The Eclipse AVN2210p is a novel addition to the aftermarket in-car navigation scene. It is the first system we have seen that combines the functionality of an in-dash GPS navigation device and media player with that of a standalone portable navigation device. It does this by using a TomTom Duo portable GPS device in combination with a unique docking mechanism, enabling drivers to insert and remove the touch screen navigation module at will. In its in-dash mode, the system can be used to play a variety of digital audio formats, including MP3 and WMA discs, and input from portable digital audio players via a front-mounted USB port. It can also be used right out of the box as a very useful Bluetooth hands-free calling interface with some advanced options, including instant phonebook transfer and text message playback.
Apart from the hard button used to switch between map and audio view, all of the navigation functions on the Eclipse AVN2210p are controlled using the TomTom Duo's touch screen. Due to its dual functionality, the navigation screen on the Eclipse AVN2210p is far smaller than those on other double-DIN-size in-dash units. However, this size restriction does not impede functionality as much as it might, and maps and menus remain legible thanks to the TomTom's bright and colorful graphics. For digital audio playback, the Eclipse AVN2210p makes use of the same rotary volume knob/four-way push-button selector as that in the Eclipse CD3100. Curiously, disc-based audio cannot be controlled via the LCD touch screen, but media played via the USB port can.
Whether the TomTom Duo device is docked or undocked in the AVN2210p cradle, all navigation functions are performed using its touch screen. Programming in a destination is straightforward, thanks to the colorful icons that populate each menu level. Destinations can be entered by address, ZIP code, city center, or cross street. Punching in an address on the system's touch screen keypad is easy and very quick, thanks to the impressive refresh rate of the menu level screens, and route calculation is equally swift. After selecting a route that meets their specifications (fastest, shortest, avoiding freeways, designated arrival time, etc.), drivers are given a whole host of features to preview their journeys before setting out. Specific route-preview options include: browse as text (gives a list of turn-by-turn directions); browse as images (shows each turn on the map); browse route on map; show route demo (runs through a virtual tour of the route, complete with turn-by-turn voice directions); and a route summary. When satisfied with the proposed route, the system gives turn-by-turn directions to a destination, either via the car's speakers (with the nav system docked) or via the TomTom Duo's built-in speaker. During route guidance, the screen displays roads in bright colors, with suggested turns illustrated with big, green arrows.
One observation that is worth making, however, is that the system makes no distinction between driving directions (for when the TomTom unit is docked) and pedestrian directions (for when the TomTom unit is detached), meaning that all suggested routes are given with respect to road restrictions, such as one-way streets. We would like to have seen a pedestrian mode in the vein of other standalone portable GPS devices. Another niggle we have with the standalone GPS device is that its spoken directions are barely audible on a busy street, even with the volume turned up to maximum. And to round out our criticism of the standalone TomTom Duo, its battery life registered at less than two hours--far beneath the five-hour mark that most standalone GPS devices manage.
With the TomTom Duo docked, the AVN2210p can also be used to make hands-free calls from Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, thanks to its built-in Bluetooth interface and microphone. Pairing a phone with the system is straightforward and we managed to connect our Samsung SGH-T619 in less than a minute. With a phone paired, the system can then be programmed to copy over the phone's entire contact book in less than a minute.
Dialing out from the system is straightforward using the onscreen keypad or by calling up a contact list and selecting a contact by name. While we like the convenience of the Eclipse AVN2210p's built-in microphone, it doesn't work as well as many other external mics we've seen, and the call quality from the other end of the line is shrill and buzzy. One of our favorite phone-related features of the Eclipse AVN2210p is its text message functionality. Not only will the system allow you to read incoming text messages, it lets users respond via its Write Message function, which makes use of the touch screen keypad and is a far easier texting interface than the cell phone itself.
The usefulness of the AVN2210p to play music depends on the format of your audio files. For regular CDs, the system plays tracks from start to finish, giving details of track number and not much else. We can live with that, as there are not usually more than 20 or so songs on a Red Book disc. For compressed audio-format discs (such as MP3 and WMA), however, it is a different story. While the AVN2210p does display ID3 tag information (in full on the TomTom screen, and in scrolled format on the dot-matrix display above the main control interface), there appears to be absolutely no way to navigate disc-based libraries using the touch screen. Holding down the Mode button on the hard button control interface does give users the chance to preview track information, but it is hardly worth the trouble as the track title information is shown only in the form of five letters on the dot-matrix display. It would be far more useful if this information were displayed in full on the color touch screen. Even with this limited search functionality, there does not appear to be any way to skip between different folders or tracks.
The Eclipse AVN2210p generally succeeds in its ambitious attempt to combine portable and in-dash navigation functionality in one device. As an in-car system, it has an impressive number of standard entertainment and communications features. While its purpose-built TomTom Duo is more limited in its features than many other standalone portable GPS devices (including a measly battery life), the AVN2210p's price makes it a compelling option for those looking for an all-in-one in-car system with the flexibility of a portable nav system thrown in.