Forum Thread

Tablets to Replace Car DVD Monitors?

jordanz12 735 120 January 11, 2016 at 09:59 AM
So we are currently on our second set of dvd players for the car. Our current 7" dual monitor one is on it's last legs. They keep breaking, skip all the time when going over bumps. I'm sick of dealing with the dvd players. We do a lot of road trips and need the entertainment for the kiddos.

For the same price, I'm thinking about getting two cheap tablets to use for entertainment. Plus you can do the benefit of games and stuff too. I would get two 9" tablets, two headrest mount holders, and two long usb cables to keep them constantly charged. What I want to do is convert all of our dvd's to digital movie files (I already have the convertor...each dvd is about 4 GB of space when converted). Seems like you can choose what type of file, I've only tried MPEG 4 though.

Questions I have:
- Would a cheap tablet be able to do video playback? Any cheap brand better than the others?
- Is there a specific format the movie files need to be in?
- Any specific video player or app to use on the tablets?
- Any way to get the movie files smaller than 4 GB each? It would only take a few to max out a 32 GB card....
- Is there a problem with this approach? I imagine there's many others that do this as well...

Thank you!

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#2
Quote from jordanz12 View Post :
So we are currently on our second set of dvd players for the car. Our current 7" dual monitor one is on it's last legs. They keep breaking, skip all the time when going over bumps. I'm sick of dealing with the dvd players. We do a lot of road trips and need the entertainment for the kiddos.

For the same price, I'm thinking about getting two cheap tablets to use for entertainment. Plus you can do the benefit of games and stuff too. I would get two 9" tablets, two headrest mount holders, and two long usb cables to keep them constantly charged. What I want to do is convert all of our dvd's to digital movie files (I already have the convertor...each dvd is about 4 GB of space when converted). Seems like you can choose what type of file, I've only tried MPEG 4 though.

Questions I have:
- Would a cheap tablet be able to do video playback? Any cheap brand better than the others?
- Is there a specific format the movie files need to be in?
- Any specific video player or app to use on the tablets?
- Any way to get the movie files smaller than 4 GB each? It would only take a few to max out a 32 GB card....
- Is there a problem with this approach? I imagine there's many others that do this as well...

Thank you!
Most tablets should be able to do video playback, especially if the content is local. Look for used Galaxy tabs or iPads, or even new Fire tablets, to get a quality tablet for a good price.

I would suggest looking at Plex for this, as it can handle all of the transcoding needed, syncing, etc. I've actually done exactly what you describe using it, and it works great! It'll take some time to rip your library (weeks or months, depending on the size), but Plex does a very nice job organizing it and all that. Plex will also handle playback, and can serve up music, pictures, and more - both on your tablets as well as your TV / Roku / whatever. You'll need to prepare a little in advance and sync the tablets before you go, which can take a few minutes to hours or more; it depends how many movies you sync and how much it needs to transcode, if any.

If you have an Apple device, you'll want to rip to mp4, but otherwise mkv is a very flexible format (I use MakeMKV). Once you rip the movies, you can re-encode them with Handbrake to reduce the size (DVDs tended to go from 5-7 GB to 1-3 GB for me, Blu-rays from 25-30 GB down to 12-15 GB), allowing you to put a lot more on a drive / SD card while still retaining the quality. I used the guides at rokoding [rokoding.com] to get Handbrake set up, and the resulting content looked good on my Galaxy tab, too.
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#3
If you are into tech you might look into a RaspberryPi Media Player [homecinemachoice.com]

Screens can be seen on eBay [ebay.com]
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#4
I know everybody's kids want to use tablets in the car, but when I was a kid one of my friends was in a very bad car accident involving a semi truck driver who fell asleep and the game boy they were playing went flying and actually fractured their skull near their eye.

There's something to be said for in-car entertainment that's bolted / strapped down.
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Last edited by jkee January 11, 2016 at 07:52 PM
#5
Quote from jkee View Post :
I know everybody's kids want to use tablets in the car, but when I was a kid one of my friends was in a very bad car accident involving a semi truck driver who fell asleep and the game boy they were playing went flying and actually fractured their skull near their eye.

There's something to be said for in-car entertainment that's bolted / strapped down.
I know a dump truck driver that went under a bridge with his dumb bed up (forgot to lock it)
It raised up and slammed back down. He was thrown off his seat (was wearing belt) He landed on the lever between the seat.
went up his pooper hole and out the side, inside.
so much for things bolted downEEK!
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#6
Quote from stufine View Post :
I know a dump truck driver that went under a bridge with his dumb bed up (forgot to lock it)
It raised up and slammed back down. He was thrown off his seat (was wearing belt) He landed on the lever between the seat.
went up his pooper hole and out the side, inside.
so much for things bolted downEEK!
WhewOMG OuchFrown Not fun!
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#7
OP, I do this very same thing for our DD's - 2 and 6 yo. When buying a new car, the entertainment options are expensive (thousands $$) and slim (DVD only usually, not upgradeable, etc). I thought why the hell am I going to pay $3000 for a system that's not user friendly, doesn't support electronic formats (without some surgery) and it basically inupgradeable?

