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Good alternatives to conventional CarPC's

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  • Good alternatives to conventional CarPC's

    Just hoping to give a few ideas for setups and some general info.

    First off, I always buy cheap. I feel better about my projects when I spend less and get the same quality or better than others who have more disposble funds. I hope to pass on some info, some or all of this you may allready know.

    Almost everything I buy is from Ebay, so there will be lots of references. No auctions posted are my own and I have nothing to do with the sellers.

    Single Board Computers (SBC):

    There are many good models to choose from. The newer ones being the best of course, but a little spendy. It all depends on what YOU need out of your CarPc.

    Heres a good example of a good lower end board: .

    Its only 233mhz, so DVD playback would be out unless you get some sort of hardware decoder. But, for a MP3/GPS/Navigation and just about everything else which isnt very CPU demanding would run perfect. It only requires a +5v, so you would have no expensive power supply to buy. Also has all standard PC ports including USB ect. Where it stands out is the built in touchscreen and LCD controllers. Here is a list of LCD's supported: .

    Lots of good sizes to choose from. I just chose the first one: NEC NL6448AC20-06 6.5". Brought up Ebay and found:

    Its always good to buy a LCD with the backlight inverter. It saves alot of headaches later on. Always look for .pdf files if you find something interesting. I rarely have trouble finding info on SBC's and LCD's.


    Laptop have been brought up many times here. No you cant take out the LCD and rewire it to your VGA output blah blah blah.

    Theres 2 ways to use a laptop. Either as a small computer hidden away which is used to drive an external screen (this version usually removable from the vehicle), or as a permenantly mounted Laptop which uses the screen it came with either extended slightly from the base or in a custom enclosure with the screen sticking out. Small quality screens are expensive, I'm sure you know. But not everyone has room for a 10"-14" screen AND room to mount the laptop base. But in older cars and larger newer vehicles, it can be done.

    Dont go buy a laptop and think you can just extend the screen a couple feet either. Most use those thin ribbins with tiny little traces. Its possible, but not a good idea. But some also use thin guage wires making it a little easier, but never extend the screen too far or you will have problems with the picture.

    A good laptop if you have room to use the screen is a panasonic Toughbook CF-25 or CF-27. Look for a touchscreen model. Lower end units go for around $250-$300 (233-266mhz). They also have a zoom video port so you can use a Margi DVD card.

    Tablet PC's:

    Im not talking about the little PDA's or other crap (sorry, I never liked those), I mean full size tablets that use standard PC components like the Fujitsu Stylistic 1200/2300/LT as well as newer models. They are cheap and always available on Ebay. They are basicly laptops, only flat which may make it easier to mount in our car without tearing anything up. Depends on how much room you got.

    You may come accross some "kiosk" or medical PC's also. They usually look like Tablet PC's, but come in a more rugged case, ie: heavy steel. They go for less sometimes because of how they're listed. Nobody knows what a "Labtroix Data 5x2" (yeah, I made that up). Searching descriptions is how I usually come accross these. I also have some nice units with 10.4" touchscreens for sale in Trade forum for $250 if your interested in these. Look for King Embeded PC in the title.

    Internet Appliances:
    These things never caught on. With careful planning they can be used in your car. Im talking about the Ergo Audrey, Compaq IA-1 (not the IA-2), and various others. Search for "internet appliance" on Ebay. They all use STN screns and willnot display video well. But are great for MP3's and GPS. Some hacking may be envolved. Just search around google. Also heres a good forum:

    I wont go over using Epia's or standard ATX PC's with inverters. Thats what the search button is for. Just had some free time while my game server was down, hope I maybe helped at least one person ..

  • #2
    great post
    Falcon cr53 w/ via epia m10000. Nokia 3650 blutooth phone.
    Better than winamp. Click here for qcd player.


    • #3
      Seconded. Excellent post. Perhaps this should go into the faq?
      Old Systems retired due to new car
      New system at design/prototype stage on BeagleBoard.


      • #4
        Now if only people would read it...; I like the Fujitsu 1200 part the most.
        current projects


        • #5
          Agree, good info. Thanks.


          • #6
            Cheap Laptop, great for Carputer!


            • #7
              Originally posted by DodgeCummins
              Now if only people would read it...; I like the Fujitsu 1200 part the most.
              Attached Files


              • #8
                would this SBC work?


