View RSS Feed

Recent Blogs Posts

  1. Hardware Review: Integreight's Arduino 1Sheeld

    by , 07-09-2014 at 02:41 PM

    What is it?

    The 1Sheeld is an Arduino shield that allows for smartphone sensor information to be used with an Arduino device.

    The Verdict:

    1Sheeld to rule them all! The 1Sheeld for Arduino is a must have component for beginners and advanced users alike. It's easy to use, easy to setup, and arms most Arduinos with a bevy of prototyping tools at their disposal. The bottom line is if you own a compatible Arduino and an Android device you should buy a 1Sheeld.


    Description:

    Anyone who's ever spent any amount of time with an Arduino knows of its seemingly unlimited potential. Arduino has an extremely large support community and because it's open source hardware, the number of ways you can expand are only limited by imagination. Buy an Arduino, and if you're anything like me you'll feel compelled to purchase many of the available shields add-on modules just to see what new possibilities exist. The cost of Arduino shields seem to increase based on their usefulness, so often times many of the cheaper shields you buy first simply get left out of any design when it comes to protect implementation time. What if "1 shield" could effectively replace the pile of shields you'd normally purchase during prototyping? Meet the 1Sheeld.


    1Sheeld is a prototypers dream add-on. Using an Android device running 2.3+ and an awesome 1Sheeld app, your smartphone becomes your Arduino shields. 1Sheeld's job is to communicate between the Arduino and the Android. Using the built-in HC-06 Bluetooth module, 1Sheeld allows any available sensor in your smartphone to become a virtual shield, so that the sensor data can be used in Arduino sketches.


    The 1Sheeld can serve as a GPS shield, Wifi shield, and most any other shield available today. In addition, it replaces smaller hardware components like LEDs, buttons, and buzzers. Want to design a sketch using a gamepad or keyboard? 1Sheeld makes this easy. Email, SMS, Facebook, and Foursquare implementation is a breeze thanks to the 1Sheeld.



    With the power and flexibility the 1Sheeld affords, its easy to see an incredibly complex Android control app. I was frankly amazed at how clean and easy to use the app is. Upon first running the app, you're presented with a short tutorial, then a scan button that searches for 1Sheeld devices in the 30 foot range. Once a 1Sheeld is found, pairing is a single tap process. From there, the UI shows all of the available sensors the app has in a simple and clean manner. You can select which of the various sensors you would like to enable, and any sensors not available to the Android device are blocked immediately via toast notification. Once you've selected the sensors you want to utilize, a single button presents a screen where the selected sensors are displayed with their various values. The entire app interface is fluid, fast, and organized. There's even an included plugin for the powerful automation Android app Tasker. The available 1Sheeld library for Arduino is also top notch, with several example sketches for the various sensors the shield provides.


    The 1Sheeld is designed to attach to the standard Arduino shield form factor. Connecting to an Uno or Mega is very easy. Compatibility issues do exist with Arduino's without the standard shield form factor. The 1Sheeld is also a pass-through shield, allowing access to the Arduino's input/output pins.

    The Positive:

    • Powerful, flexible platform
    • Terrific Android app
    • Arduino library all but eliminates sketch implementation issues
    • Easy learning and setup process
    • Standard shield form factor
    • Tasker support



    The Negative:

    • No current Apple support
    • Wont connect to Arduino's without the standard shield form factor.



    The Verdict:

    1Sheeld to rule them all! The 1Sheeld for Arduino is a must have component for beginners and advanced users alike. It's easy to use, easy to setup, and arms most Arduinos with a bevy of prototyping tools at their disposal. The bottom line is if you own a compatible Arduino and an Android device you should buy a 1Sheeld.

  2. Hardware Review: Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module

    by , 06-16-2014 at 10:31 AM

    What is it?

    The Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module lets you monitor tire pressure wirelessly via Bluetooth.

    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.


    Description:

    Quite a few years ago at mp3Car's first national car PC meet, I was lucky enough to win a prize for having as many as 19 USB devices connected to my car PC. The prize received was USB number 20, a car PC connected tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) from Portal Media. Many years and several dead sensor batteries later, the device had served me well, but it was time for an upgrade. Luckily, the guys at Portal Media have been busy at work improving on their existing technology. For years it's seemed that the Bluetooth variant of their TPMS devices was simply an idea in our mp3Car forum, but the time has arrived, and the device really exists. I've been privileged to spend the last few weeks testing this new device out and getting to see if the wireless abilities actually improved the experience.


