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Is CarPC worth the time + effort + $$$ ?

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  • Is CarPC worth the time + effort + $$$ ?

    I've been doing the CarPC thing for a little over three years now, and I'm starting to question whether the result is worth the effort. I've spent countless hours running wires, building housings, and tweaking software only to come up with a setup that does little more than my Android Phone can do at a fraction of the cost. Here's a breakdown of my costs.

    --------- CarPC -----------------
    Costs so far... (most of this was bought three years ago. I know some prices are less now)
    PC: $425 for an Asus Pundit + CPU + RAM + HDD
    PSU: Opus 150w ~ $60
    Screen: Xenarc 7" ~ $250
    Auxmod: $60
    Wires: $25
    Software: Centrafuse = $250
    Misc parts: $60
    ------------------ Total: $1130

    Versus...

    Android Phone: $179 + activation fee + car adapters = $250

    Both can do the following....
    • surf the web
    • access email
    • play music
    • perform GPS navigation and routing
    • play games

    The CarPC has an advantage in these areas
    • OBDII information
    • navigation while not connected to the internet
    • playing DVD movies
    • can do satellite radio if I buy a subscription and a receiver.

    The Android Phone has an advantage in these areas
    • fits in my pocket
    • sunlight readable screen
    • can make and receive phone calls
    • no fuss set up
    • less things to go wrong

    When I look at the pros and cons, it seems like the android phone comes out on top. So, I'm asking you, my fellow CarPCers, "What makes the CarPC worth it's price premium over modern smartphones like the iPhone or Android phone?"
    My car PC page, with pictures

  • #2
    SCREEN SIZE (I like my 10.4" and its daylight readable even in direct sunlight)

    Expandability (see next few items)

    Storage (I currently have 120G onboard and 1Tb in trunk)

    Integration (GPS location based weather: I have 30+ weather shots - 8 of which are animated and updated every minute; GPS based gas prices; GPS based movietimes; front and rear cam loop recording; TPMS/OBD/Fusion Brain interfacing car systems; Phone (I have full control of everything on my phone);Digital camera and other USB connectivity on the fly; etc, etc, etc.

    PC Apps: Record FM, TV, XM , and Internet radio to "ARTIST- SONGTITLE.MP3" in music Library; Burn CD/DVD; Readable Email and Web browsing; Video Conferencing; etc, etc, etc.

    A CarPC will never replace a smartphone, but my CarPC IS my car phone. This is a hobby - and I've accepted I'll never be done. Its all about the time you have to invest, your priorities, and tastes. Its not for everyone.
    HARDWARE: Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111w/WiFi and dock, internal Hitachi 500G HD, external 1TB HD, Sierra Wireless Aircard 550, DVD-RW, BoomzBox HD radio, XM Commander, Delorme GPS, Saitek X-52 Pro joystick, BluSoleil Bluetooth, TPMS, FB, Elm327

    Comment


    • #3
      It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If it fits your needs, more power to you. A smartphone wouldn't fit my needs, not enough storage and inferior sound quality for starters.

      Comment


      • #4
        Next to my CarpC I have mounted an inverter, which powers my crockpot!

        Lets see your phone do that!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by GizmoQ
          SCREEN SIZE (I like my 10.4" and its daylight readable even in direct sunlight)

          Expandability (see next few items)

          Storage (I currently have 120G onboard and 1Tb in trunk)

          Integration (GPS location based weather: I have 30+ weather shots - 8 of which are animated and updated every minute; GPS based gas prices; GPS based movietimes; front and rear cam loop recording; TPMS/OBD/Fusion Brain interfacing car systems; Phone (I have full control of everything on my phone);Digital camera and other USB connectivity on the fly; etc, etc, etc.

          PC Apps: Record FM, TV, XM , and Internet radio to "ARTIST- SONGTITLE.MP3" in music Library; Burn CD/DVD; Readable Email and Web browsing; Video Conferencing; etc, etc, etc.
          Gizmo, you're 100% right about the screen size, video recording, expandability, and storage. A smartphone can't compete with a car pc on those. However, my android phone DOES have GPS aware gas prices, weather (with radar), and movie times.

