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Thread: Should I CarPC or not?

  1. #1
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    Should I CarPC or not?

    First of, Hello and props on a damn good forum/site!

    Now my dilemma, yesterday I was five minutes away from purchasing the Pioneer Pioneer AVIC-D3 for $900 to install in my 2004 Maxima, then I stumbled on a thread on another site with a guy who installed a carpc in his Max.. I had never heard about carpcs and was surprised at the results.. So now Im considering a Carpc but Im not sure if it would be worth my time. My wants include: the ability to play DVDs, keep alot of music on a HDD (The Pioneer does not have a HDD but It play mp3s stored on a DVD disc), GPS, and for my music to sound pretty much the same as it does now with my stock radio (I been doing JL and Kicker set ups since 96 and im done with it).

    With my listed wants would a Carpc be as reliable as the Pio deck?
    Would the audio from the PC be good if I just use the sound card that comes with the PC?

    I see some people have both a Carpc and an aftermarket radio, I only want one unit in my car.

    Be sure to add any other comments in order to help me in my decision.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    FLAC XC-C30's Avatar
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    Most of us will tell you to go the car-pc route... With a mini-ITX based, or an older fullsize ATX, or mATX, you'll get a long way, for probably less then the pio unit, and there's the possibility to upgrade.... I'd start reading the FAQ-emporium and the newbie section....
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  3. #3
    Constant Bitrate rigg419's Avatar
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    So, you're on a forum dedicated to car pc's, so my guess is that everyone will tell you to get one, but lets look at the situation honestly.

    First, the resolution on the pioneer screen is almost certainly not as good as any vga touchscreen, and with a car pc storage is virtually unlimited for storing ripped cd's, DVD's and GPS maps. Also, for $900, that Pioneer probably doesn't come with GPS which can be added to a car pc pretty easily. Basically, in terms of power and specs, any car pc should blow that pioneer out of the water, and the front end will look better than any dedicated head unit, partly because of the screen, but also because of the raw horsepower of a PC vs. a headunit. Also, this forum has some of the best skinners to be found anywhere.

    Now, you have to understand that as this is still a hobby/one-off type of installation, and so this forum is going to be the only place you're likely to find help. None of your friends will have any idea how to help you and you may find that you'll have to come up with innovative solutions to unforeseen problems. Powering the pc for one can be a challenge to first time builders. If you're not into tinkering at all, and you just want something that you can install easily and never mess with it again, then the car pc might not be for you.

    That said, after I got my install the way I liked it, I didn't mess with it at all for like 6 weeks cause it was working perfectly, but then all of my stuff was stolen and so there's no way real honest way for me to tell how long it would have been before I took it out of the car to change to a new front end or install a new skin or any of a hundred things I might have wanted to change. If none of that sounds appealing to you either, then again the car pc may not be the right solution.

    Basically, you could say that the car pc will take longer to set-up initially, but if you don't ever want to change it after that (and you set it up right), it should be just as reliable and stable as a traditional front-end with tons more features and ability. However, if you really never want to mess with it and that's the most important thing to you, then I would say go with the pioneer, you'll be happier

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate rijk's Avatar
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    i have a pioneer head, end have replaced the cd-changer for an i-pod. 60 Gb of music, My head is from 1998, that’s old i know but if it works with that, than it should work with all the new pioneer stuff. so that would solve your harddisk problem.
    i wouldn’t say its cheaper, you could make it as expensive as you want.
    and its gone take time an affort. (i have been at it for a year now, most time on the screen position)

    for the cpc you need to know:
    - where you put it in your car (not totally in-closed, causes heat-problem)
    - where to putt your "touch" screen (a lot of cars need dash -modelling, with poly, etc)
    - how big your board is (mini is easier to install, but more expensive)
    - what do you want it to do
    - while you keep your headhunt (if not which radio-card, mine doesn't work in ict and doesn't yet in RR).
    - if you don't keep the head, you need amps.
    - which powersupply are you gone use (i am happy with the m2)
    - how to switch on the cpc (i have a connection to the central locking of the car, door op, cpc on, doorlocked cpc off, and a connection on the ignition see my install for a crude drawing)
    - which front end are you gone us (my advise go for a free one, the get developed my enthusiastic’s and are continually being improved)

    good luck with your chose

  5. #5
    Fusion Brain Creator 2k1Toaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyCreekwater View Post
    First of, Hello and props on a damn good forum/site!

