Price drop for Pioneer’s multimedia marvel

Dave Bullard
9 October, 2009
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Update: Price for the Pioneer AVIC -F310BT has dropped from $1199 to $999.

We’re becoming surrounded by technology in our cars. We listen to the radio and CDs via a built-in car headunit. We listen to our iPods or iPhones via a device such as an FM transmitter. We use our mobile phones via a Bluetooth handsfree system. And we navigate via a GPS satnav unit held on to the windscreen with a suction cup.

In short, we’re becoming dangerous drivers by trying to do too much at once instead of just concentrating on our driving.

You might have a device that combines one or two of these functions – such as an FM music transmitter that also acts as a handsfree speakerphone – but what you really need is a unit such as Pioneer’s new AVIC-F310BT.

It’s a double-DIN headunit (one of the bigger, square units rather than a smaller, rectangular one) that combines all of the functions mentioned above into a very slick package – and has full iPhone compatibility.

Pioneer Electronics Australia media manager Michael Broadhurst recently popped over to AMW HQ to show off the new unit.

“We don’t call this a car stereo, or satnav system,” he says. “It’s a multimedia unit … it’s everything.”
And while using multiple units forces you to multi-task while you’re driving, “this does the multitasking for you,” Broadhurst says. “This is the future.”

The 310 is a good-looking device that has a mid-sized 4.3-inch touchscreen taking up most of the space, with four buttons and a nice, big dial providing extra functionality to its left. The colour of the dial’s seat and other highlight areas can be changed to suit your car’s dash colours, or your mood.

A CD drive and SD memory card slot complete the package, which looks factory-fitted rather than added on.

The 310 is the entry-level model in a lineup of three, and while it might lack some of the features of the others – such as a larger screen, DVD player and traffic updates – it provides plenty for a price of $1199 (and a street price of about $999). This price, by the way, is about a third of what you were paying for the equivalent unit just two years ago.

First off, the touchscreen is nice and bright, with a matte finish and a decent viewing angle. You plug your iPod or iPhone in using a lead which the installer can place where you want – in the glovebox or between the seats is most common. This gives you full control over your music from the 310’s touchscreen, and charges the device at the same time.

The onscreen functions include nice touches such as ‘Link to artist’ and ‘Link to genre’ buttons, which saves you having to take your eyes off the road for too long to search for more of your favourite music.

I’ve always been impressed by Pioneer’s satnav units, and this one is no different. Using WhereIs maps, the 310 gives you all the features you’d expect, plus a few more.

It has text-to-voice capability, which means it’ll say the street name, for example, instead of just “Turn right”. There’s an ABC point-of-interest (POI) function, which is great for searching when you know the name of a business rather than the address. And you can call POIs using the phone handsfree system just by touching them.

There are loads more of these great features, but one of the best has to be the AVIC Feeds PC application. This lets you go to Google Maps or WhereIs and transfer your own points of interest to the 310. Or you can download geotagged photos from Flickr and navigate to them. You can even keep track of your fuel usage and CO2 emissions.
BUT … you can’t do any of this on a Mac. That loses half a star straight away, though it’s not so much of a problem if you’re running Windows on your Mac as well..

The screen is detachable for security, but can’t be used as a portable, standalone satnav.

On the phone side, the 310 recognises up to three phones using Bluetooth. It mutes any other audio when you’re on the phone, and call volume can be adjusted on-the-go.

You can transfer all your contacts from your iPhone or other phones to the 310, which makes dialling while driving a lot easier and safer. There’s no voice recognition on this model, to keep costs down.

Importantly, it disconnects from your phone when turned off, so you won’t get ‘Missed calls’ notifications while your calls ring through to your car.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. A really nice satnav – sorry, multimedia – unit at a good price for the features it offers. It’s easy to use, and everything about it smacks of quality. Just a shame about the lack of Mac compatibility.

Don’t think that because you have a single-DIN space that you can’t get a double-DIN unit installed. Pioneer has 450 fascia kits for custom-fitting to most cars – many of which may present a single-DIN as factory-fitted but have space for a double behind the fascia.

You can check your car model on the Pioneer Australia website. Installation takes about an hour and will cost about $150.

Cons Mid-size screen, no DVD, no traffic updates
Pros All-rounder, made for iPhone, top quality
Rating 4
Product Pioneer AVIC-F310BT
Company Pioneer Australia
RRP $999

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