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New for 2010, the Pioneer AVIC-X920BT slots in just below our current favorite all-in-one receiver and Pioneer's flagship model, the AVIC-Z110BT. This model keeps intact a good number of it's big brother's features that we loved--and a few that we didn't--while bringing a couple of new tricks to the dashboard, such as PandoraLink that takes control of the Pandora Internet radio app on a paired iPhone, giving you controls for skipping tracks, choosing stations, and rating songs from the AVIC's touch screen.
At the center of the X920BT's interface is a large 6.1-inch WXGA color touch screen. Most of your interactions with the navigation, phone, and multimedia systems will take place on the touch screen. Above the screen are a DVD slot and a microSD card slot. To the left of the screen, and closest to the driver, is a bank of buttons. Starting from the top of the deck, there's a volume rocker, a Home button, a Mode button, a track skip rocker, and a voice command button. The volume, skip, and voice command buttons behave exactly as you'd expect them to.
Pressing the Home button calls up a main menu with the AVIC-X920BT's three major functions: destination entry, hands-free calling, and choosing an AV source. Pressing the Home button a second time brings up a customizable Home screen that can hold up to 15 shortcuts to commonly accessed features, such as navigating to the nearest gas station or the user's favorite restaurant. The mode button switches between controlling the navigation system and monitoring the system's audiovisual playback.
Despite Pioneer plastering the box with "Made for iPod" and "Works with iPhone" logos, the AVIC-X920BT didn't appear to be "iPod ready" out of the box. When we connected our iPod, the unit would scan and parse the iPod's library, but it wouldn't play audio when it connected to the X920BT's USB port. After checking the instructions, we found that an optional cable for iPod and iPhone is required to enable audio playback; a cable that we didn't have access to during our testing.
With the proper iPod cable, the AVIC-X920BT should function similarly to the AVIC-Z110BT deck we tested last year. The system first scans the connected player and creates a voice command index of its media. You can then use voice commands to call up a particular artist, album, song, or genre. Of course, touch-screen browsing of the iPod's taxonomy is also still available.
The AVIC-X920BT has a very cool iPhone-based trick up its sleeve when it is paired with the Pandora Internet radio service. You can download the Pioneer Pandora Link app to their iPhone and, when paired using the proper cable, take control of the Pandora Internet radio app on the iPhone when using the X920BT's touch screen. You can view album artwork and metadata, select Pandora radio stations, skip tracks, and rate songs with a thumb up or down. There is also the option to bookmark a song or artist for later retrieval and purchase on Pandora's Web site.
Another iPod-based feature is the unit's MusicSphere technology. MusicSphere is essentially an iTunes plug-in that analyses your iTunes library and creates a collection of 40 custom playlists based on BPM, mood, rhythm pattern, and year of release. These playlists can then be synced to an iPod or iPhone and is accessed using the X920BT's MusicSphere interface--an animated 3D spherical graphic that the user browses by swiping up and down, left and right. The MusicSphere software can also create a 100-song nonstop music mix that can be played back with transition effects, such as cross fading between songs. The MusicSphere plug-in is PC-only for now, with a Mac version due later this year.
In addition to iPod integration, the X920BT boasts a large selection of available audio sources. A USB pigtail lets you flash memory devices and media players that support USB mass storage mode. There's also a 1/8-inch auxiliary analog audio input pigtail. Its Bluetooth system supports A2DP audio streaming from music phones or Bluetooth audio adapters.