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Product Reviews

  1. 7 Inch USB Touchscreen Showdown

    by , 10-06-2011 at 10:51 AM
    In this second series comparing the latest 7" touchscreens we have the Xenarc 700TSU, the Mimo 720f 2G, and the Lilliput UM70C/T USB connected monitors. Check out the video below to assist you in deciding if a USB touchscreen is right for you and which one should you currently consider.

  2. 2011 7 Inch Touchscreen Showdown

    by , 09-07-2011 at 03:02 PM
    New to the scene and searching through the latest in touch screen devices? Maybe looking to upgrade an aging display with something more modern and feature rich? Check out this video for a quick glimpse of the most recent 7" touchscreen devices and how they compare with each other.

  3. Hardware Review: Lilliput 659GL-70NP/C/T Surface Acoustic Wave Touchscreen Monitor

    by , 08-19-2011 at 02:53 PM

    What is it?

    The Lilliput 659 is a 7" touchscreen monitor which uses Surface Acoustic Wave technology for accurate and precise touchscreen operation.

    The Verdict:

    As beautiful as the display is on the Lilliput 659, it may not be the best bet for every installation. The physical dimensions of the screens bezel and other components means you may very well need more than double din space for adequate installation. If you do have the space needed, the 659 may just be your best bet as its brightness and color saturation is head and shoulders above other factory Lilliput devices to this point.

    See the Lilliput 669HB on the mp3Car Store here.



    What’s in the box?

    As always with Lilliput monitors, everything is included with one minor omission. Connection options include an HDMI to HDMI/USB cable, DVI to HDMI/USB cable, and VGA/Composite cable with sub-connector. Included power options are a 12v cigarette lighter plug and brick-style home power connector. Also included are remote, driver CD, and desk stand. The one omission is the stylus that's typically built into the bezel of the monitor.


    Description:

    The Car PC market has been fed a steady diet of touchscreen options in the last several months. Not only have the major brands like Lilliput and Xenarc done more with their existing product line, the hobby has seen new companies start to promote new products. Though there are many slight differences on specifications between product lines, when it boils down to it, most devices use the same basic screen technology. In the 659GL, Lilliput has changed the game. The 659 uses a different type of touchscreen technology, creatively named "surface acoustic wave" (SAW). This technology isn't new by any means, but this is the first iteration we've seen in the 7-inch touchscreen genre. Surface acoustic wave touchscreens send ultrasonic waves constantly through the screen surface. When a user presses the screen, the wave is interrupted a touch event is sent to the controller for processing. Science aside, the surface wave technology in the Lilliput 659 allows for precise touchscreen presses, higher light transmission, and a sharper, more saturated image.


    Simply put, the image quality on the Lilliput 659 is fantastic. The colors are rich and images are sharp. Though the nit rating remains at 450, the light transmission the SAW touch panel allows makes the screen appear transflective. The glass is still glossy, but its mitigated by the amount of light it passes through. This benefit also allows for a extremely larger viewing radius when compared to resistive touchscreen devices.


    Equally as important to the display of the touchscreen is the response, and the Lilliput 659 comes through in this regard too. The SAW touchscreen is harder than the resistive variants, and this results in a surer button press. The Lilliput 659 eliminates the mushiness, giving users greater confidence in a press without needing the eyes fixated on the screen. I did note that it's harder to get a response on the outer 1/4 inch of the screen, but I'm not sure if this is a problem with my test unit or with all of the 659's.

    This small problem leads me to a larger gripe I have with the Lilliput 659. The bezel on this device when compared with any other 7" touchscreen available today is huge. Anyone looking to install this in a standard double din enclosure may encounter a problem getting it to fit. I'm not sure if the controller boards inside require the larger bezel, but its definitely something to take note of prior to hacking away at your dashboard. Check out my video comparing the bezel size with a Lilliput 669.



    The Positive:

    • Huge leap in image quality from the SAW touchscreen
    • HDMI, DVI, VGA, and Composite connections available
    • Accurate and satisfying touchscreen feedback
    • Auto-On still available (via factory menu)

    The Negative:

    • Bezel size may prohibit double din installation for some
    • Missing auto composite switch wire


    The Verdict:

    As beautiful as the display is on the Lilliput 659, it may not be the best bet for every installation. The physical dimensions of the screens bezel and other components means you may very well need more than double din space for adequate installation. If you do have the space needed, the 659 may just be your best bet as its brightness and color saturation is head and shoulders above other factory Lilliput devices to this point.

