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Laptop/docked vs. Actual car pc?

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  • Laptop/docked vs. Actual car pc?

    Hi guys,

    I'm fairly new to the car end of the PC thing, but have a really phenominal audio system already installed and am considering an inexpensive way to add additional car pc capabilities. Money is tight atm, as my job may "expire" in June, but I already have a few things so I thought I'd get some input from the experts.

    Can I make a useful and relatively durable pc system for my car using my current laptop and creating a custom fitted docking station for it? I really have wonderful audio and video capability, but I'd like to add: navigation, bluetooth, web access and possibly satellite radio to the mix... but I won't need those things daily.

    Here is what I've got to start with:
    • Dell 1545 laptop w/mini mouse
    • 7" In Dash Touch Screen X/VGA Monitor
    • Sarotech 260S and 260X Digital Media Players (w/ 2.5" 500gb - 250gb hdds) connected via digital outputs to audio system and to video outputs through standard RCA
    • Audison Bit 1.1 Processor - Pioneer 880 HU - McIntosh/Zapco Amps - Scanspeak/Morel/JBL speakers - etc.

    Any pointers to good threads on NAVI - blue tooth and other soft/hard ware would be greastly appreciated. I've done some searching, but there is just sooo much to browse using the keywords I've tried.

    Thanks
    Jim-
    Sucker for technology!


    *Audison Bit One.1 *Sarotech Digital media player -500gb drive -digital out *Clarion DRZ 9255 HU *McIntosh/Zapco amps * Scan Mids/Tweets *Morel 9" Bass drivers *JBL GTi 12" Sub sealed

  • #2
    You know you'll have to figure it out a way to turn it on with your car, right? There are many solutions available, just search on the forums.

    Also in my experience laptops have much longer boot times, so you may want to use (and test extensively) resume from hibernation/hybrid sleep. GPS might not resume from hibernation, etc.

    Lastly, due to the limited number of USB ports (a mini itx can have 10 on board), a laptop can have two, more on the docking station - but if it's not a native docking station, but a universal one, one USB port will be having all the traffic load...this can be a problem if you add too much.

    Having said that, many have used laptops/tablets, and I think for the limited use you want it's perfectly doable (no USB cameras, USB relay boards, OBD, etc. etc.). Just do your research and buy from what works from people in the forum. See who elses uses a dell, what brand of gps they use, drivers, etc., that's a start.
    Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
    Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

    07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

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    • #3
      First of all, there is no such thing as a "real car PC".
      A car PC is any PC someone chooses to install in a vehicle. It could be desktop hardware or laptop hardware, depending on what hardware the user chooses to install.

      Originally posted by less View Post
      Can I make a useful and relatively durable pc system for my car using my current laptop and creating a custom fitted docking station for it?
      Yes.
      How much time and effort are you willing to put into your project?
      Have you considered how to power this setup?

      Here are my suggestions:
      1 - Start by reading the FAQs to get an idea about what it possible and how to pull it off.
      2 - Check the SOYP forum for inspiration & ideas.
      3 - Ask questions of other members here about their experiences with specific hardware or configurations if you can't locate the answers with a forum search.
      4 - Plan your setup in detail before you purchase anything!

      Any pointers to good threads on NAVI - blue tooth and other soft/hard ware would be greastly appreciated. I've done some searching, but there is just sooo much to browse using the keywords I've tried.
      A whole forum devoted to GPS: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/gps/
      I'd check out the stickied thread first. There are also subforums for various GPS software packages that you might want to check out.
      Have you looked in the FAQ yet?
      How about the Wiki?



      Under normal circumstances, a signature would go here.

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      • #4
        In my opinion, a laptop in plain view would probably be more likely to get stolen. Other than that, I wish I'd done some sort of docked laptop install. It's such a pain to change anything when you hard mount everything. For example, I wanted to put in a new hard drive and it took me 2 hours of hammering a screwdriver into the adhesive to get it out (always use screws.. not heavy duty double sided sticky tape :P). Furthermore, the wires are very hard to control when there's so many.

        In the end, though, it'll come down to personal preference. Know that if you do a full CarPC install, it will cost a lot more than you expect. Unforeseen things always pop up. For now I'd either wait until you have a solid job or get started with what you already have. Make sure you design everything modular in case you want to change anything in the future.
        2003 Nissan Xterra Worklog

        Total amount spent so far: $1196.64

        You will probably spend AT LEAST 2x what you initially budget for your CarPC Project!

        2003 Nissan Xterra - Modifications

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        • #5
          like has been said, any computer is a 'full' computer...

          if your job could be up in the air, i would really recommend holding off on the project until you have a more steady income, and research everything in the mean time--i joined about a year before i ever ordered my first part-- this is a hobby, and as all other hobbies, things break, get broken, don't fit, or don't work the way you wanted/needed them to, and you will end up spending more on replacing that part--

          for instance, i built my carputer for audio control(crossovers, and 31 band eq's for now, time alignment later), and i started off spending about $1,000, including the first audio card... by the time i installed it in the car(about 3 months later), i was on my 3rd audio card, because the others didn't work the way i needed, and estimate my total cost to be around $2k-2500 now...
          My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
          "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"


          next project? subaru brz
          carpc undecided

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