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Thread: Hardware Review: ShuttleXpress

  1. #1
    FLAC
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    Hardware Review: ShuttleXpress

    What it is/does: A programmanble input device

    Reviewed by: The Genesis Factor
    Manufacturer : Contour Designs
    Model: ShuttleXpress
    Specs: http://www.contourdesign.com/shuttle...ttlexpress.htm
    Price: $60
    Bottomline: High level of customizabiity with and easy to use interface and nice ergonomics.
    Rating: 8.5/10
    • -1) At 4.25" its big, and no amount of modification will change that. Not their fault, and it helps their design in ways, but for our application, its not too desirable either.
    • -.5)Also, there are some programming limitations that the company plans to address.

    Manufacturer website: http://www.contourdesign.com/
    Manual: http://63.111.59.172/downloads/shutt...usersguide.pdf
    Purchased from an MP3car Member


    Overview
    A handy dandy, programmable, albeit big, device that is powerful enough to run your carputer without ever touching the screen...well...almost... Lackluster phone support thus far, yet email support has proven useful. Even for $50, itís a worth addition to your carputer. A HIGHLY recommended add to your system for those of us without touch screen and a nice addition regarless for those of us with touch screen.

    Introduction
    When it arrived, at first glance, two things came into my mind: that looks cool. Where will it fit? At 4.25" in diameter, the Shuttle press was palm sized and, looking at my interior, possible a waste of money. Well, I have my input device I hope, and its only $25 gone. I installed it, toyed with the interface to make sure it wasn't, and then tossed it aside, and went on with the rest of the project. It collected dust on my room floor until one day, a week ago, I got the sudden urge to play with it. I haven't put it down since.

    One Must See the Beauty Under the Beast..

    This device lacks the elegance of let's the, the pulsating, polished aluminum knob of the Griffin PowerMate. However, in my opinion, pretty just doesn't cut it. To put it into reference, Iíll attempt to illustrate what I mean through something that most of us guys can understand, as chauvinistic as it may sound or be- women. I've dated ex wrestlers and Iíve dated models. With women, at some point in the relationship, you look past the exterior and you analyze the substance beneath. That's when you decide how long you think you two will last and you two were meant to be. Well, the shutteXpress was no different. It seemed too bulky for viable usability, yet, upon an introspective look, Iím going to FIND a way to use it. We're going to last a long time, the Shuttle press and me. Here's why.

    Pleasant to the Touch...
    An input device needs to be ergonomic. When it comes to hand sized, small doesn't cut it. This device was made to be used for HOURS on end at the world's leading digital movie and music studios. It's meant to be comfortable, which it is. Slightly awkward at first, especially since I have big hands, the shuttleXpress, with practice comfortably fits your digits while giving you full access to all the features a finger bend away. In my opinion, that's a good design.

    Form Meets Function

    However, this device isn't meant to just be comfortable, it's mean to be powerful. Then, when you think you've figured it all out, its gets even more powerful. Out of the box, the shuttleXpress comes with preconfigured button settings for over 90 programs, from high-powered, A/V editing programs, such as ULead Video Studio and Photoshop, to everyday programs, such as Word, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player. It even has preset settings for UnReal Tournament. Each setting is visible in detail in the control panel, but more on that later. There's a Global setting that allows you to work through the Explorer.exe shell as well. Even more, the control panel software actually senses what the program of focus is and automatically switches to the appropriate, program specific button setting. Right out of the box you have extreme functionality and brainless ease of use, but what do you expect from a company that makes products featured in Mac Magazine. It's got to be simple and intuitive- and it is.

    Function Meets...Customizable Function.
    But that's just the beginning. That's the first layer of the cake. What is really nice about this device is that if the settings don't meet your fancy, you can customize every button to the way you want it with ease. In the Control Panel, there's the Contour Shuttle Device icon, where near ultimate power is just a double click away. You are met with a window and probably one of the easiest and well thought out customizing/programming window Iíve faced.

