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  1. Hardware Review: Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module

    by , 06-16-2014 at 11:31 AM

    What is it?

    The Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module lets you monitor tire pressure wirelessly via Bluetooth.

    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.


    Description:

    Quite a few years ago at mp3Car's first national car PC meet, I was lucky enough to win a prize for having as many as 19 USB devices connected to my car PC. The prize received was USB number 20, a car PC connected tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) from Portal Media. Many years and several dead sensor batteries later, the device had served me well, but it was time for an upgrade. Luckily, the guys at Portal Media have been busy at work improving on their existing technology. For years it's seemed that the Bluetooth variant of their TPMS devices was simply an idea in our mp3Car forum, but the time has arrived, and the device really exists. I've been privileged to spend the last few weeks testing this new device out and getting to see if the wireless abilities actually improved the experience.


    Let's get the obvious information out of the way first. The tire sensors required for the Bluetooth TPMS device must be professionally installed, so be sure to account for the cost of installation when considering this purchase. My cost was roughly $30/tire, but yours can vary. Also, as if this review, there is no Apple or Windows application that will work with the Bluetooth TPMS module. It's unknown whether this will be created by Portal Media in the near future, but as the mp3Car community is founded on the idea of tinkering and fitting square pegs in round holes, I'm sure solutions will exist shortly. Once the sensors are installed in the tires, the rest of the process of setting the system up is a breeze. The TPMS module is smaller and sleeker this time around, so it's easy to plug into any available 12v source and slide in a glove box or other compartment. It's recommended to install the device in a centralized location in relation to the tire sensors, but I've had far more success with reception despite installation location in comparison to the USB unit. Once the device is mounted and powered, the Android application will need to be downloaded from the Play Store. Once the app is installed, its time to begin the process of synchronizing the tire sensors to the Bluetooth module. Check out the video below on the steps required here.


    The Android application for the Bluetooth TPMS is very easy to use. The user interface is very simple, and once the sensors are learned, it will quickly and accurately report sensor information. In the app settings, there are a large number of variables which control sensor alert notifications and display preferences. The app is not without faults though. I have the application installed on three of my Android devices; A Samsung tablet with QHD resolution, a Samsung smartphone with HD resolution, and the ODROID X-2 Android low resolution head unit. Each instance gives me a different take on the app. The smartphone displays the perfect scaling of text, buttons, and images. On the tablet, the buttons are very small and often a chore to press, and the vehicle image and text does not scale to make use of the added real estate. The ODROID's low resolution allows for the buttons and images to display correctly, but the text is too large for the bubble window it's presented in. Portal Media has acknowledged some of the drawbacks of the app, and is aggressively working to correct the issues.




    Ultimately, the experience of being free of the installed car PC screen when dealing with my tire pressure is a much needed improvement. Rather than having to run back and forth between tires and the monitor to check pressure levels, I can take my tablet with me to each tire. I'll still receive alert notifications through my Android car PC, but the flexibility to use an additional screen when I choose is awesome.

    The Positive:

    Module has a sleeker and smaller profile
    Tire sensor reception seems improved
    Android ability allows for cross-device usage
    Easy learning and setup process



    The Negative:

    No current iPod or Windows support
    Android app is functional, but will need work



    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.

  2. Hardware Review - Wireless USB TPMS Review

    by , 07-16-2009 at 11:49 PM

    Review by forum member: fixerofallthin

    1. What is the typical setup time for a 4 sensor kit and costs? (This includes having sensors mounted at a tire dealership)
    The typical time to mount sensors is about the same as mounting 4 new tires. When a reputable tire shop replaces tires on a vehicle equipped with factory TPMS they are supposed to dismount the sensors as well to replace the sealing gaskets. So when you contact your tire shop to make an appointment be prepared to allow about 1-2 hours work time plus whatever wait time involved.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.



    Our shop charges $25.00 per wheel to mount and balance tires so if you are doing the spare as well then $125.00 is an average price. If you are replacing your tires then we would not charge to install the sensors since the tires would need to be off anyway. Be sure to have the tires rebalanced if you did not replace them as the stems and sensors will alter the balance.
    If you are wanting to monitor your spare tire as well be sure the spare wheel will accept a sensor. Most temporary spare tires (donuts) are not meant to be dismounted and might not have room for the sensor.



    Be sure the shop uses a torque wrench to mount the sensors correctly.


    2. What is an ideal mounting location for the USB TPMS receiver, for both aesthetics and reception?
    The instructions tell you to install the receiver in a central location such as the base of the windshield. I found a central location in my truck to be the center console, which just happens to have a USB hub installed in it. In testing the sensors I spread them around my house and even put one in the freezer and refrigerator to monitor temps and to test reception distance and I was very pleased with how far away I could still communicate with all the sensors. 2 of the sensors were 25 feet away from the receiver and I still saw no issues, so I think just about anywhere you do not have excessive RF interference should work. When you first set up the system you are instructed to unplug the receiver several times so be sure to set it up completely before you tuck it away permanently.

    3. How do you install and use the software? (Both plug-in and standalone)





    I followed the directions that came with the kit to check the system before I mounted the sensors.
    RRTMS (from MP3Car.com forums) comes with the plug-in for RideRunner and a tool to configure the sensors and messages that are displayed and spoken (there is a typo in the dialog that speaks when the tire pressure is too high, it says "hight" instead of "high", so check that while you are installing the software). Download the file and extract it to your RideRunner plug-in folder. Be sure to register the .dll file after you copy it to its final location. You will need to add or modify a button in your skin to launch the TPMS screen. The button command is "TMS" and it launches TMS.skin. You can build your own screen to match the skin you are using or there is a test skin included in the RRTMS folder.




    CFTPMS (from the Centrafuse downloads section on http://forums.fluxmedia.net/) installs the plug-in for Centrafuse 2.0. It is a simple install. It is an exe file that puts everything where it needs to be. When prompted be sure to install the tools also. The tools folder in your Fluxmedia>centrafuse>plugins>tpms will have a program called TPMS doctor that is used to test communication. Once you install the CFTPMS.exe be sure to go download the update 2.1.9.0. Now that CFTPMS is updated you can set one of your buttons to launch tpms by clicking and holding the button you want it assigned to and selecting it from the list; Then go to settings and select advanced settings and you can enter the tpms section and set your preferences (PSI vs. Bar and such).


    4. How do I re-learn the sensors?
    I was able to set up my software before I even mounted the sensors in the wheels because the kit is prelearned by the manufacturer. I installed the software as listed above and was able to monitor the temperatures and battery levels to check communication. The manufacturer includes a sheet with the locations the sensors should be mounted.

    The instructions say not to use Centrafuse to set up the sensors because it is buggy, but I used both Riderunner and Centrafuse with no issues.

    When you rotate your tires you simply change the location of the sensor.





    5. How do I add a spare sensor?
    Using RRTMS I erased all sensors from the receiver and relearned them following the instructions that came with the kit. Once you select the sensor, you change the tire pressure until the receiver "sees" the change and it registers the sensor.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    Updated 12-26-2009 at 09:48 AM by Jensen2000

    Categories
    Product Reviews , Products and Technology