memory to boot. It's plenty powerful enough for the user who needs to video edit or game on the go.

    The Xi3 modular systems start at just $399.

  3. Hardware Review: MIMO 720F USB Touchscreen Monitor

    by , 12-16-2012 at 02:51 PM

    What is it?

    The MIMO 720F is a USB powered touchscreen monitor with a built-in fixture style mount.

    The Verdict:

    The second iteration of the MIMO 720F touchscreen monitor features improved performance all around. The colors are brighter, touch layer seems clearer, and drivers are more stable. Whether the 720F is the best for you simply depends on your mounting preference, as the mount design can make or break your install.



    What’s in the box?

    The MIMO 720F box comes with the touchscreen monitor, single power/control USB cable, driver CD, mounting screws, and instruction manual.


    Description:

    Ever since the USB Touchscreen Showdown I have received request for a more in-depth look at the MIMO 720F USB Touchscreen monitor. Having had a second go-round with the display, I can confirm basically all of the pluses and minuses from 2011. The 720F is a fantastic option if considering to add an additional monitor your car PC setup... provided you engineer a manner to mount it.


    Easily, the most differentiating item on the 720F is the "flex" mount. Where most 7-inch screens are going to come with a removable bottom mount solution, this version of the 720 system comes with four non-removable mounting arms. MIMO suggests that there are thousands of applications in which to use this unique design, and honestly, I can see many methods in which the mount would be preferred around the house or at work. The available suction cup mount means you can practically mount the 720F on any stationary mounting surface. There's also a headrest mount for display on the go. However, if you're the type who plans an installation that looks like it's meant the be there, the flex mount will more than likely be a hindrance.


    So while prospective purchasers may have a decision to make regarding the 720F's backside, no one will have a problem with the business end. The MIMO device is easily the nicest looking USB touchscreen to date. The bezel is sleek and clean with no forward facing buttons to speak of. Aside from the MIMO logo on the bottom of the bezel, the 720F can absolutely look OEM properly implemented in a car. Even the power light seems to be considered, as it is offset and not blindingly bright at night.


    The good looks continue when your operating system loads and the display comes to life. Where the first generation was inhibited with some pixilation and color banding issues, "Season 2" of the 720F has drastically improved visuals whether during movement or stationary. I'm not entirely positive if it's the improved DisplayLink drivers or the hardware itself, but rest assured the 720F will display the way you desire. Keep in mind though that you're still limited to a fixed resolution of 800x480, and USB display means your operating system must load before the 720F will work.


    As with all USB touchscreens, the driver requirement put Windows users first in terms of display and touch screen support. The included DisplayLink drivers for Windows have been improved and the result is an increase in stability. I have not experienced the problems resuming from suspend modes as I had in previous iterations. Mac OSX users have been added to the list of users that can take advantage of the MIMO display, provided they don't mind having to purchase a third-party USB driver. Android users may not be left out for long, as there are efforts to bring a Android-friendly driver to the front as well for host-mode compatible devices.

    The Positive:

    • Superb display quality which rivals HDMI competitors
    • Uses a single USB
    • OSX and Android driver options are now available in limited capacity
    • Sleek bezel design


    The Negative:

    • Mounting system may limit install capabilities
    • Still requires Windows to load before it will display
    • Single USB cable may cause problems with some USB hubs

    The Verdict:

    The second iteration of the MIMO 720F touchscreen monitor features improved performance all around. The colors are brighter, touch layer seems clearer, and drivers are more stable. Whether the 720F is the best for you simply depends on your mounting preference, as the mount design can make or break your install.

    The MIMO 720F is available on Amazon

    For a video comparing the 720F with the other latest USB Touchscreens click here


  4. CES is just around the corner...

    by , 12-13-2012 at 02:06 PM

    Everyone's favorite resident reviewer here with a reminder that the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show is January 8-11th, just a few short weeks away! As always, mp3Car will be present and accounted for during all the shows events.

    As the tradition stands, we want your feedback on what to look forward to at the show. What gizmos, gadgets, and do-dads does the community have interest in? If you won't be in attendance this year, what can we showoff that you've been waiting for? Let's hear your thoughts!

    Updated 12-19-2012 at 07:57 AM by Sonicxtacy02

    Categories
    Technology Events , Product Reviews
  5. Hardware Review: CustomGadz X2 Module for Android

    by , 09-23-2012 at 01:55 PM

    What is it?

