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Hardware Review: ByByte 'Black Box' Carputer Enclosure

by blk02si on 02-04-2010 at 03:24 PM


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.

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.

See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.



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.

See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

Updated 02-10-2010 at 04:39 PM by optikalefx

Categories
Products and Technology , Product Reviews