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Thread: Software Review: Centrafuse Auto Navigation

  1. #1
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    Software Review: Centrafuse Auto Navigation


    What is it?

    A front end software that sits on top of Microsoft Windows, an interface between you and your car's infotainment. It allows you to play music, watch videos, assist in GPS navigation, listen to satellite radio, communicate with your bluetooth cellphone, respond to voice commands, display rear view camera, multiple media zones, etc. With it's strong emphasis on making it easy for programmers to make plugins, it can be used for controlling anything that's attached to your carpc through one common interface.

    The Verdict:

    Buy the software without GPS navigation and use a third party GPS navigation software. With the multitudes of plugins, integrating third party GPS software is easy and works well. Loading times are the longest I've experienced with any front end software but this won't be much of an issue if you use hibernation or suspend. If you don't have the time to make those other front end work correctly and just want something that works with support then I highly recommend you go this route. I like to thank mp3car and Centrafuse for this opportunity to make this review.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.


    What's in the box?

    I didn't receive a box or anything physical for this review, just an email message from mp3car.com with a serial key and where to register/download. I downloaded the software from www.centrafuse.com and registered my carpc hardware ID to it. A quick start PDF manual can be found after installation. For more documentation see the FAQ on their forum.

    Description:

    Test machine:

    Intel D945GCLF2 dual core 1.6Ghz Atom processor, 512MB ram, 80GB Seagate EE25 Automotive HD 5400rpm, GPS BU-353, Windows XP

    Set up:

    Installation starts by visiting www.centrafuse.com and creating an account (not to be confused with the forum user account). Select the link called "Looking for your 2.0 licenses?". It will give you a link to download the 3.0 software by clicking on the "Get Installer Files". This is also the same web screen you use to register your hardware ID -- more on this later.

    Before you install Centrafuse on your carpc, I highly recommend reinstalling a full copy of Windows if you plan on using voice control. My previous install of TinyXP Windows edition didn't allow voice control to function. If voice control isn't important to you and you want to continue using TinyXP, then you must enable "Windows Management Instrumentation" service for the hardware ID to function properly.

    Installation is straight forward. Click on Centrafuse_30_1106.exe. It first installs Microsoft's framework 2.0 and SP1, reboots Windows, and restarts the installation again. Next, it will ask if you want optional voice control and blue tooth to be installed before finally installing Centrafuse. The next step is to install the GPS navigation portion by clicking on Centrafuse_NA_30_part1.exe. Installation took a while, but it required no further reboots. Software installation total time was eight minutes. When you run Centrafuse for the first time, it will inform you of your hardware ID. Write this down and visit www.centrafuse.com again to obtain a license. Centrafuse will email you a license file that needs to be copied to "\Program Files\Centrafuse\Centrafuse Auto".

    Video:

    Centrafuse does so many things so I figured it would be best if I'd make a short 17 minute video exploring what it does.






    The screen shots from centrafuse are much better than mine, so please check them out here.

    The Positive:


    • Extremely touch screen friendly with large buttons. You do not need a mouse in your car.
    • Bluetooth cell phone interface
    • GPS navigation lowers volume progressively before announcing next turn.
    • Configuring the software is straight forward and very easy to do with it's nice GUI interface. No confusing .INI files to edit.
    • Changing the current song to another is very easy to do without disrupting your current screen. For example, you're entering in an address in the navigation window and suddenly there's a song you don't want to listen to. No problem click on a music button and you can quickly switch to another song. Click on the button again and you're back to where you left off, undisturbed.
    • Customizing the default skin can be modified easily if you want to rearrange some of the menus.
    • Voice control works well, although I couldn't request a song by title (someone would need to write a plugin)
    • No unexpected crashes, works well.


    The Negative:


    • GPS navigation has many disappointments. Maps are dated from 2007. North America maps are divided into 10 regions, making things cumbersome. For example, you cannot select a destination to Detroit, Michigan from Windsor, Ontario because they're in different regions. Selecting gas, food, or hotel points of interest doesn't work if your map is set to Canada (bug). GPS navigation didn't work after immediately configuring the GPS device. I had to restart Centrafuse for the new settings to take effect.
    • My loading times are a bit slow; 25 seconds from a cold start, or 14 seconds on a reload. My other front end software loads in about half the time.
    • Memory usage has been 153 to 160 MB, about triple to what the other front end use. This higher memory usage directly influences the longer hibernation and read/write times. It takes approximately two seconds longer for hibernate to resume.
    • No gestures feature -- a minor inconvenience
    • Surprised to see a slight pause between main menu screen changes, this either suggests I need either a more powerful graphics card or better CPU. This popular dual core Atom has never shown any weakness until now.


