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  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. Hardware Review: mp3Car ToughBox 14 Mini-Box M350 Based Intel Mini ITX System

    by , 01-27-2010 at 06:17 PM

    What is it?

    The Toughbox 14 is a small yet powerful Micro-ITX computer system built and sold by the Mp3car store. The Mp3car store allows full customization of the Toughbox 14, and the price for a self-installed Toughbox 14 system starts at only $234.99.

    The Verdict:

    The Toughbox 14 is the absolute easiest way to add a powerful, efficient, and genuine car PC to any automobile. It was carefully designed to be everything you could want a car PC to be right out of the box. Couple that with the fact it’s built and backed by Mp3car and you have an absolute winner.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.


    What’s in the box?


    You decide. The base ToughBox 14 system consists of a Mini-Box 350 case, an Intel D945GSEJT motherboard with an integrated Intel Atom N270 processor, 512 MHz of DDR2 ram, and a 160GB laptop grade hard drive. Optionally, Mp3car allows expansion of the ToughBox 14 by adding a 2 port USB module, 2GHz of DDR 2 Ram, an Intel 80GB solid-state hard drive, and an internal PCI-E Intel 802.11 Wifi Card with externally mounted Wifi antenna. To further aid in the installation process Mp3car will optionally install Windows 7 Professional operating system, add a Carnetix P2140 vehicle power supply, and assemble and test the ToughBox prior to shipping. The total price for the Toughbox 14 with all included options is $979.91.

    Description:

    The ToughBox 14 is an absolute fantastic option for hobbyist looking for a fully-built computing solution. In its complete form its ready out-of-the-box to handle anything a car PC needs to do. The ToughBox 14 is extremely lightweight and powerful, yet quiet due to the fact that only passive cooling is used. That’s right; the Intel atom N270 processor allows this compact computer to run silently, and also allows the computer to simply sip energy.

    As a whole, the ToughBox 14 is a near flawless design, which was very well thought out by mp3Car. There are little to no sacrifices. My first point of skepticism when starting to review the product is just how well would it perform with some CPU-intensive processes. I plugged the ToughBox 14 directly into a 12v home wall plug (more on this later), and installed Centrafuse 3 from Flux Media. Even on the high profile for visual effects, the ToughBox 14 had absolutely no problems handling the CPU-intensive front end. Music and Video played with no hitches or stutters, and opening navigation did not seem to stop the Atom N270 in its tracks like with some other smaller processors.


    There’s no question to me that the ToughBox 14 at its best is car PC ready. But I wasn’t quite ready to say the bundle was powerful enough to handle everything. To fully push the ToughBox 14 to its limits I decided to hook up an external USB hard drive with some high-definition .h264 encoded video. My current home theater PC, an aging Dell 3Ghz P4 with an NVidia Video card just simply can’t handle playing my copy of Disney UP. The movie is simply way to processor-intense even with the 512 MHz video card in play. So I decided to try playing UP on the ToughBox 14. The Atom processor to my surprise handled the full HD video, albeit at 80-90% CPU usage. Now in my mind there is no question the ToughBox 14 is ready for not only Car PC usage, but some HTPC usage as well.


    Now it was time to open up the M350 case and see what makes the ToughBox 14 tick. Removing the front panel revealed a hidden 2-port USB hub.


    Being that it’s concealed when the case is fully-assembled, this 2-port extension would be perfect for a small Bluetooth dongle or 3G card. The USB hub is connected to the same board which houses the power button and corresponding blue LED. There is a jumper on the front board which allows users to disable the power button entirely, or set the motherboard to automatically turn on upon loss of power.

    Removing 1 small screw on the back of the case allowed full exposure to the components inside the case.


    The 2.5” Intel 80GB solid-state hard drive is suspended on top black support. The drive is directly over the north-bridge and processor heat sink, but during my testing this did not cause any problem at all. The advantages of the solid-state drive over a standard 2.5-inch laptop drive are tremendous. Solid-state drives have a better resistance to temperature changes. Also, a solid-state drive has no moving parts; this allows an improvement not only in shock protection, but also faster read/write speeds. The speed of the drive impacts the time to access data and load or resume an operating system. The operating system of choice on the ToughBox 14 full bundle is Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 7 has built-in optimizations for solid-state drives, further enhancing the capabilities of the ToughBox 14. Windows 7 also has better control of the computers hibernate/resume routine, ensuring that not only are hibernations faster, but resume have far less errors.