    Let's get the obvious information out of the way first. The tire sensors required for the Bluetooth TPMS device must be professionally installed, so be sure to account for the cost of installation when considering this purchase. My cost was roughly $30/tire, but yours can vary. Also, as if this review, there is no Apple or Windows application that will work with the Bluetooth TPMS module. It's unknown whether this will be created by Portal Media in the near future, but as the mp3Car community is founded on the idea of tinkering and fitting square pegs in round holes, I'm sure solutions will exist shortly. Once the sensors are installed in the tires, the rest of the process of setting the system up is a breeze. The TPMS module is smaller and sleeker this time around, so it's easy to plug into any available 12v source and slide in a glove box or other compartment. It's recommended to install the device in a centralized location in relation to the tire sensors, but I've had far more success with reception despite installation location in comparison to the USB unit. Once the device is mounted and powered, the Android application will need to be downloaded from the Play Store. Once the app is installed, its time to begin the process of synchronizing the tire sensors to the Bluetooth module. Check out the video below on the steps required here.


    The Android application for the Bluetooth TPMS is very easy to use. The user interface is very simple, and once the sensors are learned, it will quickly and accurately report sensor information. In the app settings, there are a large number of variables which control sensor alert notifications and display preferences. The app is not without faults though. I have the application installed on three of my Android devices; A Samsung tablet with QHD resolution, a Samsung smartphone with HD resolution, and the ODROID X-2 Android low resolution head unit. Each instance gives me a different take on the app. The smartphone displays the perfect scaling of text, buttons, and images. On the tablet, the buttons are very small and often a chore to press, and the vehicle image and text does not scale to make use of the added real estate. The ODROID's low resolution allows for the buttons and images to display correctly, but the text is too large for the bubble window it's presented in. Portal Media has acknowledged some of the drawbacks of the app, and is aggressively working to correct the issues.




    Ultimately, the experience of being free of the installed car PC screen when dealing with my tire pressure is a much needed improvement. Rather than having to run back and forth between tires and the monitor to check pressure levels, I can take my tablet with me to each tire. I'll still receive alert notifications through my Android car PC, but the flexibility to use an additional screen when I choose is awesome.

    The Positive:

    • Module has a sleeker and smaller profile
    • Tire sensor reception seems improved
    • Android ability allows for cross-device usage
    • Easy learning and setup process



    The Negative:

    • No current iPod or Windows support
    • Android app is functional, but will need work



    The Verdict:

    Portal Media's Bluetooth TPMS improves on the last generation of devices by allowing wireless communication via Bluetooth. The module is sleeker and reception appears improved. Once the kinks are worked out of the Android app, the Bluetooth TPMS module will be an awesome addition to any compatible car.

  3. Hardware Review: MICO Phone Interface Shield For Arduino

    by , 03-06-2014 at 01:49 PM

    What is it?

    The MICO Shield is an Arduino add-on module which allows the Arduino to interface with a mobile phone.

    The Verdict:

    Provided you have a compatible Arduino device, the MICO shield can pull any vehicle closer to the connected car lifestyle with the power of a cell phone.



    Most hardware DIYers have tinkered with or at least heard about the open source I/O powerhouse that is the Arduino. I've personally spent hours upon hours finding different methods to power on an LED from different Adruino add-ons, called "shields". The MICO shield just might be my favorite of the bunch as I feel its features can most likely be used with an Arduino installed in my vehicle.

    As cute a name as MICO is, it really stands for Mobile Interactive voice response and COntrol. The premise is rather simple, connect the MICO shield to a cell phone headphone jack and MICO can answer any calls received. The real power in the MICO comes from what you can do with that call. MICO serves as an virtual operator to any number of functions.


    MICO can tell you the temperature in the vehicle from its built-in thermosensor. MICO can read from a voltmeter connected to the Arduino and let callers know how much juice is left in the battery. MICO can be programmed to make a call when the car is located outside a geofence. MICO can also do, as shown here, where an Arduino-novice like me created a sketch to make MICO trigger my remote starter.


