Pioneer AVIC-F310BT

It's far from perfect (scary warnings, difficult controls, occasional glitches), but sound quality, Bluetooth, device support and its aggressive pricing pushes it over the line. Just.


8.0
CNET Rating
7.2
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

Pioneer's AVIC-F310BT ace in the hole is its low, low price of AU$999. In spite of that, it's quite a good looking double DIN head unit finished in acres of piano black plastic. The 4.3-inch touchscreen isn't quite as large as it could be because it pops out to allow users to connect the F310BT to a PC, which, as we'll see later, is a rather dubious feature.

With its matte finish, the screen is viewable in almost any light. For a resistive screen it's nice and responsive, but as the screen viewing angle is fixed, drivers with radio slots low down in the dash may need to look for another head unit or use a different solution.

To the left of the screen are the bulk of the unit's physical controls, consisting of a multifunction dial that can be pushed in the centre, rotated or pressed/flicked in one of the four cardinal directions. This dial is flanked by Mode, List, Source and Band buttons. In the map screen, music control is simple to master: rotate the knob to adjust the volume or tap it to skip tracks or channels. The dial and buttons are ideally located for left-hand drive cars, but are a bit of a reach in right-hand drive Australia.

Pioneer AVIC-F310BT music selection screen

To change albums do I twiddle the knob or mash the screen? (Credit: Pioneer)

For more complex tasks, you'll need to tap the Mode button to dive into the entertainment menus. Here the multifunction dial's design does more harm than good, as all too frequently when we attempted to push the dial in the centre, we ended up flicking it left or right instead.

In what seems to be a common theme for the F310BT, tweaking settings, such as the speaker levels or matching the unit's backlighting to your car's (a number of common lighting colours are supported out of the box), requires an arcane number of clicks or twirls that either require a lot of trial and error to discover, or some quality time with just you, the F310BT and the manual.

Audio

With our test vehicle — a 2003 Toyota Corolla — we noticed an immediate boost in sound quality with the F310BT installed, even on the rather tinny standard speakers. Compared to the standard Corolla head unit, the F310BT has appreciably better sound separation and a clearer, richer sound. With two pre-amp RCA outputs, the F310BT will play ball with cars fitted with a separate amplifier or equaliser.

There's a single slot CD player capable of reading audio discs, as well as data discs loaded with MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC files. USB sticks, iPods and iPhones, and most MP3 players can be connected via the stereo's USB port, while for unrecognised devices there's also an auxiliary jack. To the uninitiated switching to a different folder, album, artist, genre or playlist is more complex than it should be: one needs to press Mode to dive into the music selection screen, then press List, rotate the multifunction dial to scroll through a list, with a right tap to select an item and a left tap to step back a level.

Those wanting a bit of variety (or lack thereof) also have an AM/FM radio tuner at their disposal with six AM and 18 FM presets; RDS and station naming isn't supported. Unlike the top-of-the-pile F10BT, switching between bands is a cinch, as there's a dedicated Band button.

Other features

Included with the F310BT is a microphone for the Bluetooth hands-free system. With the microphone located in a good spot, we were able to hold long conversations without too much shouting. Even with the microphone poorly located, sound quality at the other end was good — indeed it was another case of the entry-level besting the top dog, as the F310BT exhibits none of the lag nor the echo we experienced with the F10BT. In a similar vein, the F310BT starts up instantaneously, unlike the F10BT.

If you're so inclined or required to, the F310BT can track your travels, the kilometres you drive, and fuel usage and cost. Detach the screen, pop an SD card in and you can export this data to a computer. Using the PC-only AVIC Feeds software you can analyse this information, export points-of-interest data to the F310BT and create custom colours for the unit's backlighting.

Pioneer AVIC-F310BT with screen detached

The touchscreen can be removed, but we'd prefer a larger screen. (Credit: Pioneer)

Purchase an optional adapter and the F310BT can support a car's built-in steering wheel audio controls. However, features present on more expensive models, like video playback and reversing camera support, can't be had.