- Would a cheap tablet be able to do video playback? Any cheap brand better than the others?
- One of ours is a ~ $120 lenovo tab (S2109) and the other is a $40 Neutab (N9 Pro9). Both SD's - lenovo was in Hot Deals and the Neutab I got remanned from Amazon Prime day. The Lenovo IS a better tab and video playback isn't usually an issue, but the Neutab has issues with MP4's.

- Is there a specific format the movie files need to be in?
- No but smaller is better. AVI usually seems to work well and most 1.5 hr movies can be made 700-800 MB.

- Any specific video player or app to use on the tablets?
- This was the biggest hurdle - finding a player that could handle all sort of formats, do fullscreen, and autoplay next (you don't want to be reaching around while driving to play the next video). The app I found that works best is Moboplayer [moboplayer.com]. The free version runs fine.

- Any way to get the movie files smaller than 4 GB each? It would only take a few to max out a 32 GB card....
-I use 32 or 64GB uSD cards. As I said movies can easily be made <1GB. Don't forget it's a rather small screen so shooting for BR quality not only needlessly bogs down the CPU/playback but also hogs memory

- Is there a problem with this approach? I imagine there's many others that do this as well...


Other tips:
- Get good mounts. I have 2 of these [amazon.com]. They are made for tablets and hold them well. There are all sorts of options.
- Make sure to get tablets that support 5V charging. Originally I had an ASUS transformer for my youngest as I had it kicking around but it does not support 5V charging (only 14V?!?!?).
- Why does this matter? Use a car charging USB adapter to keep the tablets charged at all times. If the tab supports USB charging directly (microUSB usually), great. Otherwise you may need to buy a DC adapter (physical plug adapter). BOTH the tabs I have can charge via 5V but won't charge through their USB ports. These are available on ebay for a few $/ea
- In order to prevent the tab from sleeping (screen timeout), I disabled it otherwise it will timeout when video is playing. The con to this is that it also can drain the battery if the tab is left on for any reason. Also BOTH of them, whenever the charging status is changed, will turn the screen on (Android feature?). This effectively meant that you had to turn off the screens every time you turned the car off otherwise the batteries would be sure to die. To manage this I found an app called Snoozy Charger which turns the screen off after a charging status change

That's it. For content, you can find your own I guess - I also use youtube downloaders - there is a LOT of kids stuff on youtube depending on their ages.

This is a FAR better solution IMHO than paying thousands $$ for an integrated solution you can't upgrade. The other plus is that the tabs can be used for games and also for internet access in a pinch. Ours have also come in handy as an extra memory card when on vacation.
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#8
Thanks so much for the detailed information. Couldn't agree more that tablets is definitely the way to go for cost and convenience. The only downside is not being able to control them from the driver seat. But the kids are old enough to figure it out, so should be okay.

I'll be on the look out for some decent used tablets if I can find any for a good deal. I thought about the amazon fire 7", since those can be had for $50 new. What do you guys think about those? Should be just fine for an entry level tablet/movie player I would think since it's got the Amazon name on it.

I'll check out the Moboplayer app to play the movie files. What convertor do you all use to downsize and convert to different formats?

I was planning on getting good mounts that secure to the headrest rails. And was planning on getting a cigarette lighter charger with 2 usb inputs...then run some long micro usb cables to the tablets. That should work fine right, to keep them charged all the time?

What exactly is Plex and Handbrake? Are those apps or something?
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#9
I think you are on the right track I will just add that I have this Sandisk Media Connect Device and love it. Easy to use app and the kids can pick from the movies hosted on the drive. It works with ipads/iphones, Kindle Fire, and other android devices. I can vouch that it will serve at least 3 HD movie streams at the same time.

http://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-Wir...B00DR8LBAK

I use DVDFAB as my software tool to convert, I am sure there are many others. I typically shoot for 1-2 GB per movie for the file size and they look fine on tablet sized screens.
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#10
Quote from jordanz12 View Post :
Thanks so much for the detailed information. Couldn't agree more that tablets is definitely the way to go for cost and convenience. The only downside is not being able to control them from the driver seat. But the kids are old enough to figure it out, so should be okay.

I'll be on the look out for some decent used tablets if I can find any for a good deal. I thought about the amazon fire 7", since those can be had for $50 new. What do you guys think about those? Should be just fine for an entry level tablet/movie player I would think since it's got the Amazon name on it.