    For more specifications on the Lilliput 659 click here
    For more pictures of the Lilliput 659 click here

    Updated 08-19-2011 at 02:58 PM by Sonicxtacy02

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  4. Hardware Review: Connect2Car Anywhere G2 vehicle security system

    by , 05-10-2011 at 04:54 PM

    What is it?

    The Connect2Car Anywhere G2 is a vehicle security device which allows control of your vehicle and its security systems from any internet-connected PC or mobile device.

    The Verdict:

    The Connect2Car Anywhere G2 is the ultimate add on device for access and controlling your automobile. With just a few taps on your tablet, laptop, or mobile device you have monitoring and control of your vehicles security systems. Provided you are "anywhere" the internet may roam and don't mind the cost of a subscription, the Connect2Car G2 offers the ultimate in convenience and security services no matter where you are.



    Description:

    We've all been there, a crowded mall parking garage with the sound of some cars' factory security system echoing throughout. And just as as everyone else in the general vicinity, we try our best to ignore it. A high-percentage of the time it's a false alarm right? "It's not my car".

    The one person that does care about it is the owner. Whether its the thieves that want to boost your Garmin or a pleasant elderly lady who tore into the front bumper, the owner ultimately cares. The problem with factory systems is unless you're there to hear the sirens blazing, you have no idea whats going on. With the Connect2Car G2 system you're always there. The first layer of the G2 system allows you to know exactly when things happen to your ride via alerts to your mobile device. It doesn't matter if you're a few stores away or a few states away, each alert will let you know of the event (doors opened, motion detected, outside of your custom "geo-fence") as well as the current location of the car. Using the Connect2Car G2 provides the ultimate piece of mind that factory alarm systems just don't provide.

    The second layer of the Connect2Car Anywhere G2 system is the access control. Again, through any internet connected device you can send commands to your vehicle. Laptop and tablet device users can simply log into their Connect2Car account and send commands via web browser. Blackberry users have the privilege of a dedicated application which allows all of the features of the Connect2Car G2 system to be accessed (see video for a look inside the blackberry app). Users of other mobile phone platforms can simply send text messages to a dedicated Connect2Car number. Commands range from simple ARM/DISARM & START/STOP which do as they suggest, to WHEREIS, which replies with a live map position of the car. There are also some advanced security commands which allow users to literally turn off the car and stop it dead in its tracks (this one was very fun to test), or even do it automatically with the use of the custom geo-fence system. All commands are always readily available by sending the MENU command for text users. Each command gets sent to the vehicle through a GSM-based antenna the Connect2Car G2 uses to communicate. While its definitely not as quick as tapping a button on your key fob, the commands all act within 10-15 seconds, and each command is confirmed via text message or through the application in the case of the blackberry.


    Now, the downside to all of this accessibility and convenience is the fact that the Connect2Car Anywhere G2 uses a subscription-based system which requires a monthly payment. There are a few payment levels based on the number of commands users are allotted. My personal advice is to get one of the higher plans (500 commands are more). It may seem like a lessor plan would suffice, but the Connect2Car system is designed so it replaces any key-less entry or factory security systems, so anytime you resort to using an alternative you're right back to the "beeeeeep beeeeep" age of vehicle security. Also, like many other high-end security systems, the Connect2Car Anywhere G2 requires professional installation. Now some our hobbyist here on mp3Car brush off that notion, just know that Connect2Car's support is absolutely top notch and more than willing to spend time troubleshooting and testing. If that doesn't get you where you wish to be with the system, there is also a nationwide database of Connect2Car G2 system installers.

    The Positive:

    • Easy access to my car from near anywhere I go
    • Absolute piece of mind security
    • Allows for remote engine start, window control
    • Not limited to the range of a standard key fob



    The Negative:

    • Requires a subscription
    • GSM connection is not available in all areas
    • Not as quick as just hitting the key fob for commands

    The Verdict:

    The Connect2Car Anywhere G2 is the ultimate add on device for access and controlling your automobile. With just a few taps on your tablet, laptop, or mobile device you have monitoring and control of your vehicles security systems. Provided you are "anywhere" the internet may roam and don't mind the cost of a subscription, the Connect2Car G2 offers the ultimate in convenience and security services no matter where you are.



  5. Hardware Review: MCS Dual Drive Deluxe PC

    by , 04-04-2011 at 12:57 PM

    What is it?

    The MCS Dual Drive Deluxe is a pre-built mITX car PC system based on the new intel atom D525MW motherboard.

