Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CarPC Basics (Part 3) The Core - CPU

The core of a carpc is the CPU. We have many options when it comes to deciding on what PC to put into a car. Lets have a look at the pros and cons of the different options.

1. Use your old AMD/Intel Pentium desktop
- Yes you can!
- little $$
- computing performance should be adequate (only play mp3, videos and GPS.. not playing 3D games)
- Big size ... very big when we compare what's available now
- It will consume lots of power, in excess of 250W
- You'll probably need a DC to AC inverter to run the 240V power supply of the desktop
- Unable to control shutdown/startup with ignition. Need to power up/down manually through a button.

not the best solution but can be a start for future upgrades.

2. Use a unused old laptop
- Yes you can!
- little $$
- computing performance should be adequate (only play mp3, videos and GPS.. not playing 3D games)
- best if the LCD screen is spoilt, giving the best excuse to put into a car!
- Small size, flat and unobstructive.
- Some laptops have DVD drives for the occasional CDs/DVDs
- For power supply, just use a car adaptor for the laptop will do.
- Laptop can be set to hibernate when the power supply shut-off with ignition.
- Some laptops generates high amount of heat and adequate ventilation is needed
- Need to power up manually through a button hardwired to the laptop. For hibernation with ignition, as long as the laptop have at least 5min battery life, a software can set the laptop to hibernate with loss of power.
- Most laptops have only 2 or 3 USB ports, which may not be enough.

Pic of my friend's install for a Honda City. Laptop is a oldish Pentium IV with only 256MB Ram and 30GB HDD

This is a solution who did not want to invest too much and have a start in the car computing world but not recommended. Imagine you need to manually turn on your system everytime you start your car.

3. The best solution is to purchase a new mini-itx board.
- very small in size (only 17cm by 17cm)
- ATOM processor, more than adequate processing power for in-car PC.
- Consume little power. Max power of atom is just 49W.
- Many choices of ITPS (automotive power supply) M1-atx, M2-atx or M3-atx. These power supplies will shutdown/turn on with ignition.
- Low price and available locally (Chomoxa in sim lim, NextCom in sim lim, Mini Sq in Novena have these boards available at around SGD160 onwards depending on model)
- a lot of choice , namely Intel D945GCLF2, Intel D410, Intel D510 or the better Zotacs.
- many USB ports, with at least 8 if fullly connected.
- actually no, only thing is the cost of the setup will increase.
- need to purchase rams and hdd to complete the system though.

This is a more permanent solution.

An example of the cost:
(Local)Intel D945GCLF2 (SGD160) + 2GB Ram (SGD70) + 160GB HDD (SGD70) + mini-itx case (SGD00) = S$400
(Ship in) GP83 ITPS, which is similar to M2-ATX but cheaper (USD 69) + shipping (USD30) = S$ 150

Grand Total SGD550

This is my Intel D945GCLF2 with M3-ATX power supply.

To show how small the mini-itx PC is :

*Mine uses a more expensive M3-ATX and small M300 case shipped from mp3car.

To be continued... on which i will discuss more into the different power supplies.

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