          Originally posted by Machinehead
          It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If it fits your needs, more power to you. A smartphone wouldn't fit my needs, not enough storage and inferior sound quality for starters.
          I agree 100% on the storage. Not so much on sound quality, though. These forums are full of people having sound quality issues. I don't, but many do.

          Originally posted by Minoritydan
          Next to my CarpC I have mounted an inverter, which powers my crockpot!
          Lets see your phone do that!
          I'll admit that a smart phone won't properly cook a pot roast. But neither will a car pc (unless it's a Pentium 4, lol).

          ----------------

          Understand, I'm not against CarPCs. After spending so much time and money on the carpc, I'm finding that it's not THAT much better than the android phone I bought for 1/4 the cost. So, I'm trying to figure out what piece I'm missing that justifies spending 4x as much money and 20x as much time.
          My car PC page, with pictures

          Comment


          • #6
            A phone is exactly that - a phone. You can't use that thing easily when driving. It's a poor substitute for a readable screen and integrated audio or internet access. You can't carry a lot of music with you and you can't access many of the functions that a car PC can such as OBDII.

            However, I'm with you on the 'configuration' front. I spend HOURS configuring my PC just to find out that I need to spend HOURS re-configuring my PC.

            However, there has been much progress in the past few years although it may not appear so.

            1. Installing a PC in your car is nearly as easy as installing a car stereo. The availability of good power supplies and boards is much better than even a few years ago.

            2. Software is more advanced and better and offers a wider choice than before. If you want a CarPC and you don't want to spend hours configuring it, buy CF or SD. The cost of working software and time savings is what you are paying for. Don't feel guilty about it, just buy it and enjoy the time savings.

            3. CarPC specific devices like Fusion Brain that allow you to control more and more of your car, integrating outside environment into the PC.

            4. Flexibility. Although this is one of the reasons that you probably spend a lot of time configuring your system, there has been an EXPLOSION of plug-ins and very advanced skins on the hobbyist side -for free. RR does everything except wipe you after you visit the restroom. But that comes with a price - research and configuration.

            OTOH - this is a hobby, which is defined as something you do for fun, not money. If it's getting to you, I'd say go with the Android and call it a day.
            Originally posted by ghettocruzer
            I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
            Want to:
            -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
            -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by coffeejolts View Post
              I've been doing the CarPC thing for a little over three years now, and I'm starting to question whether the result is worth the effort. I've spent countless hours running wires, building housings, and tweaking software only to come up with a setup that does little more than my Android Phone can do at a fraction of the cost. Here's a breakdown of my costs.

              --------- CarPC -----------------
              Costs so far... (most of this was bought three years ago. I know some prices are less now)
              PC: $425 for an Asus Pundit + CPU + RAM + HDD
              PSU: Opus 150w ~ $60
              Screen: Xenarc 7" ~ $250
              Auxmod: $60
              Wires: $25
              Software: Centrafuse = $250
              Misc parts: $60
              ------------------ Total: $1130

              Versus...

              Android Phone: $179 + activation fee + car adapters = $250

              Both can do the following....
              • surf the web
              • access email
              • play music
              • perform GPS navigation and routing
              • play games

              The CarPC has an advantage in these areas
              • OBDII information
              • navigation while not connected to the internet
              • playing DVD movies
              • can do satellite radio if I buy a subscription and a receiver.

              The Android Phone has an advantage in these areas
              • fits in my pocket
              • sunlight readable screen
              • can make and receive phone calls
              • no fuss set up
              • less things to go wrong

              When I look at the pros and cons, it seems like the android phone comes out on top. So, I'm asking you, my fellow CarPCers, "What makes the CarPC worth it's price premium over modern smartphones like the iPhone or Android phone?"


