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  1. Hardware Review: OBDLink MX Wi-Fi OBD-II Adapter

    by , Today at 02:21 PM

    What is it?

    The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is a professional grade OBD-II adapter that uses wifi to communicate.

    The Verdict:

    The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is a great OBD-II adapter option... provided you can't make use of the more user-friendly Bluetooth model.



    What's In The Box?


    The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi comes with the OBD-II adapter and a host of platform specific start guides. A link to the included OBDLink application and a copy of the license number for that app are also included.

    Description:

    One of my favorite "high-end" products to review during my time at mp3Car.com was the original OBDLink MX Bluetooth. Prior to using it, I always purchased the cheapest OBD adapter I could find, and it really took getting a high-quality product like the OBDLink to realize just how slow those bargain basement options are. When I heard that a new faster version of the MX line was available, I requested a sneak peek to find out if it was an even better option.


    First things first, the OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is fast. No matter the protocol, the wifi model was faster to communicate with my cars when compared to the Bluetooth model. The MX Wi-Fi also maintains all of the available features of the Bluetooth variant. The dimensions are the same, it works with every protocol including MS CAN, and the battery saver technology still powers the unit down when the vehicle is off. Using wifi means the MX Wi-Fi can take advantage of the super secure WPA2 encryption protocol, leaving little chance that an intruder can steal your signal and interfere with vehicle controls. Using wifi means that the device is compatible with nearly every Android/iPhone/Windows platform out there. Everything you'd expect from a wifi based OBD-II adapter you get with the MX Wi-Fi.


    Then, there are the limitations that one might overlook when choosing this wifi OBD-II adapter. The first issue is found during initial setup. As expected, the WPA2 encryption that the MX Wi-Fi uses requires a key that is only found on the back of the unit. In order for your smartphone or tablet of choice to find the MX Wi-Fi adapter, you must install the device into the OBD-II port commonly found under the dash. After your smartphone finds the device, you just then enter the WPA2 key, and unless you thought ahead and wrote down the key or have a sequence of mirrors just hanging around your car, you'll probably have to take the MX Wi-Fi out of the OBD-II port and take down the key. Rinse and repeat for each new wireless device you want to use to communicate with the MX Wi-Fi.


    Unfortunately, it doesn't really get easier from there. After establishing your wifi connection, you effectively lose internet service to your smartphone. Assuming you're following the start guide thats included with the MX Wi-Fi, you have already installed the included copy of the OBDLink software, and have now completed step 2 through 8 of the guide (summarized in the last paragraph). The first time you run the OBDLink application it requires you to enter your license key and register the software. Here's the catch, while connected through wifi to the MX Wi-Fi, so you have no internet access. You will have to hop off the OBDLink MX access point and grab another wireless source to complete this step. Internet access, or lack thereof, is a common problem to me while using the OBDLink MX Wi-Fi for anything other than on the spot diagnostics. Unlike the Bluetooth model which you can install in a vehicle and basically "forget" once is initially setup, the OBDLink Wi-Fi relegates a smartphone to a "dumb" phone while it's plugged in, and unless you manually take the time to open your smartphone settings and disable wifi while driving, you're automatically going to lose data access while driving. Even the OBDLink software that comes with the MX Wifi has an issue with internet access. One of the functions of the app is mapping diagnostic data over your current position, but without data access, the app cannot draw the map (see below).


    Despite this, the OBDLink application is incredibly powerful. It has most of the features of competing applications like Torque, but is designed to work specifically with OBDLink devices. Its much smaller in terms of install size and seems to be a lot faster between screens than Torque. All that and free support and updates for life make it the ideal companion to the MX Wi-Fi, internet hiccup aside.


    The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is a great OBD-II adapter for someone who might be looking for a device to swap in and out of cars to do spot diagnostic data, but I wouldn't recommend for someone looking to do long term data-logging or something similar. If you have Bluetooth connection as an option, I'd definitely suggest the original MX Bluetooth as your option.

    The Positive:

    • Super fast connection and wireless communication
    • Secure communication
    • Smallest OBD-II adapter on the market
    • OBDLink app included in purchase is optimized for this device
    • Cross-platform compatibility


    The Negative:

    • Initialization and setup is unavoidably painful
    • Use of wifi communication is a constant inhibitor of overall usability

    The Verdict:

    The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is a great OBD-II adapter option... provided you can't make use of the more user-friendly Bluetooth model.


  2. 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.

  3. AFKfest 2009 - Shaun Newman - Car computer install

    by , 08-27-2009 at 08:10 AM


    Rob Wray from mp3Car goes through Shaun's car computer install. Shaun has a fusion brain to control temperature, a 4-way line-in splitter, a CarNetix USB hub, a mic for voice commands, a camera for skype, audio amplifiers, this car is loaded!

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 02:49 PM by optikalefx

    Categories
    Technology Events
  4. CES 2009 - WiFli iphone RDS

    by , 01-14-2009 at 07:31 AM


    We were ambushed by this company’s PR team in the central hall of CES 2009. We thought the last thing we need to do is talk about yet ANOHER iPod accessory. We saw the product again in the Sands show case and decide this was worthy of a story. It would be great to test one of these guys. Let us know if you have tried one.

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 03:28 PM by optikalefx

    Tags: ces_2009, iphone, rds, wifi Add / Edit Tags
    Categories
    Technology Events