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ByByte Black-Box-N Review

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  • ByByte Black-Box-N Review



    What is it?

    The Black Box N is ByByte's newest chassis product that is fully ISO compliant with the Double DIN standard for automotive radio size. The kit allows a PC builder to construct a fully enclosed bolt in touchscreen computer with little to no fabrication required.

    What's in the box?


    The package arrived at my door in a quick manner from the Mp3car store via UPS, enclosed was a well packed black ABS case, and a bag containing 4 smaller bags of hardware, A main wiring harness with disconnect, and a sheet of paper with the via audio header pinout. The box also included a fair amount of packing peanuts that I chose not to photograph.




    Description:

    I began my review by spreading out the parts on my work table, placing them on a measuring grid for reference purposes. (This is a 1" x 1" grid table) The "box" itself measures out to 7"w x 7"d x 4.1"h making this a true ISO Double Din Size. The box should accept Metra, Scosche and other after market trim kits to allow direct bolt in results for most vehicles. First step was to remove the lid from the unit which is held in place by 6 screws.








    Upon lid removal one can see an audio wiring harness, fan, 2.5" hard disk mounting provisions, and plastic standoff's arranged in a nano-ITX form factor. There are an arrary of holes in the back of the case to allow mounting of the wiring harness included in the kit, along with PS2, 5 volt out and USB surface mounting, and a nano-ITX motherboard I/O panel. The audio header looks like a direct "plug-n-play" connection to the nano ITX hardware. The wiring harness is well labeled and includes a direct power connection to the monitor hardware. For the review I used a new LED Lilliput 629 style monitor which worked perfectly with the blackbox-n. I have experience using ByByte's LCD mounting brackets so installing the Lilliput hardware was a snap. Just remove the included ABS mounting bracket from the front of the chassis and attach the LCD controller board and switch panel. This same bracket is also used to sandwich the LCD and Touchscreen panel in place. The LCD and Touchscreen fit into place snugly and accurately, installed by dropping the bottom in first and lifting them into place.







    A little tip: when mounting the switch PCB, make sure the connector sits in between the bracket and LCD controller, other wise it will be crooked and not install correctly. Circled in red here:



    Here are a few more shots of the LCD controller install, along with showing how its mounted in the case without the LCD in place for reference.







    In order to make the interface cable work in the case, the stress relief part of the cable needs to be trimmed carefully. I was able to trim it with a x-acto blade. (note this cable comes with the monitor NOT the black box kit)






    Included in the kit is also an IR relocation wire, so the remote interface can be moved to the front part of the bezel allowing the use of the Lilliput remote since the button board is concealed in this case.

    With the LCD installed next step is to install a 2.5" drive which is a simple process. The screws that hold the drive go up through the bottom of the box and into the drive. Here is how the drive goes, interface towards the front of the case.




    Here is the power connector that plugs into the Lilliput harness.



    The next step after mounting the LCD and Hard Disk is mounting the nano-ITX hardware itself, which unfortunately I have not made up my mind yet as to which nano-ITX motherboard I am going to use, so I do not have pictures of it mounted.. yet. (stay tuned for that) This is probably the easiest step however as the motherboard sits over the hard disk and gets mounted with 4 screws on the plastic stand-offs glued to the bottom of the case.

    The Positive:

    Well to put it bluntly, Cost! The kit can be had for around $55 plus shipping cost which is a great deal for what it includes, and the amount of R&D that likely went into it. The kit is easy to work on, is a simple design, and includes everything you need to get started building a bolt-in PC. Also a winner is the true ISO Double DIN design allowing the use of aftermarket trim kits for a clean seamless install. There are also a few specialty parts on the bybyte site specifically for this case, including a VGA header to Lillput DIN cable which eliminates the large and cumbersome 6' monitor cable from the design, along with a small AMP kit for those who want to push some factory car speakers and have the ultimate complete bolt in PC with amplified output. The cooling fan is a good idea due to the enclosed design of the case.

    The "WOW" factor of the case, as seeing how one can build a system with the same size as an alpine, pioneer, etc, unit, while considerably out powering the competition.

    The design is clean and the case is strong for how lightweight it is.

    The Negative:

    The case is aimed solely at Nano-ITX hardware or Pico-ITX hardware, which are still expensive options, and do most of the I/O via headers on the board itself. While this is great because it keeps all the cabling internal, it may prove difficult for less experienced PC builders. For reference here is a picture of a standard ITX board on the chassis:



    You can see that it will not fit the chassis at all due to the LCD controller, so do not bother attempting to use standard ITX hardware, unless you plan on lots of modification.

