High Tech Road Trip: Make Your Car A Mobile Media Center - InformationWeek

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High Tech Road Trip: Make Your Car A Mobile Media Center

Adding mobile Internet, HD TV, DVD, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and GPS to your ride can turn your car into a rolling entertainment center this summer.

Summer unofficially starts this weekend, and with it, the driving season. Forget about the price of gas for now. Even if your summer travel plans are abbreviated, you'll likely still be driving somewhere. We've gathered up some mobile gear that will transform hot schleps down the highway into joy rides.

Bluetooth




Motorola's MOTOROKR T505 uses both Bluetooth and FM to connect your cell phone or MP3 player to your car's speakers.
(click for image gallery)

A growing number of states are enforcing hands-free initiatives when it comes to using cell phones while driving. Fortunately Bluetooth headphones have been around for a while and can be used to comply with these laws. However, there are also a growing number of products that connect your cell phone to your car's audio system, removing you from any physical contact with the phone, or even an earpiece.

Motorola's MOTOROKR T505 clips to your car's visor and uses both Bluetooth and FM to connect your cell phone to your car's speakers. The unit's built-in microphone takes over for the one on your phone. The T505 can also connect your compatible MP3 player (one equipped with Bluetooth) to play through your car's sound system.

Mobile Internet

One of the more active segments of the mobile communications market is full Internet access on the go. Sprint's Novatel Ovation U727 cellular USB card connects directly to your laptop's USB port and delivers (depending on coverage) broadband connectivity over EVDO-A. It also includes GPS, so you can run applications like Google Earth in real time, showing your location.




nexAira's NexConnect 3G Wireless Broadband Router can turn your car into a mobile hotspot.
(click for image gallery)

But now that everybody has their own Internet-connected laptops, Wi-Fi enabled multimedia players, and Skype phones, they all want to get online. nexAira's NexConnect 3G Wireless Broadband Router can handle both USB and PCMCIA Type II cellular modems. The unit comes with both a 12-volt adapter for the car and a 120-volt wall wart for the hotel, beach house, or campground. Plug your cell card into the router, turn it on, and everyone in the car can be online at the same time. Of course, cellular coverage being what it is, you may want to have multiple contracts and carry more than one modem. When you're out of range of carrier A, just swap out the modem for carrier B, and (if you're in range for carrier B) you're back online.

Autonet Mobile takes all the guesswork out of in-car Wi-Fi. The company is working with car manufacturers to offer its system as an option in new cars, and it is now available as a rental car add-on through Avis. Autonet Mobile handles the carrier connections for you, automatically switching to the most appropriate carrier for your location. The company monitors signal quality and takes care of keeping you connected wherever there is a signal to be had.

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