Pioneer AVIC-F10BT

There's a lot to like about the F10BT (large screen, sound quality), but the host of quibbles (funny text-to-speech, annoying warnings, missing voice recognition) are glaring on a top-of-the-range model.


7.7
CNET Rating
3.3
User Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.


Design and interface

The F10BT stands atop Pioneer's range of AVIC navigation head-units and boasts a 7-inch resistive touchscreen. Featuring a matte surface, the F10BT's screen is viewable under all lighting conditions — night, solar eclipse, bright daylight, impending nova, whatever. The screen can be mechanically tilted to five different angles, which drivers with stereo slots low down in the dash will appreciate. Depending on their disposition, drivers will either be thankful for or curse the customisable loading screen while patiently waiting 14.5 seconds for the F10BT to start up.

Despite the piano black bezel it's not a particularly distinctive looking device, as the screen practically takes all the frontage available on the double-DIN stereo. The unit's most prominent feature, screen aside, is its Jay Leno-esque chin that houses the unit's only physical controls. At times, though, the prominent chin made it difficult to tap some of the on-screen buttons. Whether your car's controls are backlit a shade of sunset orange, generic green, pure white, Gatorade blue or anything in between, there's a set of RGB sliders that will allow you to adjust the buttons' backlighting to suit.

Pioneer AVIC-F10BT controls

The F10BT's physical controls, from left to right: repeat last instruction, volume, return to Home menu screen, switch between music selection and map screens, change track/station, eject disc/tilt screen.
(Credit: Pioneer)

Pressing the Mode button will flit you between the map and music selection screens. Picking a song from a connected iPod or iPhone is simple via the tabbed interface that does a fair interpretation of the classic iPod interface, while navigating through folders on a USB stick or data CD is only marginally more complicated. Tap the Home button and you'll be presented with three large on-screen buttons for Destination, Phone and AV Source, as well as a smaller button for Settings, which are all pretty self-explanatory.

Tap the Home button again and the screen is filled with a 5x3 grid of configurable shortcut buttons to almost anywhere within the menu system. While some may like this, we found the array of too similar icons confusing and distracting, especially when we were rushing to make an adjustment before the lights switched to green. And, after a while, our fingers began remembering the path of fewest clicks to our most regularly used functions anyway. It's a shame that the voice recognition feature that's available in the US and Europe hasn't made its way down under.

Navigation: features and design

Perhaps owing to the fact that navigation is just one of many functions — albeit a pretty major one — offered by the F10BT, the navigation system isn't quite as polished as the AU$200-plus navigation systems from TomTom, Garmin and Navman.

As we've mentioned before, the screen is as massive as can be. Pertinent information, such as next turn, time, track info, configurable shortcuts, zoom and traffic, is laid around the edges of the screen, allowing as much room as possible for the clear 2D or 3D map graphics. Day and night mode engages automatically depending on the state of the car's headlights.

In the main, destination entry is easy via the large on-screen QWERTY keyboard. There is one quirk though, you can't easily enter an intersection as a destination. For that, you'll have to enter a street name, guess a house number, then press Scroll and navigate a set of crosshairs to the appropriate street corner and then tap the finish flag — simply put, it's a pain in the butt.

Speed limit information is available for most streets and there are 3D landmarks for some city buildings. However, teensy-weensy lane guidance and full-screen junction view graphics are limited to highway and motorway intersections. As partial compensation, the F10BT defaults to a full screen, zoomed in 2D view of the coming intersection, although we preferred it with this feature off as it made it impossible to see the suggested path after the next turn.

Text-to-speech is included, but despite the availability of an Aussie voice, pronunciation of Australian street names falls short of the best portable nav devices, with Bourke and Parramatta notable blots on its scorecard. Annoyingly, the F10BT feels the need to insert a "the" before every street and road name, as well as route numbers for some roads.

Pioneer AVIC-F10BT map screen

The map screen is clear, with track details and other info scattered around the edges.
(Credit: Pioneer)

Navigation: performance

As the system is hooked up to the car's gyro and speed sensors, you'll still receive instructions in tunnels with a fair amount of accuracy. In the CBD, performance was better than we've experienced on portable devices, with confused positioning non-existent. The system isn't flawless, though, as it did get muddled up on the odd hilly road or two.

Route calculation was fairly speedy, but the routes themselves are highly unlikely to be the fastest route from A to B. On the upside, the F10BT has the smarts to learn which roads you prefer and which ones you avoid — so, after a few drives it will no longer lead you up streets that you know to be constantly clogged or into turns you find troublesome.

Traffic messaging and the requisite SUNA subscription are included as part of the AVIC-F10BT package. A shortcut on the map screen allows drivers to easily view incidents on the current route. You can also call up a list of all delays, as well as view all incidents on a map. Our misgivings about traffic messaging service remain, though. Often we ran into delays that had yet to be picked up by the system, encountered roadworks that had been scheduled but yet to begin and drove through incidents that had already cleared up, but remained on the system.

