This amazing touchscreen in-car entertainment and navigation system from Pioneer lets your car perform a Vulcan mindmeld with your iPhone.
The AVIC-F10BT – the bigger brother to the F310BT reviewed in AMW last October – is blessed with a 7in touchscreen that fits into a double-DIN car radio slot. Hook up your iPhone or iPod to the cable in the glovebox (or wherever you want to put it) and, as your device charges, you’ve got complete access to your music and video library. You can’t watch video on the screen when the handbrake is off, but you can run it to an optional second screen in the back seat. You can even listen to music in the front while the video soundtrack plays at the rear.
All is not lost if you don’t own an iPhone/iPod. The F10BT includes AM/FM/CD/DVD playback along with file playback from disc, USB, SD card and Bluetooth (including A2DP stereo). Supported formats include MP3, WMA, AAC and MPEG1/2/4 files including DivX and H.264. You can also connect an optional reversing camera.
The Parrot Bluetooth interface makes the F10BT a hands-free car kit, complete with caller ID and access to your iPhone address book. Unfortunately the onscreen answer/end call buttons are far too small and it’s probably safer to set the F10BT to auto-answer calls after a few seconds.
The icing on the cake is built-in satnav offering SUNA traffic alerts and the ability to read street names aloud. It relies on Whereis Maps with the option to tap-to-dial Points of Interest.
The map and directions are large and clear, but it tends to withhold instructions until 300m before the next intersection. It also lacks predictive text to narrow down searches and insists you choose a street number – not just a street or an intersection. Lack of access to the iPhone’s address book is also surprising.
It seems using the F10BT means forgoing your iPhone’s satnav features, as our iPhone 3G overheated when running Navigon, playing music through the F10BT via USB and making calls via Bluetooth.
The downside to using the F10BT for satnav is that it’s mounted in the car console, so you can’t tilt it away from the sun to avoid glare. It’s a bright screen with a matte finish, but a home-made sunvisor still makes a big difference. Looking down at the screen in the console also requires you to take your eyes off the road more than using an iPhone mounted near eye level.
The F10BT’s strengths are multi-tasking and smooth integration between features – the iPhone’s Achilles’ Heel. You can easily switch between the F10BT’s satnav, phone and entertainment features without disrupting them, looking at one while listening to another. Each feature has its own volume control, with the option to mute everything when a call comes in or spoken instruction is issued. The sat-nav continues operating on mute during calls, while the reversing camera overrides all video when you put the car into reverse.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice. Pioneer’s AVIC-F10BT offers the perfect marriage between your car and your iPhone, assuming you can afford the hefty dowry (which doesn’t include installation, the rear screen or the reversing camera). The system would seem like overkill if you don’t intend to mount a second screen in the back seat.
The downside of this marriage is that Pioneer clearly wears the pants and the iPhone is relegated to little more than a phone and storage device. Handing control to the F10BT offers smooth integration but, with the iPhone in the glovebox, you lose access to its features and apps – which is perhaps for the best when you’re supposed to have your eyes on the road.
This review originally appeared in the March issue of Australian Macworld magazine.