Have you ever considered mounting a tablet to your car dashboard?

Published: August 13, 2012

Since the popularization of modern tablets, or the introduction of the original iPad, people have been searching high and low for clever uses for the scaled-up smartphones. Their large displays but relatively small footprint make tablets perfect for reading digital books, playing games, browsing the Web, taking quick notes and consuming basically all forms of digital media. But some people aren't content with just using tablets for couch-side entertainment. Some people take their tablet use to the extreme.

I, for one, use my iPad to type the vast majority of everything I write. It allows for more concentrated, distraction-free writing and increases my productivity tenfold. I also use tablets for things such as extensive gaming with controllers, my primary emailing devices and literally anything I can use them for. I guess you could say I like to push the envelope and get a feel for the boundaries with tablets.

But there are some people determined to use their tablets in more places, like in a car, for instance. From the very first iPad, people have been mounting tablets as in-dash multimedia players. I remember seeing the very first car mounted iPad back in 2010 and thinking, "What a bizarre concept." Since then, however, the in-dash tablet trend has continued and grown into a much more elaborate fad. Even OEMs are beginning to look to mobile operating systems and hardware for their stock in-car stereo options.

Everything from iPads to Android tablets and BlackBerry PlayBooks have found their way into car dash mounts. And people are beginning to become more clever with their tablet mounting.

One trend that couldn't be any better for those looking to retrofit their car with a tablet is the ever-lowering prices of said high-end tablets. First was the Kindle Fire, which reached the market at a surprisingly low $200 (plus tax). Then along came the much more powerful and refined Google Nexus 7 made by ASUS, which also came for a staggeringly low $200. Since its launch in July, the Nexus 7 has been a wildly popular, cheap tablet option as there is literally no sacrifice in functionality or quality for the cash savings. But it has also become the focus of many people looking for additional and less ordinary use cases. One of said use cases was as a dash mounted car stereo system.

Just last week, Android Central's Jerry Hildenbrand reported that SonicElectronix replaced a Dodge Ram's stock stereo system with a new system powered by an Audison Bit One digital processor and a Nexus 7. SonicElectronix removed the stock radio and dash plastics, molded fiberglass fit the dash and securely hold the Nexus 7 in place. The result is a dash-mounted Nexus 7 that looks like a completely OEM mount. However, this mod could run the bill upwards of $1,000 depending on what parts you use.

Earlier today, Hildenbrand reported of another, much more affordable and less permanent option. The guys at SoundMan Car Audio removed the console in a Ford Edge, taped it out and covered it with fiberglass strips. They then molded it to fit a Nexus 7, sanded it down and painted it to match the OEM console color. Using magnets that were embedded inside the fiberglass, the mount is fastened above the stock radio with magnetic force and is easily removable. They used Bluetooth to connect the Nexus to the built-in car stereo and effectively kept costs down as well as permanent modifications.

The latter of the two Nexus 7 mounts is one that got me seriously thinking about upgrading my own console. However, after staring at my car stereo for several minutes this morning, I came to the conclusion that it probably wouldn't be quite as simple. There isn't a lot of dash space in my Scion that would allow for a tablet to be mounted without either covering air vents or AC control.

Right now, I use a Bluetooth module by Belkin to connect my iPhone and Android devices to my car stereo. When I sit down in my car, I turn the key, press the large button on the face of the module, pick a song on my phone and hit play. Immediately, music from my phone begins playing through the car speakers. This works quite well and it's pretty sleek. But it's nothing like having a tablet mounted to the dashboard for GPS navigation, streaming music or other helpful tasks while on the road (stopped, of course … we wouldn't want anyone to be distracted while driving).

My question is: why the Nexus 7? Aside from price, nothing quite makes sense. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful tablet. I have one and actively use it. But it does not have a mobile data connection for streaming and the max built-in storage capacity is 16GB. So it can neither stream music wirelessly without hotspot access and you can only store shy of 16GB of music on it, which means it would have virtually no applications or other content. What would make much more sense is a Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch with 4G that you have on a shared data plan for $10 more per month. Only then could I see the usefulness of having a tablet mounted to a car dashboard. But all of this seems like a lot of work for a tablet with no built-in mobile data connection.

No less, a tablet mounted to my car's dashboard is a lot more interesting than the run-of-the-mill stereo, and it has an added cool factor that my existing stereo doesn't have. Who doesn't want to play Angry Birds at every stop light? (Kidding, of course …)

Where do you stand, ladies and gents? Have you ever considered mounting a tablet to your car's dashboard to replace your existing stereo? To use in conjunction with it? Would you go with something quick and painless like SoundMan Car Audio's magnetic mount? Or something more permanent, like in the Dodge Ram?

Image via soundmancaraudio

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