As you approach most speed and red light camera locations, as well tram and train crossings, drop bear zones and distortions in the space-time continuum, the F10BT sounds a warning that borders on frightening. Glance at the AVIC's big screen and it's not immediately apparent what you're being jolted out of your reverie for: there's a small and difficult to discern flashing icon on the map, but no accompanying large text. Worse still, the system will often alert you about a camera or some such that's several streets across and not on your route.

Audio and music

Even though it was hooked up to our review vehicle's standard speakers, sound quality (from digital sources) was good. Invest a little bit of time tweaking the unit's seven-band equaliser and various sound settings, such as loudness, fade/balance, high pass filter and staging, and sound quality improves still further.

The F10BT accepts audio from almost all conceivable sources — missing 8-track, LP and tape support notwithstanding. Behind the tilting screen is an SD card reader and a single slot CD/DVD drive that can read CD audio and DVD audio discs, as well as data discs crammed with compressed audio files; MP3, AAC and WMA formats are supported, but FLAC isn't. A mass of cables — located in the glovebox of our vehicle — allow for connecting iPods and iPhones via Apple's proprietary jack, and other MP3 players by either USB or the 3.5mm auxiliary jack. Naturally there's also an AM/FM radio, although switching between bands is a multi-step affair.

Controls for music stored on iPods/iPhones are good as the interface mimics that of older non-touchy-feely iPods. Play lists, albums, artists and individual tracks are easy to navigate between, and album art is supported. Compressed music stored on CD, DVD, USB, SD or on non-Apple MP3 players is a little harder to sift through, as the bulk of the navigation relies on folders.

Pioneer AVIC-F10BT iPod control screen

With an iPod connected, the F10BT does a good job of channelling the iPod's interface circa 2005.
(Credit: Pioneer)

Bluetooth pairing is a simple affair, although big families may max out the system's limit of five phones' pairing information. Sound quality was good from our end, but callers on the other side complained about the slight lag induced by the F10BT's anti-echo function; turn it off and echo becomes quite pronounced. Contact details can be transferred permanently or on the fly, but disappointingly there's no voice dialling option.

Video

When the car is parked and the handbrake engaged the F10BT is able to play video. Viewing DVD video is as simple as sticking a disc into the slot. Subtitles are supported and video quality is good, although there are a few compression and scaling artefacts, as well as a slight voice syncing issue on some discs. If your wallet can stretch that far, the F10BT will support split entertainment screens in the rear of the car. A reversing camera is also supported, but likewise will cost you extra.

DivX and XviD playback is substantially fraught, however. After going through a huge catalogue of files, we could only find a few that would successfully play back on the Pioneer, and we weren't able to discern a common denominator between those that worked. Image quality is good with smooth action sequences, aspect ratios adhered to and just a few additional artefacts. There is the occasional sound glitch and noticeable colour banding in the sky that's not present on a TV. Like the unit itself, playback start-up time for DivX/XviD files can only be classed as excessively long.

Conclusion

The system's sound quality, large screen, music format, source support, and optional screen and reversing camera support is beyond reproach, as is the nav's system ability to learn your favourite routes. While we might forgive the quirky text-to-speech, slow start-up, annoying safety camera warnings, lack of full DivX/XviD, missing voice recognition and other idiosyncrasies on cheaper units, on a top-of-the-range model these failings are magnified and hard to put out of our minds.



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howsey posted a comment   

The Good:Screen size and clarity, dual zone functionality, clarity of the graphics

The Bad:Menus possibly a little simplistic (but fine), occasionally recalcitrant touch screen operation

This article seems a little unfair to the F10BT, which is a actually a very nice bit of kit.

Before upgrading to the F10BT I spent seven years with the AVIC9 DVD based system which I used in a commercial environment. A year of my use might have been equivalent to three or four times that of domestic use so the durability of the current range's predecessors cannot be faulted.

Well done to Pioneer for incorporating the IPbus link connectivity on the F10BT - this alone enabled me to recycle my Pioneer DAB tuner. No need to buy a new tuner, just unplug from old vehicle and plug in on the new one whilst retaining head unit operation for the same.

The graphics are extremely clear and very easy on the eye, particularly when displaying navigational instructions. This is one area where Pioneer really stand out compare to their competitors I feel. The screens just "look" nice, and not all gimicky for the sake of things.

iPod lovers just need the optional adaptor lead to hook up (mine terminates in the glovebox / easy to get to). As with the DAB I think the way Pioneer have dealt with the iPod user interface works very well - just a mirror image of the familiar iPod controls on the Pioneer screen.

The dual zone functionality is one of the systems killer punches. I mixed it with wireless headphones and generic rear screens, works very well. I thought perhaps it should have been possible to send the map image from the F10BT to the rear screens but no big deal to not be able to do that, after all your passengers are more likely to be interested in watching something else?

The Bluetooth is an interesting point. I find it works seamlessly with my Blackberry, and the integrated phone control menu is another good feature. I have also tried it with a Sony Ericsson C905 however and had only satisfactory results (only occasionally handshaking correctly, often not connecting at all). To be fair to Pioneer they don't list the C905 as being compatible, but we are talking Bluetooth here - not exactly an exotic protocol to effectively manage.

