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Rear-Seat Entertainment With An iPad

2014 Mazda5 Sport: Say Hello To Tom's Hardware's Project Car
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We love reviewing the latest and greatest automotive technology. But when the factory toys don't evolve fast enough, we turn to the aftermarket. A new 2014 Mazda5 will serve as our platform for testing third-party technology moving forward.

Factory-installed rear-seat entertainment systems are expensive options that typically range from $500 to $3000 with limited file compatibility. Fortunately, you can pick up first- and second-gen iPads on the cheap if you don't have one collecting dust already. Though they might seem too slow for modern mobile gaming, they're still great for video playback. Sure, you sacrifice the high-res displays available on newer models. But 1024x768 is still better than the 800x480 you often get from integrated LCDs.

The iPad works perfectly with video from Apple's iTunes story. However, content backed-up from Blu-ray and DVD media can be problematic unless you save it specifically for iOS consumption. That's when jail-breaking the iPad becomes necessary, freeing you up to install XBMC so the iPad can play back almost any video file and manage the device's movie library. There's even a touch-friendly user interface that works well for backseat entertainment.

Securing the iPad is your challenge. Some third parties sell universal mounts that attach to the front seat's headrest posts. However, they rely on friction to keep the tablet in place, and aren't very secure. A first-gen tablet weighs more than a pound and its screen is glass. While a friction mount should be sufficient for normal driving conditions, I'm not as confident about what would happen in an accident. We wouldn't want a pound and a half of electronics turning into a projectile with a child back there.

Fortunately, there's a crash-tested solution available from Scosche. The IPD2HM3 backSTAGE pro II is pricey, selling for $150 on Amazon. But it adds safety-oriented functionality that justifies extra expense. Notably, the backSTAGE pro II supports cheap wireless IR headphones, a USB port, it includes a cigarette lighter charger, and it's built from aluminum. The mount tilts and has a quick-detach mechanism for when you need to conceal the tablet.

We installed the mount in our Mazda5 without any issues. It secures to headrest posts using hex screws, and Scosche includes an Allen wrench for the installation. Unfortunately, the power source relies on a proprietary connector, so you’re stuck using the bulky bundled cigarette lighter adapter. Since we’re still uncertain if this is a permanent addition to our project car, we ran the cable through back of the seat and plugged it into the 12 V accessory outlet for now.

As it sits, the backSTAGE pro II houses an old iPad 2 jail-broken with XBMC. I'm relying on movies from the iTunes Music Store that were acquired through Blu-ray purchases. The next step for this rear-seat entertainment system is the addition of a hard-wired Adata AE800 Wi-Fi-enabled disk that automatically starts with the car. I'll have the iPad connect to it and stream movies from its more generous capacity.

Display all 51 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Gelid03 , June 13, 2014 4:40 AM
    Looks great cant wait for the rest of the planned mods.
  • 6 Hide
    Amdlova , June 13, 2014 4:40 AM
    nice mazda 5 you have sir :)  I liked the wireles charge.

    I want see some night vision on car. drive without lights...
  • 0 Hide
    Matthew Busse , June 13, 2014 4:59 AM
    I might have to upgrade the wife's 2010 =)
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 8:29 AM
    Thanks guys. Next up will be a Blind-spot monitor system from Gosher's, ScanGaugeE, and some sort of wireless storage. Even have a set of Mazdaspeed 3 wheels ready to go, just waiting on tires :) 
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 8:30 AM
    I recently picked up a non-Nav equipped CX-9 Grand Touring AWD. I look forward to the head unit reviews. So far, I've put on an aftermarket trailer hitch, and half installed a Pyle backup camera system.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 8:32 AM
    Quote:
    I recently picked up a non-Nav equipped CX-9 Grand Touring AWD. I look forward to the head unit reviews. So far, I've put on an aftermarket trailer hitch, and half installed a Pyle backup camera system.


