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-   -   Dynavin E46 Review and Impressions (http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=830928)

homeryen88 03-19-2011 05:10 PM

Dynavin E46 Review and Impressions
 
I have owned the Dynavin Version 5 for 2 months now. With 1500 miles of Dynavin-time under my belt and tires, I'd like to break down my personal impressions regarding this high-end entertainment system for others out there who may be looking into this model or who are looking at something to replace what they already have. These are merely my impressions as a driver who is looking for more than just the stock BMW entertainment system, believes that your ride is an extension of who you are, and was willing to invest $1100 to that end.

The goal of this posting is for information purposes only. I hope that you find this helpful in making your decision. I will be reviewing the functions that I frequently use: Radio/CD & DVD/Bluetooth/NAVI/Back-up Camera. I do not/have not used any of the other modes as of this writing.

For information on investigative fact-finding and technical support, I refer you to this website, where there is a most-excellent thread on such topics (which includes helpful pictures and YouTube videos):

http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=793437

If you have questions, please access/read that thread. That sponsor is VERY knowledgeable and they certainly deserve your business! :clap:

INSTALLATION
I am definitely not a DIYer and would rather leave this task to experienced installers. The installers that I chose were a bunch of entrepreneurial 20-somethings who previously did installations for the now-defunct Circuit City. Their company is Invius Motorsports, located in Rockville, MD. They charged me $160 for the installation. My 2002 BMW 325i (E46 chassis) sedan did not originally come with a NAV system, which makes installation much easier. If you already have a NAV system installed, you may want to look at that above thread.

There were 2 installers working at the same time on my vehicle. The total time was just a tick under 2 hours from the moment they started to pull apart the dash trim. They said that that it was a medium-difficult job with the most complicated work stemming from running the external wires to well-hidden spots (the IPod adapter is in the glove compartment, the GPS satellite antennae is on the upper-right section of the dash nestled against the windshield with the wires hidden behind the passenger-side A-Pillar, the microphone for the Bluetooth is secured at the point where my interior ceiling intersects the driver-side A-Pillar).

The fit looks great, as if this was an OEM product. To properly install the model, the HVAC unit has to be "dropped" to where the sunglass compartment is (and that sunglass compartment be removed).

A special bracket is necessary to securely fit the Dynavin unit in. However, even without the bracket, the HVAC unit still snugly fits into the space where the sunglass compartment used to be. But, I'm a perfectionist, so on the negative side, the HVAC relocation kit (if you decide to get it) will run you $95, but you can easily purchase one by visiting any local BMW dealer or by having your regular BMW mechanic procure one for you or by going to this website to procure one yourself:

http://www.ecstuning.com/BMW-E46-325...board/ES87554/

When you turn on your car, the Dynavin unit comes on in about 3 seconds, a perfectly acceptable time. That is, the opening screen (kind of like when you first turn on a computer and a "load-up" screen comes up) displays the BMW logo and then the unit is ready to follow your commands.

Accessing the Navigation function takes a little longer. When you hit the NAVI panel button, it takes about 10 seconds for the pre-installed program to boot up.

The Bluetooth enables very quickly. At the unit's main menu, you would touch the Bluetooth icon. Alternatively, you can press the right-bottom circular button. Then, you would command your Bluetooth-capable phone to search for nearby devices. I have an HTC smartphone. It picks up the "car unit" pretty easily. Shortly, the Dynavin and the phone "pairs" up.

More on whether I like the Bluetooth/radio/navigation/CD/DVD/etc modes later once I've had a chance to really play with them.

TACTILE AESTHETICS (ease of touch and navigation into submenus)
The main menu is where you can access all of the functions of the unit. All available options are displayed in a clock-like design. Just touch the appropriate icon and advance to that thing that you want to do (i.e. radio, navigation, IPod, CD, DVD, etc...). If the function is available for use, it will immediately take you to there. When the screen changes, you can actually set up the design of the "wipe" as it transitions from one screen to another. For example, you can pick 'shutter' or checker' or several other visual options.

The touch-screen is very responsive. I never had to press harder than I thought was necessary and the unit responds very quickly. Also, thanks to the larger screen area, you can have large fingers and still be able to maneuver your way through the unit's menus.