    Upon removing the hard drive mechanism we can see the single-chip 2Ghz DDR 2 module. The Intel 945GSEJT uses a laptop memory module installed on its side for space saving. Also installed is the Intel Wireless WifiLink 4965AGN PCI-E 802.11 device. Like the Ram module, the PCI-E device sits on its side. A small gauge cable is run from the WifiLink to the externally mounted Wifi antenna which is plugged into the back of the M350 case. With the onset of wireless 3G devices it might seem redundant to carry an 802.11 device in the car, but there are two clear advantages. First, there is no monthly charge for wifi use, and wifi hotspots are becoming more and more abundant with time. The second and perhaps greater advantage is the ability to automatically sync up with your home computers upon being in range of your home wifi device. This allows music, documents, and photos to seamlessly install to your car PC without much user input.

    The Intel 945GSEJT has internal connections for a single slim IDE channel, dual SATA connectors, and an analog HD Audio header. What’s missing from the motherboard is your standard 20-24pin ATX power connector. This is because the board is built to be plugged into any standard 12v 5amp power source. This greatly adds to the ease of installation because the power supply doesn’t need to be cluttering up the case. In fact, the Carnetix 2140 power supply packaged with the ToughBox 14 only takes two small sets of wires to connect to the rear of the case; the 12volt power line, and a smaller line which connects the Carnetix to the motherboard’s power switch. Having installed many car PCs and be

    The remaining connectors on the rear are nicely spaced apart and allow for a clean computer installation. There’s a standard VGA connector, a DVI video connection, 3 USB ports, an Ethernet port, and a single audio out connector.


    So basically, the ToughBox 14 full bundle is made from the case up to be user-friendly as a car pc. Installation in the vehicle is as straight forward as it gets. As with all vehicle power supplies, you must run wires for 12v, ACC, and GND to the wires that come with the Carnetix 2140. Then connect the two output wires from the 2140 to the appropriate inputs on the rear of the M350 case. Connect the VGA out from your monitor and touchscreen cable, and you’ve got a powerful and efficient car PC.

    The only real drawbacks are not specific to the ToughBox 14, but all pre-built car PC systems in general. First, there’s limited room for external accessories with only 5 USB ports. Of course, nearly anyone is capable of installing USB hubs that will allow expansion, but there are complexities in getting a reliable USB hub in the automotive environment. The second drawback is the price when compared to a self sourced computer. You could certainly build something similar for less, but knowing that you’re getting a reliable ready-made PC tested and backed by the Mp3car store should certainly be looked at as invaluable.

    The Positive:

    • Built and tested ready for use in the automotive environment
    • Customizable to individual user needs
    • Performance and reliability of the Intel Atom dual-core product
    • Energy efficient design
    • Built specifically for car PC use
    • Small form factor which allows for multiple mounting options
    • Simple to use and customizable Intelligent power supply

    The Negative:

    • Limited room for expansion
    • 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 14 is the absolute easiest way to add a powerful, efficient, and genuine car PC to any automobile. It was carefully designed to be everything you could want a car PC to be right out of the box. Couple that with the fact it’s built and backed by Mp3car and you have an absolute winner.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

    Updated 01-27-2010 at 06:30 PM by Jensen2000

    Categories
    Product Reviews
  4. Hardware Review: 2010 Xenarc 1020TSV 10.2

    by , 01-26-2010 at 05:53 PM

    What is it?

    The Xenarc 1020TSV is a 10-Inch 16:9 Widescreen VGA monitor with 5-wire resistive touch panel.

    The Verdict:

    The Xenarc 1020TSV is a work of art when compared to rival car PC monitors. Its aluminum bezel and new features stand alone in the market. However I just don’t feel the 1020TSV was meant to be customized to the point of installing permanently in a vehicle.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.


    What’s in the box?


    The 1020TSV comes with an instruction manual, VESA mount, desktop stand, an attachable stylus pointer, and a single-loom wire which includes connectors for USB, VGA input, 2 composite inputs, and an audio cable which connects to the built-in speaker. Also included are a home power supply, car cigarette lighter power supply, full function remote, and the touchscreen driver CD.