Navigation

All navigation functions, however, are easily accessed using the touchscreen. Destination entry is a breeze, unless you want guidance to an intersection — an anomaly that's shared with the top-of-the-range AVIC-F10BT. To do this you need to use one of your streets, enter a random street number then press Scroll and navigate a set of crosshairs to the appropriate street corner and then tap the finish flag.

The routes generated are no better than average — the F310BT will get you from A to Z, but usually in a roundabout way that will leave many a soul grasping for their nearest expletive. Enter a tunnel and you're pretty much on your own as there's no connection between the Pioneer and the car's speed sensor. On a few occasions the F310BT tracked our direction and movement correctly, but placed us halfway across town; the quickest fix for this is to remove and re-insert the touchscreen.

Text-to-speech does a passable job of pronouncing street names, but many Aboriginal, French and Australian names are mangled up. Worse though is the electronic brain's need to begin every road name with "the" and the way it enunciates kilometres as "kill-om-met-ers" — it's either comical or grating depending on your disposition. It also has the habit of including route numbers, although thankfully not to the exclusion of street names. Oddly, muting or reducing the volume of current music source isn't enabled by default.

Despite using Whereis maps, lane guidance is only present for highways and motorways with the graphics too small and obscure; junction view is absent. As if to compensate, a full-screen, top-down close-up view is present by default for all junctions — some like it, but we soon disabled it as it prevented us from seeing up-coming turns. The map screen can be viewed in either 3D or 2D modes, and the graphics are effective and pleasant, but nothing to get your knickers in a knot about. Day and night colour schemes are tied to your use of the car's headlights.

Speed limit notifications and traffic messaging are not present, but some of the most alarming, and dare we say worst, alerts we've heard are present for red light and speed cameras, as well as tram and train tracks. Approach any of these, or sometimes be on a street that's adjacent, and a frankly frightening warning sound will blare out. Making matters worse is the fact that there's no visual clue as to what the warning's about, except for a small flashing icon on the map.

Conclusion

Pioneer's AVIC-F310BT is far from perfect (frightening warnings, hard to master controls, flawed text-to-speech), but the fact that it does some things well (sound quality, Bluetooth) and is priced aggressively pushes it over the line. Just.

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Derekt
5
Rating
 

Derekt posted a review   

The Good:like the phone connectivity contacts list

The Bad:gps is less than average

was very dissappointed to find out the maps it came with are 2 years old. even more dissapointed to find out I had to PAY to update them. I thought I was getting free map updates for at least 12 months.
I like the bluetooth connectivity very much. easy to set up. connects automatically to my htc desire every time without a hitch, and I can see my contacts listed on the screen. would prefer them to be in the same order as they are on my phone but the unit for some reason rearranges them.
the gps is good in some ways and woefull in others. like the clear directions usually well before you have to turn. like the scaled up screen when you come to an intersection. dislike having to type in the city (perth) everytime I put in a destination and then have to type in the FULL street name. ( the garmin I used to use would guess after a few letters were typed in). also switched it on a few time in my driveway, which is set as HOME, and the screen has me located about 5kms away in the indian ocean !!! I have never completed a journey fully. the old garmin would usually get me right to the driveway of my destination and then reset itself. even if the pioneer gets me right there, if i drive away without cancelling the route it keeps telling me how to get back there. the routes can be quite literally round about, i seem to do more backtracking than ever, and a few time I have arrived in the destination street only to be told I need to turn left or right into a totally different street to reach my destination.
so, if I had paid full price $999 or even discount $865 at some stores I think I would return it for a refund and go back to the old garmin stuck on the windscreen and the blue tooth hands free kit hanging of the visor. however, I got it on special at JB HiFi for $645, and at this price I guess its worth keeping.

johno
3
Rating
 

johno posted a review   

tom tom is better in every way,bad speech,tiny screen,and the list goes on and on.get something better.

