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Hardware Review: Intelligent DC-DC converter with USB interface

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  • Hardware Review: Intelligent DC-DC converter with USB interface

    I was looking for an alternative to power my brand new Zotac A-U board. Mp3car.com gladly sent me the device in exchange for a review. so here it is.
    The device: The Intelligent DC-DC converter with USB interface by mini-box.com is a buck/boost converter/regulator that can be used for a wide variety of application, it can be used to power any device that needs 6-24VDC, and the input range can be anything from 6VDC to 34VDC. The device can also send ON/OFF signals to motherboards based on IGN or ACC voltages.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

    The box: UPS brought me a box that weight a little more than air itself, i was wondering if there is actually anything inside. before filing the claim that somebody stole the device out of the box i decided to open it anyway (; there it was, a small green board with a few short cables and a little bag with a few tiny jumpers. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it and test the &*%$ out of it, but to my surprise there was no manual, no CD, no USB cable. i found a very basic manual on the mini-box.com site and the journey began.

    The work: Without the availability of the USB cable and lack of software, i went ahead configuring the device to my needs with a basic manual and a few jumpers. I need 19VDC to power my Zotac A-U mobo, the device CAN produce this voltage but with the USB software, i set the device to output the nearest voltage that can be set with jumpers which is 18VDC, the multimeter shows 18.24VDC i then set the device to operate as a regular converter/inverter and connected it to my mobo. pushed the power button, the fan started to spin, and the mobo seems to run just fine. +/-1VDC inst crucial for this mobo. i then tested the output voltage range of this device and the device does what it is suppose to do. no matter of the input (as long as its within range) the output voltage will be what it is set to be. then i set it to automotive mode which adds timing options along with ON/OFF pulses to the mobo. i set the timing to send off pulse to the mobo as soon as ACC is off and completely turn off the device after a minute - it did just that. my Zotac now powers on and off automatically. because of the wide input range the device has absolutely no problems surviving engine crank. however once the device starts the timer, it cannot be interrupted, meaning that if i shut off ACC the timer will start and will count a minute, in this time frame if i turn the ACC back on the device will not power up the mobo, nor send on/off signals. but if i leave the ACC on until the timer finished it will power up the board and send ON signal. temperature wise this device does just well, it get a bit warm when powered for a long time, but absolutely nothing to worry about and nothing that will require additional cooling. in my setup the device does exactly what it is described to do.



    The good: The device can be used for a wide variety of applications, it is very accurate, small profile, easy to setup,survives engine crank, appears to be reliable (i used it a few days already and it powers up and shuts down every time without problems) and the price is right.

    The bad: I am not sure how it is shipped from mini-box.com but the device should most defiantly come with advanced documentation or at least some documentation. even though most of us SHOULD have the proper USB cabe, it should be included in the package, the configuration software should also come with the device or at least be available for easy download. otherwise more configuration options should be available on the device itself. mini-box.com use jumpers that are smaller then the regular computer jumpers, i don't see a reason for this, should just use regular jumpers.

    The truth: All in all the device is great, does what you configure it to do and does it well. for this price ($59+shipping) you cant go wrong with it. though with more documentation, software and USB cable the package would be complete.

    The rest: (from mini-box.com) - Applications: powering motherboard with single rail power from any voltage to any voltage, laptops, custom electronics. This module can be used to convert any voltage ranging 6-34V to any output from 5-24V. The DCDC-USB has 4 models of operation: - Dumb mode: Acts as a regular DC-DC converter with wide input (6-34V) and produces a fixed 12V output (or any output from 6-24V) - Automotive mode: Acts as an intelligent PSU, ignition aware, will send ON/OFF pulse to the motherboard to turn ON/OFF. Standby power consumption is well under 1mA. - UPS mode: The unit will act as an intelligent UPS unit, will shut down at prescribed battery voltages. - Script mode: Unit can be programmed to wake up, sleep, based on pre-programmed scripts. Additional features of DCDC-USB: - Remote ON/OFF switch capable of switching up to 6A, 8A peak. - Can control motherboard ON/OFF pins - Fused input, TVS protected - USB mini, type B - All Solid Polymer Capacitors, SVPD series, Sanyo, Japan.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.
    Have a product you would like to sell on the mp3Car Store? PM me for more information.