    The Verdict:

    Buy the software without GPS navigation and use a third party GPS navigation software. With the multitudes of plugins available, integrating third party GPS software is easy and works well. Loading times are the longest I've experienced with any front end software, but this won't be much of an issue if you use hibernation or suspend modes. If you don't have the time to make those other front end software applications work correctly and just want something that works and has support then I highly recommend you go with Centrafuse Auto. I'd like to thank mp3car and Centrafuse for the opportunity to make this review.

    Specifications:

    Minimum: 1GHz processor, 256 MB RAM (note: my system required 351MB for Windows XP + Centrafuse 3)
    Recommended: 1.5GHz processor, 1 GB RAM

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackStealth View Post

    What is it?

    A front end software that sits on top of Microsoft Windows, an interface between you and your car's infotainment. It allows you to play music, watch videos, assist in GPS navigation, listen to satellite radio, communicate with your bluetooth cellphone, respond to voice commands, display rear view camera, multiple media zones, etc. With it's strong emphasis on making it easy for programmers to make plugins, it can be used for controlling anything that's attached to your carpc through one common interface.

    The Verdict:

    Buy the software without GPS navigation and use a third party GPS navigation software. With the multitudes of plugins, integrating third party GPS software is easy and works well. Loading times are the longest I've experienced with any front end software but this won't be much of an issue if you use hibernation or suspend. If you don't have the time to make those other front end work correctly and just want something that works with support then I highly recommend you go this route. I like to thank mp3car and Centrafuse for this opportunity to make this review.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.


    What's in the box?

    I didn't receive a box or anything physical for this review, just an email message from mp3car.com with a serial key and where to register/download. I downloaded the software from www.centrafuse.com and registered my carpc hardware ID to it. A quick start PDF manual can be found after installation. For more documentation see the FAQ on their forum.

    Description:

    Test machine:

    Intel D945GCLF2 dual core 1.6Ghz Atom processor, 512MB ram, 80GB Seagate EE25 Automotive HD 5400rpm, GPS BU-353, Windows XP

    Set up:

    Installation starts by visiting www.centrafuse.com and creating an account (not to be confused with the forum user account). Select the link called "Looking for your 2.0 licenses?". It will give you a link to download the 3.0 software by clicking on the "Get Installer Files". This is also the same web screen you use to register your hardware ID -- more on this later.

    Before you install Centrafuse on your carpc, I highly recommend reinstalling a full copy of Windows if you plan on using voice control. My previous install of TinyXP Windows edition didn't allow voice control to function. If voice control isn't important to you and you want to continue using TinyXP, then you must enable "Windows Management Instrumentation" service for the hardware ID to function properly.

    Installation is straight forward. Click on Centrafuse_30_1106.exe. It first installs Microsoft's framework 2.0 and SP1, reboots Windows, and restarts the installation again. Next, it will ask if you want optional voice control and blue tooth to be installed before finally installing Centrafuse. The next step is to install the GPS navigation portion by clicking on Centrafuse_NA_30_part1.exe. Installation took a while, but it required no further reboots. Software installation total time was eight minutes. When you run Centrafuse for the first time, it will inform you of your hardware ID. Write this down and visit www.centrafuse.com again to obtain a license. Centrafuse will email you a license file that needs to be copied to "\Program Files\Centrafuse\Centrafuse Auto".

    Video:

    Centrafuse does so many things so I figured it would be best if I'd make a short 17 minute video exploring what it does.






    The screen shots from centrafuse are much better than mine, so please check them out here.

    The Positive:


    • Extremely touch screen friendly with large buttons. You do not need a mouse in your car.
    • Bluetooth cell phone interface
    • GPS navigation lowers volume progressively before announcing next turn.
    • Configuring the software is straight forward and very easy to do with it's nice GUI interface. No confusing .INI files to edit.
    • Changing the current song to another is very easy to do without disrupting your current screen. For example, you're entering in an address in the navigation window and suddenly there's a song you don't want to listen to. No problem click on a music button and you can quickly switch to another song. Click on the button again and you're back to where you left off, undisturbed.
    • Customizing the default skin can be modified easily if you want to rearrange some of the menus.
    • Voice control works well, although I couldn't request a song by title (someone would need to write a plugin)
    • No unexpected crashes, works well.