              My CarPC advantages are:

              It replaces my smart phone

              I save $624 each year for not having to pay for cell phone service

              I don't use a cell phone or land line to call anyone anywhere in the world while driving. I have a ClearWire wireless high speed broadband connection in my car that does it hands free via softphone.

              gone is the hassle of tethering a smart phone to my carPC

              I now pay $39.99 a year to use an IP phone with all the unique features a smart phone has

              while mobile, I can video conference with a 1.5MP webcam using a 17" LCD and a full size keyboard

              have the ability to troubleshoot my car's check engine light with on board diagnostics

              I can control my home pc, and access the files at a local gas station or mc donalds parking lot

              don't need satellite radio

              I get over the air HDTV, streaming HD Video, WEBTV, Internet Radio and BitTorrent

              high definition audio

              real time access to the latest weather forecast knowing in advance if there's a traffic jam ahead to divert my route

              1,800 gigabytes of storage space

              Crysis gameplay is amazing

              never lost or washed my carpc by accident
              Check out my CARPC: Project Diamond Plate

              Quick Reference:
              CPU Electrical Specs
              Power Supply Calculator

              Video Connections for newbies
              Temperature Converter
              Voltage Calculator

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by dMand
                I save $624 each year for not having to pay for cell phone service ...
                How do you make calls or access the internet when you go outside of Clearwire's relatively small coverage area? It seems just as limited as T-Mobile's small 3G coverage, but without the ability to roam on EDGE.

                Originally posted by dMand
                while mobile, I can video conference with a 1.5MP webcam using a 17" LCD and full size keyboard

                have the ability to troubleshoot my car's check engine light with on board diagnostics

                over the air HDTV, streaming HD Video, WEBTV and Internet Radio

                Crysis gameplay is amazing
                All big advantages for the CarPC, although most of us can't play Crysis like you!

                Originally posted by dMand
                I can control my home pc, and access the files at a local gas station or mc donalds parking lot
                This can be done with a smartphone, although not as well as a CarPC can because a smartphone can't handle all the different file types that a CarPC can. Advantage: CarPC

                Originally posted by dMand
                real time access to the latest weather forecast knowing in advance if there's a traffic jam ahead to divert my route
                Actually, smartphones have that functionality. I check the traffic every time I start my car.
                My car PC page, with pictures

                Comment


                • #9
                  why compare a CarPC to a smartphone??? You should be comparing it to these All in one units the aftermarket/oem are offering. I cant even compare my TYTNII to my PC, which I think is still better than a G1.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    in my opinion a carpc should not be looked at as a substitute for anything else. now a days car multimedia equiptment is cheap & an ipod interface can do much of what a carpc used to be mainly a reason for... there are many inexpensive ways of getting much of the functionality of a carpc much easier than actually doing a carpc, including using your phone I guess...

                    if you just want a multimedia system then get a multimedia system, not a carpc. if you just want navigation then get a navigation, not a carpc. to me the carpc is not a substitute for anything else, but, then again, to me there is also NO sustitute for a carpc either...


                    it is about the hobby, the challenges & the triumphs & universalness of the carpc & all that it can do, but if your just looking for the end results & have no patience or desire to overcome obsticals then more conventional methods may meet your desires better.

                    the single biggest mistake I see is guys that think a carpc is an easier/cheaper alternative to a multimedia head setup...
                    MY NEWEST INSTALL:modded infiniti fx with big screen

                    first windows carpc install........my liquid cooled LVDS screen :D

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hey Coffee,
                      You asked everyone what they thought were their carPC advantages VS a smart phone/iphone so I promptly gave you my reply.

                      "All big advantages for the CarPC, although most of us can't play Crysis like you!"

                      I game a lot on my spare time, and my hobby is carPC's.
                      Essentially, to me, this is an advantageous recreational activity that I can do in my car. If you don't game in your car, or via using that marvelous phone of yours, then I respect that. However that exclamation point at the end of your statement tells me you were pwned!

                      Have you given up on carPC entertainment in lieu of Android? It seems to me that you're not satisfied with your build.