The screen is also glare-resistant thanks to the matte screen accompanied by an outer film that you affix. Even with the sun coming through the sunroof and with the extreme brightness from the sun reflecting off of the snow, I could make out everything that I needed to see as I was driving around. However, you can always increase the brightness of the display, which is pretty easy. You'll be able to do this in the "SYSTEMS/DISPLAY/SOUND" menu, which is accessed by pressing the lower left icon (a group of cogs) from the main menu with the clock-like interface. I should mention that I am 5' 9" and the glare was never so distracting that I couldn't press what I need to touch within a half-a-second of looking at the screen.

If your steering wheel has multi-function buttons, then you're in for a treat. With most aftermarket radios, the multi-function buttons do not sync up with the newly-installed radios and thus become inoperable. For the Dynavin, the buttons do work, which is a huge plus for me. I like being able to switch stations/songs/tracks/move the volume without having to focus on the 7" screen so that I can keep my eyes on the road.

Something to note when in RADIO mode - When you hit the Up Arrow on your multi-function steering wheel, you are in essence commanding the preset button setting to advance +1. So, if you are on Channel 1, it will move to Channel 2. If you are on Channel 2, it will move to Channel 3. That sounds obvious on paper. Visually, the Dynavin is a little weird. Channel 1 is shown on-screen at the top row. Channel 2 is the 2nd row. Channel 3 is the 3rd row. So, when you are pressing the UP arrow on your multi-function steering wheel, the on-screen highlighted channel is moving DOWN. It is logical, but it doesn't look intuitive. Eh, I'll just have to get over it. Here's another thing that might throw you off. Normally, let's say that you have your stock radio on volume 2 and want to move it to volume 3. Well, all you would do is to tap the + button on your multi-function steering wheel to make that happen. On the Dynavin, when you press that + button the first time, all that happens is that the volume setting appears on screen (so it just lets you know you are on volume 2). You have to actually hit it again for it to go to volume setting 3. To repeat myself, to advance the volume setting by +1, you actually have to hit your + button on your multi-function steering wheel twice. :rolleyes:

There was one drawback that I think future versions will easily fix. There was no easy way to get back to the main menu with the clock-like interface, which is the easiest access point to the other modes. If you are looking at the Radio screen, you can press the "return" button in the lower right corner to the main menu. But, when you are in CD/DVD and probably any of the other modes, there is no direct route back to the main menu. If you want to go to another mode from the CD/DVD mode, you can, of course, hit the MODE button, which advances you through the merry-go-round of the other modes. But, this is silly. I'd like to be able to go to the main menu directly. You can also hit BAND, which takes you to the radio interface and then you could press the "return" button in the lower right corner to the main menu. But, this is an extra step. Except for when you're in the radio mode, there is no direct way back to the main menu. How did the engineers miss that? :facepalm:

This is a very nice plug-and-play unit. Installers and the nimble DIY'ers will like the fact that there will not have to be any weird cutting of bezels or whatnot. Once installed, this is more of a figure-it-out-for-yourself-when-you-play-with-it unit. The owner's manual only seems to cover about 60% of what the unit can do and what we need to know to access some of its functions.

With the Dynavin product installed, the beauty of my cockpit has definitely been elevated. In the daytime, the design blends very well with the interior. Meanwhile, when I turn on the parking lights/headlights in the evening, the unit's buttons glow with the same amber color as the BMW dashboard's ambient light. It is quite pretty. NOTE: at night, you know how you can dim or raise the interior light levels of the dashboard? You can NOT dim the Dynavin ambient lighting

My feeling about its overall looks is this...though I am behind the wheel quite often, DC traffic may no longer seem as quite a drag thanks to the new plaything in my dash. My cockpit has an updated, sexy look to it. So far, so good... :thumbsup:

Quality of Sound:
A (sounds great, especially with my Harmon Kardon system)

Ease of Use:
B (illogical keys on the perimeter/cumbersome to navigate to specific modes)

Easy on the Eyes:
A (looks great with a flush OEM appearance and matching ambient lighting)

Functionality:
A (does just about everything! I've even heard that with some tinkering, you
could connect a PlayStation and adapt it to receive internet!).



