The Sony Vaio U71P is the perfect size and shape to function as an automobile gps mapping system. Much better than a laptop, besides its size it also features a special daylight readable screen (that doesn't wash out in sunshine) and the screen itself is touch sensitive (doesn't require a mouse or stick pointer). Much better than a dedicated car gps system, it is a full Pentium system running Windows XP Pro and has the flexibility of loading in prepared routes and other information from the internet and friends. The following closeup picture shows the Vaio U71P mounted in my car and running Delorme's Street Atlas 2005.
Backing up a bit, here is another view. You can see the Sony stylus hanging down on the right side. Also there is an Delorme Earthmate GPS receiver (not visible) connected via a cable to the USB port. (I plan to eliminate this cable entirely with a compact flash GPS receiver.) The positioning is ideal. It is at the same level as the primary instrument panel and as close to the driver as possible. (The BMW factory system mounts lower down at the climate control level.) Nothing except one dash vent is obscured. In particular, note that the cd player slot and audio controls are still fully accessible.
Here is the view with the U71P removed. I didn't buy a special bracket. In fact, I barely spent any money at all. I re-used the supplied bracket (for the docking station). As you can see, I used two vent clips I had around (of the sort used for mounting cellphones). By the way, I haven't seen anyone else use this simple but obvious implementation before.
As you can see below, I just drilled two keyhole-style slots in the bracket for the vent clips. It is easily detachable. (The bracket is still completely usable with the docking station.) I also added two foam rubber strips as well for vibration damping.
I have successfully used this system without problems on a 5000 mile cross-country road trip.
It has both a built-in antenna (the grey rectangle sticking up out of the compact flash socket) and an external antenna (externally attached to the roof of the car magnetically - not visible here).
Despite the SIRFIII-based receiver, the performance of the built-in antenna alone is disappointing in the position shown. It barely pulls in enough of a signal to get that crucial initial lock on satellites. The supplied external antenna is necessary in practice.
Once the GPS receiver has locked in, the CF-only antenna seems to work just fine on its own - at least here in Tucson. I usually leave it plugged into the external antenna. However, I sometimes use it in CF-only mode; for example, when I'm on foot.
The picture above shows a wire leading from the built-in antenna via the MMCX connector that goes to the roof-mounted antenna. The wire runs reasonably invisibly along dash trim up along the door frame and through the sunroof.
Updated Jan 2006