Portable 'docking Station' For Pandora


Pleng

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I've had this idea in my head for a while now, and I'd like to discuss it and see what you guys think of it.

(very crude picture)
panda-dock.jpg


It's basically a portable USB hub & extended battery that the Pandora could slide into and connect via the 2 usb ports.

Broken down into two functions which could work independently of each other:

Battery Extender
The unit would feature its own internal battery and charger of a similar, or preferably even slightly larger, size as the Pandora's internal battery. This section of the unit would be connected via the Pandora's mini-usb port, meaning it can act as a transparent power supply keeping the Pandora's battery 'topped up'. Effectively this should almost double the battery life of the Pandora.

You could in theory charge both this and the Pandora at the same time by plugging this into the mains, then connecting to the Pandora's mini USB port.

The USB connectivity would have the side affect of making it able to used as an external batter/charger for a variety of other USB devices.



USB Hub / Docking Station
The built-in USB hub would connect via the Pandora's main USB hub and, in addition to providing 2-4 USB Ports, it would also obviously remove the USB 1/2 issue. Using standard-off the shelf usb hardware the unit could provide either 4 USB ports, OR 3 USB port and an additional accessory, such as:
  • Additional SDHC (SDXC??) slot
  • Ethernet
  • SIM-Modem
  • ??? You tell me!
If another USB port was sacrificed then it could also be possible to use the extra space at the back of the unit for L2 & R2 buttons.

so the options would be: 4 USB Ports, 3 USB Ports & and Accessory, 3 USB Ports and additional shoulder buttons, 2 USB ports with an accessory AND additional shoulder buttons.


So I'd like to know what you guys think. Specifically:

  • Would you be interested in purchasing one of these?
  • What do you feel a reasonable cost would be for such a unit?
  • Would you want the unit to feature the additional shoulder buttons, and how much of an impact would that make on your decision to buy?
  • Would you like to see one of the additional USB accessories included? Or is it better to have the additional USB port?

Clearly this project is only in the initial idea stage. It'd be crazy to progress with it until there is a decent amount of units out there, and stabilized production. But this dead-time is a great time to be doing the appropriate research! I also need somebody to work with me on designing the battery/charge circuit as this is beyond my expertise. I hopefully have somebody to help with case design/creation.
 

Loon

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I'd love to see a docking station for the Pandora.

My idea would be to base it around a game grip style of design a bit like this one for the nds.

It would have an adjustable hinge mechanism, that would allow you to select your desired screen angle. The grips would make extended gaming sessions a lot more comfortable.

It would have a short cable at the rear that would plug into the USB Port. The USB cable would connect to an internal USB2 Hub, there would be 3 external USB ports on the docking station and one internal one that could be used to connect a small USB device such as a flash drive or a 3G modem.

There would also be a short cable connecting to the ext port on the pandora, these would connect to L&R audio out and a standard SVideo out socket.

My personal take is that there would be no need for an extra battery in the docking station as the battery life on the Pandora is more than good enough for my needs. Why not just buy a spare battery if the existing one does not last long enough?

I'd happily pay £30 delivered for a game grip type docking station.
 

Pleng

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Bear in mind that using USB devices is going to pretty-much halve your battery life straight away. The idea of connecting to the ext port is an interesting one, but I don't see what benefit it gives, other than completeness, over using a separate TV out cable?
 

peca

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Pleng: I carrying something similar in my mind. I'd suppose similar form factor, extended battery and USB 2.0 HS HUB too. I'll like put 1.8" USB HDD, USB to VGA/DVI and USB Ethernet into it together with a few spare USB host ports on sides.
Another option will be something like this + break out box with TV + audio out, audio in and serial or GPIO lines (buttons, LED or motor drive...)
 

Pleng

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peca said:
Pleng: I carrying something similar in my mind. I'd suppose similar form factor, extended battery and USB 2.0 HS HUB too. I'll like put 1.8" USB HDD, USB to VGA/DVI and USB Ethernet into it together with a few spare USB host ports on sides.

Well I need to keep costs reasonable. A device like that would cost about the same as a Pandora does to begin with. USB/VGA isn't cheap and neither are 1.8 inch hard drives. And I'm not entirely sure they'd be wanted by enough people to warrant inclusion.

Another option will be something like this + break out box with TV + audio out, audio in and serial or GPIO lines (buttons, LED or motor drive...)

Again, I'm not entirely sure how many people would be interested in serial and GPIO lines, aside from hardcore hardware hackers who would probably be able to make a break out box of their own.