    The Negative:


    • GPS navigation has many disappointments. Maps are dated from 2007. North America maps are divided into 10 regions, making things cumbersome. For example, you cannot select a destination to Detroit, Michigan from Windsor, Ontario because they're in different regions. Selecting gas, food, or hotel points of interest doesn't work if your map is set to Canada (bug). GPS navigation didn't work after immediately configuring the GPS device. I had to restart Centrafuse for the new settings to take effect.
    • My loading times are a bit slow; 25 seconds from a cold start, or 14 seconds on a reload. My other front end software loads in about half the time.
    • Memory usage has been 153 to 160 MB, about triple to what the other front end use. This higher memory usage directly influences the longer hibernation and read/write times. It takes approximately two seconds longer for hibernate to resume.
    • No gestures feature -- a minor inconvenience
    • Surprised to see a slight pause between main menu screen changes, this either suggests I need either a more powerful graphics card or better CPU. This popular dual core Atom has never shown any weakness until now.


    The Verdict:

    Buy the software without GPS navigation and use a third party GPS navigation software. With the multitudes of plugins available, integrating third party GPS software is easy and works well. Loading times are the longest I've experienced with any front end software, but this won't be much of an issue if you use hibernation or suspend modes. If you don't have the time to make those other front end software applications work correctly and just want something that works and has support then I highly recommend you go with Centrafuse Auto. I'd like to thank mp3car and Centrafuse for the opportunity to make this review.

    Specifications:

    Minimum: 1GHz processor, 256 MB RAM (note: my system required 351MB for Windows XP + Centrafuse 3)
    Recommended: 1.5GHz processor, 1 GB RAM
    FYI the gestures will make their return in a later update. They were only removed because flux wanted to focus on core enhancements. Nice review
    mp3Car.com Senior Tech Blogger (Want a product reviewed? Contact me.)
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  3. #3
    Low Bitrate ph7ryan's Avatar
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    I was watching and I wanted to add a few things...I am a customer of centrafuse, and have used it for a couple months now...

    The library function is to make a rar file with all of centrafuse info so when you go for support on their forums, they have a simple thing that they can ask for that has everything they need about your system such as errors and stuff like that...

    When you were trying to use the voice command of main menu, it was working, but it returns to the last menu that you were on...all 4 little dots are a part of the main menu...

    if you double click on the visualizer it will go fullscreen as long as the obd2 or gps does not detect movement...then you need to disable the warning with a command with the shortcut...

    The multiple displays feature is so that you can have like navigation on one and media on another...or visualizer on one or whatever...

    also, the lag may have been the early stages of the animations...it is always very speedy, but it animates like the iphone, which was one of their goals...I do agree that the destinator package that they use is horrible, and I will eventually find another navigation software...if you want any other explanations, pm me and id be glad to help!

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    What about those of us switching from say... iTunes? iTunes sorts it's music and videos in it's own logical (which is really illogical to us). How would Centrafuse import or build it's library? Or do i have to start over from scratch and rebuild my playlists and such?

    Also, I agree with the TS, that built-in GPS is crap, but how easy is it realistically to use another GPS (GMPC for example) in it's place?

    Thanks in advance for the answers =)

  5. #5
    Low Bitrate ph7ryan's Avatar
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    not really sure about imported media...Im not one to use it to play movies, as I only added the carpc because the expandability rather than a touchscreen headunit...

    I have always used my ipod as my media source...just plugged it in, and it would recognize it, and then sort it from there into the artist, genre, etc that was shown in the video...

    I wanna say that you import the songs like you would in itunes (or the folder) and then it uses the tags to sort them into titles artists genre etc....

    the gps however...not really sure how the adding more programs to centrafuse works...I know that there is supposed to be a full like shell that loads with the program to give it those centrafuse top and bottom boarders, but I haven't really experimented with other programs yet...I am I highschool student that pretty much uses my car to get to and from my school that is like 6 miles away, so I don't really need a gps...

    (the one time i did, I was going to talledega with a friend and forgot to register centrafuse, and it just so happens that it expired that day...)

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    Everything else looks sick on it, i think it's a lot friendlier than RR, but 80 bucks isn't cheap, I don't wanna spend the money if the product cant do what i need it to, so any one with any experience on it wanna help me out, I'd appreciate it =)

  7. #7
    Low Bitrate ph7ryan's Avatar
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    imho....you pay the $80 in order to have a nice looking setup...I paid for the full map version ($125) and still really can't complain...