    Description:

    The 1020TSV is Xenarc’s latest entry in the 10-inch touch screen market. The company has an outstanding reputation for building high-quality displays, and the 1020TSV is no exception. Upon opening the packaging I was immediately in awe of this monitor. It has a huge screen, an absolutely stunning brushed, anodized aluminum front bezel, and fascinating display quality. All this backed by a company who’s been building monitors for our hobby reliably since the very beginning. The rear of the 1020TSV is constructed from ABS plastic, and features the same cable locking design of the smaller 700TSV. Both power and input cable are forcibly held into place, up and out of the way for fabricators.


    The 1020TSV has all the standard car PC monitor connections. There is a VGA connector, 2 audio/video composite connectors, and an audio connector which allows installers to run pc audio directly to the built-in speaker in the Xenarc. The speaker is around 3 inches, so do not expect full-range audio, however it would be nice to be able to route GPS guidance prompts separate from your music. Like the 700TSV, the 1020TSV does not have a DVI connection, something that should be common for all new monitors in today’s world. The 1020TSV does have auto-switch sensors built into the composite input 1.

    The 1020TSV has the same Advanced Image Scaling and Sharpness (AISS) feature has the 7-inch 700TSV. This, coupled with the native-resolution of 1024x600 means with the 1020TSV you get a big, bold, beautiful display. With competing monitors it’s often the case that you can see individual pixel differences in an image. AISS fixes this problem and processes both static and moving images with extreme clarity.


    The size of the screen becomes even handier when coupled with the new Picture-in-Picture mode. This mode allows for an auxiliary input to be displayed while VGA is still displayed. Either composite input can be displayed in small-window mode or split-screen with a press of the button on the remote, and each screen is swappable. This could come in handy with say a backup sensor or rear seat camera.



    The 1020TSV has a new ambient light sensor on its front bezel. This allows the monitor to automatically dim based on the amount of available light. The automatic dim works well, but like the 700TSV, the 1020 doesn’t dim nearly enough to make it work well at night without manual adjustments. The buttons on the front bezel are backlit blue and take quite the amount of force to use when compared to other monitors of its kind.

    When looked at as a whole, the 1020 sure seems like a lead competitor in the big-boy screen department. But upon closer analysis, you may come to realize this monitor really wasn’t made to be mated to a car PC. Why? Well for starters, it’s heavy. At 3.3lbs, its going to take more than just bondo to get this fabricated into a vehicle. And that beautiful brushed aluminum bezel is not made to be cut, which means you must have an awful lot of space in your dash to make this your display. My Dodge Caravan is a rather large vehicle, but there’s simply no way the 1020TSV is going to fit the dash in its current form.


    Here is a photo comparing the actual bezel size difference between the 1020TSV and the 7”inch 700TSV.


    Even if you have the space, you have to factor in that this monitor is not transflective. The instructions indicate there is an anti-glare film applied to its 5-wire resistive touch screen, but in my testing I noticed no improvement over Xenarc 10-inch screens from years ago. The simple fact of the matter is more screen size means more room for glare, and while driving around with the 1020TSV as my monitor for a partly cloudy day it was a chore to navigate my front end.


    All these things as a whole make me believe the Xenarc 1020TSV was not made to be used in a vehicle at all. It seems at its best when it’s a secondary display, sitting on a desk and able to show its stunning visuals without having to worry about glare.

    The Positive:

    • Top-notch display quality delivered from AISS
    • Installation-friendly wiring design
    • Composite Input auto-switch
    • Picture in Picture with easy controls
    • 500:1 Contrast Ratio
    • Native resolution of 1024x600
    • Auto-power on when VGA signal is detected
    • Solid build, outstanding quality reputation
    • Built-in ambient light sensor

    The Negative:

    • No DVI input
    • Only 1 composite connection can auto-switch
    • Below average sunlight-readability
    • Only 300nits brightness
    • Aluminum bezel must be accounted for in fabrication

    The Verdict:

    The Xenarc 1020TSV is a work of art when compared to rival car PC monitors. Its aluminum bezel and new features stand alone in the market. However I just don’t feel the 1020TSV was meant to be customized to the point of installing permanently in a vehicle.