Ken
10
Rating
 

Ken posted a review   

The Good:Reliable navigation, iPhone support, practical design, excellent sound

The Bad:Small LCD, left hand controls,

It's a fantastic entry-level unit that does everything I need.

 

Frankies posted a comment   

The Good:Its Pioneer

The Bad:No rear Camera Inpuut

you are right, xtras the avn4400 has that this dont is the rear camera input plus DVD, other than that, being a Pioneer, u cant go wrong! still a A+++ product!

dumog04
9
Rating
 

dumog04 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Excellent bluetooth, works well with iPhone 3GS, sound quality is fantastic, touch screen works well.

The Bad:GPS is off by 30metres, left hand controls, music navigation

This unit suits well in my Corolla Sportivo 05. After some tweaking, the sound improved greatly compared to the stock head unit.

GPS navigation is a bit tedious when you're on the move as you can't enter an address while your handbrake is up but I guess that's for safety reasons. I never like the routes the GPS gives me so I always have to make waypoints which gets annoying but if i'm on the move I just use my iPhone's Google Maps app because when connected to the unit it charges my iPhone.

I love the fact that I can take the unit out for extra security and bring it inside my home or at work to map out a new route if I'm planning a long drive or heading somewhere I'm not too sure of. This saves time and I am able to compare routes with google maps and find the best route and create waypoints.

I bought this unit for it's excellent bluetooth connectivity and for iPhone/USB support and the GPS navigation is just a bonus. I didn't opt for the flagship model (AVIC-F10BT) which offers DVD playback and a few extra features because of price, bad reviews on bluetooth and because in Australia it's illegal to watch DVDs while driving, so it defeats the purpose of having that feature anymore. Therefore, if you have similar needs to me, this unit is for you.

Overall, it is a great unit and if you look out for great sales you can pick up this unit for less than $500. JBHIFI had a 35% off sale and I picked this unit up for $488.00. They have these types of deals alot.

 

Ryan posted a reply   

How much is it for installation? I want to install in my 06 golf gti but auto barn charge me like $500

 

blue sea kiter posted a comment   

The Good:Sound is good quality, and using thumb drive or ipod is very convienant.

The Bad:maps could be better, blue tooth keeps dropping out with my Nokia N97

I think that the unit's audio has performed well.
The maps lack detail when compared to google and other phone map systems.

I an not dissatisfied with the unit, but I think it could be replaced with individual pieces such as seperate phone and nav systems that are dedicated and work without complication.
I have had some problems with the system dropping out mid-conversation with the bluetooth connection while the call remains active on the handset. I am investigating if this is the phone or the bluetooth software in the unit.

 

Neil posted a comment   

The Good:Excellent copy of AVN4400

The Bad:Ordinary features

I think this unit is a direct copy of the Eclipse AVN4400

AVN4400 includes:

* DVD
* Rear Camera
* TOM TOM Software &
* Travel Kit

www.eclipse-web.com.au

Market price $1499 @ Frankies Auto Electrics in Albion Park Rail NSW www.frankies.net.au

Canberraphotographer
8
Rating
 

Canberraphotographer posted a review   

The Good:Reliable navigation, iPhone support, practical design, excellent sound

The Bad:Small LCD, left hand controls,

It's a fantastic entry-level unit that does everything I need. A significant plus is I purchased it as a Pioneer affiliate, meaning I got it for $540... even at the RRP of $999, it's still a good buy.


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User Reviews / Comments  Pioneer AVIC-F310BT

  • Derekt

    Derekt

    Rating5

    "was very dissappointed to find out the maps it came with are 2 years old. even more dissapointed to find out I had to PAY to update them. I thought I was getting free map updates for at least 12 mo..."

  • johno

    johno

    Rating3

    "tom tom is better in every way,bad speech,tiny screen,and the list goes on and on.get something better."

  • Ken

    Ken

    Rating10

    "It's a fantastic entry-level unit that does everything I need."

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