About a year ago, some of the biggest names in the car audio industry sponsored a study to see what consumers knew about in-car technology. The results were shocking. For instance, most people thought they needed to purchase a new car in order to get fancy infotainment systems, rather than buying aftermarket equipment for their current vehicle.
Can you imagine if car owners thought they needed to buy a new automobile to get new wheels? The aftermarket industry would be sunk!
The irony is that carmakers have always looked to the aftermarket for innovations such as remote entry, back-seat video and high-end subwoofer systems, for example.
So with new technology bombarding us every day, and the carmakers offering some incredible technology, we thought you might like to know how to bring your own car into the 21st century for a fraction of the price of a new car.
One of the most jam-packed pieces of in-car entertainment available on the market is Pioneer’s new double-DIN sized AVIC-X930BT. It’s an incredible unit that includes iPod integration, nav, bluetooth phone, Aha Radio, Pandora, video and can even update you on Facebook or Twitter feeds. What’s more, it costs just $799, which makes it a steal even if you’re buying a new car!
Throw this sucker in a new ride and you’ll save on all the expensive extras the dealer wants to sell you, and get more technology than most OEs can cram into your car.
Developed by Harman International, this infotainment platform is the coolest car audio technology since, well, GPS navigation. It translates text-based digital content into speech and plays it back in the car. What this means is you can get things like music, traffic info, hear your Facebook and Twitter updates or get local info from Aha Radio. For safety, you can’t respond to Facebook, but the program introduces who posted and what they wrote – you keep your eyes on the road.
To take advantage of this app, you simply download it to your iPhone for free and you’ll get instant updates on what’s going on.
The Aha Radio app is easy to use. It has a nice selection of music stations and adding them to your on-screen menu is simple. I tapped Onion News as well as several news and entertainment channels for my main page.
What’s more, I added “coffee” and “hungry” – type in a search term on the head unit by category or name and get recommendations for coffee and food wherever you are. It will even provide Yelp recommendations from users, so you know whether it’s worth visiting.
Another interesting feature is you can hear content from other people, or load your own. I clicked on “jokes” and skipped through a collection of user-generated humor. You won’t find Daniel Tosh in there, but if you think you can do better, you can record your own and share with the community.
To be honest, the iPhone (and later Android) is vital to the head unit’s flexibility. It becomes your connection to the outside world for both phone use and functions like Aha Radio. It can also serve as a regular phone and help you find local resources.
You can connect your phone via Bluetooth and listen to whatever you want through Aha, or buy a separate cable. If you want to control iPhone features on the X930BT screen, you’ll need the cable…
I used the “nearby traffic” feature before driving around town to test the real-time nav. But, frankly, Los Angeles is always crowded, so it seems superfluous to have an app tell you it’s congested on every freeway. However, you’ll definitely want to tune in for accident reports.
The best part about the feature, though, is you don’t have to look at the screen to see discover the traffic. The reports are spoken; and the program will automatically scroll through the nearby roads.
When you have so many iPhone-based entertainment options in the car, the CD/DVD playback function seems almost unnecessary, especially when you can listen to tracks on your iPod or by tuning into services like Pandora. Not only can you listen to music you know and love, but it can easily access new tunes as well.
To add to the mix, the Pioneer AVIC-X930BT is satellite radio- and HD radio-compatible but, frankly, we wouldn’t spend the extra money on them unless you’re planning some cross-country road trips. Not only do you have an incredible variety of content through Pandora, but the interface is very easy to use. You can switch from one music genre to another; bookmark a song; or assign thumbs-up and thumbs-down for what you’re listening to.
My only reservation is you have to launch each app from your phone rather than through the head unit. Maybe one day it will be two-way connected but it undoubtedly helped to keep the cost down by utilizing many of the phone’s functions.
Speaking of too much choice: you can watch YouTube, Netflix or whatever else you have on your iPhone (when you’re parked), or feed it to backseat monitors while you’re driving. Who needs FLOTV when you have everything on the internet and downloaded videos?
The AVIC-X930BT’s primary navigation system (in addition to the Aha Radio functions) uses Tele Atlas maps for the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. It includes 12 million points-of-interest to help you find whatever you might need, in addition to your iPhone’s search functions already mentioned.
The nav graphics are great, and the directions were virtually flawless, although you’ll find minor quirks on all systems. For example, with the AVIC units, you need to input cardinal directions along with street names. Some nav devices provide a list of streets to choose from but with the X930BT, if you don’t add north, south, east or west, it won’t supply any results.
However, Pioneer has added functionality from its AVIC FEEDS system. It allows you to transfer destinations from Google Maps on your iPhone or computer, download POIs and more. This lets you include stopovers, places to visit, etc, giving the user even greater flexibility.
We’ve used many different Bluetooth systems while driving but Pioneer has never disappointed, and this hands-free system worked perfectly. The microphone transmitted our voice clearly, and we were able to hear the caller without echoes or major distortion.
What you need to remember is that it takes a few seconds to connect your phone, boot up the unit and access your phonebook. However, this is normal across the industry and a little patience pays off with great functionality.
Overall, we found the Pioneer AVIC-X930BT to be a fantastic head unit that offers terrific value for consumers. It certainly proves you don’t need to buy a new vehicle to get the latest in-car technology. The only problem might be for the user processing the huge range of things it can do and possibilities open to you!
For all the talk about Ford’s Sync system or equivalent OE infotainment options, Pioneer has provided a relatively inexpensive aftermarket unit that provides the very latest technology, plus features that aren’t even available on most new cars. What’s more, it costs less than the high-priced packages offered at car dealerships right now.
What we liked
security – lower part of face is removable
smallish 6.1" screen
volume knob difficult to manipulate
address input for nav