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Thread: Newbie needs hardware opinion...

  1. #1
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    Newbie needs hardware opinion...

    I've decided to install a PC-based entertainment system in my truck, but lack the time to build it from scratch. I've been researching the purchase for over 2 months (with the spare time that I don't have, and much to my wife, 3yr old, and 10month old's chagrin), and have finally narrowed the choices. I've found a lot of helpful information here about building car pcs from scratch, but have found little on purchasing complete systems. In fact, reading the posts in the hardware forum is what made me decide that in order to do it right the first time, I better buy rather than build. Anyway, at the risk of being flamed for asking for opinions, I'd like to get feedback on my idea.

    Here's what I'm considering for my '04 Toyota 4Runner:

    1. Replace the factory head unit (double-din am/fm, cd player, cassette) with a single-din unit with an aux-audio input. I considered replacing it with a double-din unit with a built-in LCD with AV inputs, but decided against it after reading here and elsewhere that the quality of composite video is poor. This leads me to a question about headrest monitors, but I'll get to that.

    2. Install a Travla C134 from www.caseoutlet.com (SKU#044-01151-005) with the following options: VIA EPIA M10000 NEHEMIAH, DDR 256MB, Slim 40G HDD 4200RPM, 8X Slim DVD ROM.

    The system comes with an external AC Adapter, which I plan to plug into a standard (e.g. Radio Shack) power inverter that has either been wired directly into the electrical system or is plugged into a lighter. Opinions?

    I'm planning to either install it in the back of the truck in the storage compartment or in the glove compartment if it will fit. I know that the rear storage compartment would mean a longer cable run, which could affect video (and audio?) quality. Opinions?

    3. Install a 7" IN-DASH VGA LCD from www.digitalww.com (DWW-7VGA). It would be great to get a motorized VGA LCD, but according to the DWW Web site, they've had production issues. If anyone knows of other in-dash VGA LCDs that I should consider, I'd appreciate it, since I don't have space to mount one outside of the dash.

    4. Install a second LCD for rear seat passengers using a Headrest Monitor Mount like the XENARC BSM-1 (also sold by logisysus.com as their RSM-01) or the DWW HEADREST MOUNT. I was considering using the mini-ITX's composite video out port to serve the rear monitor(s), but as I stated above, I've read that the quality would be poor. So how do I serve video to the second (and possibly third) monitor(s)?

    I also considered the Xenarc MP-LT1 Mini PC System 1, the MP-SC1 Mini P3, and the MP-SC6 Mini P4. But besides the fact that Xenarc's units are significantly more expensive, they don't offer one that outputs composite video. They do sell USB monitors, though, so maybe that's the answer to the rear seat video question.

    I've seen some neat LCD options that I would love to try if the quality of composite video isn't as bad as I've heard. For example, I'd consider a visor replacement like the Starvision TM-SV60 if someone here could tell me that they've had good luck with it.

    So that's it. I'd appreciate any advice at all. I'm all researched out and am ready to purchase, but I'd like to make the best use of my time and money by doing this once.

    Regards,
    Darryl R.

  2. #2
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    A couple of points that my post didn't address:

    1. I'm considering using an ATI Remote Wonder for input if I can't get an in-dash VGA touch screen (if the DWW GA-700Y-Y isn't out by the time that I make my purchase).

    2. I'd like the unit to automatically boot when the ignition is turned on and shut down when it is turned off. However, the only product that I've seen that tightly integrates with the motherboard to perform this function is the ITPS Auto Power Sequencer and Low Dropout Regulator. The Travla C134 doesn't seem to offer this feature, so I need a workaround (especially if the unit is installed in the back of the truck).

    3. Even after reading the video FAQ in the newbie forum, I'm still confused about the quality that I can expect (or generate) using composite video. Will a high resolution LCD be sufficient (for passengers viewing MPEG video) if I'm using composite video? If composite video is blurry in front monitor, I realize that I can use a shell program like Digital Dash or Media Engine.

    Thanks,
    Darryl R.

  3. #3
    Variable Bitrate telekineticfool's Avatar
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    alright, i'm not sure how many of your points have been covered elsewhere, but I'll have a go at it.

    First off, if you have the time to research your setup for two months, you have the time to build it correctly...unless you're getting it installed professionally you are onlly going to marginally save time by not assembling it yourself. Most of the major DIY work is done to save money, which, based on the choices you outlined, doesn't seem to be an issue. However, upon more closely reading your posts, what exactly are you buying instead of building? The case itself? It looks like you're planning on assembling from scratch components...

    Second, the case you picked out looks fine. Personally, if it were me, I would do some research in the 'projects completed' forum and find a case that an opus power supply will fit in. It is so much nicer than trying to use an inverter. An inverter will work, but it is very ungraceful, unweildy, and inefficient, and can be noisy, and is mostly chosen as a cost-savings measure.

    Longer AV cables shouldn't be a problem.

    digitalWW is the only game in town right now that i know of for in-dash VGA. Good call on the single-din with inputs...may i recomend a blaupunkt?

