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Recent Entries

Hardware Review: G1W-C 2.7 inch Full HD Car PVR System

by Sonicxtacy02 on 09-01-2014 at 07:28 PM

What is it?

The G1W is a high-definition automotive PVR camera with a 2.7” LCD display.

The Verdict:

The G1W automotive PVR is an excellent 1080p capture device which distinguishes itself from the pack with its functional and beautiful 2.7" LCD display.

The G1W is available at GearBeast.com, normally priced at $63.83. The manufacturer has created a special mp3Car.com community discount code. Use code GBG1WCHF to get the G1W at the price of $41.99. Coupon expires October 31st!


Description:

Automotive capture cameras come in all shapes and sizes these days. Some consist of a low-profile which is easy to hide away, and others come with a larger frame suitable for a larger backup battery and expansion. Size aside, their specs indicate that most do the same thing. The G1W high-definition camera has its own niche' with its high-quality 2.7” LCD display. Size wise, the G1W rests firmly in the middle of the smaller and bulker PVR devices. It’s not large enough to be an eye-sore on the windshield, but the included and quite functional display makes it larger than a device you wouldn’t notice at all.


The G1W is capable of recording in stunning 1080p high-definition at 60fps. Recording is up to the standard that the previously reviewed BlackVue DR400G set. No matter if you’re driving during the bright sun or at night, the G1W is capable of capturing a high-quality image. Details like license plates and road signs can be easily discerned both during external playback or using the built-in screen. The image also spans the width of the windshield thanks to a 120-degree viewing angle. Audio capture is also excellent. The G1W does a good job of capturing voice or background music all while eliminating most of the road noise you would expect to have when a camera is mounted to a car.




Initially I wasn't too keen on the idea of having a display sitting on the windshield anywhere near the drivers view in the car. This idea seemed like a distraction waiting to happen in fact. After using this device for some time though, I gained an appreciation of having a screen available if I wanted to replay a driving scenario on the fly. While using PVRs without a screen, there’s always a level of fear that the content is not actually being captured. With the G1W, you get a live preview when you want it, but the display can easily be turned off in the settings menu. The fact that I can modify settings on the device is another reason I like the G1W. With all of the other PVRs I’ve tested, settings modification requires the camera to the connected to a PC. There are a host of options available on the G1W and being able to change them when I want is a definite plus.




The G1W’s body has all of the buttons connectivity options you would expect from a car PVR with a screen. The PVR has a built-in capacitor which the manufacturer suggests provides a safer installation when comparing to a standard battery. The capacitor keeps the device alive just long enough to shutdown gracefully and ensures video data is saved properly. On the face on the camera are zoom buttons, a record button, a mode button for playback, and a small LED . The top of the G1W has power and menu buttons. Display options include HDMI via the mini connector on the left side of the camera and an A/V out 3.5mm jack on the top. The A/V connector is strangely absent from the box, as is a micro-SD card for capturing right out of the box. When purchasing the G1W, make sure to pick up as large a card as your budget can afford (up to 32GB). On the lens side of the camera is a LED flash, though it's only use in the car would be to upset any driver in front of your vehicle.



Sadly, there is one other notable omission from the G1W’s package. The camera does not include a GPS sensor, meaning location meta-data is not captured with the video. This of course doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but having GPS information while reviewing footage is something I’ve grown quite accustomed to with other car PVR models. The G1W does have an accelerometer and uses it to automatically suspend recording while stopped. This of course allows the installed memory to capture more footage while you’re driving instead of parked. I do wonder though how video would be captured while sitting at a stop light and a sudden collision occurs. As with most features, this too can be turned off in settings.

The Positive:

• High quality 1080p video capture
• included LCD gives options competitors don’t offer
• Latency-free live preview from the display
• A host of display output options
• Built in accelerometer is very functional
• Suction cup mount is strong and secures the camera in place
• 12-foot power cord aids in installation



The Negative:

• Lack of GPS data capture
• Micro-SD card is not included



The Verdict:

The G1W automotive PVR is an excellent 1080p capture device which distinguishes itself from the pack with its functional and beautiful 2.7" LCD display.



Check here for more photos of the G1W car PVR. Check back later for a comparison video between the G1W and other PVR models.

Updated 09-01-2014 at 07:41 PM by Sonicxtacy02

Categories
Product Reviews

Hardware Review: Integreight's Arduino 1Sheeld

by Sonicxtacy02 on 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.

Categories
Product Reviews

Hardware Review: Portal Media Bluetooth TPMS module

by Sonicxtacy02 on 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.

Categories
Product Reviews

Hardware Review: MICO Phone Interface Shield For Arduino

by Sonicxtacy02 on 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

Hardware Review: Xenarc 700CSH 7" Capacitive Touchscreen Monitor

by Sonicxtacy02 on 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

Categories
Product Reviews

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