    Installation of the MICO shield could not be easier. It simply plugs into the headphone jack of a cell phone. MICO answers calls in two different methods. The first method listens to the audio jack for ringing signal and answers after a configurable number of rings. There are two sets of jumpers on the device to allow MICO to listen in regardless of mic polarity. The second option depends on the cell phones ability to auto-answer, an option that is available on a great number of phones today. That being said, its important to know if your phone supports these methods to ensure compatibility. MICO also has an optional 2nd headphone jack which can be used to listen to what MICO is saying for testing purposes. The 2nd headphone jack does not however pass caller audio through.


    MICO uses the Arduino SDK for its programming, so it's easy to adapt its features to your build. There's even handy example sketches to help get you started. To get much use out of this shield, you'll need to have a micro SD card, as the audible responses that MICO uses must be declared and saved as RAW audio files. MICO PCB is directly compatible with the Arduino Uno device, but sadly directly connect with the beefier Arduino Mega.




    The Positive:

    • High quality add-on which allows arduino/cell phone interfacing
    • Compatible with most phones today
    • Uses Arduino SDK for programming ease and comes with helpful examples
    • Easy to create audible prompts for use and SD Card use allows for large variety of options



    The Negative:

    • Not (yet) compatible with Arduino MEGA
    • Small number of phones will be incompatible


    The Verdict:

    Provided you have a compatible Arduino device, the MICO shield can pull any vehicle closer to the connected car lifestyle with the power of a cell phone.

    The MICO shield for Adruino is available through the mp3Car store.

    Check back soon for a video of the MICO device in action, as well as more blogs showing how the Arduino line of devices can be used to supercharge the connected car experience.



    The MICO shield for Adruino is available through the mp3Car store.

    Check back soon for a video of the MICO device in action, as well as more blogs showing how the Arduino line of devices can be used to supercharge the connected car experience.
    Categories
    Product Reviews
  4. Hardware Review: Xenarc 700CSH 7" Capacitive Touchscreen Monitor

    by , 12-09-2013 at 02:37 PM

    What is it?

    The Xenarc 700CSH is a 7 Inch display with a capacitive touchscreen input.

    The Verdict:

    Yes and yes! The Xenarc 700CSH's capacitive touchscreen sets it apart from other displays in the segment. The clear and precise overlay allows the quality of the monitors display to shine through any glare. The 700CSH proves that Xenarc has been watching, as it addresses most of the long-standing shortcomings of small display screens.



    What’s in the box?

    The Xenarc box comes with the touchscreen monitor, VESA mount, wall and car chargers, input cabling which includes HDMI/VGA/Composite video connections, a HDMI -> DVI adapter, full-function remote, instruction manual, and a cable locking clasp.


    For a quick video of the unboxing for the 700CSH please click here.

    Description:

    Another year brings a another offering in the series of Xenarc 7 Inch monitors. The 700 series has seen its' share of small changes over the last few years, but nothing on the scale of the new 700CSH. This monitor shares the same physical dimensions as the older models, but offers so much more in the form of a beautiful capacitive touchscreen overlay.


    The community here at mp3Car.com has long searched for a install monitor which attempts to draw us closer to the visual fidelity of today's smartphones and tablets. Like Xenarc, each competing brand attempted to fulfill the needs of the community with features like high-brightness displays and a greater set of available inputs, but each of the monitors were limited by the resistive touchscreen overlays. Resistive touchscreens will often mute the color of the underlying screen and disperse surface lighting in a manner which at times makes it dangerous to use while driving an automobile in the daytime. Capacitive touchscreen technology allows for more of the screen's natural tones to come through and focuses oncoming light rather than disperse it. The difference comparing the Xenarc 700CSH with a resistive model is truly night and day. Check out the following example showing the 700CSH when compared to last year's Xenarc. Both pictures were taken during similar lighting.


    The improvements to the 700CSH didn't just stop at the touchscreen however. The display has received a bump up in native resolution. Instead of the 800x600 resolution we've come to expect, Xenarc has increased the 700CSH to 1024x600. The end result is a gorgeous display that does away with some of the pixilation seen on other models. It's still no Galaxy S4 or retina display, but the lines between have definitely been blurred. Car PC purists fear not, the 700CSH can still display between 800x480 and 1920x1080, PC willing. The brightness rating of 500nits and the contrast ratio of 400:1 are carryovers from prior models, but, because of the touchscreen, offer more bang for their buck.


