Hope this is useful!
The latest system from Racelogic is about to touch down. I’ve managed to get a chance to play with a HD2 demo unit, thanks to a good friend who both introduced me to Racelogic, and who has been working with racelogic to get more people looking at their products in the US.
This review is for HPDE’ers and Coaches
To start with, I am going to approach this review in the context of driving instruction/self instruction. Racelogic, in my opinion, after having owned a G2X, a Traqmate + Chasecam, an AIM Solo DL+smartycam GP, and Racelogic VBOX Lite, has a lot of advantages that make it very difficult to resist. If I was put on the spot to summarize why, I’d say it’s because it’s damn simple, and offers unparalleled video and data comparison abilities. I will concede right now, for all of you fellow AIM users, that AIM has the best solutions for racecars. Their LCD dashes, detailed analysis, sensor integration, and large-scale approach to data analysis are bred on the race track for both amateurs and pro teams alike. There are lots of different use cases for data analysis, and to date, you still need to buy the right weapon for the task – there is still not a do-it-all solution. So again, we’re talking about driving instruction here, dialed more towards the HPDE’er or the race coach, not the race team dialing in suspension.
Here is the mind blowing thing about the Video VBOX systems. You can see video and multi-channel data, synced up together in the same app.
Snapshot of Circuit Tools.
In this video below, you can see three laps playing at the same time, from three different points in time, different car setups, side by side, with all channels of data available to see at the same time. You can step through the data by clicking on points in the data or positions on the track, and the video will sync right up – down to the exact frame in the video. Racelogic encodes track position into their video data, so pick a square inch on the track, you can see years of data, with 8 videos of laps syn’d up side by side.
BTW – make sure you watch these in 1080p, fullscreen.
(Specifically this is a Lap in a GT4 at various states of CAN-bus data integration, and various mods/tires, you can see how skipping to a different position on the track jogs the video and syncs all laps up)
An even better example – this is a 3.8GT3RS driven by Andy Lally on R7s at TWS (purple), next to my best ever lap in grey-black version of the same car on Pirelli DH (Red), and my GT4 with R7s (blue). Wild…consider this for a second. I can see data overlaying on video, I can see velocity traces, acceleration, brake/throttle – and see exactly where the differences are, down to inch precision on the track. And I can interact with it, diving into specific channels of data, or segments of the lap. That gets me excited, and is why I moved to VBOX away from my AIM setup.
When I say easy…here is what you need to do to start looking at VBOX data.
Drive like a demon
Park the car Pull the SD card out Put it in your PC/Mac Open Circuit Tools Transfer data (1min, even with HD2) Pick a session Boom, you are looking at the fastest lap, with video and data all on the screen at once. Select another lap to compare Boom, you are looking at side by side video, and data traces. And this will get even easier once you can download over Wifi (though slower I’d guess)
The downer for AIM users is that the best AIM has is only able to let you jog through video by lap. You can’t compare laps side by side, you can’t sync to data – it’s still not integrated. It’s a video player app, separate from a data analysis app.
AIM’s data analysis app, Race Studio, is great - but limited to data only.
This is a screenshot of the AIM video player – you can select individual laps, but you can’t compare side by side, and no other data…it’s a different app than data analysis.
HD2 Improvements at a Glance:OK, so on to the HD2. What’s new? I’m comparing the HD2 to the DVD quality VBOX Pro and Lite units. I never got a chance to play with the HD unit that came out last year.
High-res Real-time graphic overlays. The prior HD model did not do this. (VBOX Lite and Pro have been doing this while, but the detail is limited when rendering on interleaved DVD quality video)
Hardware is now comparable in quality to, actually I’d say it finally surpasses, AIM. The main unit feels like a solid billet of aluminum, and all the connections are Lemo (used in F1) like the old Pro units.
Video quality is a massive step up. You jump from the old DVD quality to full 1080p30 (I think it’s 30fps) or 720p50, on two cameras.
Field of View (FOV) is much wider – more like what you see from the car with your eyes.
Wireless features, such as an iphone app that lets you preview video to help test your CAN integration or camera aiming, and a bluetooth based start/stop button. They also have a wireless ODB2 interface coming.
HD2 and Lite installed in a GT4 - Ready to go.
Hardware:The HD2 hardware is similar in configuration to the PRO and Lite. There is a central unit, 2 Cameras, a GPS receiver, and an OLED display for showing the driver data while driving.
HD2 From Racelogic’s Website:
VBOX Lite from Racelogic’s Website
The quality of the HD2 is even better than the old Pro units. Lemo connectors, thicker wires, and heft. It feels like it’s a solid heatsink. The VBOX Lite in comparison feels like a video game cartridge with SVHS connectors – but it does the job fine.