    Another trait I did not care for is the bezel and bottom lid appeared to use mechanical fasteners to hold them in place, but somewhere in the manufacturing stage it looks like super glue was added to hold the bottom lid and bezel in place. I prefer a more modular chassis design, so do not expect the bezel and bottom to come apart, they are glued together. Also the motherboard stand off's are glued into place making the LCD install a bit tricky.

    The final negative is more subjective since I did not do any testing on this, but the material used in the construction of the chassis is ABS plastic, which offers no EMI shielding of the circuit boards, and no common grounding reference point. It will be interesting to see when the PC is complete if there are any EMI or ground loop issues.

    The Verdict:

    A Solid, cost effective, well designed product, aimed at experienced PC builders and embedded system design. While this may not be the product of choice for someone doing a complex system with additional hardware needed, it does offer a platform for a great Nano-ITX based, bolt in PC, with absolutely no fabrication work required. This system would be well sited for music, videos, navigation and the like. My suggestion would be to research what the Nano-ITX hardware can and cannot do, and decide if it is right for you before taking the plunge. It should be noted that this case can be ordered with the LCD hardware already installed for those who do not want to tackle the LCD mounting.

    Specs:


    Width: 7"
    Depth: 7"
    Height: 4.1"
    Construction: ABS Plastic
    Form Factor: Nano-ITX recommended or Pico-ITX with fabrication necessary
    Suggested LCD: Lilliput 629 and 701 series
    Power supply: M3-atx recommended or M2-atx
    Disk Provisions: (1) 2.5" Hard disk drive sata, or pata, SSD recommended.

    Thanks again Mp3car for the great community! Stay Tuned for the Nano ITX board install.
    Build Things, it keeps your brain busy.

    AutoPC v1 (Retired) - AutoPC v2 (in progress) - www.shocknet.us

  • #2
    Great review! My next system will likely have one of these, a gumstix board, and the lilliput 629GL with dvi. This case is perfect for an all-in-one, plug-it-in-and-run type system.
    Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
    Current author of Automotive Message Broker (AMB).
    Works on Tizen IVI. Does not represent anyone or anything but himself.

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    • #3
      Nice that after all these years someone actually made what everyone was asking for! Looks good!
      Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
      1.9in x 2.9in -- 47mm x 73mm
      30 Digital Outputs -- Directly drive a relay
      15 Analogue Inputs -- Read sensors like temperature, light, distance, acceleration, and more
      Buy now in the MP3Car.com Store

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      • #4
        always wondered about these cases, its a shame that it wont quite fit an itx board. Excellent review
        mp3Car.com Senior Tech Blogger (Want a product reviewed? Contact me.)
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        • #5
          I've bought one of these boxes as well and i'm up to the same point, waiting for the motherboard to arrive. Mine was preassembed with the built in amplifier as well. I bought it because i didn't really want a separate amp and this way i can also use the cars factory wiring.

          One question, can you figure out how they want you to power the LCD?
          I want to run it off the PSU but the preassembled cables are designed to run straight out through the power connector on the back of the black box n.

          They seem to have thought about everything else with the black box so i'm wondering if i'm missing something obvious.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by lkernan View Post
            They seem to have thought about everything else with the black box so i'm wondering if i'm missing something obvious.
            Nope....power supply is external->you might want to cut the harness and use a 4pin molex instead.
            Question about the amp though...their website says 2 channels in some places and 4 in others. Which one is it?

            @blk02si:
            One thing I should point out...the included power wire is too short for the lilly 701's.
            openMobile - An open source C# Front End (why choose openMobile?)
            - Always Recruiting Developers -
            Like what you see? Donations are always welcome

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            • #7
              Originally posted by justchat_1 View Post
              Nope....power supply is external->you might want to cut the harness and use a 4pin molex instead.
              Question about the amp though...their website says 2 channels in some places and 4 in others. Which one is it?

              @blk02si:
              One thing I should point out...the included power wire is too short for the lilly 701's.
              The Amp I received was 2 channel wired up with 4 outputs. But it has the worst interference I have ever heard, even with a ground loop isolator, proper wiring to battery, I still need to try to EMI shield it tho

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by justchat_1 View Post
                Nope....power supply is external->you might want to cut the harness and use a 4pin molex instead.
                Question about the amp though...their website says 2 channels in some places and 4 in others. Which one is it?