    Now my dilemma, yesterday I was five minutes away from purchasing the Pioneer Pioneer AVIC-D3 for $900 to install in my 2004 Maxima, then I stumbled on a thread on another site with a guy who installed a carpc in his Max.. I had never heard about carpcs and was surprised at the results.. So now Im considering a Carpc but Im not sure if it would be worth my time. My wants include: the ability to play DVDs, keep alot of music on a HDD (The Pioneer does not have a HDD but It play mp3s stored on a DVD disc), GPS, and for my music to sound pretty much the same as it does now with my stock radio (I been doing JL and Kicker set ups since 96 and im done with it).


    Consider this your freebie spoon feed. From now on out, the FAQ are your friends.

    To answer the initial question, "Is it worth it" the answer is "Hell yes."

    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyCreekwater View Post
    With my listed wants would a Carpc be as reliable as the Pio deck?
    I see reliability and wants as different entities. Apples and Oranges.

    Wants: Yes, and more. GPS, All your Music, VGA quality video, SNES/NES/N64 emulators, Ability to skin (or change the appearance of) your frontend (application that makes everything touchscreen friendly and look more like a HU than a computer) on the fly, greatest control over sound outputs through all the different equalizers and other such goodies, das interwebs, phone control, sat radio, FM radio, and the most important "Cool factor" .

    Reliability: Good enough for me. Here it is bluntly though. How good are you at computers? Like if for some reason your computer doesn't boot what do you do? Do you open it up, and see what is amiss, or call Dell? If you are the latter, then the initial setup of a PC may be too overwhelming or frustrating. Not to say it cannot be done, but you will have many a frantic nights screaming and yelling and waking your neighbours as to why you have no sound or why your car wont boot! There are prebuilt units such as the mac-mini and the aopen models (that are still less than the pioneer unit) that come with a warranty and tech support. Obviously it is more expensive than buying the components and assembling/troublshooting yourself.

    Reliability #2: Computers will crash/hang/freeze/self destruct/launch your car into space... well maybe not the latter, but these things are inevitable. Now the frequency these things happen is greatly based on your install. A HU is a "plug-n-chug" device. You buy, you plop it in, you go. A computer is buy, take a while figuring it out and the best way to install, install, get angry at why something doesn't work, fix it, try again, go. I have had 2 BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death's) in my car over the past year. The fix you ask? Push reboot, wait 20 seconds and done. I also had a freezing issue due to the crap HD. The fix i hear you cry? Temporary: reboot and music in 20 second. Permanent: Wipe it with a fresh install and put it back in. Took about 4hrs including the XP install over a USB drive.

    How much do you want: The CarPC is still a small market. Is AM radio important to you? I hope you said no, because you cant get it with a CarPC. Sorry, but that is just how it is. You can however get FM with the HQCT (High Quality Car Tuner available in the store). Those USB modules are cheap and for a reason. They are crap. I have remote start and am now in the habit of starting my car when I see it with the remote. When I get there music is playing and usually 1 lady with the puzzled, "Did you just start your car?". "No lady, it is being robbed by the invisible gremlins!!!" Usually my boot times were between 20s and 30s from ignition to music. Some people cannot get their system optimized for some reason and it might be as long as a minute. Now that is a cold boot. Meaning from no power to on. There is standby which I use as well which is 2-3 seconds from ignintion to music. The automotive supplies allow you to set the time to keep the system in standby before they "pull the plug" and you must do a cold reboot. There is also hibernate which varies by how much RAM you have installed, but on my via board with 1Gb of RAM, it took longer to go into hibernate and come out then to shutdown and cold reboot. Funny how Microsoft works isn't it?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyCreekwater View Post
    Would the audio from the PC be good if I just use the sound card that comes with the PC?
    Good = Opinion word

