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Thread: Is CarPC worth the time + effort + $$$ ?

  1. #1
    Constant Bitrate coffeejolts's Avatar
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    Question Is CarPC worth the time + effort + $$$ ?

    I've been doing the CarPC thing for a little over three years now, and I'm starting to question whether the result is worth the effort. I've spent countless hours running wires, building housings, and tweaking software only to come up with a setup that does little more than my Android Phone can do at a fraction of the cost. Here's a breakdown of my costs.

    --------- CarPC -----------------
    Costs so far... (most of this was bought three years ago. I know some prices are less now)
    PC: $425 for an Asus Pundit + CPU + RAM + HDD
    PSU: Opus 150w ~ $60
    Screen: Xenarc 7" ~ $250
    Auxmod: $60
    Wires: $25
    Software: Centrafuse = $250
    Misc parts: $60
    ------------------ Total: $1130

    Versus...

    Android Phone: $179 + activation fee + car adapters = $250

    Both can do the following....
    • surf the web
    • access email
    • play music
    • perform GPS navigation and routing
    • play games


    The CarPC has an advantage in these areas
    • OBDII information
    • navigation while not connected to the internet
    • playing DVD movies
    • can do satellite radio if I buy a subscription and a receiver.


    The Android Phone has an advantage in these areas
    • fits in my pocket
    • sunlight readable screen
    • can make and receive phone calls
    • no fuss set up
    • less things to go wrong


    When I look at the pros and cons, it seems like the android phone comes out on top. So, I'm asking you, my fellow CarPCers, "What makes the CarPC worth it's price premium over modern smartphones like the iPhone or Android phone?"

  2. #2
    The Last Good Gremlin GizmoQ's Avatar
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    SCREEN SIZE (I like my 10.4" and its daylight readable even in direct sunlight)

    Expandability (see next few items)

    Storage (I currently have 120G onboard and 1Tb in trunk)

    Integration (GPS location based weather: I have 30+ weather shots - 8 of which are animated and updated every minute; GPS based gas prices; GPS based movietimes; front and rear cam loop recording; TPMS/OBD/Fusion Brain interfacing car systems; Phone (I have full control of everything on my phone);Digital camera and other USB connectivity on the fly; etc, etc, etc.

    PC Apps: Record FM, TV, XM , and Internet radio to "ARTIST- SONGTITLE.MP3" in music Library; Burn CD/DVD; Readable Email and Web browsing; Video Conferencing; etc, etc, etc.

    A CarPC will never replace a smartphone, but my CarPC IS my car phone. This is a hobby - and I've accepted I'll never be done. Its all about the time you have to invest, your priorities, and tastes. Its not for everyone.
    HARDWARE: Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111w/WiFi and dock, internal Hitachi 500G HD, external 1TB HD, Sierra Wireless Aircard 550, DVD-RW, BoomzBox HD radio, XM Commander, Delorme GPS, Saitek X-52 Pro joystick, BluSoleil Bluetooth, TPMS, FB, Elm327

  3. #3
    FLAC Machinehead's Avatar
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    It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If it fits your needs, more power to you. A smartphone wouldn't fit my needs, not enough storage and inferior sound quality for starters.

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate
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    Next to my CarpC I have mounted an inverter, which powers my crockpot!

    Lets see your phone do that!

  5. #5
    Constant Bitrate coffeejolts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GizmoQ
    SCREEN SIZE (I like my 10.4" and its daylight readable even in direct sunlight)

    Expandability (see next few items)

    Storage (I currently have 120G onboard and 1Tb in trunk)

    Integration (GPS location based weather: I have 30+ weather shots - 8 of which are animated and updated every minute; GPS based gas prices; GPS based movietimes; front and rear cam loop recording; TPMS/OBD/Fusion Brain interfacing car systems; Phone (I have full control of everything on my phone);Digital camera and other USB connectivity on the fly; etc, etc, etc.

    PC Apps: Record FM, TV, XM , and Internet radio to "ARTIST- SONGTITLE.MP3" in music Library; Burn CD/DVD; Readable Email and Web browsing; Video Conferencing; etc, etc, etc.
    Gizmo, you're 100% right about the screen size, video recording, expandability, and storage. A smartphone can't compete with a car pc on those. However, my android phone DOES have GPS aware gas prices, weather (with radar), and movie times.

    Quote Originally Posted by Machinehead
    It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If it fits your needs, more power to you. A smartphone wouldn't fit my needs, not enough storage and inferior sound quality for starters.
    I agree 100% on the storage. Not so much on sound quality, though. These forums are full of people having sound quality issues. I don't, but many do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Minoritydan
    Next to my CarpC I have mounted an inverter, which powers my crockpot!
    Lets see your phone do that!
    I'll admit that a smart phone won't properly cook a pot roast. But neither will a car pc (unless it's a Pentium 4, lol).

    ----------------

    Understand, I'm not against CarPCs. After spending so much time and money on the carpc, I'm finding that it's not THAT much better than the android phone I bought for 1/4 the cost. So, I'm trying to figure out what piece I'm missing that justifies spending 4x as much money and 20x as much time.

  6. #6
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    A phone is exactly that - a phone. You can't use that thing easily when driving. It's a poor substitute for a readable screen and integrated audio or internet access. You can't carry a lot of music with you and you can't access many of the functions that a car PC can such as OBDII.

    However, I'm with you on the 'configuration' front. I spend HOURS configuring my PC just to find out that I need to spend HOURS re-configuring my PC.

    However, there has been much progress in the past few years although it may not appear so.