    Look, it obeys...
    Programming the shuttleXpress is cake. Using the Application Setting drop box, you select the application you want to change. Then, you can either click the button you want to customize on the shuttleXpress or select it from the User Action drop down box. With the outer ring, not only can you select the values of each of the 15 positions, such as Center, Right 2, Left 3, if you so choose, you can select what the program does as it progresses through those values, in either direction, such as from Right 1->2 or Left 7->6. Then you select a computer response which ranges from keyboard keystrokes to mouse clicks and wheel scrolls to even an option that states "Same as lower value", which is useful for programming the outer ring. After, you can select the keystroke, from simple things, like P for Play or a left mouse click or wheel spin, or more complex keystrokes, such as Ctrl Alt-Del or Shift-Enter. Thereís even a checkbox with smart release, which is like sticky keys, where you hold down the keys until the keystroke is finished. Next, you select a frequency of times this action occurs from a drop box that leaves you with few wants. Finally, you can name, or rename the action to your desire. Absolute cake. Sounds too good to be true? It took 10 minutes for me to program my shuttle in such a way that in the Explorer.exe shell, I could navigate between programs and start new ones, through any list, dropdown , or explorer window I wanted, no mouse or keyboard required. That's a damn good slice of cake right there.

    What makes this cake even sweeter is that you can do this for any application that has an exe file. That's right, anything that's not listed as a known application can be in about 5 clicks. For me, I created a new setting for Media Engine, my proposed shell for my carputer. After reviewing the hotkeys that it comes with, it took no more than 30 minutes to program the buttons in a way that I deemed fit to my needs as best as I could get it. Want to save your settings and info? The control panel has import and export options which save your goods to a second .pref, contour's proprietary preferences extension, file. Want to share your settings? Any user can import then as long as they have the same device.

    Part II below...
    Carputer Progress: Here we go again...

    THE GF THEME
    Genesis has speed
    Genesis has class
    Genesis sent money
    before your a__;)

    Join the fight against carputters. EMAIL ME!

  2. #2
    FLAC
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    Part II


    The Bad, Vindication, And Then More Bad.

    During this time, I thought I found some shortcomings in the shuttle itself. For one, 5 buttons, a 15 position ring, and a jog dial that goes only left and right doesn't seem to be enough to fully control a program. M.E. has several windows, all of which demand independent settings, and there's no .exe files between the skins. This seemed like a major setback, except Contour was clever- a program can have more than one setting which can be cycled through in alphabetical order of setting name for a particular .exe if you customize a button to cycle through them. In other words, I have an M.E. setting for the home screen, an M.E. setting of the music screen and DVD screen, and M.E. setting for the GPS, and so on, each setting a click or so away. This is great, except another problem arises: I have to keep track of what setting I’m on, as there is no onscreen settings notification as with, say, Logitech's One touch keyboards. With three settings, it didn't seem to pertinent, but let's say you have an expensive settings library to cycle through, we need more than the little icon in the corner of the taskbar, which you to click on to see what's going on. This needs to be implemented into the future program design. Also, I did find another shortcoming in the Control Panel buttons settings, once again with Switch Settings. I feel that there should be a way to issue both switch settings and a command in one click, or even choose settings and a command, so that you don't have to program two buttons do go back to another window in a program and then cycle through the settings to find the correct one. Finally, you can't open a program directly from a button click. Such a feature would most useful in the Global Settings to open commonly used programs. The addition of these functions would make the device truly unparalleled in adaptability.

    In an email, Contour as expressed that some of the problems I called upon either have current solutions or will have solutions in the next few releases of their software, which is updated every so often. I have included an excerpt of the email below

    "You stated that 5 buttons was not enough for some applications. Mentioning that that there is a more expansive Shuttle device to solve this problem would be helpful. As for identifying which Shuttle setting is currently loaded, we are in the process of updating the Shuttle driver, but it unfortunately is not finished. Finally, a solution for opening applications with one keystroke would be to use the operating system's hot keys. A good example is in Win XP. If you right click on an application's icon and go to the properties section, you can assign a short cut keystroke to start that application. Once you have done this, you can then program the keystroke into the Global Shuttle setting so that whenever you are using the Global setting you can start that application with the push of a button. Let me know if you have any other questions and I will answer them as best as possible."
    Brian Grant

    All other "problems" were simply conflicts with the Media Engine software design, in which talks with partner developer phat_bastard helped me sort through some of them and the rest he's going to try to program in, which is great user care. M.E., which is now in version 2.3.3 with an upcoming version 2.3.4 on the horizon, is a fine program that is under continuing development and refinement by MP#car.com members CarComp and phat_bastard and this should not be taken as any type of failing on its part. It was never meant to be run on anything but touch screen and I’m trying to circumvent that restriction and run the entire program off the shuttleXpress. I can't expect 100% supreme control with every program I guess.

