Sunday, October 9, 2011

Motion CL900 in-cockpit review.

While this blog has mostly been about Chartbundle, we occasionally go flying as well. Today I took out my couple month old Motion CL900 tablet for a 'real' flight. I had previously used it briefly in flight but this was the first yoke mounted, real flight.

Since it's Windows 7, it can runn full Jeppesen FliteDeck, Jepp charts, plates, everything in one unified program. It's got a large, high brightness screen which was easy to read. Battery life was fine for todays 3 hour flight. Onboard GPS and Cellular wireless, cellular can be activated with any carrier.(I used my T-Mobile SIM in previous testing.)

It's large. To a point, a larger screen is better, but this thing is just on the border of useful in a cockpit. On a kneeboard/leg style mount, the way I fly, I kept hitting it with the yoke, so I went to a Yoke mount. No good mounts for it, my current mount is a hacked RAM Tab-Tite Large(RAM-HOL-TAB-LGU).

As part of the pre-flight, I mounted it and realized I didn't have exactly the right parts for this plane, RAM is a great mount system as you can mix and match, but I didn't have the exact lengths I needed. But it mounted ok and cleared my legs and body for full range of yoke travel. It did block the tachometer a bit. The actual mount I don't have photos of, but I removed some material so it accepted the thicker tablet and then shortened the spring so it would accept a longer tablet. Then I stuck a standard RAM ball mount on it.

Here's a video of the mount: CL900 Yoke Mount

After that, I started it up, loaded FliteDeck and loaded my first route. It followed along nicely during the first flight up until the third route where the on-board CL900 GPS just gave up. The GPS antenna is at the top of the tablet when the IO ports are in the bottom in portrait mode, but it's still not very good inside a plane. Also, it's Windows, which means changing settings by touch isn't always the easiest thing. The pen works great, but then your mount would need a clip for it, I chose to keep it stowed on this flight.

On the plus side, it runs everthing Windows 7 can run, on the minus side, it runs everything Windows 7 can run. As I mentioned, I use FliteDeck, as well as a PDF copy of the AFD and Approach Plates(from Chartbundle, of course) I'd like to try some of the other apps with the more synthetic vision type stuff, but that will have to be a later flight.

Next Steps
Next time, I'm going to take my portable USB GPS(which is really a WAAS Garmin eTrex consumer GPS) and toss it up on the glare shield, sure, it's another cable but it should greatly improve GPS tracking. I have a wide input DC adapter I also need to try to see how that works for extending the battery(it should work in both 12 and 24 volt systems) And finally, I need another RAM component to give me a little better articulation on the mount(one of the shortest arms).

What I really want
What I really want is a tablet like this which can run full Jeppesen and other software but in smaller hardware, either a 8.9"/9" screen or this screen but with a significantly smaller bezel and thinner package, and an on-board, high sensitivity WAAS GPS wouldn't hurt either.

Why Not an iPad
The iPad is still a bit large, and there's no standard USB port, so either proprietary cabled devices or Bluetooth or WiFi. Since I do fly actual IFR, I'm a little concerned about having random transmitters inside the plane, yes, I even turn off my phone.

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