The sound quality seems fine to me, but then I'm not looking for high clarity audio to impress my mates in the local McDOnald's car park. I think most potential buyers would be happy. There is good potential to adjust the EQ within the menu, including totally custom parameterisable option. If I had to be critical the low end is a little dry, which may not suit the bass junkies. Again, this is not a big deal or immediately apparent.

It's worth remembering too that any problems you might encounter will be dealt with in speedy and professional fashion via Pioneer's excellent after sales support. They have a deserved reputation for this.

In summary, an excellent system with an emphasis on navigation that can also pull a few other clever tricks out of the bag too. Recommended.

 

CHULO posted a comment   

The Good:Big Screen

The Bad:No HD like previous model USB & SD pointless for video

Bought it for our new car and is the 4th Pioneer unit I have had. This unit is a bloody nightmare and formats are not as compatible as the state ! ie playing media from an SD or USB means...music..thats it. Not really a big achievement here really is it? Will be returning it and replacing it with the AVIC-HD3-II which is just fine.

 

Ex-Pionner lover posted a comment   

the sound reproduction is not good at all, which i was expecting
No voice recognition.
The sound field Studio, theatre, etc can't be selected individually.
The Gps map is old and there is no software to upgrade.

 

turbo posted a comment   

Also, failed to mention that you can pick any colour for the buttons you like (mix of RGB) so you can match the instrumentation on the car. Quite handy to give it a good look with the rest of your gear.

Reverse camera works a treat also (you don't need to use a Pioneer camera), and the ability to run a separate video feed to rear monitors simultaneously with the NAV running up-front is good too.

Menus take a bit of getting used to (especially setup options), but there are a good deal of audio configurations / DSP settings you can apply which will get some quite nice sound out of it. Have yet to play in detail, but there are plenty of options there. Would suggest that "audio lover" in previous post has a play with the settings before making a throw-away line like that.

turbo
8
Rating
 

turbo posted a review   

The Good:responsive, lots of features, great iPod integration, good bluetooth

The Bad:no voice recognition like US & EU versions, no RDS for normal radio, price

It's biggest problems are the fact that the Australian version (unlike the US and EU version) has completely disabled all voice recognition functions.

Also, the RDS functions are omitted for the radio stations, despite the fact that it has the RDS-TMS tuner for the SUNA traffic service.

Works great with iPhone also.

Seems like we get a crippled version compared the the rest of the world, for no real obvious reasons.

Only other annoying thing is the fact that the SDHC is limited to 16Gb cards, as is the USB flash disk reader/cable. Max of 2500 songs on these two mediums also. Cannot play DivX videos from the SD/USB (must be on a DVD/CD). These weird "mix & match" encodings depending on the media don't reall make sense and are annoying.

Also, for the 800x480 res (which is nice), videos can only be encoded to a max of PAL resolution, which is again strange given the extra res avaialble on the screen.

iPod integration is very slick and easy to use. Have tried with both iPod Touch 16Gb and iPhone 3GS (32Gb) and works great.

Also has a cool iPhone app (search AppStore for AVIC FEEDS) that allows you to take photos and add links to your NAV destinations.

SUNA traffic updates are plentiful and quite useful, although I did have a few quirks when the flashing road warning lines did not overlay precisely on the actual road.

"Zoomed in" view when approaching a turn instruction are great and very useful, as is the "motorway exit" view, showing which lane to be in.

Annoying text to speech verbiage eg. "Turn left on the S42/S52 FOOTE ST", when it should really not read out the road numbers. A side-effect perhaps of the Whereis database, although my previous GPS (Navman S90i) did not have this problem reading the street name but not using the road number. Also very annoying use of the word "the" as above when there is no road number (eg. "Turn left on to the OAKHILL AVE")

Overall, multimedia functions are great, with the GLARING OMISSION of the Voice Recognition functions which everybody else on the planet gets, and strange omission of RDS on the radio when the unit actually has an RDS tuner built in to it.

audio lover
1
Rating
 

audio lover posted a review   

the sound reproduction is not good. sound is not clear as i am expecting.

 

ex pionner posted a reply   

Yeah, That's right!! this system is not good compare to other head unit

 

0102aik posted a reply   

Any idea what is a better head unit?

pioneer
1
Rating
 

pioneer posted a review   

compare to other head unit, i would not recommend someone to buy it. it's not worth for money buying.

 

DVSTA8 posted a comment   

Derek, a review would be nice not an internet press kit?




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User Reviews / Comments  Pioneer AVIC-F10BT

  • howsey

    howsey

    "This article seems a little unfair to the F10BT, which is a actually a very nice bit of kit.

    Before upgrading to the F10BT I spent seven years with the AVIC9 DVD based system which I..."

  • CHULO

    CHULO

    "Bought it for our new car and is the 4th Pioneer unit I have had. This unit is a bloody nightmare and formats are not as compatible as the state ! ie playing media from an SD or USB means...music....."

  • Ex-Pionner lover

    Ex-Pionner lover

    "the sound reproduction is not good at all, which i was expecting
    No voice recognition.
    The sound field Studio, theatre, etc can't be selected individually.
    The Gps map is old a..."

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