    Specifications:

    Aspect Ratio: 16:9
    Screen Size: 10.2” Diagonal
    Colors: 18-bit (262, 144 Colors)
    Native Resolution: 1024x600px
    VGA Modes: 640x480 to 1600x1200
    Viewing Angle 160° Horizontal, 140° Vertical
    Contrast: 500:1
    Inputs: VGA, 2 x Composite Video Optional, 1 x PC audio
    Touch Panel: Resistive 5 wires.
    Power Consumption:

    Updated 01-27-2010 at 06:13 PM by Jensen2000

    Categories
    Product Reviews
  5. Hardware Review: PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD Scanner

    by , 01-05-2010 at 12:00 PM


    What is it?

    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi is an easy to use wireless OBD-II scanner which connects to iPhone and iPod Touch Devices.

    The Verdict:


    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD-II scanner is a handy device, which makes OBD scanning and code reading simpler than it’s ever been before. However, its wireless accessibility is both a blessing and a burden. I would recommend this device based on its code-reading abilities more so than its day-to-day data reading capabilities.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.


    What’s in the box?


    The Kiwi Wifi comes with the main OBD-II Module, a 6-foot OBD port cable, and a simple yet effective set of instructions.

    Description:


    The Kiwi Wifi device is a plug and play tool used to scan OBD-II data from modern automobiles using either an iPhone or iPod Touch (not included). The magic in the device is it uses an 802.11x wireless signal to send the data read from your OBD-II port to the Apple device. This means you can simply connect the OBD-II cable to your vehicles port, and tuck the Kiwi away. The device has a switch to turn the Kiwi on/off. This may come in handy if you are worried about power consumption (the device does constantly pull power from the OBD port in its ON state), but for most applications it shouldn’t be necessary. The only other notable features of the device are a red light indicating the device power state and a green “LINK” light that indicates an iPod connection is present.




    To complete the setup, one need go to "settings" on your iPod or iPhone device. Turn on wifi, and a wireless signal named “PLXDevices” should display after a quick signal search. Connect to that device (no encryption needed), then click the blue arrow to enter that particular connection’s settings. Click the “Static” button then enter an IP address of 192.168.0.11 and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. Save, and the setup is complete.



    The Kiwi device is supported by various applications from the iTunes store. The instructions indicate that both popular apps, Rev and FuzzyCar, support the Kiwi. FuzzyCar supports all PID data and is quite a bit cheaper than the paid-for version of Rev, so that was my app of choice. Once installed, FuzzyCar ran a quick scan of my vehicles supported PIDs. Once the scan was done the information was displayed in a neat and clear fashion.








    The ease of use of the Kiwi Wifi when paired with an iPod is amazing. The instruction booklet reads “This Won’t Take Long” in bold print and it couldn’t be more correct. Still, there are two issues that need be mentioned. In order to use the device, you must first manually connect to the “PLXDevices” wifi connection each time you want to use it. It would seem the applications should automatically switch when they are started but this is not the case. The bigger issue is the speed at which the information is updated. A standard serial OBD-II port will update information at nearly once per second. The Kiwi Wifi appears to be hindered by the wireless connection, as the information updates at close to once per ten seconds in my testing with FuzzyCar. This obviously makes information such as RPM and engine load % worthless. Even still, the PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi handles OBD-II well and does an excellent job of adding a handy feature to an already potent Apple device.

    The Positive:


    • Super-fast installation routine
    • Supreme portability
    • Seamless integration with iPhone/iPod Touch
    • Wireless means less wiring and easier to stow away
    • Power switch to conserve energy
    • Bus (OBD-II) powered

    The Negative:


    • Requires an external device (iPod or iPhone)
    • Slow data updates
    • Requires manual connection of the wireless device
    • No free application. Adds to the cost of the device.

    The Verdict:


    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD-II scanner is a handy device which makes OBD scanning and code reading simpler than it’s ever been before. However, its wireless accessibility is both a blessing and a burden. I would recommend this device based on its code-reading abilities more so than its day-to-day data reading capabilities.

    Specifications:


    SSID: PLXDevices
    IP: 192.168.0.10
    Subnet: 255.255.255.0
    Port: 35000
    Range: 50 ft (line of sight)
    Antenna: Internal
    Power Consumption: 0.7 Watts
    Wifi Standard: 802.11a/b/g
    Operating Temp: -15 to 100° C
    Dimensions: 2.75x1.25x0.6 Inches

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

    Updated 01-05-2010 at 12:08 PM by Jensen2000

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