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Thread: New project - a couple of questions re' board and flash HDD

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    New project - a couple of questions re' board and flash HDD

    Hey everyone

    I'm planning on building a new car PC (have built one previously based on Epia M10000 board), but now that things have moved on quite a bit since my last one I don't know anything about all the affordable Mini-itx boards in terms of what's hot and what's not. I've looked at the wiki and sticky thread for boards and they both have tons of info for specs but I can't really get an idea from that of what I'd be able to get by with (since I don't need anything out of this world).

    I've got a lilliput blaxtream TC1000 single din PC but whilst it works ok I kinda need the space where it would go so I can fit a decent head unit there instead, plus it would be nice to have a more powerful CPU than that has, as it's a little slow, so that's why I want to make another DIY pc.

    I've trawled through Ebay and looked at loads of different boards and am pleased by the apparent cost vs performance improvement from 3 or 4 years ago when I built my last one but no idea what's good.

    At this point I like the look of the following boards:

    ASROCK A330GC (atom 330) 72
    Asus AT3GC-1 (atom 330) 75
    GIGABYTE GA-GC330UD (atom 330?) 70
    INTEL D945GCLF Motherboard - (atom 230) 50
    Gigabyte GA-GC230D 58

    If my understanding of these is right they have a dual core 1.6ghz atom cpu except for the 230 models (not sure what they have). Are these processors/boards any good?

    I don't need a powerhouse and will be running a cut down version of XP, but like I say the lilliput is a bit slow at times, so I'm hoping a more modern dual core 1.6ghz cpu should be a huge improvement right? I won't be doing much in the way of watching video or playing games on it.
    Mostly it will be used for music (I'm hoping to get away with a cable from mobo line out to head unit line in if that's not too optimistic? Doesn't have to be audiophile sound quality, just 'ok' is fine), a bit of satnav, and ECU mapping/datalogging software.

    Are there any other boards for similar money (maybe up to about 100) that really stand out? Needs to me mini-itx or smaller but I don't expect anything smaller for that sort of mobo budget.

    The other thing I was wondering about is potentially using flash 'HDD' for rapid boot times. Last time I looked into this though there were issues with this because of the limited number of read/write cycles they can handle in their lifespan.

    Is this still the same? I notice that you can buy adaptor boards for plugging CF/SD cards into an IDE slot etc which makes me wonder if it's a practical solution somehow now?
    Would be nice to have a flash card for the OS and apps to boot/load real fast, and a proper hdd for media storage.

    I already have one of those motorised Lilliput screens (with the poor quality amp & radio!) and a Lilliput 619GL screen for this project so the motherboard is the main decision I need to make before I can get on with it.

    Appreciate any useful input guys, thanks!
    Jim

  2. #2
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    most of the atom boards do fine for most car computers-- i ran one for a while, and it was adequate for the time (i also used it for processor heavy, audio processing, so i moved on...), and worked fine as long as i didn't do the audio processing-- i actually am using the board now for a home computer, and you would never know the difference between that and a full sized celeron/mobo combo.

    while i have not tried anything other than 2.5" hdds, my understanding is that cf cards with a ide adapter are kind of frowned upon these days, and can be troublesome to load everything on-- some drivers don't play nice with them..

    the new tech is solid state hard drives (or ssd)-- these are supposed to work much better, but still have similar limitations-- read/write cycles degrade the drive, but because these drives are supposed to be used for computer os's, they seem to work better overall, but are higher in cost compared to a cf/ide or 2.5"/3.5" disk drive of similar capacity...

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    Thanks for the reply mate.

    I think I'll grab one of those boards in that case. As I say, I'm not after making some amazing project, just a small setup to fit inside my glovebox so it frees a DIN slot for a decent head unit, thus removing the need for a separate amp.

    When you say you used one for 'audio processing' could you elaborate a little if you don't mind? Like I say I'm not after bleeding edge sound quality since my car is a little loud anyway, but I'm hoping the built in sound card on this sort of board and a line out to a reasonable head unit (alpine or the like) would be able to serve passable sound quality*?


    *Providing it doesn't suffer unduly from external interferance.

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    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    most of the motherboards these days have good sound outputs, so that really should not be a issue, unless you are looking for a specific feature like a subwoofer output or something...

    for audio processing, i am using the computer to split up the signal(using a combination of programs-- audiomulch, and virtual audio cable, and some crossover plugins by karma fx), and then have 2-31 band eq's that i use to further tweak the audio to what i want.

    i did run the setup on a atom for a while, and it worked, but it was always just enough for the audio processing--i could make it work, but wanted more...

    i mostly did this because i wanted a active setup, but didn't want to get another processor on top of the computer-- like the audison bit one, esp. when a computer is fully capable of it...

