Tom's Hardware Guide - Mp3car.com and the Car PC Project article
My name is Don Woligroski, I'm a senior editor at Tom's Hardware Guide (www.tomshardware.com). If you haven't heard of us, we're one of the top PC Tech websites on the net, with over 30 million unique visitors a month.
I'm putting together a Carputer Project article and it made sense to talk to the knowledgeable people at mp3car.com, who in turn suggested that I get some feedback from the experts on these forums before we go ahead. With that in mind I'll list my objectives below, and what I think I need and how I think I'd set it up. I'd appreciate it if you good folks could offer insights and point out any newbie mistakes and bad assumptions on my part so I end up with the best plan possible.
The vehicle is a utilitarian family SUV, a 2011 Ford Escape. My goal is to run Windows 8 Professional via a touchscreen in the front seat, where I could access media and movies, GPS software, a rear-view bumper camera, and even launch games for the kids to play in the back seat via wireless game controllers. The PC should support a WiFi connection so I could tether it to a smartphone for internet access. Ideally the front passenger could have comfortable access to the touchscreen to browse the internet and navigate, although It's important for the driver to have access and a good view, too. The vehicle's audio system does not need to be upgraded.
The following design might not even be reasonable as I don't know all that much about in-car hardware, but this is what I have in mind. In the front seat, a fair sized touchscreen (8" to 10") is mounted on an adjustable arm that allows the screen to face the driver at the middle top of the dash (or perhaps by console), and be able to extend to a comfortable usage position at the center of the front-seat passenger. Preferably the touch screen would have a native resolution of at least 1024x768 for Windows 8 use.
In the back seat, a single 8" to 10" screen (not touch-enabled, 1280x720 resolution target not as critical) so that rear seat passengers can watch media or play video games. I don't want to obscure my rearview mirror, so I'd prefer to have this screen mounted on the rear of the console, ideally on a mount that allows the screen to be folded down and out of the way when it's not being used.
The system would be driven by a very small but relatively powerful micro-sized PC. I've lined up a Zotac Zbox Nano for this purpose, about 4"x4"x1" in size. I'm not sure if I want to mount it in the console (the escape has a very large console with a large compartment under the regular compartment that holds stuff), under the dash, or under a seat. Other than power converter stuff, I'll need a USB GPS module and a rear-facing bumper camera would be nice. And of course mounting hardware for the screens.
Proposed Parts List:
Host vehicle: 2011 Ford Escape
PC: Zotac Zbox Nano (Core i7-3537U/HD 4000 graphics, Bluetooth, WiFi, 2 display
outputs, SSD for longevity in auto environment)
Software: Windows 8 with media center, GPS trip software, USB cam software,
Will experiment with front-end software such as Ride Runner, FreeIce, Driveline, Centrafuse during review process.
wireless USB game controllers:
*two* F710 Wireless Gamepad (2x $50)
Front capacitive multi-touch display:
Lilliput FA1012-NP/C/T 10.1" LCD Touch Screen Monitor With Multi Touch DVI HDMI ($274.95 On Sale)
Rear touchscreen display:
Lilliput FA1013NP/H/Y 10.4" Non-Touch Monitor ($206.95 On Sale)
USB GPS receiver:
BU-353-S4 Weather-proof USB GPS Receiver ($38.95)
USB rear bumper camera:
CMOS Waterproof, High Resolution Backup Camera, License Plate Mountable ($34.95)
*Two* HDMI Right Angle HDMI Adapter (2x $6.99)
*Two* HDMI Cables (will source locally)
PC Power button
adjustable arm mount for front display
powered USB Hub (if necessary)
DC-DC power supply/adapters, etc.
That's what I have so far. If there's anything I'm not thinking of, any detail that is poorly thought through, or anything I've missed, please let me know! I really appreciate your feedback.
- Don Woligroski
Senior Hardware Editor, Tom's Hardware Guide