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  1. 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

  2. Recap of a Jam-Packed Tegra Powered CES Day 1

    by , 01-09-2013 at 11:29 AM

    Tablets, telematics and gaming dominate the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show! The highlighted hardware of the show so far seems to be the brand new Tegra 4 processor from NVIDIA. The processor was on display in a series of touch displays ranging in size from 5 to 50 inches, and was shown at the heart of the new wave of gaming platforms and digital dash displays. Could the days of a Tegra-based ready built automotive platform finally be here?

    Other quick hits and misses from Day 1.

    Hits:
    -Parrot Corp has again invaded CES with a variety of embedded automotive systems. Last year I highlighted the Double-Din Android powered Asteroid system, which has seemingly been replaced by a host of new Asteroid line products. More information soon!

    -US Globalstat, makers of the popular BU-353 USB GPS module, have released a series of automotive automatation devices aimed at bringing OEM vehicle accessibility to the aftermarket.

    -Electrobit had a live demo of their EB Street Director, a QNX based telematics navigation platform. This new package, built specifically for the "Connected Car", allows real-time information updating from online content into the navigation system.

    -Vehicle Telematics and Digital Health seem to be growing components of what CES is about. Various vendors have released new lines of Telematic devices, ranging from Belkin to Verizon. Seems telematic systems will soon be mainstream.

    -Seemingly every automotive electronics affiliate misses our very own Rob Wray!

    Misses:
    -Double-DIN computing platforms are all but extinct this year. It appears that vehicle design engineers have successfully phased out the days of simple add-on systems.

    -Not much has been updated in the world of 7" touchscreen.

    -Windows CE 6.0 is still seemingly a viable platform for embedded systems.


    Much more information and photos to come!
  3. Hardware Review: CustomGadz X2 Module for Android

    by , 09-23-2012 at 01:55 PM

    What is it?

    The CustomGadz X2 Module meshes the smartphone to the car PC, allowing for user-friendly control of an Android-powered car PC through a larger touchscreen monitor.

    The Verdict:

    The CustomGadz X2 Module is the ultimate way to make your smartphone your everyday car PC. Simply plugging in an HDMI cable from your phone to a monitor transforms your vehicle into an Android-powered experience.



    Description:

    The world of do-it-yourself in-car entertainment has recently seen a paradigm shift. The days of finding a space for a typical mITX motherboard and power supply are seemingly being phased out. Instead, more and more individuals are creating ways to install different forms of low cost, power sipping computing solutions. The most popular of these options going into automobiles these days are the Android powered tablet displays. The benefit of an entertainment setup such as this is easy to see at the surface. You get an instantly-on operating environment that is tailored specifically for touch screen usage. Most of the worries of destroying car batteries are a thing of the past, and a tablet device of any quality is going to have a display which is capable of viewing in all levels of sunlight.

    The challenge when dealing with this form of car PC is installation, particularly for a person who has already dipped into a car PC installation in the past. The very nature of a sleek, slim mobile device which essentially does it all can be quite the chore to wedge into a modern automobile console. Every tablet comes in its own shape and size, making a car friendly docking solution somewhat unachievable. So with these issues raised, what solution does an individual have when craving Android but cringing at the thought of taking an expensive tablet and hacking away to make it work in a dash?


    Enter the CustomGadz X2 Module. Based closely on the Mimics iPhone module, the X2 eases installation hassles by allowing Android control through dash-friendly 7” touchscreen display. The brain of an X2 operated car PC is your HDMI-capable smartphone. Once configured, the X2 Android module allows users to control their smartphone from a dash installed touchscreen. The X2 plugs into the touchscreen ribbon cable found in the screen housing, and uses Bluetooth technology to translate those presses to the smartphone. With X2 module installed, having a car PC is as simple as plugging the HDMI cable from your smartphone to your touchscreen monitor.


    The X2 is essentially the link that allows users to experience the same friendly user interface whether in or out of the vehicle. Other obvious benefits are the available mobile data connection, and the amazing capabilities of built-in Android applications. Users get Google music, navigation, and voice control. These are applications that car PC users have been searching long and hard for when installing Windows-based solutions. Users also get a system that is entirely portable, and easily powered, as the X2 only requires a 5v signal and your Android can be powered with an everyday automotive charge cable.


    As one can imagine, the many flavors of Android demands some configuration before the X2 becomes a perfect option. Quite honestly, configuration was somewhat confusing, especially having tested on the base X2 module with the adapter for my 4-wire Lilliput touchscreen. Essentially, configuration requires connecting the device to a PC running custom terminal program. Users must also connect an external button and LED light (neither are included with the base X2 package) and enter button presses to correspond to the commands the application dictates. Once configured, the X2 module must then be calibrated through the combination of a downloadable Android app and another combination of button presses and led flashes. While a tad bit tedious, the entire process is well documented in the installation manual.


    The other obvious drawback to the current version of the X2 Android device is the compatibility is limited in both touchscreen monitors and Android smartphones. Be sure to check the device compatibility list before purchasing. Ultimately, the X2 Android device allows a new group of car PC user, those who don't want to fabricate and destroy dashboards to achieve all the things a car PC can be.

