Pioneer AVIC-X920BT review:

Pioneer AVIC-X920BT

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As part of the X920's installation, you can install an external GPS antenna and can optionally tap their vehicle's speed pulse sensor. The unit also has a three-way electronic gyroscope. A learning algorithm gathers information from this sets of sensors and theoretically will let the navigation system become more sensitive to what the vehicle is actually doing; for example, did you make that slight left or not? A screen in the settings menu displays the status of the system's learning as a series of bar graphs. The AVIC's maps include 3D landmark and building data for major cities; however, it doesn't have any terrain data as far as we can tell. The onscreen controls for zooming and overlaying points-of-interest icons on the map are a bit small and difficult to hit. However, once tapped, they expand to reveal larger buttons and submenus. You can navigate the map but touching and dragging, but there is no pinch and zoom support on the AVIC's resistive touch panel.

Pioneer preloads the X920BT with a POI database that can be searched by name or category. You also have the option of using the unit's voice command system to enter an address. Once underway, the system issues clear turn-by-turn directions with text-to-speech street names and graphic lane guidance and detailed turn information.

Oddly, Pioneer still devotes a large portion of the destination menu to an MSN Direct shortcut, even though Microsoft plans to shut off the service at the end of 2011. Out of the box, the icon is dim, indicating it is inactive until the MSN Direct add-on module is installed. With the MSN Direct service, the X920BT gains access to traffic monitoring and data services including fuel price updates, weather forecasts, and local events and movie show times.

The navigation system also has an ECO drive graph that monitors how economically you are driving on surface roads, on highways, and as an average of both. The ECO calculations take into account information gathered from the GPS antenna, speed sensor, and accelerometer when scoring your habits. Placing a microSD card into the slot on the unit's bezel enables the unit's ECO logging functions that tracks and stores the vehicle's speed and travel data on the memory card for later analysis in using Pioneer's AVIC Feeds software.

You can also able to download Pioneer's free AVIC Feeds app for iPhone and Blackberry that lets you search for and manage Points of Interest and destinations away from the vehicle using the iPhone's touch screen. You can also pull addresses from the Internet or from a geotagged photo. These POIs can then be sent to the AVIC-X920BT from the handset via Bluetooth, saved, and set as destinations for turn-by-turn navigation.

Bluetooth wireless
The X920BT is features Bluetooth wireless connectivity powered by Parrot. We've already discussed the audio streaming aspect, but there is also hands-free calling. During installation, you install a small microphone--preferably near the driver's head--that helps with call clarity in the noisy environ that is a moving vehicle. When paired with a phone that supports Bluetooth Phone Book Access Profile, the X920BT can import and index the address book, giving you voice control over the calls.

In sum
The Pioneer AVIC-X920BT does it all and then some. We like that, in addition to being a fully featured navigation receiver that handles multimedia playback from a variety of digital sources and hands-free calling, the X920BT has multiple software and hardware upgrade options. In addition to the add-on modules for HD Radio and satellite radio that we're used to seeing for receivers such as this, Pioneer has also made available apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, and Windows PCs that enhance your music, add audio sources, help to save fuel, and assist the user in getting from point A to B.

Consider also the AVIC-X920BT's fantastic handling of voice command for destination entry, hands-free calling, and song selection and you have a seriously cohesive package that can boost a vehicle's cabin tech with a single box. Just make sure you pick up that iPod connection cable before you leave the store.

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