    I use onboard sound and am as happy as can be. Some people are audiophiles which you might be and you might want to look into DAC's and USB soundcards, or good (like the xFi) soundcards. To give you an example of the SQ a computer can achieve, look at Red's profile (full name: RedGtivr6). She (Yup, da ladies) is a world class sound champion.

    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyCreekwater View Post
    I see some people have both a Carpc and an aftermarket radio, I only want one unit in my car.
    Then do it... The only reason for both is for people who don't want another amp for their speakers and/or want easier control over their equalizer and/or want AM radio and/or don't know any better and/or lazy.

    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyCreekwater View Post
    Be sure to add any other comments in order to help me in my decision.
    Always draws eyes when you start your car and the infamous windows login chime goes through your speakers. A crowd of "Whaaaa?" follows.

    All your music with no limit on storage.

    Upgradeable to... well anything.

    In the end comes out much much cheaper than an all-in-one unit with less than the above functionality.

    You become an 31337 h4x0r!!!!! j/k.

    Quote Originally Posted by BobbyCreekwater View Post
    Thanks!
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  6. #6
    Variable Bitrate rijk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    How much do you want: The CarPC is still a small market. Is AM radio important to you? I hope you said no, because you cant get it with a CarPC. Sorry, but that is just how it is. You can however get FM with the HQCT (High Quality Car Tuner available in the store).
    <jarr jarr> Yousa Welcomes!</jarr jarr>
    Sorry, i forgot, welcome

    HQCT does support AM.

    i use a flash-disk for reliability, but thas that budget thing

  7. #7
    Fusion Brain Creator 2k1Toaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rijk View Post
    Sorry, i forgot, welcome

    HQCT does support AM.

    i use a flash-disk for reliability, but thas that budget thing
    I did not know that.

    <jim carrey>Alrighty Then!</jc>
    Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
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    30 Digital Outputs -- Directly drive a relay
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    Buy now in the MP3Car.com Store

  8. #8
    Constant Bitrate symon_say's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post


    Consider this your freebie spoon feed. From now on out, the FAQ are your friends.

    To answer the initial question, "Is it worth it" the answer is "Hell yes."



    I see reliability and wants as different entities. Apples and Oranges.

    Wants: Yes, and more. GPS, All your Music, VGA quality video, SNES/NES/N64 emulators, Ability to skin (or change the appearance of) your frontend (application that makes everything touchscreen friendly and look more like a HU than a computer) on the fly, greatest control over sound outputs through all the different equalizers and other such goodies, das interwebs, phone control, sat radio, FM radio, and the most important "Cool factor" .

    Reliability: Good enough for me. Here it is bluntly though. How good are you at computers? Like if for some reason your computer doesn't boot what do you do? Do you open it up, and see what is amiss, or call Dell? If you are the latter, then the initial setup of a PC may be too overwhelming or frustrating. Not to say it cannot be done, but you will have many a frantic nights screaming and yelling and waking your neighbours as to why you have no sound or why your car wont boot! There are prebuilt units such as the mac-mini and the aopen models (that are still less than the pioneer unit) that come with a warranty and tech support. Obviously it is more expensive than buying the components and assembling/troublshooting yourself.

