As the newest entry-level DVD-based navigation and multimedia in-car system from Eclipse, the AVN5510 has many of the same features that we liked in the AVN5500/ AVN6600 series, with some significant improvements in terms of design and features.
The AVN5510 has an elegant faceplate design that is far less cluttered and confusing than that of the previous-generation models. Instead of the rows of buttons on three sides of the bezel that we disliked on the AVN6600, the AVN5510 has just one single row of hard buttons along the bottom of the unit, which includes an Eject button, a Mute button, and a volume control rocker switch.
All other controls are performed using "soft" buttons on the unit's TFT touch screen display. The removal of the buttons on either side of the unit enable a half-inch increase in screen size, and the AVN5510 boasts a 7-inch LCD screen compared with the 6.5-inch screen on the AVN5500.
Gone also from the new design are the two menu buttons (one for media and one for navigation), replaced with a more user-friendly single menu button, leading to more specific onscreen options.
Customization is big business in cars these days, and the AVN5510 enables drivers to choose between five wallpaper settings and four beep tones according to their taste in such things.
With its two disc slots (one for CDs and one for DVDs), the AVN5510 can be used for navigation duties simultaneously and to play disc-based audio. Alternatively, the navigation DVD ROM can be removed to play DVD video on the unit's wide-screen display or on external rear-seat monitors via RCA output cables.
Those looking for more media capabilities can upgrade to the AVN 6610, which comes with two DVD slots, enabling car occupants to simultaneously listen to CDs, use the navigation system, and play video on rear displays. (The other major difference between the AVN5510 and the AVN6610 is the latter's support for optional Sirius Traffic, a service that provides real-time information on traffic flow, congestion, and incidents.)
In layout and functionality, the navigation features of the AVN5510 are much the same as those we liked so much on the AVN6600. Destination entry is performed using the system's touch screen keypad, and can be made using a number of options including address, point-of-interest (POI) name, POI category, and by physically selecting destinations from the map. For selecting destination manually from a map, we like the system's one-touch variable-speed scrolling feature.
For a DVD-based system, the AVN5510 calculates routes surprisingly quickly, and with a destination set, users are given a couple of very useful options for viewing the route details before they set out. Its Turn List provides an itemized readout of all the stages of the journey, while its Route Preview function gives an onscreen runthrough of the journey. Once underway, the system gives turn-by-turn voice guidance, and voice prompts vary in frequency depending on the car's speed.
Another positive feature of the AVN5510's navigation function is its optional split-screen mode, which overlays a zoomed-in window onto the main map, giving drivers a dual perspective of the current location. When approaching junctions, the map automatically displays the window with a close-up detail of the route.
Users can register up to 106 memory points and--more interestingly--10 areas to avoid in the system's memory. Displaying points of interest is straightforward: a press of the Map View button in navigation mode brings up options for displaying POI categories. The AVN5510 offers 8.55 million points of interest, a significant increase over the AVN5500's 6 million.
Customization options for the AVN5510's navigation system are very impressive, with four screens of options, including options for auto-reroute, intersection guidance, and building-shape display for streets in metropolitan areas. We also like the way that the AVN5510 can show ID3- and WMA-tag information at the same time as displaying the map screen.
For digital audio playback, the AVN5510 supports regular CDDA discs as well as discs encoded in MP3 and WMA formats. Navigating digital audio libraries is made very easy by the intuitive touch screen menus that show folder and file information in a clear format. Lacking a built-in hard drive, the AVN5510 and AVN6610 are unable to compete with the Pioneer AVIC-Z1 and Z2 in terms of media storage, but, like the Pioneer systems, the Eclipse unit can be hooked up to iPods via an external module. Add-on modules can also be used to turn the AVN5510 into an HD radio tuner and a receiver for Sirius Satellite radio, although there is no XM Satellite Radio option--a disappointing restriction on an aftermarket system.
The AVN5510 offers the same digital signal processing presets, EQ customization (via 7-band parametric EQ to preference through a touch screen mixer), and acoustic-field customization as the previous-generation models. It also features advanced settings for a separate subwoofer, including options for phase control and woofer level, as well as frequency and high-pass filter settings. Those not satisfied with the system's standard built-in amp's 15w x 4-channel can hook up an external amp to the unit, thanks to three 5V preamp outputs.
With the parking brake engaged, the AVN5510 can be used to play DVD video. To play a movie, car occupants will have to remove the navigation DVD ROM: an extra incentive not to drive with the video playing. Unlike the Jensen VM9312 we tested recently, the AVN5500 does not touch-enable the individual DVD movie menus, requiring users to touch onscreen directional arrows to navigate menus or to invest in an optional remote control.
Without the latter, it can be a laborious process to get a video started (press the screen to get the menu > press the Next button > press the Menu button > use the up and down arrows to select the required onscreen option > press the enter button to make a selection).
With a video playing, playback controls such as play, search, and pause are helpfully available at a touch of the screen. The 7-inch screen delivers rich video reproduction, especially in the wide-screen display configuration.
The AVN5510 improves on the design of the last generation of Eclipse's all-in-one navigation/multimedia systems. Its navigation system is easy to program and easy to follow, while its intuitive disc-based digital-audio interface is equally easy to use. The system's video playback is not as straightforward, but picture quality on its 7-inch wide-screen display is excellent.