Executive sedans are engineered for extreme lavishness. BMW recently sent techradar a 750i, which rang in with a price tag of $130,000 (over 80,000 pounds similarly configured or starting at AU$306,692) to review.
The biggest highlight of the car was the executive lounge seating package, which practically turned the back seat area into a mobile lounge, complete with a reclining rear passenger side seat, rear-seat entertainment (RSE) and rear massaging seats.
The rear-seat entertainment system included a pair of 9.2-inch LCD displays with a Blu-ray player, USB input, Miracast connectivity and HDMI input. I quickly disregarded the Blu-ray player, because dealing with a bunch of discs in a car is annoying.
The USB input can play MKV movie files off a USB flash drive, but if you’re a tech geek like me, this isn’t hardcore enough. That brings me to Miracast, which I was excited to test out.
Annoyingly, Google removed official Miracast support from Android 6.0, so I had to root my Nexus 6 and modify the build.prop file to enable it. It worked and I was able to mirror my phone screen to the two RSE and front infotainment display.
My next test was to use my Dell XPS 13 (Skylake) laptop to achieve the ultimate in-car productivity system. The goal was to use Miracast and HDMI to extend the Windows 10 desktop to the RSE displays and have triple monitors. Unfortunately, the plan failed, not to BMW’s fault, it was Dell’s.
The Broadcom 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter Dell installs in all it’s 13-inch Ultrabook doesn’t pair with Miracast. It would detect the display but had issues completing the connection. Short of swapping out the wireless card, it seems impossible to connect the display wirelessly.
After giving up on my grand in-car triple display ambitions, I wanted something more than the RSE system offers, but easily concealable. This brought me to the latest Intel Compute Stick with a Cherrytrail Atom X5-8300 processor. It was small enough to fit into the center console and energy-efficient to run on power drawn through the Blu-ray player’s USB port.
To keep the number of protruding dongles to a minimum, I chose a Logitech K830 home theater PC keyboard and paired it with the Compute Stick using Bluetooth. From there, I loaded up Steam and Age of Empires III and laid siege to the virtual world from the back of the BMW.
I did encounter some problems with the rear seat in lounge mode, though. The 9.2-inch screen was fine when the front passenger seat was in it’s normal, upright position. In lounge mode, the front passenger seat moves as far forward as possible, allowing you to slouch back and relax. However, the screen is attached to the front seat, so it’s like trying to watch and control an iPad sitting on the coffee table from a recliner.
The fix was easy enough, I just had to return the front passenger seat to its normal position and continued to play through a couple levels of the campaign mode. Since Age of Empires III is fairly old, it ran perfectly fine with high quality graphics settings at the RSE’s native 720p resolution.
Now if only BMW would add two HDM inputs for independent video sources on each screen, so I could plug in two Compute Stick and have an in-car skirmish match…