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Goodbye CarPC, Hello Alpine X110-SLV

This is unfortunately an example of “chasing good money after bad”. I’ve had CarPCs before, and they really work great in the right vehicle. Those vehicles, I now realize, are older ones that don’t rely on the head unit for the level of integration today’s cars do. In addition to losing things like HVAC visibility (not a huge deal), some of the steering wheel controls (Joycon wouldn’t recognize them), and various other small features, the biggest problem I ran into was the $249 Axxess GMOS-MOST-01 harness you have to use with any aftermarket head unit on these trucks kept dying. I was on my second one (first one replaced under warranty), and the third has began having issues with not coming on (have to cycle the ignition a few times) or spontaneously not producing sound. It’s out of warranty now, and needed replacement. To replace it means pulling apart and reassembling part of the dash. Some of the other issues I had were with Windows itself, like poor bluetooth reliability for hands-free calling even with BlueSoleil, the slow and/or non-existent development of applications like Centrafuse or CoPilot (and no support to lower music volume when NAV speaks). CarPCs have their place, but this truck isn’t one of them.

To install the CarPC, I had to cut away some of the interior of the dashboard; portions of it that were used to mount the factory radio components. Also I had sold off some of the factory components to make some of my money back on the CarPC install. Whatever I ended up replacing it with, I knew I’d have to deal with that mess during the install. And there aren’t really any options out there, all rely on the Axxess harness I’ve been having so many issues with. That is except for the Alpine Restyle series. They make highly integrated vehicle-specific factory replacement aftermarket units, but charge an arm and a leg for them.

I’ve had my eye on the Alpine X110-SRV for a while now, but they’re asking way too much at the retail asking price of $4,000. Even their special offer pricing of $2,499 seems extremely steep for what it is, but with the recent overheating issues and the inability to easily return to stock (I’d have to find components, go to a dealer, have them do the install because it would need to be programmed to the vehicle and I don’t have the equipment, etc) I finally broke down and bought it at the special offer price from Crutchfield. Note: I suspect they’ve permanently dropped the price to this, because it wasn’t selling at full MSRP. Or if not, they should consider it.

Anyway, I spent several hours today removing the CarPC and all the cables I ran all over for it, cleaning up some of the ham radio and dashcam cables, and installing the Alpine system. I love it so far, and the NAV has a commercial truck routing mode that I believe will work well for us with the RV. It comes with free HERE map updates, (it better for that price), and I updated the maps to Q1 2017 after the install was done. Both the install and the upgrade process was fairly painless. Of course, that’s partially attributable to the extensive experience gained from messing with the CarPC so much, and the ham installs. I can pull apart the interior pretty quickly now.

Due to the massive 10″ screen, and the controls it adds, I lost the mounting location for my Kenwood TM-D710G head, so I used some tape used for attaching molding to vehicles to stick it to the top of the new head unit. I also used that tape to keep a few components in place during the install, but I was surprisingly impressed with how well everything fit in the dash even after the modifications I had done.

I lose the ability to use CHRIP for programming my ham radios, and to use APRSISCE/32 to visualize APRS locations, but that’s about it. It even has OBDII and can provide additional gauges, engine codes, and such.