    Have a car computer question? Ask me by emailing the store.

  • #2
    What I'd like to see is a PSU that sends a sleep signal to the MB, and also when needed a power off signal. This would take advantage of hybrid sleep present in Vista/ Windows 7. Going to sleep with acc off could keep the pc on for hours (you'd just need power to the RAM modules), and ABSOLUTELY instant on when you return and the IGN is on again.

    You could set the bios to sleep in the signal is received and power off only if the signal lasts longer than 4sec. But most PSUs can't be programmed to do that, and this is the case with this one, right? I had hopes that the USB control could offer that option.
    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
      I too would love the option to have the psu keep the 5V rail on.
      However there's a way around this, by using a laptop and hack up the power switch then u can keep the 5V rail off of the laptop battery.

      Comment


      • #4
        i see what u mean, however you can take adventage of the hybrid sleep with this device, in windows you turn on the hybrid sleep feature, then set windows to sleep when the power button is pressed. you then set the timing on the device to keep power going to you machine for a min, 30 mins or as long as you want. with the USB you should also be able to set the input voltage at which the device should completely cut power, for example your computer can sleep until your battery reaches 9VDC, then cut the power to the PC, in hybrid sleep state the PC will hibernate and you would still have enough juice to start your car...
        personally i just hibernate, keeps things simpler and more reliable ?!
        ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
        2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5
        >"Say what you mean and mean what you say"<

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        • #5
          i wonder how long u can keep the the timer running using the usb interface.
          with the jumpers you probably can set maximum up to a few hours, but my system stay powered over days.

          Comment


          • #6
            say you wanted to use this as a dc-dc converter for a 5v output. how many amps would be available?

            Comment


            • #7
              I've had one of these for a while but haven't had the chance to install it yet. Let's see the max output is 100 watts (limited by 10A input fuse). Everything in the docs are rated at 12V, and says 8A at normal input volts.

              It has a lot of features that are undocumented as of yet like the scripting, but they can probably provide that.

              There are lots of programmable timers that can go up to possibly 99:99:99. Wait timer, VOut timer, Off Delay Timer, Vaux timer, Powerswitch timer, Hardoff timer. I think it detects current to switch off so it's probably going to work for sleep mode, but I wouldn't expect it to pulse the power botton when ACC goes back on and it thinks the PC is still on. That would require an additional wake circuit of some kind.

              One thing I don't like is that software programming isn't saved if there's no power, including vout.
              Edit: Nevermind! New software revision fixed it.

              And one thing to note: USB only works if it's in dumb mode if there's no power because it's in low power mode if it's configured any other way, which makes sense, but it's a good thing to know.

              Comment


              • #8
                if its quite flexible in the programming through the usb, then it has potential to be a very popular psu.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hibernating still has that bios thing...The sleep feature is very addictive. My office computer stays on sleep mode all the time, it only reboots for those every time more frequent windows updates restarts. It makes your computer goes instant on, makes it look like your HP12C or something. Very addictive. If a carPC could behave like it would a dream.
                  Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
                  Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    here is the advanced USB configuration manual.
                    http://resources.mini-box.com/online...ion-manual.pdf
                    it better explains the USB programming option.
                    and yes i do believe this device will get more popularity as we have more motherboards emerging that do not require itx psu and are rather single voltage DC input.
                    besides that because of the high voltage range, this PSU can power virtually any DC device.
                    ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
                    2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5
                    >"Say what you mean and mean what you say"<