    RR may be free, but you don't have much help with support...I couldn't get a few things on my car pc working with centrafuse, and so I just called them up, and the guy i talked to (Regan) was extremely helpful, and understood the bad navigation, and was very down to earth about the product...As well as RR looks like a 3 year old designed the skin...cause no one wants to take their own time to make a good looking skin...centrafuse has a budget to pay someone for their skin...You get what you pay for...Centrafuse is well worth the price in my opinion...I get compliments all the time on how my carpc looks so much cooler than their $900 pioneer piece of garbage...

    My advice is to just go ahead and get centrafuse...its $80 once...and you get free updates...considering that they JUST came out with CF3, you have a long while to take advantage of that...And they also have an active dev community that is constantly making addons for free....what is $80 as compared to your screen or even your pc...most addons for a carpc are around that range anyways...

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    Not ready for prime time

    Great idea and I hope they continue to improve.

    But for now I'll avoid it. Problems encountered:
    1) Very poor interface for setup and control
    2) Multiple screens works fine, but it's clunky
    3) Navigation doesn't work - couldn't get it to connect to gps
    4) Bluetooth doesn't work so neither does the bt music or phone connection
    5) Could never get market to work

    Simply not ready to prime time. Thankfully they allow a trial so that you can find that isn't worth buying.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpmarkb View Post
    Great idea and I hope they continue to improve.

    But for now I'll avoid it. Problems encountered:
    1) Very poor interface for setup and control
    2) Multiple screens works fine, but it's clunky
    3) Navigation doesn't work - couldn't get it to connect to gps
    4) Bluetooth doesn't work so neither does the bt music or phone connection
    5) Could never get market to work

    Simply not ready to prime time. Thankfully they allow a trial so that you can find that isn't worth buying.
    Or you discover you don't have the knowledge or patience to configure your system correctly. I've have ALL these things working on multiple pcs with multiple OS's. It CAN be frustrating getting all the pre-requisties installed and everything configured correctly, but all of these things DO work. Sorry for your experience.

    VegasGuy

  10. #10
    Low Bitrate ph7ryan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VegasGuy View Post
    Or you discover you don't have the knowledge or patience to configure your system correctly. I've have ALL these things working on multiple pcs with multiple OS's. It CAN be frustrating getting all the pre-requisties installed and everything configured correctly, but all of these things DO work. Sorry for your experience.

    VegasGuy
    This... I sometimes can't get GPS working, but that is mostly the program behind GPS (Destinator 8 which they are aware, is not the best software) and I don't really mind because all of my driving is pretty much local.

    Phone is really just an issue whenever I need to reinstall Centrafuse or Windows and the program behind bluetooth (Bluesoleil) gets all screwy with their licensing method (You literally have to go through the registry to delete all previous instances of a registration)... And apparently Bluetooth was pretty much fixed for good in the new release although I haven't tried it yet.

    Multiple screens I can't speak for, but it is probably your graphics card speed, because it is the GPU (or CPU's resources) that are used for all of that...

    The new setup way is much better than before, at least in 3.5...

    I really don't have any issues with market. The only time that I did was with the pandora app, which I believe was fixed... If the programmer (3rd party, not centrafuse programmers) follow the api instructions, there should be no issues with installing straight from the market. Are you sure you had an internet connection? And for the record, the market installing the applications is MUCH better than the previous method where the developers would post a zip file, and every install would require a different method. Much more uniform now, just click to download and install.


    Centrafuse is in essence the face of a lot of programs in combination. With that, of course there will be bugs. ALL commercial software has bugs. It is simply impossible for a programmer to make a complicated program WITHOUT any bugs. Because as something is added, 10 more problems arise with previous code, or your users do something that wasn't anticipated by you. Is that a problem with the program? Not necessarily. OS X and Windows send out updates CONSTANTLY in order to patch bugs like this... any time you upgrade a device's firmware or a new version of a program, you are fixing bugs.

    Is it TOO buggy for you? Well being that we live in a free market, that is for you to decide. If it is not worth the $80 for YOU, than don't buy it. It's not like anyone is holding a gun to your head. However, if you look at the other options of front ends, Centrafuse is the MOST supported, and well executed. If you feel differently, then you are entitled to your opinion. But please don't bash a software saying that it simply doesn't work, when you are not patient enough to work through the bugs. Anyways, I'm sure they appreciate your input, and will take it into consideration for their next release.

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