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Pioneer Avic-D3 review: Pioneer Avic-D3

The impressively equipped Pioneer Avic-D3 offers an array of advanced navigation and media playback functions, but the system's poor hardware design limits its usability.

Kevin Massy
6 min read

The Pioneer Avic-D3 features a very clean and simple faceplate design. In contrast to the Avic Z-1, which has hard buttons along the bottom of its touch screen, the D3 has a simple set of four buttons and a twistable push-button knob arranged vertically on the left-hand side of the display. The 6.1-inch touch screen on the D3 is slightly smaller than that on the Z1, although the display is big and bright enough for viewing maps and movies. The D3 boasts an impressive array of audio-visual playback options, including support for compressed audio formats, iPods, satellite radio, and generic auxiliary input sources. Its navigation features are equally impressive, with turn-by-turn directions, as well as support for real-time traffic information, although the processor is far slower than we would like in terms of refreshing menus and digesting programmed route information. The major drawback with the D3, however, is its single disc slot--meaning that drivers will continually need to switch between the navigation DVD-ROM and other media discs to make use of all the unit's features.


Pioneer Avic-D3

The Good

The Pioneer Avic-D3 combines a user-friendly navigation programming interface with real-time traffic capability and a range of media options, including a standard iPod connector.

The Bad

The system's single disc slot means that users will constantly have to switch between navigation discs and media sources to make the most of its many features.

The Bottom Line

The impressively equipped Pioneer Avic-D3 offers an array of advanced navigation and media playback functions, but the system's poor hardware design limits its usability.

TeleAtlas maps on the Avic-D3 are bright and crisply rendered, with different classes of road shown in different colors. With the optional GEX-P10XMT traffic tuner and a monthly subscription to XM NavTraffic, drivers get real-time information on traffic flow and incidents. Varying levels of traffic congestion are represented by different-colored overlays: green for speeds more than 40mph, orange for speeds between 20mph and 40mph, and red for speeds of less than 20mph. The NavTraffic displays on the Avic-D3 are a lot more useful than those we have seen in factory-installed navigation systems such as that in the 2007 Acura TL Type-S , as the colored overlays flash, making it easy to distinguish between the road and the traffic color. Another useful feature of the NavTraffic option is a soft button at the bottom of the touch screen that brings up a list of incidents that can be sorted alphabetically or by proximity to current location.

Programming the Avic-D3's navigation system is straightforward. Destinations can be entered by address, point of interest, or telephone number; or by calling up previous destinations from the built-in address book or destination history. Users punch in a destination using the touch screen, entering the street number first, followed by street name, then city. There is a noticeable lag between these steps, which is accompanied by a whirr of the disc as the system processes the entered information. An option at the top menu level requires users to set the system to the relevant area of the United States--we're not fans of this idea as we prefer navigation systems that default to search the area nearest to the car's current location (such as the one in the 2007 Ford Expedition). With a destination entered, the system takes a few seconds to calculate the route, after which it generates a bright-green guidance line for the suggested route.

With destinations programmed, the Avic-D3 shows the suggested route in green, with traffic information overlaid in different colors.

En route to the required destination, the Avic-D3 uses turn-by-turn voice prompts (including text-to-voice functionality) to call out turns and the names of individual roads. We like this feature, as it really helps drivers avoid misinterpreting turn directions. During the first two to three minutes of the journey, a green floppy-disc icon flashes on the bottom of the screen, which indicates that the system is saving the current route to its internal memory. The reason that the system has to memorize maps in this way is not immediately apparent, but after a chat with a Pioneer technician (our test unit is so new that it didn't come with a user manual), we discovered our major gripe with the Avic-D3. To wit, the relevant DVD-ROM (there is one for the western United States and one for the eastern states) has to be inserted into the disc slot for the unit to make route calculations and to display maps on any level of zoom closer than the 25-mile scale. When the DVD-ROM is removed--for the purposes of using the disc slot to play CDs, for example--the Avic-D3 resorts to "memory navi mode," which will allow drivers only to access the last route that was entered. Memory navi mode also disables destination entry and any editing of the current route. Accordingly, users of the Avic-D3 will have to ensure that they always have the relevant disc on hand each time they want to enter a new destination or add in a waypoint to an existing route. Alternatively, they could leave the navigation disc in the unit and resolve never to play a media disc.