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    I would also recommend the Zotac Atom boards with Nvidia Ion GPU. I've been running one for about 6 months now and it's great! Also, forget CF it's not worth the trouble. Go with an SSD like Vertex if you decide you need the speed.
    EWF, HORM, MinLogon on XP.

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    Thanks guys - that's very useful info indeed.

    No, I wouldn't be needing to do anything remotely like that in terms of audio!

    SFiorito - I have been looking through old threads today for info on CF 'discs' and read a lot of helpful replies from you to other people trying this. It sounds like you have quite a lot of knowledge on this subject so if you say it's not worth doing then that's fair enough for me.

    Out of interest, why are the SSD drives any better really? As far as I can see you still need to go to a fair bit of trouble to ensure that they have a minimum of write cycles made to them, so what is the main benefit of SSD over CF?

    I'm not sure how quickly a normal hard disc install can be made to boot? Last time I built a car pc, I think I had mine booting in approx 39 seconds with some version of TinyXP. Is it possible to get a boot time that's a lot quicker without spending an insane amount of time to pursuiing this goal?

    Have seen much talk of Zotac boards on here so I will look them up to see what the cost is.....

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    Ok - I bought myself an ASRock A330GC which seemed to be a nice little board and a very good price.

    Next I need some memory and an HDD - is there any real practical difference between a 7200 and 5400 2.5 sata drive in speed? The main thing I want to achieve is a fairly quick boot time although I won't obsess about it as such. This board says it has 'instant boot' mode which boots XP in 3-4 seconds but I suspect it's just going to be when it unsuspends from standby in reality!

    But would a 7200 drive be worth the extra money or not really noticeable?

    The main question I now have though is about PSU. My last carpc had an M1-ATX 90w psu and I liked it! Was going to buy one for the new board I just bought but I read a comment on the minibox site saying:
    "Not recommended for new designs. Please use M2-ATX or M2-ATX-HV"

    And also:
    "NOTE: Do not try this PSU with Pentium 4s, works with all VIA mini-ITX boards and some low power Pentiums and AMDs, please check your motherboards specs and make sure that the CPU is not getting V(core) from the 12V rail, must be from the 5v rail. Stay away from motherboards that have 4 pin 12VATX connectors, that that is a good indication that the M/B is using 12V for V(core)."

    I've no idea now whether it's suitable for the board I just bought. Can anyone confirm this please as I'd happily use an M1 for this project if it's suitable.

    Thanks!

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    I use an m1 with my atom330 board. Works fine. Hard drives are a *huge* bottleneck when it comes to boot speed. The faster the drive, the faster the boot is likely going to be. If you can put down the money, go with an SSD like the aforementioned vertex. The next thing to worry about in booting is the actual OS and software you choose to run.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cret View Post
    Out of interest, why are the SSD drives any better really? As far as I can see you still need to go to a fair bit of trouble to ensure that they have a minimum of write cycles made to them, so what is the main benefit of SSD over CF?
    The benefit of SSD is a ridiculous boost in speed. Also, with no moving parts they hold up better in mobile installations (vibrations will not damage them and temperature doesn't have the same effect as platter-based drives). Early drives had problems with performance degradation after large numbers of write/rewrite cycles (though even as they slowed down they were noticeably faster than platter drives). Newer drives implement a technology called "TRIM" which nearly eliminates this problem. However, these drives are still quite new and therefore quite pricey. SSDs use much higher quality memory than flash drives, though it is the same technology. Flash drives were not meant to see the same number of write cycles, so this wasn't a problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cret View Post
    This board says it has 'instant boot' mode which boots XP in 3-4 seconds but I suspect it's just going to be when it unsuspends from standby in reality!
    That time is probably how long it takes to post and turn things over to the bootloader. Then, windows starts to load (this is the longer process of the boot cycle generally). That time has nothing to do with suspend.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cret View Post
    But would a 7200 drive be worth the extra money or not really noticeable?
    Honestly, SSD is the way to go. If you're strapped for cash, a 7200 rpm drive should be noticeably faster than a 5400 rpm drive. For your boot time, the hard drive will likely be the bottleneck in the install. The faster you can afford to go here, the lower your boot time will be.

  10. #10
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    i had been running my Zotac Atom/ION board with an M1 no problems, and I recently upgraded to an M3.

    You're right, back in 03/04 I was very much interested in CF drives, but the hassle of getting them set up and the speed versus a dedicated SSD doesn't compare. You don't need to worry about write cycles in good SSDs to the level we did with CF drives. I don't run any write filter on my SSD in my notebook or my car. As far as speed, SSDs like the Vertex are extremely fast. I highly recommend them.
    EWF, HORM, MinLogon on XP.

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