    The CustomGadz X2 Module meshes the smartphone to the car PC, allowing for user-friendly control of an Android-powered car PC through a larger touchscreen monitor.

    The Verdict:

    The CustomGadz X2 Module is the ultimate way to make your smartphone your everyday car PC. Simply plugging in an HDMI cable from your phone to a monitor transforms your vehicle into an Android-powered experience.



    Description:

    The world of do-it-yourself in-car entertainment has recently seen a paradigm shift. The days of finding a space for a typical mITX motherboard and power supply are seemingly being phased out. Instead, more and more individuals are creating ways to install different forms of low cost, power sipping computing solutions. The most popular of these options going into automobiles these days are the Android powered tablet displays. The benefit of an entertainment setup such as this is easy to see at the surface. You get an instantly-on operating environment that is tailored specifically for touch screen usage. Most of the worries of destroying car batteries are a thing of the past, and a tablet device of any quality is going to have a display which is capable of viewing in all levels of sunlight.

    The challenge when dealing with this form of car PC is installation, particularly for a person who has already dipped into a car PC installation in the past. The very nature of a sleek, slim mobile device which essentially does it all can be quite the chore to wedge into a modern automobile console. Every tablet comes in its own shape and size, making a car friendly docking solution somewhat unachievable. So with these issues raised, what solution does an individual have when craving Android but cringing at the thought of taking an expensive tablet and hacking away to make it work in a dash?


    Enter the CustomGadz X2 Module. Based closely on the Mimics iPhone module, the X2 eases installation hassles by allowing Android control through dash-friendly 7” touchscreen display. The brain of an X2 operated car PC is your HDMI-capable smartphone. Once configured, the X2 Android module allows users to control their smartphone from a dash installed touchscreen. The X2 plugs into the touchscreen ribbon cable found in the screen housing, and uses Bluetooth technology to translate those presses to the smartphone. With X2 module installed, having a car PC is as simple as plugging the HDMI cable from your smartphone to your touchscreen monitor.


    The X2 is essentially the link that allows users to experience the same friendly user interface whether in or out of the vehicle. Other obvious benefits are the available mobile data connection, and the amazing capabilities of built-in Android applications. Users get Google music, navigation, and voice control. These are applications that car PC users have been searching long and hard for when installing Windows-based solutions. Users also get a system that is entirely portable, and easily powered, as the X2 only requires a 5v signal and your Android can be powered with an everyday automotive charge cable.


    As one can imagine, the many flavors of Android demands some configuration before the X2 becomes a perfect option. Quite honestly, configuration was somewhat confusing, especially having tested on the base X2 module with the adapter for my 4-wire Lilliput touchscreen. Essentially, configuration requires connecting the device to a PC running custom terminal program. Users must also connect an external button and LED light (neither are included with the base X2 package) and enter button presses to correspond to the commands the application dictates. Once configured, the X2 module must then be calibrated through the combination of a downloadable Android app and another combination of button presses and led flashes. While a tad bit tedious, the entire process is well documented in the installation manual.


    The other obvious drawback to the current version of the X2 Android device is the compatibility is limited in both touchscreen monitors and Android smartphones. Be sure to check the device compatibility list before purchasing. Ultimately, the X2 Android device allows a new group of car PC user, those who don't want to fabricate and destroy dashboards to achieve all the things a car PC can be.

    The Positive:

    • Allows instant control of your smartphone through a larger display
    • Instant control response, no delay after presses
    • Auto-power on/off
    • Touchscreen presses are mirrored from both touchscreen and smartphone
    • Included software walks you through touchscreen calibration
    • Easy to power


    The Negative:

    • Configuration and calibration are a chore
    • Limited compatibility with Android smartphones
    • Multi-Touch capabilities of android aren't available on most touchscreen monitors
    • Base module does not include required adapters and add-ons

    The Verdict:

    The CustomGadz X2 Module is the ultimate way to make your smartphone your everyday car PC. Simply plugging in an HDMI cable from your phone to a monitor transforms your vehicle into an Android-powered experience.

    For more on the process of calibrating the X2 module with your touchscreen check out this video.

    Updated 09-23-2012 at 07:41 PM by Sonicxtacy02

    Categories
    Product Reviews