HD2 Lemo Connectors
The HD2’s dimensions are larger than the Lite and Pro. It’s also much heavier, which makes mounting it more difficult than the VBOX Lite.
The cameras are waterproof, and unlike the the cameras on my VBOX Lite, they do not have an integrated ¼” interface. The mount is a saddle-like interface that uses a rubber ring to secure the camera. It seems to work really well, and is easier to deal with than the old bullet-cam’s ¼” UNC interface.
Install:Outline of HD2 Components and Interfaces
The install is identical to the VBOX lite and pro. There are two points of integration with the car.
12v fused power, which you can hardwire into a switched circuit, or use a cigarette lighter connector. It was easy in the RS/GT4
CAN Hi/Low. You can hardwire this or use an inductive interface, at various access points in the car. There is a CAN twisted pair in the fuse box area, center cash, and near the ECU. Probably other places, but those are the popular tie in points in Porsches. Theoretically you can get a CAN connection via the OBDII connector, and soon wireless on the HD2, but it’s been troublesome on the AIM systems, so I don’t think current or previous gen Porsches will work with the OBD2 connector. I would love to be proved wrong, since it would remove the most difficult part of the install.
Inductive CAN interface is less intrusive (All VBOX system can use it)
There are 5 components that need to be located and wired back to the main unit.
Forward looking camera – hard mount to rollbar or with supplied suction cup window mount. I mounted mine in the window.
Rear or driver facing camera - hard mount to rollbar or with supplied suction cup window mount. GPS Receiver – Magnetic, and should be on the outside of the car for best results. It will work stuck to the roll bar, but along COTA’s front straight, sometimes there are dropout issues. Mic (I zip tied to OLED display) OLED display- supplied suction cup window mount.
That might sound like a lot, but I was able to install the HD2 in less than an hour, with a CAN integration. Now, to do a good job of cable routing/hiding, it might take 2-4 hours. I could see a coach swapping between cars in 30min. Aiming the cameras is trivial now with the Wifi iphone app that streams live video.
You don’t have to calibrate accelerometers. VBOX gets acceleration from GPS velocity vs. time data.
Setup:To configure the system, you first create a “Scene”. A scene contains the graphic overlay design, the CAN configuration, math channel configuration, and recording options. The VBOX setup software has been completely rewritten for the HD2. The interface is cleaner, and easier to use in my opinion. As before, you can create your dashboard and connect the graphics to GPS derived data, math channels, or CAN channels like brake, rpm, steering, and throttle. The HD2 has 32 CAN channels, which is, for all intents and purposes, infinite, compared the the 4 channels in my VBOX Lite. There are many pre-drawn dashboards and components to choose from. You can draw your own in illustrator or coreldraw and import. It’s likely that whomever you buy it from will take care of this part. I put together some vector graphics for the GT4 using CorelDraw and Autocad, which you can see later in the Quality section. Since my graphics are vector based, it was easy to scale them up for the HD2.
Once you have the setup you want, you download it to an SD card, and insert into the main unit. On the HD2, you can see the updated setup right away using your iphone connected to the HD2’s Wifi. On the older units you needed to use a laptop and a USB cable. It was very clunky in comparison to the wireless iphone feature.
VBOX Video Setup app for the HD2 (totally new)
My GT4 Scene for HD2
On Track Use:The HD2 is identical on the track to prior gen units. You can configure it to startup automatically when at a recognised track and traveling over a certain speed, which makes it set and forget. The OLED display has the exact same functions as on the PRO and Lite units. You can see:
Predictive lap time,
Best Lap time
Lap time history
This is where the VBOX starts to reveal it’s intended use cases. The AIM dashboards are a whole different animal and are meant to replace the dash in a racecar. I would not be surprised if you could watch Netflix on the new color LCD AIM dashboards.
OLED Display is the same unit as the OLED option for the VBOX pro. There are two options, a plastic or a metal unit.
OLED Display configuration options
Viewing Data on your LaptopThe HD2, again, is identical to the Lite and Pro units. You pull the SD card out, insert in your laptop, and load “circuit tools”, and follow the simple instructions. Within 1 minute you are looking at video and detailed multi-channel data.
One point to note is that the HD2 files are about 3-5x larger than the old DVD quality files. VBOX Lite DVD quality files for a 20min session were about 800MB. Files are about 4GB for the HD2 on the high quality setting for the same session. For me, the problem is that my MacbookPro only has a 512GB SSD drive, and this is going to put pressure on my ability to carelessly store all of my data. You can adjust the quality of the HD2 video to reduce the file size, but it’s still a lot larger than the old DVD quality files sizes.
