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Looking for feedback on initial components, USB vs. PCI, power related mostly

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  • Looking for feedback on initial components, USB vs. PCI, power related mostly

    Hi All,

    I am just getting started with planning my car PC for my 2002 Audi S4. I've read a TON on this forum (amazing amount of info) but I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to straight up electronics / car stereo stuff - I'm not much use (I will have an experienced installer help me). Infrastructure messaging consulting I know a thing or two about, though

    First things first...

    Intended use: DVD \ Divx movie viewing, MP3, GPS (voice controlled), internet access via wifi, possible future Xbox integration, ODBII integration (Vag-Com software currently), phone and camera hook up (USB)

    Requirements: P4 capapble, PC in trunk (but still small as possible case), DVD in glove box, stock head unit (Bose), Opus controller type functionality, (easily removable) touch screen, medium video performance (i.e. gaming may or may not enter in the future. video should be great now, but gaming needs may push it over the edge in the future), medium audio performance (I'm fine with the stock Bose sound, and for anyone that knows - that's really not that good ), ideal = USB hub or ports located in center console

    So, based on that I have the following ideas..

    P4 motherboard and case (not sure based on some questions below)
    Opus 150w power supply (everything I've read seems to confirm I should get this)
    Start with 256MB RAM (w/ possibility of going to 512)
    Start with P4 2G Celeron
    2.5" internal notebook drive (20GB)
    USB external drive (40GB)
    Internal CD-ROM drive
    External (USB) DVD slim line drive
    Xenarc 700TSV 7" touch screen display
    Wireless card (not sure based on questions below, I have PCMCIA, thinking I should get a USB one based on case choice implications)
    GPS (will do down the road, but pretty sure it will be USB based)
    Video card (Radeon 9000?)
    Audio - on board?

    Yup, a lot of holes in there. They mainly center around these questions:

    1. What are power consumption differences between USB and PCI\PCMCIA? i.e. I'm not sure which way to go on some of these based on not knowing if it'd be better to go with a PCI version vs. USB (which obviously impacts case size, etc.) from a power perspective. From all I've read, power is the key, and I want to make sure I follow that advice.
    2. Which Radeon would seem to support my needs? I have done little research here, so feel free to ignore. One thing though: approximate power usage of the 9000?
    3. With a possible 5-6 USB devices attached - does anyone forsee any issues? I'll need a USB hub most likely, any advice on that is appreciated.
    4. I've seen the power calculator at and references to a P4 style one, but I haven't been able to find it (saw some posts on a sticky referring to one, but that seems to be gone?) Or can I just use that one? (yes, as advertised, I'm clueless here)
    5. 'Ballparking it' - should the Opus be able to meet my requirements if I go USB on all of the things in question?

    Whew...Looking at this it still feels like a total mess, sorry I hope someone can give me some pointers re: the USB / PCI/PCMCIA issue (first) which should allow me to finalize the case/motherboard combo.

    Thanks all for reading, I appreciate your time and any feedback you have.


  • #2
    big post dude here's my email [email protected] your going to need as your project porgresses ok

    lets start with wifi pci card is what you need card bus and usb are all to small to solder an attenna to and you need one that is external to get a signal pci nic's have conectors so no soldering is needed high speed internet with wifi not going to happen even with a amp to boost the signal you will only get a half mile maybe that and hotspot service has not worked well for anyone I have asked or for me

    if you want high speed internet I know how to do it but it will cost about $22000 and you need internet service on a local cliff top if you get caught it will cost you 5-10 in a fedral pen you can get dial up service from t mobile at&t or nextel go with t mobile best plan out there and they have better hotspot service

    all the small motherboards SBC's (single board computers) mini itx ect. don't have good grafix the best you can get is radeon m7 and thats on a sbc check out they got sbc's and 200 watt 12 volt pwr supplies witch you need with a p4

    the dvd drive needs to be usb or firewire ide and sata cables can't be longer that 26 inches or they wont work get a slim drive and usb 2.0 to ide adptor

    what else ram go with 512 meg's ditch the cdrom get a burner I got one it burns fine when driving get a bigger hard drive they fill up faster than you think laptop drives or desktop drives don't matter unless you crash your car every day desktop drives are cheeper

    usb whatever you chose the opus pwr supply is to small for any cpu over 1.6 gig's or any motherboard with a lot of onboard stuff so forget it

    heres what I would do get a micro atx motherboard for a amd or p4 cpu with a agp slot and a gforce or radeon card and a 200 watt pwr supply from orbit micro start with this stuff it will all fit in the right compartment in your trunk and you will have all the horse power you will ever need

    I have been a stereo installer for 10 years and doing the auto pc thing for 4 years
    so if you need advice just email me



    • #3
      Ditch the celeron. If you might go gaming then you will want a regular P4 or an AMD.

      Go with the 512 megs of ram. You'll thank yourself for it in the morning.

      As for video. Go with an AGP card. Motherboards that come with AGP chipsets aren't as good as regular cards but they are getting better. Another problem with them is they also share your ram memory so if you get 512megs of ram you will have to deduct whatever you allow the video to take from that. And with Win XP thats not a good thing. Stand alone cards use their own memory so they don't require your system memory.

      Though I might go with a regular ATX power supply that is at least 350 watts and a power inverter. That way you are sure to have all the power requirnments you need for you computer.



      • #4
        I am looking for pretty much an identical setup for my Altima (sounds like the ideal carpc system to me!!). I already hard wired a 400W power inverter and regular mini atx (AC) power supply, so this is fine to do? (why does everyone bother with the special expensive DC-DC ones then? For startup purposes just use a small UPC).
        Thank You /////ALPINE
        7" Lilli. GPSlim236. Streetdeck. Mappoint. M9000. M2ATX, XMDirect


        • #5
          Wow..I just got a notice that someone replied to this...after 4 months :-).

          Anyway - thanks for all of the input. I've come quite a ways with this, so here's the current configuration.

          Shuttle SB61G2 in the trunk with 2.4G Celeron and 512MB of RAM
          Opus 150W power supply
          Xenarc 700 TSV custom mounted on the dash
          Slime-line Storix DVD-CDR custom mounted in glove box
          GPS mouse bought off of ebay
          Cisco wireless PCI card (I had this already)
          40GB 5,400 rpm HD (had that one also)
          Gyration RF keyboard and mouse (receiver mounted in glove box)
          Engine Management / logging software from (ECU Explorer for Audi)

          One 7-port USB hub towards the front of the car. Plugging into it are:
          1. Touchscreen
          2. DVD
          3. ECU Explorer
          4. GPS
          5. Keyobard / mouse
          6. Phone - Motorola MPX200. I can use it as a modem and get 115kbps internet connection.

          So far, everything is working like a charm. The last things to do is poiwer the DVD player and the hub (via 12-5v stepdown regulator). Power - as everyone will say here - has been the biggest issue, the hardest to work around. These regulators will be the last piece of the puzzle.

          I can see wireless networks popping up all the time as I drive, and when pulled over, have connected several times to them and surfed the web :-) The main point of the wifi card, though, has always been to synch files with my server at home. This works no problem.

          I'm hoping to post final pictures in a week or so.

          Thanks for your help!