Pioneer AVIC-Z110BT review:

Pioneer AVIC-Z110BT

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Because of a few of the advanced features available with the Z110BT, its installation is more involved than your standard car stereo and can quite tricky for the novice installer.

For example, in addition to the standard power and speaker connections that are the basis of all car stereo installs, an external microphone must be installed near the driver's head and connected to use Bluetooth calling and voice commands. The parking-brake sensor must be tapped to use the video playback functions. Also, if you're planning to install a reverse camera, the reverse light power lead must also be tapped. A magnetic GPS antenna must be mounted with a clear view of the sky if you want turn-by-turn directions.

Where things get really tricky is finding and tapping of the vehicle speed pulse sensor, which in our case required disassembly of the instrument cluster and tapping into the speedometer wire. If your vehicle's connections aren't clearly labeled and you don't have access to a wiring diagram, this could be the trickiest part of your installation. If you choose to skip this portion, the GPS navigation will still work but will occasionally give errors, and you won't benefit from the "dead reckoning" positioning when satellite lock is lost.

If you decide to add the ND-MDT10 MSN Direct Tuner (which we recommend) there's the final step of wiring the tuner in-line with the FM antenna and connecting a power harness to the Z110BT.

Aside from the long wait time for voice indexing files on an iPod, the AVIC-Z110BT performed superbly. Its menu transitions were snappy and there were no hangs or software crashes.

On the GPS side, its initial satellite location took 5 minutes in downtown San Francisco, but subsequent satellite lock times were substantially shorter.

Although we were unable to make use of the "dead reckoning" feature because of our vehicle's odd speed pulse signal, the AVIC-Z110BT did a fantastic job of holding our position as we navigated around town. However, people who spend a lot of time in tunnels or on long covered bridges will likely benefit from the increased accuracy that that this feature offers.

The Pioneer's audio quality was also good. We do most of our testing with a flat EQ curve, but there are four preset EQ curves and two seven-band custom user curves. Additionally, there are several advanced settings for crossover filters, virtual staging, and subwoofer control.

While the Z110BT's 22 watts RMS per channel (50 watts max) is good enough for most OEM speaker setups, audio enthusiasts with upgraded speakers will need to make use of the three 4-volt stereo preamp outputs to add external amplification. An interesting feature is that the rear channels can be bridged to create a 70-watt max subwoofer channel for people who just want to add a single small sub to, for example, a pickup truck that lacks rear speakers.

In sum
If there is one flaw that we can find in the AVIC-Z110BT, it's that the ND-MDT10 MSN Direct Tuner is a separate purchase. We can understand how Pioneer would think that separating the module would be a good cost saving measure. But after testing the Z110BT with the MSN Direct service, we can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to have access to the traffic and fuel price information.

Of the all-in-one in-dash solutions that we've tested, there is one device that matches the Pioneer AVIC-Z110BT almost feature for feature: the Eclipse AVN726E. Both of these units have GPS navigation, DVD and multimedia video, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and audio streaming. However, the difference is in the details, and the Pioneer unit is just so much easier to use.

With its user customizable menus, contact importing, and voice control of nearly every commonly accessed function, the Pioneer AVIC-Z110BT not only brings the features that we feel people want in their vehicles, but it also makes them safe and easy to use.

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