Audio video
With the navigation disc removed, the Avic-D3 can support a range of audio and videodiscs, including CDs and MP3, WMA, and AAC discs, plus DVD audio, DVD video, and DivX-encoded movies. When playing digital audio, the screen shows a number of useful options for navigating folders and files. With a MP3 or WMA disc playing, the system shows full tag information for folder, album, artist, and track; more information (on genre and year, for example) can be accessed by pushing an information button in the bottom right of the screen when in playback mode. Other large soft buttons enable drivers to play, pause, and skip easily, and a List button displays all the tracks on the current folder six at a time--a feature that we like, as it provides a means of getting to your desired track quickly. When playing DVD audio, the LCD screen displays the disc's browsable still pictures (BSPs) that accompany the music tracks.

The Avic-D3 comes with a built-in MOFSET amplifier, delivering 50Wx4 channels of output. A three-band parametric equalizer lets users customize audio, while a range of preset EQ configurations (including Powerful, Natural, and Vocal) provide appropriate acoustic effect for different audio sources.

Like the Sony CDX-GT610 UI that we reviewed recently, the Avic-D3 comes with an intelligent iPod dock connector as standard. With an iPod hooked up, the touch screen can be used to search for and play tracks. As with compressed audio-format discs, iPod tracks are accompanied by ID3 tag information. Tracks can be listed according to playlist, genre, artist, album, or podcast. A virtual wheel based on the iPod controller design occupies the right-hand side of the screen when an iPod is connected, although it is of limited value as it can be used only to skip forward within a track. For searching between tracks, users have to select their search parameters (playlist, genre, artist, and so on) and scroll through lists of tracks, which are displayed six at a time in alphabetical order. Although the Avic-D3 does have one-touch scrolling (a feature conspicuously absent from Dual XDVD8182), the feature is less than user-friendly, as the names of tracks are not displayed during scrolling, leaving users to estimate how far down the alphabetical list their desired track lies. iPods can also be used to play video via the Avic-D3's LCD screen. For playback of video from iPods, users have to use the player itself to select files.

The Avic-D3 gives drivers control of their connected iPods via the touch screen display.

For those wishing to play videodisc sources, the Avic-D3 supports DVD video and DivX-encoded formats. With a DVD loaded in the disc slot, users can control the action using either an optional remote control or by pressing on the touch screen, which brings up a panel of soft buttons, as well as a title bar giving information on playing time and chapter; a useful Search button lets you navigate directly to the chapter that you want to see. With a screen resolution of 480x234, the video quality on the Avic-D3 is not spectacular, especially with regard to color depth and picture reproduction. To make the best of the situation, the system has settings for brightness, contrast, color, and hue.

Optional extras on the Avic-D3 include satellite radio (separate tuners are required for either XM or Sirius); and Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming (CD-BTB100 wireless module required). When hooked up to the Bluetooth module, the Avic-D3 can be used to make or receive calls using the touch screen display. Phone numbers can also be stored in the system's internal phone book.

In sum
The Pioneer Avic-D3 is an entry-level, all-in-one, in-car system. When fully equipped with all its optional features, the D3 offers an effective and user-friendly navigation interface with real-time traffic and text-to-voice guidance. As an audio-visual media receiver, the Avic-D3 offers an impressive range of playback options; its standard iPod connector is particularly useful for drivers in the digital age.

Users of the Avic-D3 will find themselves constantly changing discs to program the navigation system.

All this functionality is overshadowed, however, by the Avic-D3's single disc slot, which makes for a continually cumbersome user experience when switching between navigation and media functions.


Pioneer Avic-D3

Score Breakdown

Design 4Features 9Performance 6