    The Positive:

    • Allows instant control of your smartphone through a larger display
    • Instant control response, no delay after presses
    • Auto-power on/off
    • Touchscreen presses are mirrored from both touchscreen and smartphone
    • Included software walks you through touchscreen calibration
    • Easy to power


    The Negative:

    • Configuration and calibration are a chore
    • Limited compatibility with Android smartphones
    • Multi-Touch capabilities of android aren't available on most touchscreen monitors
    • Base module does not include required adapters and add-ons

    The Verdict:

    The CustomGadz X2 Module is the ultimate way to make your smartphone your everyday car PC. Simply plugging in an HDMI cable from your phone to a monitor transforms your vehicle into an Android-powered experience.

    For more on the process of calibrating the X2 module with your touchscreen check out this video.

    Updated 09-23-2012 at 07:41 PM by Sonicxtacy02

    Categories
    Product Reviews
  4. Hardware Review: Element 7" Touchscreen Display

    by , 01-25-2012 at 09:40 AM

    What is it?

    The Element is a 7" Touchscreen display which features HDMI, DVI, VGA & composite video connections.

    The Verdict:

    The Element 7" display is a well-received competitor into the small touchscreen genre. In its first revision, it seems to incorporate most of the criteria which makes a touchscreen device usable in the car. Those looking for a budget display device with great quality and community recommendation should look at the Element as their device of choice.



    What’s in the box?

    The Element comes with the 7" Touchscreen monitor, power supply, a remote control, and a 3.5mm to composite video connector. HDMI is not included, however because the Element uses a separate mini-USB connection for the touchscreen, any HDMI cable will do.

    Please note at the time the photos were taken the Element monitor came only in open frame form. A case is now available for the device.


    Description:

    Every once in a while, sites like ebay turn up a gem for the small market Car PC world. Such is the case with the new Element 7" touchscreen monitor, a device that community member RipplingHurst found while sifting through the items available on that website. His intrigue, which lead to this massive thread of information regarding the device, inspired me to contact the displays creator to review the device's uses for Car PC.


    With that massive thread in mind, lets summarize some of facts regarding the Element display. It is a 7" Samsung monitor with LED backlighting, overlayed by a resistive 4-wire "sunlight readable" touchscreen input device. Note that it is not transflective, but it does a fairly decent job in high sunlight conditions. I would put the device right on par with the high brightness Lilliput displays of recent years in terms of the amount of screen visible when the sun is bearing down.


    The controller for the device supports the famed 800x480 resolution from any video device which supports it. This means sticklers car PC pixel perfection can use their compatible video cards with the Element without the hassle of custom resolutions or firmware hacks. Oddly enough, the device supports many different resolutions all the way up to 1920x1080, far higher than most Lilliput and Xenarcs dare go. Now, most people wont ever use a 7" monitor at that high a resolution, but the ability to do so is worth a bragging right or two.


    Another built-in feature that was kindly considered is the ability to auto switch to composite AV1 on signaling. This request has become more popular with the installation of rear cameras in car PC setups. Auto-on/Auto-off and input resume are all there as well. The creator as definitely done their research in regard to what car PC hobbyist are looking for from their touchscreens. They've even done away with the dreaded "blue screen of boot" no signal screen. Instead of retina burning bright blue, the screen is a subtle black.


    The display quality of the Element display is darn nice at factory settings. Colors are rich and deep, and there's not any noticeable "pixel effect" or ghosting at low resolutions, no matter what input you choose to use. The only poor aspect of the viewing quality was the off-axis viewing angles. Colors quickly turn dark when viewing at modest angles. Unfortunately this is a trait of near all resistive touchscreen monitors, and the Element makes no strides in this regard.


    Installing the open-frame Element in to your car shouldn't be any more difficult than normal. The device will fit into mp3Car's double-din kits available, albeit with some minor controller mounting and cable interference issues. The display fits nicely into the opening of the bezel, with only a minor smidgen of touchscreen white-space showing through. The developer for the device kindly included a long strand of cables connecting the controller board to the button panel, meaning the buttons can be neatly tucked away, or the IR sensor for the remote can be mounted away from the dash panel.

    A minor matter of contention I have with the Element is of personal opinion. The device uses separate USB and HDMI cables, meaning there is one additional wire required to tuck into the dash and extend out to the PC. The benefit to this is the ability to use any HDMI cable, instead of the stiff and often difficult to replace HDMI-to-HDMI/USB cables found with Lilliput and Xenarc monitors.

    The Positive:

    • Above average sunlight readability
    • High quality display with extremely rich color and contrast
    • Includes features car PC installers demand
    • High selection of available resolutions
    • True native 800x480 support
    • Buttons can be easily mounted elsewhere for space saving in installation


    The Negative:

    • Requires a mini-USB wire for touchscreen
    • Uses proprietary touchscreen drivers
    • Height of controller and angle of connectors mean some hacking required for double-DIN kits
    • Poor off-axis viewing angles



    The Verdict:

    The Element 7" display is a well-received competitor into the small touchscreen genre. In its first revision, it seems to incorporate most of the criteria which makes a touchscreen device usable in the car. Those looking for a budget display device with great quality and community recommendation should look at the Element as their device of choice.

  5. OLED - The past present and future

    by , 07-24-2009 at 03:40 PM



    Rob Wray from mp3Car interviews Mark Shanks from Toupled about OLED and respond to question from m3pCar forum members.
    They discuss the history of OLED, the challenges they face, how they work, and why they are superior to LCD.
    There are a lot of possibilities with OLED including flexible surfaces and transparent applications.

    Updated 09-17-2009 at 02:52 PM by optikalefx

    Categories
    Products and Technology
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