One option might be to keep one of the usb ports recessed, so you could keep a USB SIM modem, ethernet card, or USB memory stick permanently attached without it getting too much in the way of playing. It would, of course, take space away from the additional battery.
 
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XxionxX

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I would love a docking station! I like how we could incorporate a lot of the ideas that had to be passed up due to various reasons. I can't speak for everyone else, but I would be willing to pay another $200-$300(USD) for something like this.
 

Farox

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First i don't have my Pandora ...
but i love to see a docking station with numerous port/features and most important some mechanism to sustain the hinge in whatever position
specially in 90-100 °.
 

sebt3

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Farox said:
First i don't have my Pandora ...
... and most important some mechanism to sustain the hinge in whatever position
specially in 90-100 °.

I cant see a use of a dock station without this.
 
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Loon

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Pleng said:
Bear in mind that using USB devices is going to pretty-much halve your battery life straight away. The idea of connecting to the ext port is an interesting one, but I don't see what benefit it gives, other than completeness, over using a separate TV out cable?

That's the idea i.e. it removes the need to buy a dedicated TV Out cable.

For me the hinge locking mechanism and grips would be the big sellers, these would negate what to me are the main design flaws with the Pandora. Using my NDS with the Exspect grip makes it whole lot more ergonomic and the ability to lock the screen in place at your personally preferred angle would be a huge benefit.

Ooh, just had another idea, in the base of the docking station should be a hole threaded with the standard connector for camera tripods, you could then get something like one of these and attach it to your Pandora dock for that perfect in bed video viewing / bluetooth mouse web surfing experience. Or use the tripod to raise the machine to an ergonomic height when using a USB keyboard & Mouse / or perhaps game controller.

As for the battery drain when using USB devices I'd guess that most people would use the dock when connecting to a TV which means that you're going to have mains power available. If just using it with a USB Keyboard, Mouse, Joystick & Flash drive then the additional drain would be pretty minimal.
 
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forces

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I was actually thinking about something like this, but less portable, so it would have a x86 co-processor for some applications(they would need a support for it), HDD, DVD drive, and similiar things.
Edit: You would just use it, when you want to use your pandora at home with TV out.
 

jocejrod

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i think it should use the same battery as pandora, like, another one inside of it. or maybe even have it connect into the current battery slot, finally giving us, or at least the people with pandoras(not me) something to do with the extra battery cover. this would give easier battery switching.

as for the other things i would like. of course usb ports are a must. 2 is minimum, but 4 could work too. not 3, but just because i don't like odd numbers :p. sim slot would be a dream. was debating about getting an n900 as a companion device, but that would take away all need for that. i don't think the sd card slot would be necessary, seeing as pandora already has 2, but i guess it wouldn't be a bad thing. someone had the idea of an enclosed usb. i think it's a great idea, and would kind of take away the need for a sim slot, as it could be a byob affair.

i love the idea of the dock, even if my idea are not implemented, i would probably still buy one. god-speed to you pleng
 

peca

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Pleng said:
Well I need to keep costs reasonable. A device like that would cost about the same as a Pandora does to begin with. USB/VGA isn't cheap and neither are 1.8 inch hard drives. And I'm not entirely sure they'd be wanted by enough people to warrant inclusion.
Sorry, I somehow miss that You meant it for manufacture. :)

OK, then just keep a few USB ports inside box for user gadgets. Make it as kit for user modding. Just as USB HUB with another pandora's battery and as much free space inside as possible. Design should fit Pandora's look'n'feel and invent some good mount to Pandora's body.
EDIT: Inside USB ports can be just solder pads (maybe).
 
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Pleng

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Mr Loon said:
For me the hinge locking mechanism and grips would be the big sellers, these would negate what to me are the main design flaws with the Pandora. Using my NDS with the Exspect grip makes it whole lot more ergonomic and the ability to lock the screen in place at your personally preferred angle would be a huge benefit.

Point taken about the grips and the screen locking mech. The screen lock seems to be pretty popular so that definitely needs investigating.

Ooh, just had another idea, in the base of the docking station should be a hole threaded with the standard connector for camera tripods, you could then get something like one of these and attach it to your Pandora dock for that perfect in bed video viewing / bluetooth mouse web surfing experience. Or use the tripod to raise the machine to an ergonomic height when using a USB keyboard & Mouse / or perhaps game controller.

Interesting. Would also make using a webcam with the Pandora a much more feasible idea...

As for the battery drain when using USB devices I'd guess that most people would use the dock when connecting to a TV which means that you're going to have mains power available.

