12 July 2011
If you have been looking for a head unit with all the popular amenities like GPS navigation, Bluetooth, iPod control, and DVD playback, but have been wishing for something with more real time internet connectivity, Pioneer is hoping you’ll take a close look at their new AVIC-Z130BT Navigation Multimedia Receiver. The latest and greatest AVIC unit has all the usual features that you’d expect at a price of about $1,200 bucks, but what sets it apart from the crowd are several key features to really keep you connected in ways that you may not have known were possible.
Features and Functions
I could prattle on about all the usual features and functions of these types of products, but if you’re reading this magazine, you already know that the AVIC unit has 2D and 3D navigation, and will play back music from virtually any type of common source or compressed audio format, and video from DVD or Divx sources. Of course it has a top quality 7” TFT color touchscreen that delivers excellent video and graphics. You also know that it comes with Pioneers excellent AM/FM Supertuner and HD radio tuners, supports iTunes tagging on HD radio and, of course, comes with Bluetooth for full handsfree connectivity.
But what you may not know is that it’s also equipped with the latest voice recognition technology. This allows you to control the navigation system, make hands free calls, switch A/V sources, and even operate your iPod all by voice command. How cool is that?
As more and more people become addicted to Internet connectivity, the demand to be constantly updated with information as well as stay connected through social media is becoming a necessity.
And if you don’t think that’s important, you should know that there are many ways for you to stay connected to real time information in your car, which can be useful and fun at the same time!
For example, with the AVIC-Z130BT you’ll be driving down the street or freeway during your regular commute to your version of the daily grind, and thanks to the included Traffic Tuner you’re automatically informed of accidents, construction and traffic flow within your route. In response to the updated information, the unit prompts you with alternate routes, and even provide you with an idea of the amount of traffic you should expect. In a hurry or running late? You can use the Pioneer unit’s navigation and Total Traffic functions to select a route that has the least congestion, simply indicated by colors of green, yellow or red. And best of all, the traffic information is available without subscription.
In addition to the Total Traffic network, the AVIC-Z130BT is also comes full compatible with the free Pandora and Aha radio applications, found on the App Store for the iPhone. All you need is a smartphone (iPhone that is) with the app loaded, and you’re in business. All your controls can now be done directly on the unit’s large 7-inch touch screen display. Most of us by now are quite familiar with Pandora Internet Radio, an application that streams music to you based on your own personal tastes. The Aha app is something newer, and different. By incorporating Aha Radio, the AVIC-Z130BT allows you to access Internet content while driving, so you can hear your Facebook news feeds, and listen to any of the 50+ available Aha channels. With Aha, you can also listen to the latest episode of your favorite podcast without ever having to sync your phone, hear Tweets from your favorite celebs, or tune into a stand-up comedy station for a laugh. There are even customizable “Hungry” and “Coffee” stations that deliver audio reports about upcoming restaurants that suit your tastes. And there’s more… also incorporated into the unit is something Pioneer calls “Eco-friendly” driving functions. This feature can be used to “estimate whether you are driving in an environmentally friendly way.” What it does, is calculate your fuel mileage based on vehicle speed and position information from the navigation system. Your approximate fuel economy is displayed via graphs and when you drive in a fuel conserving manner, another screen shows Eco Drive Level guidance, which is basically a screen that has animal and tree icons on it. The better your mileage, the more animals you’ll see, and the bigger the tree will grow. I guess it’s sort of a cool way to improve your driving habits and maximize your fuel economy, even if it is in sort of an elementary school manner.