Quality:The HD2 is clearly on a whole different level. The resolution, shutter speed, and color rendition are far, far superior. HD2 is true 1080p, with TWO cameras at full resolution. It can even do 720p at a higher framerate I hear, which is a killer feature. AIM’s best HD is 720p30fps, and with single camera.
Here is an example side by side of my VBOX Lite and the HD2 for the same lap at COTA. You can immediately see the HD2 video is better, smoother, and has higher contrast.
Full Screen HD2
Full Screen HD2 in the sun
Aim HD in the Sun – similar quality, but you can see the rolling shutter warp every once in awhile. You can’t see it in the youtube video, but its apparent in the raw MOV files.
When you look at still frames, you can really see the improvement.
DVD Lite Full frame
HD2 1080p Full frame
VBOX Lite Sunlight Full Frame
HD2 1080p Sunlight Full Frame
AIM HD Smartycam GP Full Frame
Zoom-in of VBOX Lite Dash graphics
Zoom-in of HD2 Dash graphics
Zoom in of VBOX Lite track detail
Zoom in of HD2 track detail (I took this from the same data point as above, but the field of view on the HD2 is such that the car was smaller)
Zoom in of Aim HD track detail (car was similar distance away in the video)
Field of ViewThe field of view is much wider in the HD2. Here is a how much of the image the VBOX Lite is capturing with its camera positioned in virtually the same place on the window.
Audio QualityIt seemed like the HD2 has better audio than my Lite, but it’s close. I had some audio sync and dropout issues that racelogic is looking into. Mounted by the OLED displays, the mic is sensitive enough that it can pick up passenger/driver speaking without much trouble.
GPS Accuracy:Racelogic has an automotive division that has perfected the use of GPS for measurement, and the VBOX inherits this knowhow. The VBOX has the most accurate position data I’ve seen across the various systems out there. There is no drift. You can compare data that is years apart, from different installs, drivers, cars, etc….overlayed onto satellite imagery, and it’s exactly right. It’s the first system I’ve used where you can actually use position data to compare lines through corners without pulling your hair out – across users and time. The HD2 delivered on this expectation. I could look at HD2 position data along side my VBOX Lite data and see the slight different lines in the GT4 I was experimenting with though T4 and T5, relative to data I had from a year ago in the RS. AIM is getting better with their software position correction, but I still see friends struggling to use GPS data for analyzing their lines
A close up of the Circuit Tools GPS position overlay on the COTA track map.
Here is a series of exported laps overlayed onto google earth. Spot on (look close).
The HD2 is impressive. Racelogic has in my opinion the best system you can buy right now….or buy soon. It is the easiest system out there, by far, and has highest quality in terms of software, video quality, and hardware. It reminds me a lot of how apple products (used to be), it just works, no messing around – anyone can make this work. Your triumph will that you will become a better drive rather than just surviving the frustrating process of getting the various data sources off the system and onto your laptop, or installing the latest firmware. (Dig: I think every single person I have talk to, helped, or walked into a conversation with, for some reason mentioned firmware when talking about their AIM system. I know I must have updated my SoloDL and SmartycamGP 5 or 6 times over the course of two years of ownership.)
For VBOX Lite and pro users, the wireless preview is very nice, quality is obviously an improvement. I’ve had a few times where I wish I was able to see more detail to sate my voyeuristic curiosity. For Lite users with 4 measly CAN channels the HD2 has seemingly unlimited 32 CAN channels. Honestly, beyond that, for current VBOX users, as a tool for instruction, I can’t argue that the quality of video gives it a big advantage. The Pro and Lite products are still extremely good. The Pro unit with 4 cameras is the better learning tool in my opinion, because you can place cameras on the driver, the foot well, etc. For a coach moving the system between cars, the wireless preview on the HD2 is a killer feature though.
Epilogue - Many folks have mentioned to me that they have an AIM system because their circle of track companions have AIM systems. It's invaluable to have comparison data, so this is a big factor in making a decision in a system - however, IMO without syncing data to video, there is only so far that will get you. I know when I was looking for a new system a few years ago, VBOX was not even mentioned to me by someone who sold both. It was not until I saw a friend working with Andy Lally and data that the lightbulb went offt. Racelogic has a couple other entry points at a lower price that get you the GPS data, not to mention that Porsche's own data system can also share GPS data files with Racelogic software. The lack of a large installed base is a bit of a failure that I'll throw back to Racelogic, but they have excellent support from the factory, and care very deeply about motorsports.