                      "How do you make calls or access the internet when you go outside of Clearwire's relatively small coverage area? It seems just as limited as T-Mobile's small 3G coverage, but without the ability to roam on EDGE."

                      I have no issue with ClearWire's coverage area.

                      ClearWire is home based in Kirkland Washington. The state where I reside. ClearWire spearheaded this new technology, and has teamed up with Sprint to saturate their coverage area. Welcome to 4G, aka WIMAX. I can travel from my house to the Seattle airport with a high speed wireless broadband connection. Calling my brother in Texas, he was overcome with amazement about how clear the reception was, and thought I was dialing from next door. We video conference regularly from my car to his house. Don't confuse this technology with what your dainty little device accepts. Read the article below, may it enlighten your spirit as it did mine.
                      http://www.intel.com/pressroom/archi...081201corp.htm

                      I've been satisfied with ClearWire going on two years now, it looks like things are getting better.

                      *sent to you via carPC in front of HomeDepot.

                      Happy CarPuting!
                      Check out my CARPC: Project Diamond Plate

                      Quick Reference:
                      CPU Electrical Specs
                      Power Supply Calculator

                      Video Connections for newbies
                      Temperature Converter
                      Voltage Calculator

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Everyone will have different answers for this....

                        I would not give up the results I have for a different solution, my install is simple and does what I want. When you can say you are happy with your solution, what ever it is, that will be the right answer for you.
                        TruckinMP3
                        D201GLY2, DC-DC power, 3.5 inch SATA

                        Yes, you should search... and Yes, It has been covered before!

                        Read the FAQ!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Absolutely TruckinMP3, I concur.

                          My latest build is a third PC installation attempt at getting things situated the way I'd like them to be. After much trial and error, I'm pleased to say that i am happy.
                          Check out my CARPC: Project Diamond Plate

                          Quick Reference:
                          CPU Electrical Specs
                          Power Supply Calculator

                          Video Connections for newbies
                          Temperature Converter
                          Voltage Calculator

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by dMand View Post
                            Absolutely TruckinMP3, I concur.

                            My latest build is a third PC installation attempt at getting things situated the way I'd like them to be. After much trial and error, I'm pleased to say that i am happy.

                            My needs are simple, old school, Music and a keypad to change songs
                            I even removed the monitor and mousepad. Not much to see and nothing looks worth stealing.

                            I get my music with no commercials and no CD swapping. I do not have the touch for fiberglass or the patience to develop the skills.
                            TruckinMP3
                            D201GLY2, DC-DC power, 3.5 inch SATA

                            Yes, you should search... and Yes, It has been covered before!

                            Read the FAQ!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              wow truckin, I don't know how you manage to get away without a monitor. Like the saying goes, "if there's a will, there's a way." I have no doubt in my mind that it IS possible to pull off such a feat like that. However, I wouldn't know where to start in that situation.

                              The only reason why I put such a huge monitor in my car is because it was a deal of the day at BestBuy. It was a 'display model' without a remote, box, VGA and power cables or instructions.

                              At $89.00, for what looked like a brand new 17" widescreen LCD, who needed those? lol... Nevertheless, the sales attendant assured me that it works. So I turned the monitor over to look at the back, and the moment I seen a lable that read "+/-12V DC IN", I grabbed it and told them I didn't need a bag. Ha!

                              You know, the passion for carPC's could be a very expensive hobby. However, I do also shop at goodwill and the local pawnshop for parts.

                              As far as the computer goes that I put in my car, it's a 4 year old frag box that I use to game with. Stashed away in the corner of the closet, I decided to dust it off, mount it in my ride and spruce it up with a lil' T.L.C.

                              Happy CarPuting!
                              Check out my CARPC: Project Diamond Plate

                              Quick Reference:
                              CPU Electrical Specs
                              Power Supply Calculator

                              Video Connections for newbies
                              Temperature Converter
                              Voltage Calculator

                              Comment

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