Roadside Assistance: An iPod receiver and in-dash navigation

We answer your questions about cars and car tech in this, CNET Car Tech's new biweekly Q&A feature.

Greetings Car Tech fans and welcome back to CNET Roadside Assistance. Listeners of the podcast formerly known as Car Tech Live will no doubt remember that we used to devote an entire segment to answering user e-mails. Well, we're back, only in a less auditory format. So if you've got a car tech question you'd like to have answered, e-mail us and you may find the answer to your query right here on the Car Tech Blog.

And now, let's get to the questions. "Twoheadedboy8" asks:

I am looking for a car stereo that focuses its attention on the iPod. I really want something with a nice, large screen that displays album artwork. I really don't care much for DVD features or even GPS. I am having a hard time sifting through all the stereos that are out already or are coming out. I am a music freak and I want to be able to control my iPod from my stereo and I always want a nice display to look at artwork. I also want something that allows me to easily navigate my massive library on my iPod. Do you have any suggestions that I should look out for? I would prefer to get something that is relatively new on the market. Thanks.

Are you sure that you even want that huge a screen if you don't care for video playback or GPS navigation? It seems like a bit of a waste to pay an extra for a double-DIN unit if you're not even going to use the extra screen real estate.

For my bucks, I'd look at the Alpine iDA-X305S. Its screen may look small, but when set to display album art at full screen, you end up with an image that's roughly the same size as the thumbnail that most double-DIN units end up displaying. (None of the larger units really offers a full-screen artwork option and, let's face it, you're not really going to be watching the artwork while you drive.) Its knob-based control scheme will let you fly through your large library faster than any touch screen that I've tested. Finally, at an MSRP of $350, the single-DIN Alpine unit will cost about $850 less than Alpine's current AV/GPS receiver.

Pioneer AVH-P8400BH
The Pioneer AVH-P8400BH is the largest of the manufacturer's current crop and features an App Mode for iPhone app connectivity. Pioneer

If you absolutely must have that larger screen, then you'll probably want to look at Pioneer's 2012 line of AV receivers. The one that's got my attention is the AVH-P8400BH, which was announced at CES this year, because it's got the biggest screen in Pioneer's current lineup and it touts a new feature called App Mode that basically rolls all of the functionality of the first-generation AppRadio into this much nicer-looking device. This is the receiver to check out if you're actually an iPhone user and not just an iPod user.

Next up, "Rbraves23" asks:

Hi, Antuan. I love your reviews and have a question for you. I'm looking to buy an in-dash navigation system for my 2006 Impala SS. What would you recommend? Keep up the good work. Thanks.

Sony XNV-770BT
The Sony XNV series of GPS receivers features some of the best-looking displays to land in the CNET test car. Josh Miller/CNET

For four years running, the Pioneer AVIC-Z flagship series of GPS navigation receivers has topped my list of best in-dash GPS receivers, so I predict that when I get the new AVIC-Z140BH this summer that it will recapture the title. If you can't wait that long, check out the AVIC-Z130BT from last season, which still features best-in-class voice recognition technology that allows a driver to cue up music from an iPod by simply speaking the artist or song name.

If iPod voice command or the Pioneer brand isn't your cup of tea (Android user, perhaps?), then you'll want to look at one of Sony's in-dash navigation systems. The Sony XNV-770BT that I reviewed last year featured GPS navigation by TomTom with a removable module for easy updating, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and one of the best-looking 7-inch screens to ever land in our test car's dashboard. A few of the upcoming 2012 Sony receivers also feature MirrorLink compatibility, making them great choices for forward-looking smartphone fans. Stay tuned for more details on these units as they emerge.

If you've got any alternative answers to either of these questions, be sure to share in the comments section below.

 

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