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Design and interface
The F10BT stands atop Pioneer's range of AVIC navigation head-units and boasts a 7-inch resistive touchscreen. Featuring a matte surface, the F10BT's screen is viewable under all lighting conditions — night, solar eclipse, bright daylight, impending nova, whatever. The screen can be mechanically tilted to five different angles, which drivers with stereo slots low down in the dash will appreciate. Depending on their disposition, drivers will either be thankful for or curse the customisable loading screen while patiently waiting 14.5 seconds for the F10BT to start up.
Despite the piano black bezel it's not a particularly distinctive looking device, as the screen practically takes all the frontage available on the double-DIN stereo. The unit's most prominent feature, screen aside, is its Jay Leno-esque chin that houses the unit's only physical controls. At times, though, the prominent chin made it difficult to tap some of the on-screen buttons. Whether your car's controls are backlit a shade of sunset orange, generic green, pure white, Gatorade blue or anything in between, there's a set of RGB sliders that will allow you to adjust the buttons' backlighting to suit.
The F10BT's physical controls, from left to right: repeat last instruction, volume, return to Home menu screen, switch between music selection and map screens, change track/station, eject disc/tilt screen.
Pressing the Mode button will flit you between the map and music selection screens. Picking a song from a connected iPod or iPhone is simple via the tabbed interface that does a fair interpretation of the classic iPod interface, while navigating through folders on a USB stick or data CD is only marginally more complicated. Tap the Home button and you'll be presented with three large on-screen buttons for Destination, Phone and AV Source, as well as a smaller button for Settings, which are all pretty self-explanatory.
Tap the Home button again and the screen is filled with a 5x3 grid of configurable shortcut buttons to almost anywhere within the menu system. While some may like this, we found the array of too similar icons confusing and distracting, especially when we were rushing to make an adjustment before the lights switched to green. And, after a while, our fingers began remembering the path of fewest clicks to our most regularly used functions anyway. It's a shame that the voice recognition feature that's available in the US and Europe hasn't made its way down under.
Navigation: features and design
Perhaps owing to the fact that navigation is just one of many functions — albeit a pretty major one — offered by the F10BT, the navigation system isn't quite as polished as the AU$200-plus navigation systems from TomTom, Garmin and Navman.
As we've mentioned before, the screen is as massive as can be. Pertinent information, such as next turn, time, track info, configurable shortcuts, zoom and traffic, is laid around the edges of the screen, allowing as much room as possible for the clear 2D or 3D map graphics. Day and night mode engages automatically depending on the state of the car's headlights.
In the main, destination entry is easy via the large on-screen QWERTY keyboard. There is one quirk though, you can't easily enter an intersection as a destination. For that, you'll have to enter a street name, guess a house number, then press Scroll and navigate a set of crosshairs to the appropriate street corner and then tap the finish flag — simply put, it's a pain in the butt.
Speed limit information is available for most streets and there are 3D landmarks for some city buildings. However, teensy-weensy lane guidance and full-screen junction view graphics are limited to highway and motorway intersections. As partial compensation, the F10BT defaults to a full screen, zoomed in 2D view of the coming intersection, although we preferred it with this feature off as it made it impossible to see the suggested path after the next turn.
Text-to-speech is included, but despite the availability of an Aussie voice, pronunciation of Australian street names falls short of the best portable nav devices, with Bourke and Parramatta notable blots on its scorecard. Annoyingly, the F10BT feels the need to insert a "the" before every street and road name, as well as route numbers for some roads.
The map screen is clear, with track details and other info scattered around the edges.
As the system is hooked up to the car's gyro and speed sensors, you'll still receive instructions in tunnels with a fair amount of accuracy. In the CBD, performance was better than we've experienced on portable devices, with confused positioning non-existent. The system isn't flawless, though, as it did get muddled up on the odd hilly road or two.