    Reliability #2: Computers will crash/hang/freeze/self destruct/launch your car into space... well maybe not the latter, but these things are inevitable. Now the frequency these things happen is greatly based on your install. A HU is a "plug-n-chug" device. You buy, you plop it in, you go. A computer is buy, take a while figuring it out and the best way to install, install, get angry at why something doesn't work, fix it, try again, go. I have had 2 BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death's) in my car over the past year. The fix you ask? Push reboot, wait 20 seconds and done. I also had a freezing issue due to the crap HD. The fix i hear you cry? Temporary: reboot and music in 20 second. Permanent: Wipe it with a fresh install and put it back in. Took about 4hrs including the XP install over a USB drive.

    How much do you want: The CarPC is still a small market. Is AM radio important to you? I hope you said no, because you cant get it with a CarPC. Sorry, but that is just how it is. You can however get FM with the HQCT (High Quality Car Tuner available in the store). Those USB modules are cheap and for a reason. They are crap. I have remote start and am now in the habit of starting my car when I see it with the remote. When I get there music is playing and usually 1 lady with the puzzled, "Did you just start your car?". "No lady, it is being robbed by the invisible gremlins!!!" Usually my boot times were between 20s and 30s from ignition to music. Some people cannot get their system optimized for some reason and it might be as long as a minute. Now that is a cold boot. Meaning from no power to on. There is standby which I use as well which is 2-3 seconds from ignintion to music. The automotive supplies allow you to set the time to keep the system in standby before they "pull the plug" and you must do a cold reboot. There is also hibernate which varies by how much RAM you have installed, but on my via board with 1Gb of RAM, it took longer to go into hibernate and come out then to shutdown and cold reboot. Funny how Microsoft works isn't it?



    Good = Opinion word

    I use onboard sound and am as happy as can be. Some people are audiophiles which you might be and you might want to look into DAC's and USB soundcards, or good (like the xFi) soundcards. To give you an example of the SQ a computer can achieve, look at Red's profile (full name: RedGtivr6). She (Yup, da ladies) is a world class sound champion.



    Then do it... The only reason for both is for people who don't want another amp for their speakers and/or want easier control over their equalizer and/or want AM radio and/or don't know any better and/or lazy.



    Always draws eyes when you start your car and the infamous windows login chime goes through your speakers. A crowd of "Whaaaa?" follows.

    All your music with no limit on storage.

    Upgradeable to... well anything.

    In the end comes out much much cheaper than an all-in-one unit with less than the above functionality.

    You become an 31337 h4x0r!!!!! j/k.



    <jarr jarr> Yousa Welcomes!</jarr jarr>
    STICK THIS FOR NOOBS
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    Parts [000-------]30%
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  9. #9
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    Love this board, quick responses and love for the noob...

    I spoke with another Maxima owner and found out that he just routed this audio through the our "Sat" input with an adapter. I will do this because I dont mind keeping the stock HU in, I just didnt want an aftermarket HU. By doing this I should be able to bypass the use of an amp.

    Good thing we got the AM question squared away because I listen to AM more than I do FM, sports talk radio is the new thing!.

    I would consider myself somewhat ready to take on the challenge, I built PCs while in college for a few extra dollars and I also installed radios for a few extra bucks, but never on a car worth more than 15K, (translation = pull apart cars).

    I see that some people are building their own PCs? rather than purchasing one already built like the Aopen? Are building mini PCs similar to building regular old desktop PCs?

    I think I will jump to the dark side and try this thing out just because its different/cool and self satisfying when I complete the project. Carpc should be up and running by June, wish me luck.. If anyone is in the metro Atlanta area and would like to assist me please PM me.

  10. #10
    MySQL Error scott_fx's Avatar
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    ask yourself this before you start: do you want a 'set it and forget it' install or do you enjoy upgrading and tweaking. if it's the latter then go pc.

    also...my 1st piece of advice to any n00b is to not pioneer any new ground on your own. find someone that has a relieable system and copy that. it'll be your cheapest option in the long run... I speak from experience on this one (from my experience via epia + m1/m2-atx psu's work perfectly for our application)

    also.. i'd budget in a souncard, the stock one leave a lot to be desired.

    last..welcome to the forums
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