    How do you like the CX9 so far? The CX5 is still one of my favorites to drive. I've yet to get into a CX9 but I do love the Ford Flex, its platform mate.
  • 1 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:08 AM
    It's been good so far. I got it at the end of April, so haven't had it too long. The only thing I don't care for is the headroom up front. I'm 6'3", and If I have the seat adjusted more upright like I prefer, my noggin hits the roof.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:14 AM
    Quote:
    It's been good so far. I got it at the end of April, so haven't had it too long. The only thing I don't care for is the headroom up front. I'm 6'3", and If I have the seat adjusted more upright like I prefer, my noggin hits the roof.


    How's the driving dynamics? The CX-9 is supposed to be fairly sporty compared to the usual dreadful driving CUVs.
  • 1 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:16 AM
    It does drive very much like a car. I'm coming from a '02 Durango. I had also test drove the Acura MDX. Very similar ride at a lower price point.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:18 AM
    The first gen Durango's are awesome. I still love how they look. The MDX is nice. I drove the latest one and its a very nice car minus the annoying dual screen infotainment system. The price tag didn't help sway me either. As much as I enjoy driving expensive cars, I'm quite frugal when it comes to my own car :) 
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:25 AM
    It's an SLT+ with the 5.9l and a bad tranny. Interested?? LOL
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:26 AM
    I don't need anymore cars, but you sure it's not just a sensor? My dad picked up a '97 Grand Cherokee 5.2 a few years ago with a bad tranny. Turns out it was a bad sensor or something. Been running fine.
  • 0 Hide
    danwat1234 , June 13, 2014 10:24 AM
    THANK YOU for the LED headlight install. I have been watching this tech and am intrigued at the LED headlight kits on Ebay for under $100 that look similar to the kit you bought. It's now competitive to HID kits, though not as bright especially compared with 55w HID kits.

    Maybe if you adjust your headlight up a bit with the adjustment screw the light pattern will be better?

    I would be skeptical that power into the LED is 35 watts. Most say 25 watts or so on Ebay. More watts is more heat and less lumens/watt probably.

  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 10:25 AM
    Quote:
    THANK YOU for the LED headlight install. I have been watching this tech and am intrigued at the LED headlight kits on Ebay for under $100 that look similar to the kit you bought. It's now competitive to HID kits, though not as bright especially compared with 55w HID kits.

    Maybe if you adjust your headlight up a bit with the adjustment screw the light pattern will be better?

    I would be skeptical that power into the LED is 35 watts. Most say 25 watts or so on Ebay. More watts is more heat and less lumens/watt probably.



    I wanted to like them so much but the way they're designed, you can't really get proper lighting out of them. If you're in the city and only need close range lighting, sure they'll suffice. However, I live in the country side and being able to see the signs way down is necessary. I ended up pulling them out and buying wiring harnesses to install H9 bulbs. They're 65-watt and 2100 lumens. Life span is shorter but they're only $15 a piece.
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 10:50 AM
    Quote:
    I don't need anymore cars, but you sure it's not just a sensor? My dad picked up a '97 Grand Cherokee 5.2 a few years ago with a bad tranny. Turns out it was a bad sensor or something. Been running fine.

    I've thought about the possibility of it just being a pressure sensor. The transmissions in these are notoriously bad, though. I haven't decided if I want to bother with it yet or not.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 10:52 AM
    I'd at least get the code read and if its just a sensor, replace it and sell the car for much more.
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 11:14 AM
    Quote:
    I'd at least get the code read and if its just a sensor, replace it and sell the car for much more.

    No codes are being thrown for it. :( 
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 11:16 AM
    That's odd. Could just need a flush and new filter?
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 11:18 AM
    Did that less than 10k before this. Went from WI to Badlands and back just fine last year. Did everything to it as far as maintenance right before the trip out. Mechanics are family, so I trust them. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 11:30 AM
    Yea if its not throwing codes, could be anything from solenoids or clutch packs burning out :-\.
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