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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.