                @blk02si:
                One thing I should point out...the included power wire is too short for the lilly 701's.
                Thanks, i figured that was the case, pity because that also disables the 5v output on the back (although i dont need that one).

                The amp i got is a 2 channel at 35w, the instructions even say that. However the Bybyte website (and even their invoice!) say it is a 4 channel. I don't mind so much but i'm sure some people would get very upset over that.

                Comment


                • #9
                  What is needed to make an ITX board fit?

                  Hi all.....What is needed to make an ITX board fit this box? Can the back be cut off and extended to allow for the dept of the screen? Will the box fit the width of an itx board? Just a few thoughts, I would love to use this box.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have a unit still in the design+test phase (although it should be out in ~2 months) that will support an itx board.

                    You could modify the black-box-n but theres a pretty good chance you'll just crack the plastic (all that stupid super glue). Its ~1mm too narrow for an itx board but you could probably make that work. The depth would need to be extended 3/4" and then all the standoffs moved around in order to get an itx board in that box (along with the removal of the fan and speaker connector). At that point it won't fit in most dashes as it would be too long. The real issue is that the current screen mounting method takes up too much space but unless you have access to injection molding equipment theres not much you can do about it.

                    Edit:
                    Fair warning to anyone considering any in-dash itx install. If you don't mind snaking the VGA connector out behind the case its no big deal but for a professional job you need LVDS. Unfortunately, the only decent boards with LVDS are embedded boards and your looking at $500 shipped minimum (other then the very underpowered via's).
                    openMobile - An open source C# Front End (why choose openMobile?)
                    - Always Recruiting Developers -
                    Like what you see? Donations are always welcome

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                    • #11
                      Just an update on the screen power, i've had an email from bybyte advising that the power for the LCD is designed to come straight off the cars radio power harness.

                      I'm not sure i like the idea of putting the LCD directly to the battery without any regulation, however the screen was preassembed and therefore has a bybyte warranty so i'll try it their way.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by justchat_1 View Post
                        Fair warning to anyone considering any in-dash itx install. If you don't mind snaking the VGA connector out behind the case its no big deal but for a professional job you need LVDS. Unfortunately, the only decent boards with LVDS are embedded boards and your looking at $500 shipped minimum (other then the very underpowered via's).
                        A professional job can be done using VGA interface if you use the cable I talked about in the positive's section of the review. Granted, the nano-ITX board used needs to have a 2mm pitch video header, but most of them have this header. This allows the lilliput din (sks) cable to attach directly to the motherboard with a 6" piece of wire. Definitely the approach I will be taking.
                        Attached Files
                        Build Things, it keeps your brain busy.

                        AutoPC v1 (Retired) - AutoPC v2 (in progress) - www.shocknet.us

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by blk02si View Post
                          A professional job can be done using VGA interface if you use the cable I talked about in the positive's section of the review. Granted, the nano-ITX board used needs to have a 2mm pitch video header, but most of them have this header. This allows the lilliput din (sks) cable to attach directly to the motherboard with a 6" piece of wire. Definitely the approach I will be taking.
                          If only there was something faster then a via in nano-itx form.
                          openMobile - An open source C# Front End (why choose openMobile?)
                          - Always Recruiting Developers -
                          Like what you see? Donations are always welcome

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                          • #14
                            Yeah they are not the fastest boards in the game but they are actually not too bad with an optimized OS running on them. They work fine for the common stuff, even the Pico - ITX has enough muscle to run video, navigation and the works.
                            Build Things, it keeps your brain busy.

                            AutoPC v1 (Retired) - AutoPC v2 (in progress) - www.shocknet.us

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by blk02si View Post
                              The final negative is more subjective since I did not do any testing on this, but the material used in the construction of the chassis is ABS plastic, which offers no EMI shielding of the circuit boards, and no common grounding reference point. It will be interesting to see when the PC is complete if there are any EMI or ground loop issues.
                              After such a great review this issue brought me up short. On a positive note I've sourced some EMI/RFI shielding Material suppliers that may help with this problem. I'm going the Pico-ITX route so I don't want risk my investments in this case. Never-the-less thanks for review you should get a commission; even with this cases negatives, you sold me.

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