    In the Car.
    One thing you have to make sure of is that you have space and a comfortable spot to put it. The circuit board below the plastic is roughly the SAME SIZE of the device wiht the plastic on. If you plan on getting it and modding it, make sure you have the space to do so, otherwise its a fruitless endevour with a voided warrenty- and nobody likes voided warrenties.

    Support
    Contour Designs has a toll free number, a local number, and email tech support though, which boasts a "within 4 hour in the workday" reply time. To be honest, I haven't been overtly impressed by the support as of late, even though email, I’ve at least garnered a response, which was pretty helpful and friendly, even though it didn't hit every element of my questions. Every time I call, during normal business hours, the tech support is not there. They may coincidentally been going to lunch when I call, but at 3PM?* I don't know, but I will try again and see if I can reach them. Their email support, which is what I’ve found to be the best way to reach them seems to be the best option so far, and usually done within a few hours depending on the time of day.

    * Apparently, the tech support's lunchtime IS from 2-3PM EST. They lost no points for tech support as the times weren't verified when the review was published and they won't be losing any points now. Besides, I'm still on my Audiocontrol high...

    And the Company Says....
    Contour Designs will like me to inform people that there is a Shuttle ProV1 and ProV2 versions of the device in concept, although, they are just too big for a carPC in my opinion. If you do not feel so, and would like more programmable buttons, or have a fetish of some kind for them, it really wouldn't hurt to go take a look at what they have. Their stuff has won some awards. For me, the ShuttleXpress is useful, and big, enough for its application.
    Carputer Progress: Here we go again...

    THE GF THEME
    Genesis has speed
    Genesis has class
    Genesis sent money
    before your a__;)

    Join the fight against carputters. EMAIL ME!

  3. #3
    Tainted Love Cris's Avatar
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    Nice write up!

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate
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    they are great and really flexible but the problem is finding a place for it in the car

  5. #5
    FLAC
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    hehe, tell me about it. I'm goign to have to fabircate something on the center console which is going to suck cause my machine shop won't make it without a detailed drawing
    Carputer Progress: Here we go again...

    THE GF THEME
    Genesis has speed
    Genesis has class
    Genesis sent money
    before your a__;)

    Join the fight against carputters. EMAIL ME!

  6. #6
    Maximum Bitrate
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    Most of the PCB size is actually just to get the buttons away from the wheel, i plan to hack up the PCB and use my own TAC switches for the buttons instead. You could even extend the wheel itself from the PCB with something like 8 wires or so, the wheel soldering is not SMD so it should be quite easy. Once i get my new armrest finished i will post some pics.
    Transflective Lilliput 8", LV-677DC Core Duo 1,83Ghz, , Mpegbox uSDC20D, Shuttle Express, HQCT, PG XS6600 http://carpc.boyakasha.dk

  7. #7
    Newbie
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    very nice write-up... it looks USB wired though. ...
    I'm thinking 4.5" would fit nicely where my cupholder is... placed right on top. I need to take some measurements tomorrow.. hmm.

  8. #8
    Variable Bitrate
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    it is USB what is wrong with that?

  9. #9
    FLAC
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    yeah, i got a keyboard and that going in what was my cuby hole. i'm going to have to build a swivel arm that goes above my shifter. I'm still deciding where to put the IR reciever of my VR glove...
    Carputer Progress: Here we go again...

    THE GF THEME
    Genesis has speed
    Genesis has class
    Genesis sent money
    before your a__;)

    Join the fight against carputters. EMAIL ME!

  10. #10
    Newbie
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBeast
    it is USB what is wrong with that?
    Nothing really 'wrong' with it.. would be nice if it was wireless though, then I could just wire something up to give it direct power from the vehicle whenever the stereo is turned on. Makes for a 'cleaner' install, and of course less wires to run.

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