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Car PC vs double din unit

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  • Car PC vs double din unit

    I am in the market for a double din touchscreen head unit and have been looking at kenwood and pioneer. But before i make a purchase i thought i would look to see what a car pc would have to offer. I am wanting a 7" touch screen with CD/DVD radio USB for flash drives or portable hard drives and bluetooth for making and recieving phone calls GPS navigation would also be nice but not necesary. I would like all this for under $700 if it is at all possible. What would my options be for a car pc? Could i make a decent car pc for $700? I do have a laptop that could be used if that would be a better choice.

  • #2
    $700 will buy you a car pc and a monitor, if you are careful. You will need to focus on low power, low heat, rugged parts. The Intel Atom boards are a good bet, coupled with a laptop hard-drive and a slim line optical drive. You'll need a DC-DC PSU as well as a shutdown controller so that the pc shuts down gracefully when you turn off the car.

    Don't scimp on the monitor. Once everything is in the car, the monitor "is" the carpc. Your best bet is a transreflective unit, and those don't come cheaply. A transreflective Lilliput can run anywhere from $400 to $675, depending on where you get it. I have a standard screen, and I have seen a transreflective. Buy the transreflective, it's worth the price premium.

    I've done some legwork for you. You can buy the PC on an egg-like website for around $265 (atom board + ram + optical + hard disk), the monitor for around $400, and a PSU will run somewhere around $70 if you want the startup-shutdown stuff integrated. For a little over $800 with shipping, you have a decent setup. Add $30 - $50 for a gps puck if you want it.

    Then you'll need some software. The big two are Roadrunner and Centrafuse. If you're willing to work at it, you can use Roadrunner for free. Centrafuse costs money, but (imo) is easier to get running smoothly. The right one for you is a matter of preference. Add $250 for Centrafuse with navigation.

    You'll need to run wire, but you'd be doing that anyway so I didn't include the cost. You can mod the laptop if you want, which will save you some money. Some people on this forum have modded docking stations so that they can remove the laptop easily. Your approach there depends on whether you still need the laptop for use outside the car.

    Doing a carpc is not about saving money. It's about having fun with electronics. The main advantage of the PC over other solutions is that it is limitless. You can make the PC do anything that you can dream up.
    My car PC page, with pictures


    • #3
      Really? only $700? I come out much closer to $1,200...

      AVIC F900BT is under $700... -

      Now what you can't DO with that is stream video and get online... (of course you would need net access to stream anything)

      You can watch TV, watch Video and boy it is it alot simpler to work with...

      I actually I need to purchase another car for my 2nd job, I'm only looking for cars that will work with a CarPC namely a double DIN dash opening.

      I have found and settled on a model, just looking for the car. That will get a CarPC. I went the HU route in my SRT-4 (JVC NX5000) which works great and I'm not in the car often enough to really use any of its video features often.

      Until recently I was in the car less than 44 mins per day.

      I think that's a key consideration. If you spend long hours around your car (like I do with my 2nd job now) then maybe a CarPC is ideal. But for short commutes, I still think a standard HU is the route to go.

      If you just want a electronics project or a gadget freak then a CarPC is fun to do and can be done on a reasonable budget, but $700? Maybe if you have a bunch of used PC parts around...


      • #4
        I started out looking at the Pioneer AVIC double din thingy... untill I figured that the opening in my dash is double din capable, but it's not deep enough in the lower part for a unit...
        The car is a BMW E46 (3-Series).

        So check your car for a true double din compability before you spend alot of money on something that might not fit at all...


        • #5
          Originally posted by djfourmoney View Post
          If you just want a electronics project or a gadget freak then a CarPC is fun to do and can be done on a reasonable budget, but $700? Maybe if you have a bunch of used PC parts around...
          A PC in your ride can easily be done for $700.

          Buy a small formfactor unit off Ebay for about $200.
          A touchscreeen for $250.
          Another $100 for a Carnetix PSU
          $50 for some wiring.
          $50 for a GPS receiver
          Audio goes into the existing headunit.

          Granted, that doesn't include software, admittedly. RideRunner is still free...

          It all depends on how you plan your system and how carefully you shop.

          Now, I'll admit, you're not going to get the best vehicle PC for $700. But it can be done within that budget.
          Have you looked in the FAQ yet?
          How about the Wiki?

          Under normal circumstances, a signature would go here.


          • #6
            I'm would imagine that this has been mentioned on this site before, but the Pioneer Avic-f series essentially is a car computer, albeit not a very powerful one. It runs over windows ce. And there's plenty of people working on hacks over at to make it run a lil smoother... but I'd be lying if I tried to tell you that a decent number of people have ditched their avics in favor of the kenwood unit.


            • #7
              I too did the legwork...

              Too many limitations in a double din unit and it will always be tied to one car unless you feel like tearing your dash apart every time you want to use it elsewhere. It also does not have the expansion capabilities a car pc has even if you splurge for a $1500+ unit.

              Here's my purchase history;

              EEE PC 900ha - $210 (1gig ram, 160gigs drive space)
              Lilliput 7" touch - $220
              Bluetooth Dongle - $20
              Bluetooth GPS - $30 (used Holux ebay)
              RF remote - $35
              Centrafuse - $110
              High Quality 12v cig. adapter - $20
              Inline 12V filter

              The Asus can run HD video smoothly with some tweaks to ffdshow. There is no DD unit that can do that. I have an open USB port which powers my WD 250gig HD if I need more space, or hookup an iPod,

              The Asus is stowed in my glove box (yes I have a large glovebox) and it's a matter of pulling the RGB cable, power and USB hub (12 seconds max) to take it out and use it elsewhere.

              I ran a single wire from my console cig. lighter, under the carpet to the glove box where I tap into it to power both the monitor and charge the EEE PC AND run a tiny 12v fan to keep the air moving. At max pull all three draw 2.7 amps. If I shut my car off, the EEE can keep running for 3 hours or sleep for two weeks.

              I can add Am/FM, Satellite and OBD II relatively inexpensively if I feel the urge.

              Was it work? Hell yea! Getting everything working right takes effort. There is no question that a DD is less problematic. However, I can put whatever I want on the drive, install games, run software, etc.

              That's my take on the subject.


              • #8
                Originally posted by BigBadWolf View Post
                Here's my purchase history;
                EEE PC 900ha - $210 (1gig ram, 160gigs drive space)
                Inline 12V filter

                Hi BigBadWolf
                how's the 900ha holding up?
                does it have the "horsepower" to run gps and another app at the same time? (and without lag?)
                I'm also considering using a netbook now

                also can you elaborate on the 12v filter?


                • #9
                  Blackcar... since the GPS software is built into Centrafuse, there is no problem running it and say watching a video at the same time. Centrafuse will pause the video ad switch back to the GPS screen when I need to be notified of a turn or something.

                  I also have iGo installed (I prefer it to the built in Destinator at times) which will continue running in the background when I go to music, a video, etc. and I've never seen any lag.

                  I also run Speedfan (computer monitoring) in the background which Centrafuse has a plugin for and the hardware starts getting warm after a while. So if you have the EEE in a glovebox like me, make sure you have a little fan to move the air around.

                  12v filter was something I got with another piece of hardware I bought long ago (I can't remember what) so I just soldered it into the power feed. It certainly isn't anything fancy or expensive looking but just a little extra insurance.