Controls and Operation
Okay, in terms of what’s really important to me on a head unit, the controls and ease of regular use are at the top of my list. Frequently used controls should be easy to get to, and should be able to be operated with a glance at most. The Pioneer team has done a good job of designing a clean and smooth looking unit, but they also understood how important it is to find the control you are looking for by touch, without taking your eyes off the road. To accomplish this, the AVIC-Z130BT incorporates raised surfaces on the front panels “hard touch” buttons. With these controls, frequently adjusted controls such as volume changes can be done without looking, albeit after just a bit of practice. I also really liked the way you can fully customize the touch screen icons and colors. You can also create a customized shortcut screen for your most frequently used sources, and you can even create your own custom color for the system’s button illumination to match the interior of your dash. That is, if one of the eight available standard colors isn’t quite to your liking.
THE AVIC-Z130BT includes a rear view camera input built-in, two additional AV inputs, as well as a dedicated rear seat AV outputs to keep rear seat occupants entertained with content of their choosing.
The screen icons are logical and easy to understand, and the various menus displayed for the myriad of possible adjustments and settings are all quite accessible and sensibly displayed. It was nice that they thought to provide quick access to the EQ settings right from the main source screen, but I would have liked similarly easy access to the subwoofer level setting, which is an even more commonly adjusted item. To access the sub level adjustment you need to switch screens and while it’s not difficult, the process is more fidgety and not something you should do while driving. Built into the bottom edge of the fold down screen is an access port for SD memory cards, which can be used for music storage, or for updating the navigation system’s POI info. When folded down, the slot is facing forward, making access easy, but the port is totally hidden when the screen is in its natura upright positions.
Those of you who regularly read my reviews know I’m never 100% happy with any product. With this one, I have to mention the quite inexcusable lack of an included adapter for my iPod. Don’t get me wrong, I’d expect and have no problem with having to shell out for an iPod cable if I was buying one of Pioneers entry level head units, but at $1,200 bucks, the adapter should be included, not sold separately as a $50 option.
I connected the unit to my reference system, and I have to say the sonic performance was excellent, but there are so many adjustments and control options, I found myself playing with it as much as listening to it. I checked out the built-in 8-band graphic equalizer, and the crossover functions for both high and low pass filters. The crossovers use -12dB slopes for the high pass (front and rear) channels, and steeper -18dB slopes for the low pass (subwoofer) channels. Suffice to say from a sonic standpoint, that the AVIC system isn’t going to disappoint even the most discerning audiophiles out there.
On the Bench
Moving to the deadly accurate Cogent test bench, the Pioneer proved to be a solid and well sorted performer. The internal amplifier provided 18 watts per channel of clean power, and the preamp outputs delivered 4 volts of rated output. Further strengthening the audio sections performance credentials was an output impedance spec of less than 150 ohms, so you know the unit will provide good noise immunity and can drive as many amplifiers as you could ever want to connect. Frequency response was nice and flat and the signal to noise performance was excellent. High marks also in the stereo separation and 1 watt THD tests further indicated that while the AVIC-Z130BT may have a ton of built-in features and high tech gadgetry, the engineers of the audio section certainly provided audio performance that was as good or better than most.
CEA-2006A Power per channel (all channels driven, @ 4 ohms)……… 18.5 watts/ch X 4
A Wtd S/N Ratio (ref to 2V/1W @ 4 ohms)output ………………………… -79.9dBA
THD+N @ 2V/1W @ 4 ohms 1kHz …………………………………………… 0.02%
Frequency Response (-2.0dB) ………………………………………………. 20Hz – 20kHz
Max Usable Output Voltage …………………………………………………. 3.7Vrms
A Wtd S/N Ratio ref to full output voltage………………………………… -90.0dBA
Output Impedance ……………………………………………………………. 126 ohms
Frequency Response (-2.0dB) ……… ……………………………………… 20Hz – 20kHz
The Pioneer AVIC-Z130BT is an exceptional performer in all regards – from its excellent sonic performance, superb screen quality, and customizability, to the vast array of functionality and convenience features. There is no question that this unit will not only be the perfect choice for any road trip, but I’m willing to bet it might even turn your boring daily commute into something much more enjoyable. How many products can claim that? However, I still wish it includes the iPod adapter.