    Composite video is fine for video playback, and is actually fine for media car/media engine, too...I'm running media engine on a composite screen just fine.
    MP3 MR2 (click here for details)
    Hardware: EPIA M10000, 512Meg Ram, 5.6"TFT, Opus 150watt DC-DC PSU
    Software: Windows 2000, Media Engine 2.0

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate telekineticfool's Avatar
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    Addressing your second post:

    1. I highly HIGHLY recomend the creative labs credit card remote that can be had for a few bucks. It is awesome and practically free, and I have one on every computer I own including being the primary (and only) control for the car pc.

    2. If you find a case that will integrate with an opus, startup and shutdown worries will be a thing of the past! It has automatic startup and shutdown controllers that interface with the motherboard in a very neat fashion.

    3. Composites are fine, and you'll want to run a shell like media engine or media car anyways.
    MP3 MR2 (click here for details)
    Hardware: EPIA M10000, 512Meg Ram, 5.6"TFT, Opus 150watt DC-DC PSU
    Software: Windows 2000, Media Engine 2.0

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by telekineticfool
    Addressing your second post:

    1. I highly HIGHLY recomend the creative labs credit card remote that can be had for a few bucks. It is awesome and practically free, and I have one on every computer I own including being the primary (and only) control for the car pc.

    2. If you find a case that will integrate with an opus, startup and shutdown worries will be a thing of the past! It has automatic startup and shutdown controllers that interface with the motherboard in a very neat fashion.

    3. Composites are fine, and you'll want to run a shell like media engine or media car anyways.
    Thanks for the info on the remote and the opus. I took a look on the creative labs web site, and could only find the remote bundled with something (I believe a CDRW drive) called the CD-ROM DIGITAL iR52x. Where did you buy it separately?

    As far as the Opus goes, I've heard nothing but great things about it. But when I visited their Web site, I only found one power supply, the 150
    Watt SFX DC-DC Vehicle Power Supply for ATX. Is this the unit that everyone's raving about?

    I'm also considering the Morex Cubid 3677 and 3688 cases, which I believe will accommodate the Opus. I actually sent an email to Opus asking them about the Cubid cases. We'll see.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by telekineticfool
    alright, i'm not sure how many of your points have been covered elsewhere, but I'll have a go at it.

    First off, if you have the time to research your setup for two months, you have the time to build it correctly...unless you're getting it installed professionally you are onlly going to marginally save time by not assembling it yourself. Most of the major DIY work is done to save money, which, based on the choices you outlined, doesn't seem to be an issue. However, upon more closely reading your posts, what exactly are you buying instead of building? The case itself? It looks like you're planning on assembling from scratch components...
    I'm assuming that the caseoutlet system is pre-assembled, and that the only thing that I'd need to add is an ITPS to handle startup/shutdown. If I do end up assembling entirely from scratch, I'm going to have to either find another source for the Travla case or go with a Morex Cubid 3677 or 3688, since caseoutlet only sells the Travla case with a mobo and RAM.

    I considered buying the mini-box.com "car kit" and putting the components into a Travla, but I can't find the Travla as a bare-bones case. So that's where the Cubid comes in. My only concern doing this right the first time. I read a horror story by a guy who almost set his car on fire when he built his first car computer, and I'm not eager to make that mistake.

    Darryl R.

  7. #7
    Variable Bitrate telekineticfool's Avatar
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    well, thing is...the 'car on fire' risk is not mitigated by not building your own box. It's not building the box that is hard, it's installing it and running the wiring. Just fuse everything close to the battery and use good grounds and you'll be fine.

    And yes, the 150watt opus is the one that Rocks.
    MP3 MR2 (click here for details)
    Hardware: EPIA M10000, 512Meg Ram, 5.6"TFT, Opus 150watt DC-DC PSU
    Software: Windows 2000, Media Engine 2.0

  8. #8
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    what do you guys think would be better for a carputer? something like this, http://www.caseoutlet.com/shopdispla...?catalogid=143 or building my own from a laptop shell i bought that has a motherboard in it?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by pete35887
    what do you guys think would be better for a carputer? something like this, http://www.caseoutlet.com/shopdispla...?catalogid=143 or building my own from a laptop shell i bought that has a motherboard in it?
    My advice is to build your own using the case you identified (or another mini-ITX case) and a mini-ITX motherboard. Otherwise, you'll have more worries about automatic startup/shutdown, clean power (since inverters produce noise in your audio), and mounting. Furthermore, the mini-ITX mobo has more USB ports than any laptop made, so it's probably more expandable out of the box.

    Also, since you're new to mp3car.com, I'd recommend that you set aside a couple of days worth of time to search the forums.

    Darryl R.

  10. #10
    FLAC DodgeCummins's Avatar
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    The ITPS does everything you want for power. You hook it up to the ligher socket (or a regulated 12v supply if you want to be fancy) and plug it into your mini-itx mobo. It does the power on and shutdown work for you...so you don't need the inverter, and powersupply in the caselogic combo.

    As far as the video monitors. If you are trying to read text/gps/windows desktop, then you want a VGA monitor. If you are simply outputting video, movies/etc. then the composite output is just fine...games won't look as good, but then again the mini-itx is not exactly a gaming machine.

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