                • #9
                  Old post

                  Depends on what you need from your carPC. I think one of those work well for all the standard stuff including video. You would have to get a USB sound card and check on availability of drivers before you buy one of these. But you would still need an expensive screen to do anything with navigation ect. Best to find one with an LCD controller built in, if your lucky you'll get alot of choices for screens of different size and quality that would work. Raw LCD's with inverters are cheap. Lots of choices for power supply with that board too.

                  I found a really nice one a couple months ago. It was used in airplanes as a multimedia PC. It had hardware DVD decoder and high quality sound. I think it was in the 1ghz range. It also had built in LCD controllers which


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sway
                    No audio that I can see, so you'd have to make your own plans for that. The additional of a USB sound card (extigy, eg), would sort that.
                    Old Systems retired due to new car
                    New system at design/prototype stage on BeagleBoard.


                    • #11
                      Very informative, Thanks


                      • #12
                        Good alternatives to conventional CarPC's

                        I'm usually just a lurker in these threads. I'm trying to learn more about the different front-ends, but you finally hit upon a subject I'm familiar with. I have built over half dozen custon installations of tablet PC for several people and the main reason for the selection of the tablet is transportability for most. Personnally I have had every Fujitsu from the 1200 to the 4400. (Currently prefer the 3500 in my cars). Many of these installations are for less than expert computerists that need the tablets out of the vehicle to sit down and develop routes. A couple live in bad neighborhoods and want to remove the temptation from would-be passers-by, and lastly for me, I use the same tablet in all four of my cars - one computer, four mini docks and assundr peripherals - lots cheaper than 4 carputers. And since I travel extensively, sometimes I need to run my system in a rental car - same tablet with USB GPS, auto adapter, and cassette adapter.

                        I also like the idea of being able to tacke the tablet out of the car and into my classes and take paperless notes. I even have the bluetooth, 802.11, and sprintcard for network and internet. What other computer do I really need. I was dissappointed with Fujitsu when the got rid of the line in since the 2300 but have developed worarounds for most issues. Working right now on getting my PPC tied into it for handsfree phone usage through the tablet mic and speakers.

                        You talk about a low cost solution, I've looked at many of the installations pictured on these forums and I will admit I'm not into 1000W stereos and xbox/playstation integration for car shows and the like, but I'd match my installation cost against any other and when you compare the features a tablet PC is easier to instal and maintain and allows for other usses as well. Its all a matter of priorities.

                        Written on my Tablet PC while watching the sunset from my pool lounger (beer in hand) using long range 802.11 card and no wires .
                        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


                        • #13
                          I have a carcomputer now, but like the idea of putting a tablet pc in there. Do they make any tablet pc mounts that can be mounted in a car, so the pc can be removed easily. I don't want to have to plug in everything everytime I take the tablet out. And if something like a car docking station exists, are they real expensive and only available with certain models? Thanks


                          • #14
                            Yes. I'm using an old Fujitsu 3500 with an exceptional portable dock. All my peripherals (GPS, DVD, Joystick, Cell Phone, Camera) are USB and I have a 4 port mini hub stashed away in the dash. This means I have to use the internal sound card, but I'm researching the Creative Lab external sound card to eliminate the one wire I have to connect and disconnect from the actual tablet - Mic (radio/TV) cause Fujitsu stoped putting line in sockets in their mini docks after the 2300 series. There's someone here on mp3car with a 2300 mounted in dash in his truck.

                            Several other tablet makers have minidocks although not necessarily for vehicle installations. Toshiba has the best one (a solid dock with all the necessary connections), Gateway had a good one last year, someone has one that can allow the screen to rotate, and there are more. Problem is, more and more of the newer tablets are HIGH DOLLAR, use XP Tablet Edition (no more finger poking on the screen - must use electric pen), and are getting away from decent peripheral support (like the lack of a line in on the docks). Many expect you to only use firewire or USB peripherals or provide a USB port replicator that doesn't provide a mount for the tablet.

                            $2 grand for a tablet and another $300 bucks for each dock is over the top for me. I've only got $600 invested for all four cars.

                            Try searching the major tablet pc manufacturers and then check the accessories available. The list of vehicle mountable tablets isn't long, until you start looking at discontinued models that are still supported. Then it's all a matter of personal preference.

                            Good luck.
                            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