Description

This is my current CarPC build. The system is powered by a low power Atom 330 Intel board. Originally running the Centrafuse 3 front end under Windows 7, it has since been upgraded to Centrafuse 4 and Windows 8. With a 30 GB SSD and reasonably fast post times, it boots up and resumes music/radio playback within 30-45 seconds of ignition. It's been running pretty faithfully since early 2011, though I pulled the system in 2012 and tried upgrading to an Atom 525MW motherboard. Although the system performed a bit smoother, the post times were far worse, so I went back to this original setup.

As an in-car infotainment system it features: AM/FM/MP3 Player, Navigation, OBDII diagnostics, Bluetooth, voice commands, etc. All the typical stuff you expect from a nice OEM or aftermarket head unit.

As a PC it features any Windows app you'd like to embed or just bring up... And of course, fun debugging sessions to keep it operating at happy levels when you foolishly think "Yeah, that [new driver][Windows update][cool app] seems safe to install!" Good times.

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Comments

  • 78 months ago
  • 27 points

I love it, fantastic job!

+1

Edit: Congrats on joining PcPartPicker as now a staff member!

  • 77 months ago
  • 12 points

Thanks guys -- glad you enjoyed taking a look!

  • 78 months ago
  • 6 points

easily the most creative build i've seen here +1

  • 77 months ago
  • 4 points

Like, who could not +1 a Car PC? Lulz

  • 77 months ago
  • 3 points

it seems like there is a downvoter on this page

  • 75 months ago
  • 3 points

Awesome job! Extremely creative! Be safe though, No gaming while driving xD +1

  • 77 months ago
  • 2 points

+1 for manual

  • 57 months ago
  • 2 points

Looks sick.

  • 78 months ago
  • 1 point

Wow!! great job!!

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

so it is a fancy radio i don't get it

  • 77 months ago
  • 6 points

yes. To clarify, it is an overpriced fancy radio that was far more trouble to get working than it's probably worth. But it has also been a lot of fun to tinker with over the past couple of years. :)

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

Very nice. Up vote.

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

Seriously awesome! Love seeing people do truly custom work whether it be on cars or PCs (or both).

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

Great build! I never thought of doing this before. I am a "PC guy" not really a "car guy" so I probably will not try this, but I do love it. I know that you are a "PC guy" but are you a "car guy" too?

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

A little bit, though not as much as my dad. I bounced a lot of the ideas for this project off of him and he helped me work out the final wiring when I did the trunk install. As it turned out, the car side of the project is not too tough if you plan carefully and apply ample patience. But I will say that noise considerations (for power and audio) in an automotive environment can get downright crazy.

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

Boyscout Style!

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

Windows 8: $0.00. I see we have a pirate?

  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

Because people need more distractions that aren't cell phones in a car :b Pretty cool though

  • 59 months ago
  • 1 point

Have you upgraded this yet? It looks pretty darn cool!

  • 59 months ago
  • 3 points

I tweaked it a bit over the year or so that followed this posting, but it's been decommissioned at this point. The heat eventually took its toll on the Atom 330 board, so I'm planning out a v3.0 design that includes a better cooling setup.

This time I'll probably leave the stock head unit and leverage the AUX wiring for Nav/Digital Music. I'm currently debating on going with a Raspberry Pi as the core instead of a PC. That would take a fair bit more configuration and software dev time though to get what I want over using Centrafuse out of the box, but would be really small and completely mountable within the dash/glove box area.

I also recently built a neat little desktop PC based on the AMD 5350. So that's got me looking at the AMD low power APU's again as well as thin-mini ITX setups.. All I know for sure is I really miss having Nav/bluetooth/auto-syncing music playlists, so I'll get something else in there eventually.

  • 59 months ago
  • 1 point

I would highly recommend looking into an odroid since they are more powerful than a raspberry pi and some are cheaper!

  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

Sorry to post on an old build, But I absolutely love the description haha :D

  • 48 months ago
  • 2 points

No problem.. glad you enjoyed it and thanks for taking a look!

  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

Glad you created it, I'm guessing anything with active cooling and a big heat sink wouldn't fare to well in a Mobile vehicle?

