Additional photos by Pioneer USA
If you're still plugging in that auxiliary cord every time you get into your car, then this review is definitely for you. Wake up, and welcome to 2017! We live in a world where the smartphone is king. We use our phones for virtually everything we do on a regular basis—from paying bills to playing games, Ubering, ordering Postmates - the list goes on and on. So it's a no-brainer the technology is out there to make your in-car experience more enjoyable and keep you more connected than ever.
By linking your phone to your car, features such as sending and receiving text messages, getting directions via Google Maps and Waze, and searching for an artist to stream music via Spotify or Pandora are readily available. Yet many of us are still living in '03. Sure, the aux cord allows you to do some of the basics, but an upgrade to a system running Apple CarPlay or Android Auto gets you up to speed with a whole new level of integration, which is why we're stoked on Pioneer's latest and greatest head units.
A Fraction Of The Price
Let's start with the obvious. Today's users aren't willing to pay an arm and a leg for car electronics the way they did a decade ago. Back then, top-notch aftermarket receivers were often priced well over a thousand bucks. In fact, we can remember forking out nearly $2,000 for a "cutting-edge" touchscreen head unit in the mid-'00s. Nowadays, however, receivers with far more features and more connectivity can be found for less than half the price of the beloved AVIC-N1. With Pioneer's newly released NEX lineup of in-dash head units, you can find a full-featured system complete with Bluetooth, Sirius XM Radio, and Apple CarPlay, starting at just $400 (AVH-1330NEX and AVH-1300NEX)! For a larger, 7-inch screen, it'll only cost you $500 (AVH-2330NEX and AVH-2300NEX).
My, oh my, how times have changed! At these prices, it's not a stretch to invest in a head unit for your old Civic or 240, since you know you'll be using it every time you get behind the wheel.
Connect The Dots
The moment you connect your phone with Pioneer's NEX head units, the benefits are obvious, especially with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which both act as a mirror image of your phone's screen. One of Pioneer's best new features includes the functionality of an in-dash Waze app, which is opened via Pioneer's App Radio Mode+, allowing you the convenience of viewing maps and directions on the large, clear resistive touchscreen. Oh, and about that touchscreen - Pioneer relies on a 24-bit true color LCD panel, which means it's way more responsive than your average resistive touchscreen. You'll also experience more vibrant images with increased color depth and brighter colors.
We all know how finicky factory navigation user interfaces can be, and inputting an address either manually or by voice can be frustrating, especially if someone other than you is doing the inputting. With your receiver running familiar platforms like Waze, Google, or Apple Maps for nav, that task no longer becomes a problem and you can even get pinpoint directions via voice controls, like Siri.
Single-DIN For The Win
If you only have space for a single-DIN unit, you don't want to spend the dough on a custom dash. This means the options you have for an upgrade are limited at this point. Well, flip-ups are back with Pioneer's single-DIN head unit (AVH-3300NEX). A first of its kind, this $600 receiver uses a 7-inch motorized touchscreen with all of the same capabilities as its double-DIN siblings, meaning you get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto integration, Waze, even dual camera inputs for displaying things like side mirror cameras. Like the good old days, the head unit's face is also detachable if you're worried about security, and the screen can be adjusted to different angles to fit in most dashes. The AVH-3300NEX opens the door for almost any vehicle from any era to have the same level of connectivity as today's modern cars.
New Cars Like To Party, Too
For newer cars that may already have a form of USB or Bluetooth connectivity, some might be hesitant on upgrading the existing factory infotainment system. While these systems are no longer the tape decks and CD changers of the past, they are still a bit behind. The standard creature comforts are still there in that your newer car probably came with a factory backup camera and you can still use your steering wheel controls to access playlists on your phone... Why mess with a good thing, right? The myth here is by changing out your head unit, you'll lose all factory steering controls, which just isn't the case, as many companies like Pioneer offer harness kits for multimedia receivers to retain all factory functions. Vehicle information, performance information, climate control, and TPMS features in your factory infotainment systems will not be lost as iDatalink Maestro is also supported for those looking to retain more advanced vehicle integration.
That Factory Finish
While installation of aftermarket head units may not be as simple as pulling out a stock unit and sliding in an aftermarket one, there are a number of aftermarket companies such as Metra and Scosche that sell dash kits for mounting single-DIN and double-DIN units in newer model cars to give the head unit a more factory look. With all the aftermarket support in upgrading factory systems, it's about time to get connected!