VoomPC M10000 Car PC Barebone
The VoomPC M10000 Car PC Barebone kit includes a well-designed and attractive case, along with a compact 1GHz VIA Mini-ITX EPIA MII motherboard. The kit is well suited to a car PC application, but installation requires serious geek credentials. The case and the motherboard are small, and there is very little in the way of documentation. Also, as a bare-bones kit, the VoomPC includes only the case and the motherboard, with an integrated processor. All other components, such as hard drive and memory, need to be bought and installed separately.
The blue anodized-aluminum case is a study in form and function, taking stylistic cues from mobile audio amplifiers and integrating cooling fins, as well as a quiet, foremounted fan that draws air through the chassis from back to front. Although small in stature, the case does leave room for getting all of the basic components into the compartment without stirring up memories of college students jamming themselves into a phone booth.
The included VIA EPIA motherboard includes all of the gizmos expected from a much larger, full-size board. Along with basic features, such as a VGA, a serial, and two USB 2.0 ports; an Ethernet jack; and a full complement of audio connections, the VoomPC M10000 has a FireWire port, an SDPIF digital audio output, an S-Video output, a CompactFlash slot, and a PCMCIA slot--and that's just on the outside. Inside, there are jumpers for additional USB and FireWire connections, WakeOnLan, and another Com port. A bigger case would take better advantage of all the board has to offer, but in an automotive application, the VoomPC case is adequate. It's also light on powered USB ports, as most of the gadgets that make the VoomPC worth installing in a car run on USB: an external DVD drive, a USB TV tuner, a GPS antenna, a Bluetooth dongle, and USB storage devices. Although some of those devices can be moved into the PCMCIA and CompactFlash slots, the rest have to fight for voltage.
The VoomPC M10000 kit includes a DC-to-DC adapter, a special part that's unique to automotive computers. The M2-ATX Intelligent Automotive ATX Power Supply not only keeps the very sensitive motherboard from having a coronary during cold cranking but also deserves its Intelligent moniker. It knows to hibernate the PC when ignition power is cut, but it does it gently, putting it to bed in 30 to 45 seconds after the car is shut off. When the ignition is turned on, it wakes the PC from its slumber and restores it to its previous state. As well as it works--and it does so without any issues whatsoever--it would have been nice to have a power and a reset button on the case for those times when the computer needs a forced reboot.
Like a New York socialite, the VoomPC M10000 has looks, style, and class but also some baggage. The niceties of the VoomPC's function come only after putting it all together, and doing so is not for those who have never assembled a computer from scratch. Working on such a compact scale makes the work that much more difficult and potentially dangerous. As is the case with tight tolerances, the risk of causing a short is much higher. It's important to use good, crimped connections, heat-shrink tubing, and zip ties for keeping everything where it should be.