Such as...... an i7 or i5? with a dedicated GPU?

  • 48 months ago
  • 2 points

Yeah.. power can be a tricky balance. Keeping the system wattage as low as you can versus having enough performance to still have the system do what you want. In my case, I was powering off the main car battery, so I kept the complete system wattage very low (and the standby power almost negligible). Anything is possible though, including adding a secondary battery to the car just for handling the system.

As for active cooling/large heat sinks -- well, then you have to start considering space usage and heat concerns:

For space, you just work with what you have available (that you are willing to lose to the system). My setup was already pretty small -- using only the area behind the dash and a corner of the trunk (since the Mustang convertible's trunk isn't particularly spacious, and I still wanted to be able to throw a stroller back there). For my next generation system I'm working on, I hope to only use the space behind the dash and borrow a little space in the glove compartment. If I'm successful, the trunk won't get used at all. But I've seen folks with larger vehicles use larger cases/cooling solutions, etc since they don't have to worry as much about space.

For heat, you probably want to think about the conditions the car operates in and how much air you can even move. The trunk doesn't move much/any air, so my previous system did get quite toasty when the trunk was full. It actually shut itself down on a 4 hour road trip once. In my next setup, I'm hoping to actually leverage the A/C ducts already pushing cool air behind the dash.. though I'll probably need to be able to shut off that air source when running the heater. :)

  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

That sounds like an interesting endeavour, I mean why need an cooled room when you can run the A/C directly through your Pc haha.

Would that cause any condensation? I imagine there would be filters etc or you could put some in place.

Hmmmm very interesting stuff, but probably a little over my head to dive into. Wish I knew more about cars :/

But then again being able to open your trunk to a Screen hooked up to a gaming machine for anywhere gaming sessions sounds pretty excellent haha

What I was referring to with the active cooling etc was would the shaking and bumping of the car driving cause issues with the PC running?

  • 48 months ago
  • 2 points

Ah, yes.. you are correct. The fewer moving parts, the better when it comes to a CarPC. Heat and vibration make for a marvelous environment for a PC!

  • 41 months ago
  • 1 point

Does this bad boy/girl still work?

  • 41 months ago
  • 2 points

The Mustang, yes. The carPC, no.

Sadly, I pulled it from the car a little while back. As much as I enjoyed it, the touch screen died after 7 years of faithful service across a number of projects.. and the PC was starting to flake out, likely due to heat conditions. That said, the PC technically still works.. It sits in my garage for listening to music or video streams when I'm working out there.

Can't seem to shake the desire to create something fun like this for the car, though.. so one of these days... :)

  • 41 months ago
  • 1 point

:)

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  • 77 months ago
  • 2 points

It can be, particularly if you are doing a lot of short start/stop drives.

There are options to make it better, such as using hybrid hibernation and letting the system continue to run at reduced power from the battery when the ignition is off, etc. The power supply can be configured to not cut the power to the system for minutes up to hours (or even never). Doing this, it's almost an instant on experience during that window you configure. The downside is there can be hardware issues on a full resume that a reset on resume of the device doesn't always work around. And then of course there's the risk of draining your battery.

In the end, it tends to not be a major issue once you grow accustom to it. Though one of these days I still hope to build a better, stronger, faster version.

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  • 77 months ago
  • 1 point

I did not consider it at the time of this build. I've seen a few folks leverage tablets to do similar things over the past year, so I've considered it since. However, they tend to pair it with an existing head unit to augment the desired features not easily attained with the tablet. The main advantage to a full on PC is probably flexibility, both in software and available I/O options.

My design goal was to keep it feeling somewhat OEM and still manage features both typical and atypical of an aftermarket head unit. While power constraints would be easier, I think a number of features would be tougher using a tablet (though not impossible).

One of these days I still hope to add backup and dash cams, tire pressure sensors and a secondary screen. With the exception of the backup camera which can bypass the PC and feed directly to the screen, I'll need a more powerful processor to do much more. There are also all kinds of sensors I'd love to experiment with that would be difficult without some sort of data acquisition interface which is fairly simple to do on a PC.

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  • 48 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! It was crazy little project, but lots of fun.

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