I'll check out the Moboplayer app to play the movie files. What convertor do you all use to downsize and convert to different formats?

I was planning on getting good mounts that secure to the headrest rails. And was planning on getting a cigarette lighter charger with 2 usb inputs...then run some long micro usb cables to the tablets. That should work fine right, to keep them charged all the time?

What exactly is Plex and Handbrake? Are those apps or something?
Handbrake [handbrake.fr]is a program which runs on a PC to reduce the file size of videos. Plex [plex.tv]is a media solution, which consists of a PC program (the server) and a mobile app (the viewer), allowing you to watch on your phone / tablet / Roku / device movie files stored on your PC. It normally streams on demand, but you can download the files to your device, too (e.g., for use in the car).

A USB cigarette lighter should work, although it is much more expensive to charge devices using your car than it is your home's electric outlet. Do you plan on leaving the tablets in place in the car, or remove / store them when not in use?

The Fire is a great tablet, but just be sure the 7" size is right for your particular application - distance between seats, mainly. You want a clear enough picture while the kids are sitting properly in the seat, not with them leaning forward all of the time.
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#11
Quote from jordanz12 View Post :
Thanks so much for the detailed information. Couldn't agree more that tablets is definitely the way to go for cost and convenience. The only downside is not being able to control them from the driver seat. But the kids are old enough to figure it out, so should be okay.

I'll be on the look out for some decent used tablets if I can find any for a good deal. I thought about the amazon fire 7", since those can be had for $50 new. What do you guys think about those? Should be just fine for an entry level tablet/movie player I would think since it's got the Amazon name on it.

I'll check out the Moboplayer app to play the movie files. What convertor do you all use to downsize and convert to different formats?

I was planning on getting good mounts that secure to the headrest rails. And was planning on getting a cigarette lighter charger with 2 usb inputs...then run some long micro usb cables to the tablets. That should work fine right, to keep them charged all the time?

What exactly is Plex and Handbrake? Are those apps or something?
Just be sure it runs true Android not some Amazon knockoff shit.

I don't use a convertor. Most movies are AVI, MKV or MP4. I suppose I could I just don't care to.

The power solution is what I do. I have a 2 and 6 yo DD; oldest can steer the device by herself, etc. The youngest cannot, and not being able to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the ride to school is like murder, so I want the tabs charged all the time.

Quote from mmathis View Post :
Handbrake [handbrake.fr]is a program which runs on a PC to reduce the file size of videos. Plex [plex.tv]is a media solution, which consists of a PC program (the server) and a mobile app (the viewer), allowing you to watch on your phone / tablet / Roku / device movie files stored on your PC. It normally streams on demand, but you can download the files to your device, too (e.g., for use in the car).

A USB cigarette lighter should work, although it is much more expensive to charge devices using your car than it is your home's electric outlet. Do you plan on leaving the tablets in place in the car, or remove / store them when not in use?

The Fire is a great tablet, but just be sure the 7" size is right for your particular application - distance between seats, mainly. You want a clear enough picture while the kids are sitting properly in the seat, not with them leaning forward all of the time.
"much more expensive" OK, but depending on usage, assuming wifi is off, our tabs don't last more than 2-3 days without a charge if not plugged in in the car. It's such a hassle to be moving the tabs all the time, not to mention you risk forgetting them or even dropping them (they are being handled more). Much easier to just leave in the car charging all the time.
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Last edited by Dr. J January 13, 2016 at 12:44 PM
#12
Quote from jordanz12 View Post :
So we are currently on our second set of dvd players for the car. Our current 7" dual monitor one is on it's last legs.
Could you elaborate a bit on your current setup (brands/models/aftermarket or factory installed, etc or simply cheap portable dvd players)? If it's a well done installation with screens recessed into the seats, there could be some components you might be able to reuse.
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#13
It be best to invest in something other than a dvd video player. I know most data plans are no longer unlimited so netflix is out of the question, maybe build something portable to share videos to 2 tablets mounted on the back of the front seats headrest?
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#14
DVD players just plain suck.

- DVD's generally only contain about 2 hours of video so you are changing DVD's constantly
- If you want custom content, that means you're burning DVD's all the time
- You need to store them. in the car. with kids
- they can be affected by car movement

Trust me, ditch the shitty DVD players and go with tabs. You won't regret it/.
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#15
Quote from Dr. J View Post :
DVD players just plain suck.

- DVD's generally only contain about 2 hours of video so you are changing DVD's constantly
- If you want custom content, that means you're burning DVD's all the time
- You need to store them. in the car. with kids
- they can be affected by car movement

Trust me, ditch the shitty DVD players and go with tabs. You won't regret it/.
Agreed, I was thinking if there was an existing setup involving a quality install of screens that you might be able to rig up something other than a dvd player to drive them.
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