    1. Installing a PC in your car is nearly as easy as installing a car stereo. The availability of good power supplies and boards is much better than even a few years ago.

    2. Software is more advanced and better and offers a wider choice than before. If you want a CarPC and you don't want to spend hours configuring it, buy CF or SD. The cost of working software and time savings is what you are paying for. Don't feel guilty about it, just buy it and enjoy the time savings.

    3. CarPC specific devices like Fusion Brain that allow you to control more and more of your car, integrating outside environment into the PC.

    4. Flexibility. Although this is one of the reasons that you probably spend a lot of time configuring your system, there has been an EXPLOSION of plug-ins and very advanced skins on the hobbyist side -for free. RR does everything except wipe you after you visit the restroom. But that comes with a price - research and configuration.

    OTOH - this is a hobby, which is defined as something you do for fun, not money. If it's getting to you, I'd say go with the Android and call it a day.
    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

  7. #7
    Variable Bitrate dMand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeejolts View Post
    I've been doing the CarPC thing for a little over three years now, and I'm starting to question whether the result is worth the effort. I've spent countless hours running wires, building housings, and tweaking software only to come up with a setup that does little more than my Android Phone can do at a fraction of the cost. Here's a breakdown of my costs.

    --------- CarPC -----------------
    Costs so far... (most of this was bought three years ago. I know some prices are less now)
    PC: $425 for an Asus Pundit + CPU + RAM + HDD
    PSU: Opus 150w ~ $60
    Screen: Xenarc 7" ~ $250
    Auxmod: $60
    Wires: $25
    Software: Centrafuse = $250
    Misc parts: $60
    ------------------ Total: $1130

    Versus...

    Android Phone: $179 + activation fee + car adapters = $250

    Both can do the following....
    • surf the web
    • access email
    • play music
    • perform GPS navigation and routing
    • play games


    The CarPC has an advantage in these areas
    • OBDII information
    • navigation while not connected to the internet
    • playing DVD movies
    • can do satellite radio if I buy a subscription and a receiver.


    The Android Phone has an advantage in these areas
    • fits in my pocket
    • sunlight readable screen
    • can make and receive phone calls
    • no fuss set up
    • less things to go wrong


    When I look at the pros and cons, it seems like the android phone comes out on top. So, I'm asking you, my fellow CarPCers, "What makes the CarPC worth it's price premium over modern smartphones like the iPhone or Android phone?"


    My CarPC advantages are:

    It replaces my smart phone

    I save $624 each year for not having to pay for cell phone service

    I don't use a cell phone or land line to call anyone anywhere in the world while driving. I have a ClearWire wireless high speed broadband connection in my car that does it hands free via softphone.

    gone is the hassle of tethering a smart phone to my carPC

    I now pay $39.99 a year to use an IP phone with all the unique features a smart phone has

    while mobile, I can video conference with a 1.5MP webcam using a 17" LCD and a full size keyboard

    have the ability to troubleshoot my car's check engine light with on board diagnostics

    I can control my home pc, and access the files at a local gas station or mc donalds parking lot

    don't need satellite radio

    I get over the air HDTV, streaming HD Video, WEBTV, Internet Radio and BitTorrent

    high definition audio

    real time access to the latest weather forecast knowing in advance if there's a traffic jam ahead to divert my route

    1,800 gigabytes of storage space

    Crysis gameplay is amazing

    never lost or washed my carpc by accident

  8. #8
    Constant Bitrate coffeejolts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dMand
    I save $624 each year for not having to pay for cell phone service ...
    How do you make calls or access the internet when you go outside of Clearwire's relatively small coverage area? It seems just as limited as T-Mobile's small 3G coverage, but without the ability to roam on EDGE.

    Quote Originally Posted by dMand
    while mobile, I can video conference with a 1.5MP webcam using a 17" LCD and full size keyboard

    have the ability to troubleshoot my car's check engine light with on board diagnostics

    over the air HDTV, streaming HD Video, WEBTV and Internet Radio

    Crysis gameplay is amazing
    All big advantages for the CarPC, although most of us can't play Crysis like you!

    Quote Originally Posted by dMand
    I can control my home pc, and access the files at a local gas station or mc donalds parking lot
    This can be done with a smartphone, although not as well as a CarPC can because a smartphone can't handle all the different file types that a CarPC can. Advantage: CarPC

    Quote Originally Posted by dMand
    real time access to the latest weather forecast knowing in advance if there's a traffic jam ahead to divert my route
    Actually, smartphones have that functionality. I check the traffic every time I start my car.

  9. #9
    Low Bitrate
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    why compare a CarPC to a smartphone??? You should be comparing it to these All in one units the aftermarket/oem are offering. I cant even compare my TYTNII to my PC, which I think is still better than a G1.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator. If my typing sucks it's probably because I'm driving.... turbocad6's Avatar
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    in my opinion a carpc should not be looked at as a substitute for anything else. now a days car multimedia equiptment is cheap & an ipod interface can do much of what a carpc used to be mainly a reason for... there are many inexpensive ways of getting much of the functionality of a carpc much easier than actually doing a carpc, including using your phone I guess...

    if you just want a multimedia system then get a multimedia system, not a carpc. if you just want navigation then get a navigation, not a carpc. to me the carpc is not a substitute for anything else, but, then again, to me there is also NO sustitute for a carpc either...


    it is about the hobby, the challenges & the triumphs & universalness of the carpc & all that it can do, but if your just looking for the end results & have no patience or desire to overcome obsticals then more conventional methods may meet your desires better.

    the single biggest mistake I see is guys that think a carpc is an easier/cheaper alternative to a multimedia head setup...

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