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      i'm currently using hybrid sleep on my carpc, and I have to say to people who are skeptical.
                      it is 100% reliable, no issue whatsoever it is as reliable hibernation except 100x faster.
                      impressive advance usb programming feature by the way! definitely will play with this one sometime in the near future.
                      please try the usb programming and let us know how well it works driver/stability stuff!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Punky View Post
                        i'm currently using hybrid sleep on my carpc, and I have to say to people who are skeptical.
                        it is 100% reliable, no issue whatsoever it is as reliable hibernation except 100x faster.
                        impressive advance usb programming feature by the way! definitely will play with this one sometime in the near future.
                        please try the usb programming and let us know how well it works driver/stability stuff!
                        interesting. i tried it wasnt as reliable for me. as a matter of fact it would cold boot half of the times with hybrid sleep. may-b i did something wrong in my setup, and please correct me if i did; turn hybrid-sleep on, set windows to sleep on power button press. at this point the pc should sleep when the power button is pressed and wake up when it is pressed again, if the power to the pc is cut, the pc will resume from hibernate at next powerup, correct ?
                        does 7 behave differently if another program like centrafuse is set as system shell ?
                        ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
                        2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5
                        >"Say what you mean and mean what you say"<

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                        • #13
                          if hybrid sleep is setup correctly, computer should wake up instantly with power switch button pressed.
                          a few things i can think of that might be set improperly. Did you check if your power option has hybrid sleep enabled? if not then you need the proper graphic driver install. Secondly, your motherboard must support S3 sleep, s1 sleep will work as well, but theres a ton of things running when you're using hybrid sleep, which drain you battery much faster. Finally your power supply must keep the 5v rail on after ignition has been turn off.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            UPS Mode

                            @sergatiuk:Great write up! I was just looking at this device over at mini-box's site and decided to do some research on it and stumbled on your article.

                            I have a few quick questions, or rather a request to farther test the device.

                            When the device is operating in "UPS" mode, and when plugged in, via USB, to the host computer, does Windows recognize it as a UPS device? For example, if the power is cut, will Windows recognize that it is now running on battery power?

                            Mainly I'm curious if the device will play well with the Win32_Battery and Win32_PortableBattery Windows Management Instrumentation classes.

                            If so, this could open up a whole bunch of fun programming ideas.

                            Example: (theoretically) one could rig the device up to the car's battery as the "battery" and Windows could tell the power % and life expectancy of the car's battery.

                            Thanks!
                            - IJ

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ijessup View Post
                              @sergatiuk:Great write up! I was just looking at this device over at mini-box's site and decided to do some research on it and stumbled on your article.

                              I have a few quick questions, or rather a request to farther test the device.

                              When the device is operating in "UPS" mode, and when plugged in, via USB, to the host computer, does Windows recognize it as a UPS device? For example, if the power is cut, will Windows recognize that it is now running on battery power?

                              Mainly I'm curious if the device will play well with the Win32_Battery and Win32_PortableBattery Windows Management Instrumentation classes.

                              If so, this could open up a whole bunch of fun programming ideas.

                              Example: (theoretically) one could rig the device up to the car's battery as the "battery" and Windows could tell the power % and life expectancy of the car's battery.

                              Thanks!
                              - IJ
                              i like where you are going with this thought, and it is a hard question for me to answer, however as far as i understand on USB the device will simply be recognized as a programmable power supply. and even in UPS mode the device will still output the same voltage, no matter how low the battery gets, even when the battery will reach 7VDC this device will still output whatever it is set to, unlike the laptop battery which slowly drains and drops voltage until its too low to power the computer.
                              i am not very familiar with Win32_Battery and Win32_PortableBattery Windows Management Instrumentation classes. so as i said it is a hard question to answer.
                              in my opinion 7 would take the most advantage of this device's features simply because of the hybrid sleep option. you could pretty much set the device to hibernate and cut power when the car battery reaches a certain level, which would work similar to the way laptop batteries do, they sleep, hibernate or shutdown the lappy when the battery reached a certain predefined level. the only difference is that in the lappy it is done by the OS and with this device this operation is performed by the unit itself.
                              i hope i make sense....(;
                              ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
                              2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5
                              >"Say what you mean and mean what you say"<

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