    The Verdict:

    The MCS Dual Drive Delux PC is a efficient and powerful car PC option. When coupled with the optional solid-state and secondary hybrid hard drives, it gives you the best of both worlds in drive performance and capacity. The Dual Drive Deluxe is only limited by its somewhat outdated I/O connectors, but those who own or wish to purchase a VGA monitor may find this system the best bet.



    What’s in the box?

    ]

    The heart of the Dual Drive Deluxe PC is the black-box mITX enclosure and the Intel Atom D525MW motherboard. The motherboard comes with a 1.8Ghz dual-core processor. Pre-installed options include up to 2GB DDR3 single-channel RAM, a Crucial 64GB solid-state hard drive, and a secondary Seagate 500GB hybrid hard drive. The system is powered by a built-in M2-ATX automotive power supply. The system comes packed with wiring for system power, monitor power out, and 5v power out (for external DVD). Also included are CDs for drivers and support and an antenna for the built-in wifi device. Optionally, MCS will include a longer power wire, an extension wire for the wifi antenna, and auxiliary power button connector.

    Description:

    The MCS Dual Drive Deluxe is a car PC from top to bottom. The creators of this pre-built computing system took careful consideration to make it suitable as a car computer. The case, while larger than most other pre-built systems, is a perfect match for the Intel Atom motherboard's fan-less design. There's not a lot vent-holes for airflow, but the case itself is designed with thick aluminum fins to help dissipate heat away from the interior components.



    The case houses quite a bit of hardware. On top of the Intel motherboard, there's also a M2-ATX automotive power supply. This PSU has been customized with unique wiring allowing its power connectors to be run through a large barrel connector on the rear of the case. Also included in the unit I tested were 2 different hard drives. The primary drive is a 64GB SATA solid-state drive. This unit was specifically selected so that an operating system and programs can be installed without fear of data corruption within a moving vehicle. The second hard drive is a Seagate momentus XT 500GB hybrid hard drive. While not completely solid-state, this drive allows data to be shifted in and out of a 4GB NAND section of memory for greater accessibility. This design allows for an overall larger capacity for data with quicker access to the data users need most.

    The tested model of the MCS Dual Drive Deluxe came with 2GB of DDR3 single-channel RAM. There are two slots total on the Intel D525MW motherboard, allowing for a total of 4GB of ram.


    Because of the sleek and flexible design of the black box case, the connectors are all housed on the rear of the case. As seen in the photo, there are a plethora of connecting options, though, some are a bit past their time. There are a total of 6 USB connectors, and as anyone that has ever attempted a car PC install will tell you, you can never have too many of those. Also available is a VGA connector for monitor hookup. There's a SMA connector for the built-in wifi device that's connected to the motherboard. On top of the standard connections for line-out, microphone, line-in, MCS has generously added composite connectors for simple connection to an amplifier or other audio output device. With all these connectors there are a few that exist that just simply aren't needed. For instance, The D525MW comes with PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse. It simply baffles me how these connectors are still built into new motherboards when its near impossible to find PS/2 devices in an basic electronic store today. On the same line of extinction is a RS232 serial connector. This connector would have been a gem 5 years ago with the onset of serial GPS and OBD devices, but now the connector simply occupies space that would be better suited for HDMI or DVI connections. The third and perhaps most out of place connector is the parallel port.


    The performance of the MCS Dual Drive Deluxe is more than sufficient for car PC use. With the installed version of windows 7 32-bit front ends ran smooth and seek times were low. This is definitely where a solid-state drive helps in a car PC. The boot times for the device were on average 15-seconds shorter than my current car PC. Resume times were reduced as well. The only performance snag noted with the Dual Drive Deluxe is with high definition video. I tried several playback files encoded in 1080P MKV and each of them had a distinct delay in sync between audio-video that got worse as the video played to conclusion. That being said, there arent many car PCs out there that should worry about the performance of HD video on screens a mere 7-10" in size.


    The Positive:

    • Flexible and heavy-duty case with multiple installation options
    • Fan-less processor for near silent operation
    • Well thought out design for car PC implementation
    • Multiple hard drive/ RAM/ accessory options
    • Pre-installed wiring configuration for monitor and DVD drive power


    The Negative:

    • Outdated connectors tie up space on the rear of the PC
    • No DVI or HDMI display output
    • Larger case limits installation areas.



    The Verdict:

    The MCS Dual Drive Deluxe PC is a efficient and powerful car PC option. When coupled with the optional solid-state and secondary hybrid hard drives, it gives you the best of both worlds in drive performance and capacity. The Dual Drive Deluxe is only limited by its somewhat outdated I/O connectors, but those who own or wish to purchase a VGA monitor may find this system the best bet.

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