Shortly after the Nexus 7 was first released, I saw reports of people replacing the head unit in their car with the tablet. Apparently the Nexus 7 is almost exactly the correct size to fit in a double-din space. I’ve been thinking about doing something like that ever since and this past weekend, I finally did.
I specifically purchased a 2012 model Nexus 7 for two reasons:
- It is less expensive. I picked up a 32 GB refurbished model for $150. Since this is going to live in my car, I don’t need the fantastic display of the newer model and the extra space will be extremely useful for storing music and things.
- It works with USB Rom. This basically does all the hard work of making sure usb works correctly and sending the tablet into a deep sleep when the car is off. It isn’t being updated anymore, but is based on CyanogenMod 10.1. I haven’t found any missing features yet.
- The Nexus 7 is almost exactly the correct size. My particular double din adapter thing had screw holes that would have been perfect if the device was about 5mm smaller. So it’s a jury rigged attachment using screws, plexiglass, coat hanger wire, and duct tape. Also a bit of Sugru and strong glue. It should hold pretty well, but we’ll find out.
- The plug for a car antenna is very different from the one for the usb dongle. I ended up splicing the cables together. Someone might make an adapter, but I wasn’t patient enough to figure that out. Splicing antenna cable is a pain. It’s basically a coax cable but tiny.
- The usb otg y cable I bought didn’t quite fit in the car. It has a straight micro usb connector. I had actually ordered another one with a right angle connector from ebay, but wanted one sooner that I could play with. That worked out well since the ebay one wasn’t quite what I needed (my fault, not theirs). I ended up cutting of the straight connector and using the right angle connector from the ebay adapter. Soldering usb cables is also a pain. Again due the general tinyness of the inner cables. On the plus side, I’m better at soldering now than I was three days ago.
- The amp I bought was huge. Way bigger than I expected. Big enough that it doesn’t fit behind the dash. It lives in the glovebox now. Fortunately, I don’t really use the glovebox so that isn’t a problem.
- When connecting wires, make sure things are off. I definitely blew a fuse (and then spent about an hour figuring out which one) because I left things on while wiring up the amp.
- The radio doesn’t work as well as I would like. I’m not sure why. I’m going to experiment with a different app to see if that makes any difference. I also might not have done a good enough job splicing the antenna cable.
- SDR Touch: control the radio
- PowerAMP: music
- DropSync: keep the music on the tablet synced through Dropbox
- Audio Glow Live Wallpaper: keeps things interesting without being too distracting
- Torque: display realtime information from the car