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Pioneer XW-NAV1 review: Pioneer XW-NAV1

Pioneer stacks enough into its latest XW-NAV1 iPod dock to make it a worthy mid-range contender, although its video output options could be better.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
4 min read

Design

Pioneer's NAV1 might have a silly, Avatar-esque name, but the design is straight out of the ordinary iPod Dock Designer's Handbook, 2010 edition. It's available in black or white — our review sample was the white variant. Placing a black iPhone 3GS against it was most striking, and made us wonder if a white model might not vanish almost entirely.

8.5

Pioneer XW-NAV1

The Good

Integrated DVD. Good audio quality. Shielded for iPhone use. Good remote control. Rips CDs to USB directly.

The Bad

Slow with large USB flash drives. Doesn't output iPod video over HDMI. Most functions rely on having a nearby screen. FM only, not DAB.

The Bottom Line

Pioneer packs enough into its latest XW-NAV1 iPod dock to make it a worthy mid-range contender, although its video output options could be better.

The NAV1 uses a standard docking set-up for an iPod dock, with pod/phone placed directly in front of the speaker array. A small green LED indicates the current activity, and sits below the top controls. These include a slot loading CD/DVD drive, power, function, play/pause, stop, eject and volume buttons, as well as a hidden USB port that lies under a small plastic flap. We're going to bet that the small plastic flap will be the first thing everyone will lose, because it just pops off the top rather than attaching directly.

Most iPod dock remote controls can be summed up in one word — "crap". They tend to have tiny little credit card-sized numbers with squishy buttons, cell batteries and infrared connections that only work with an embarrassingly small range of angles. Not so with the NAV1, which plays to the higher-end AV crowd with a full-sized and mostly self-evident remote control. We constantly found ourselves hitting the side directional controller buttons when we wanted to adjust the volume, which is higher up on the remote, but that's a minor quibble.

Features

At an AU$399 price point, it's fair to expect more than just squeaking out the tunes you've stored on your iPod. The NAV1 provides an interesting bag of tricks. It's shielded for iPhone use and will naturally enough play back iPod music formats. The DVD tray provides for video playback from either the component or HDMI connectors on the back of the unit. The USB port can be used for playback of MP3, DivX, WMA and JPEG files, as well as a repository to rip your CDs to at a variety of bitrates. The front display can act as a clock and an alarm with playback from iPod, USB or the in-built FM radio. It's a pity that it doesn't offer DAB+ digital radio.

Performance

Audio quality is a critical component of any iPod dock. In this regard the NAV1 performed well, with smooth audio across a variety of genres and only minimal distortion at absolute top volume. One factor that became almost immediately apparent to us while testing — the dock heavily relies on its AV-out connection. Most on-screen menus only make sense when you're connected up to a TV. That's fair enough for DVD playback, but this extends to USB playback and recording as well. Unless you're connecting up an iPod with its own screen, you're going to have to have the TV on as well as the dock, at least for making initial selections.

CD-to-USB recording relies on having an output screen to make your selections from. You can choose from 128Kbps, 192Kbps or 320Kbps output, and select entire albums or selected tracks. We did notice when we had a larger USB flash drive inserted that the menu options slowed to a crawl with every single selection, and naturally you can't do anything else with the NAV1 while it's ripping CDs. There's no ID3 tag function built into the player, so you'd also have to spend some time changing details away from the default "TRACK01" style listings if you used it to rip any serious quantity of music.

While the NAV1 sports an HDMI output, it won't work with iPod/iPhone video sources, although they will work in blurry fashion through the NAV1's composite outputs. This limits the 1080p output to only DVD and USB. In our tests the NAV1 performed adequately, although our review sample was region locked for DVD. Pioneer representatives told CNET Australia that the final release version should be region free. Thankfully, we had some genuine region 0 discs to test with. Playback via HDMI was smooth, with the only quirk being the audio signal passed to both the output TV and the NAV1. Mute one source, and you're good to go.

Video playback via USB was more problematic. We could get any number of audio or photo sources to play in the appropriate formats, but struggled to find a DivX file that the NAV1 would like. In all cases, putting an incompatible file onto a USB stick would result in the NAV1 refusing to read the drive at all, even if there were compatible files on the same drive.

Conclusion

If you're in the market for an all-in-one dock and can utilise the DVD playback as well, then the NAV1 is worth considering. Despite its smaller size, you won't be able to move it that far from a TV screen, and the use of 1080p upscaling is a little minimalist, but it's otherwise a fine unit.