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Computer in the Car

1752 Views 10 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  bubble
Hi folks. I have been speculating the possibility of putting a computer in my 350Z. Since there only is a limited amount of space to place a computer, I will be either using a ULV Pentium M micro-atx platform with external brick or a mini-itx system with external brick (65 watt brick). A VIA mini-itx system ( may be more feasible as it draws less power than a Pentium M ULV.

The biggest problem I have is how to actually power it. I'm not sure where I can get an AC source from the car and rig it up to fit into a DC power supply. As for location, I'm probably going to put an LCD where the Nav LCD should be, and stuff the mini ITX, hopefully, into one of the storage compartments in the back. I want it to be accessible after all.

Here I have found some places that utilize the VIA ITX system in their automobiles:

Oh well this is speculation, anyway. Let's get some ideas!
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this should fit no problem:

or this:

For power, I would run a nice thick wire up to the battery. Get an inline fuse for protection, and an AC converter.
Toykilla, the Mini Mac is beautifully designed but I'm going to wait it out and see if it flops like the old G4 cube, which baked like an oven. Also, I want to build it from scratch, not look for a place to wedge a Shuttle. They may be small compared to your regular ATX case, but they are still a smaller version of ATX.

What I was thinking is:

That paired with a Pentium M Banias ULV 1.0 or 1.1GHz chip will do splendidly. Maybe even venture to get a Pentium M Dothan LV chip. The benefits of the Pentium M over the VIA ITX is that the performance gap is huge. The Pentium M 2.1 GHz matches with today's highest end processors namely the FX-55 and the Pentium 3.4EE.

There are inherent problems with using Pentium or AMD desktop chips, namely they get HOT. Hot = Needs more cooling = Faster fan = More noise. I don't want my DVD-player to sound like a little vaccuum cleaner, so why should my computer? The nice thing about VIA ITX is that they are passively cooled, or the Pentium M chips can also be passively cooled or with a very slow (<1000rpm) fan.

Dave079, thanks for the informative links.
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chazzg has a computer for the Z if you are willing to spend the cash.

An alternative that is cheaper and more customizable (I think at least), , you can change almost every part.

And another alternative, which is what I plan to do, is get a laptop and just hook it up when I go, that way you can have a computer for the house and car. Just make a hole for the s-video port and have a cable always there, take the laptop out to the car, hook it to the cable, stick it under the seat, or in the glovebox behind the pass. seat or where ever you can, just have an/some LCD's to show the screen on, much cheaper imo, and will do the same if not more than most. Also, get an A/C adaptor for the laptop, run off a cig. lighter.
I'm going to be building the case, or obtaining a case from scratch.

These guys have some awesome sff cases, in particular some for mini-ITX:

In particular, the LC07:

This little thing measures in at only 8x2x6''. It might even fit in one of the small storage compartments behind the seats.

I'm interested to see how long these computer systems last in cars. 3.5'' Hard drives with heat >50C are unhealthy and tend to get noise and fail in time. 2.5'' notebook drives may be better here, albeit more expensive. Since most of these computers will be confined spaces, heat dissipation will be very limited.
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The laptop is a fun idea but I prefer something to be more a part of the car rather than a portable electronic.

The place reminds me of Little PCs, made by Stealth. These little beauts fit perfectly in a 5.25'' or two 5.25'' bays of a regular ATX case.
you do have to built the shuttle will come with a box, power supply and mobo.. you pick the rest of the components. .

I'm aware of that. I've built several computers myself, including two SFF, one of which was a Shuttle and the other an AOpen EZ65.

This would not be a good choice for a car computer, in my opinion. Not only is there a limited a mount of airflow inside a car, Shuttles have an innate cooling problem because of the small form factor cube they use. The only solution to that is a louder fan or better heatsink, but that equals LOUD.

The other big no-no with a Shuttle (or any other SFF barebones kit) is the included 200W, 250W, or with the newer ones, 350W power supplies. Even the Shuttle Zen (ST62K) has a 180W external power brick. And with a Pentium processor or even an Athlon Mobile chip, I wouldn't trust 200+ watts running off the car's battery. The VIA Mini-ITX, on the other hand, uses a 65W external power brick. Much better!

Keep in mind that AOpen and DFI are the ONLY motherboard manufacturers which make motherboards that accept the Pentium M chips which draw some <1 volts. All the other motherboard companies that make Micro-ATX (Shuttle included) accept only Socket 478, Socket T, and Socket 939. These are all desktop chips which draw 1.5V+ and demand at least 350W. Not to mention putting out over 100+ watts of heat. People with good cooling solutions still suffer with heat issues when using their LGA775's and AMD64's. In a car compartment, overheating (if not the CPU, the hard drive) is a serious issue.

Speaking of building things myself, sorry for the ambiguity. What I had in mind was hand picking all my components, including the power supply and motherboard. I was also thinking about building my own enclosure for the computer using aluminum.
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I am running a shuttle as my main system at home.. Athlon 64 using cool and quiet (cuts cpu speed down when not in use.. similar to pentium M).. 2 hard drives, and a NVIDIA geforce 6800gt all on a 250watt power supply.. Their power supplies seem to be underrated.

Shuttles new ICE system is really amazing and has great air flow characteristics.

But i see your point :)
Nano-ITX motherboard, what is the size of it?
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