    Xenarc has carried over all of the luxury features from prior models. You can still expect to get things like auto-switching to a composite input, auto power-on, and auto-brightness via the on-board photosensor. The menu system of the 700CSH is more expansion, offering more control than older models. Options like audio-over-HDMI and input switching control are welcomed additions. The included remote is actually usable, as it allows for full operation of the device rather than a subset of functions. Xenarc advertises that the touchscreen will still operate even if a fingerprint or scratch protector overlay is used. Fingerprints almost seem more of an issue with this touchscreen, but I personally feel like it'd be a shame to do anything to alter the display quality.



    The Positive:

    • The best display quality for the segment, bar none
    • Includes cable management options
    • Rock solid build quality
    • Fully functional remote included



    The Negative:

    • Bezel is larger than competitors


    The Verdict:

    Yes and yes! The Xenarc 700CSH's capacitive touchscreen sets it apart from other displays in the segment. The clear and precise overlay allows the quality of the monitors display to shine through any glare. The 700CSH proves that Xenarc has been watching, as it addresses most of the long-standing shortcomings of small display screens.

    Stay tuned for more photos, disassembly videos, pricing information, and availability on the Xenarc 700CSH

  5. Hardware Review: Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 Wireless Computer Headset

    by , 03-11-2013 at 10:52 AM

    What is it?

    The Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 is a Wireless Computing Headset featuring digital audio enhancement and noise cancellation.

    The Verdict:

    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



    What’s in the box?

    The WNC-1500 Comes with the headset, a 2.4ghz USB adapter, USB charging cable, a convenient carrying case, and an instruction manual. Software is also available for download from AndreaElectronics.com


    Description:

    Andrea Electronics is widely known in this community for the stellar series of Superbeam USB microphones. When installing a automotive PC, the Superbeam was the best available option for hands-free audio communication for a very long time. The quality of the Superbeam bundle has been reassembled into a wireless audio headset named the WNC-1500.


    Each part of the WNC-1500 package has been considered for fit and finish. The headset itself is extremely comfortable, which each part of the headset which touches your ear cushioned more than adequately with genuine leather. The attached microphone with included pop filter rests away from the face but in ideal position for vocal clarity. Microphone placement was considered not only for clarity, but it stays out of the way during video conferencing for the most part. The headband is also cushioned and does an excellent job of securing the headset speakers comfortably. Being wireless, the device is made to be mobile, and consideration was certainly made to keep the headset snug without being painful.


    The WNC-1500 comes with a convenient set of controls on the right earbud. Included buttons are for volume control, music playback next/previous track, power, and configuration. The buttons are raised with a firm press, but unless you use the headset often, you may find using conventional computer controls more friendly. I find myself hunting for the proper control through trial and error too often.


    The most endearing feature of the WNC-1500 set is the audio quality. Its crystal clear that in it's out of the box form, the headset is made for verbal communication. Despite being wireless, I could effectively speak and listen as if using a landline form of communication. There was simply no static or filtering noises with callers, and they never reported issue in response to my end. Andrea calls it "military grade acoustic noise cancelling technology", I'll just say it does the job and then some. The headset does just enough to filter ambient noises locally as to not disturb what your ears are hearing through the 40mm speaker drivers. By default, the headset doesn't thrill in regard to music or gaming enjoyment, but the included software has a 10 band graphic equalizer to aid in this regard. Despite this, I still felt at times that the headset muffled the audio experience while gaming at its most ideal setting. The virtual surround sound feature was lacking.

    The WNC-1500 is powered by a built in lithium-ion battery. Simply plug in the WNC-1500 with the included USB cable and it will charge fully and relatively short time. The LED indicator on the headset will indicate when charging has completed. During testing, I observed battery life in the 5-7 hour range, more than enough for one sitting. The wireless range too was outstanding as audio clarity would hardly be affected until I was some 40 feet from the USB adapter. This far exceeds any bluetooth headset I've used to date.

    The Positive:

    • Terrific audio quality and noise cancellation
    • USB rechargeable
    • Comfortable design and secure
    • Fold away design and included carrying case means the headset will go where you do
    • Excellent battery life and range

    The Negative:

    • Not immersive sound for gamers
    • Must use device manager to enable/disable the USB adapter as your primary sound card


    The Verdict:


    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



Page 1 of 12 1234567891011 ... LastLast