Hmm maybe I should have refrained from using the word 'dock'. It's really being conceptualised as a travel companion. In that, ok, so it's no longer poketable with the extra depth, but it's still a lot easirt to carry around in a bag than a Laptop is.

If just using it with a USB Keyboard, Mouse, Joystick & Flash drive then the additional drain would be pretty minimal.

A keyboard and a mouse will most likely half your battery life. A flash drive less so. But if you're connection a keyboard and mouse, you're right, you're more than likely going to be near a power source.

joce said:
i think it should use the same battery as pandora, like, another one inside of it. or maybe even have it connect into the current battery slot, finally giving us, or at least the people with pandoras(not me) something to do with the extra battery cover. this would give easier battery switching.

My original idea was to somehow make use of the original battery slot and somehow connect two or three batteries in parallel. The issuse with this is you couldn't then make it a slide in device and would therefore make connecting it up a little more difficult. I don't see why the standard Pandora battery couldn't be used though to make things a bit easier, perhaps the designers would even be kind enough to provide us with details of the charging circuit they use, unless that's linked into the OMAP chipset.

Custom Processing Unlimite said:
interesting ideas here... this could lead to a couple of different device options...

To be honest I hope not! The market's not big enough to sustain even one right now. I highly doubt two could survive.
 
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Emnasut

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A SIM Slot/GSM Modem would be great, also GPS. And I think using the existing pandora batteries would be neat. I'd pay 50 to 100€ for a dock depending on what it does and how thick it becomes. :)
 

SNESFAN

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I could also see a a molded gaming grip for the pandora with some of the stuff built in

http://www.amazon.com/PSP-Charger-Grip-Sony/dp/B0010SXY40

http://www.amazon.com/PSP-Thrustmaster-T-X3-Battery-Grip-Sony/dp/B001F7FY58
 

andyB911

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Personally wouldn't bother with the battery - adds to the cost considerably and if using a docking station, will probably be close to power.

If you can make something that provides tv out (ie with a more standard connection) and usb hub in (and screen hinge seems sensible), you have a very captive market (at least for 2 months (tm) until the offical tv out cable hits).
 

Caine

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andyB911 said:
If you can make something that provides tv out (ie with a more standard connection) and usb hub in (and screen hinge seems sensible), you have a very captive market (at least for 2 months (tm) until the offical tv out cable hits).
This. I don't know how bad the hinge is myself as I don't have my unit yet.

I fully understand why it is the case, but the lack of VGA or DVI out is the biggest shortcoming in my eyes.
The requirement to carry around a USB hub is a bit annoying as well. Combining these two would be awesome. I wouldn't mind having an ethernet port integrated either.
 
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WizardStan

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andyB911 said:
Personally wouldn't bother with the battery - adds to the cost considerably and if using a docking station, will probably be close to power.
Pleng's looking for less docking station, more travel companion. Seems he's looking for something cheapish that would clip to the bottom and compliment the Pandora's features, keeping it portable even if it's no longer pocketable. Can't assume close to power, and a second battery could be very useful in that case, even if it's just a storage/charger and doesn't actually plug into the Pandora itself. Plus, even when I'm at home near power, I still prefer not to be tethered.

I would definitely recommend adding the extra buttons. It requires modding the case, though it could be done fairly subtle. The mod involves drilling four small holes; spring loaded contact pins that go through those holes to connect the internal GPIO pins. Retract the pins, remove the dock, and it's just 4 small holes on the bottom of the case. If dust or something is a worry, include a couple of rubber stoppers as part of the package for plugging up the holes when not in use. Doubles as improved feet.
 
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Pleng

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WizardStan said:
andyB911 said:
Personally wouldn't bother with the battery - adds to the cost considerably and if using a docking station, will probably be close to power.
Pleng's looking for less docking station, more travel companion.

Bingo

I would definitely recommend adding the extra buttons. It requires modding the case, though it could be done fairly subtle. The mod involves drilling four small holes; spring loaded contact pins that go through those holes to connect the internal GPIO pins. Retract the pins, remove the dock, and it's just 4 small holes on the bottom of the case. If dust or something is a worry, include a couple of rubber stoppers as part of the package for plugging up the holes when not in use. Doubles as improved feet.

Well you could do it that way, or you could just connect them internally to the portable dock via usb and have itself present itself as a standard HID 2 button Joypad. :) Would mean that apps would need to be able to support USB controllers to take advantage of the buttons, but then that'd be a required even if they were added to the Pandora's GPIOs.
 
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