DVD
Among all of the upgrades over the stock radio that I've been looking forward to is the ability to play DVDs. I have some young ones and this is a great tool to keep the kids pre-occupied during a long drive. In my E46, I've put a front-facing booster seat in the middle of the back row. My daughter is just coming on 3 years of age and she, like most kids, gets bored very quickly if she has nothing to do. Solution: play her favorite DVDs when we're driving for more than 30 minutes.

This component of the unit is great. I have only positives to talk about and no negatives. Well, there is one thing that I find to be curious. When I eject the DVD (or a CD, for that matter) after it has been playing for over 30 minutes, the disc itself is very warm to the touch. Discs never felt this warm when ejected from the stock radio. No, the unit is not going to catch on fire and I like touching a warm disc when my hands are freezing due to the cold winter weather. It's just something odd.

Has this ever occurred to you? YOU FIND THAT THE DVD PLAYS BUT A WARNING MESSAGE CONSTANTLY APPEARS ON THE SCREEN TO PREVENT YOU FROM WATCHING THE VIDEO (although you can still hear the DVD). Go to the main menu with the clock-like interface and touch the "cogs" in the lower left to take you to the SYSTEM/DISPLAY/SOUND menu. Go into the DISPLAY submenu and note that the "BRAKE" mode must be OFF. Fooling around with the controls, I unknowingly turned this on and my 3-year old was furious as to why she could hear Elmo but couldn't see him. Anyway, after searching through some Dynavin threads, I finally happened upon another poster's similar episode and resolution. Phew!

Anyway, when you load the disc, it takes about 5 seconds for the main menu to pop up. It's very fast and seems as fast as if you were sitting home in front of your living room DVD system.

If you touch the top part of the display screen, a menu appears on the bottom part of the screen that allows you to do what you would normally do if you were watching a DVD in your living room. You can pause, fast forward, stop, get sub-titles, etc...

The buttons are large enough to allow you to conveniently press what you want (even while driving, which I'm not confessing that I did!), but not so bunched together as to create a cluttering problem.

The thing that I wondered about the most was this... As you know, when a DVD goes to the main menu, there are all of these options: Play DVD, Go to a Scene, Options, etc... I was thinking that I would have to manually push a button (such as those that appear on the bottom part of the screen) to advance the "cursor" until I got the option that I wanted to execute. It's like if you didn't have a mouse, you would just hit the TAB key on your computer until you highlighted the program/command you wanted and then press Enter.

Happily, the touch-screen enables you to touch that option that you want. No fuss, no muss. My daughter likes watching Elmo DVDs. The Press-to-Play icon is in the lower right. No problem. I just press my finger to the icon and - VOILA - the DVD begins to play. I was sitting in the parking lot and decided to watch a DVD on leadership. That Press-to-Play icon is in the upper right. No problem. I just press my finger to the icon and - VOILA - the DVD begins to play. Nice!

If you switch out of DVD mode to access the Bluetooth or the radio (as well as other modes except for NAVI) and then you return back to the DVD mode, it "remembers" where you left off and starts from that point. Of course, if you turn off the unit or eject the DVD, then it won't "remember" where you were.

Picture quality looks fine. I mean, this isn't Hi-Def territory here and I can't quote pixel quality, so this is just Joe-Average-Guy-Who-Knows-Nothing-about-Technical-Specs talking. The colors look crisp and the picture looks sharp. Furthermore, by pressing the lower-left circular button, you can access settings to change the contrast/color/brightness to your liking. And, the illusion of surround-sound (thanks to my factory-installed Harmon-Kardon system) makes the viewing experience on the 7" screen all the better. My 3-yr old daughter is happy in the backseat. My wife thinks it's pretty cool. I'm going to get more DVDs! Man, if there was only a way for this unit to access YouTube...then it would be Game Over! :thumbsup:

Quality of Sound:
A (sounds great, especially with the Harmon-Kardon system)

Ease of Use:
A (easy to navigate, touch-screen responsive)

Easy on the Eyes:
A (you get only and exactly what the DVD gives you)

Functionality:
A (does everything that I expected it to do)



CD PLAYER
My enthusiasm for the sound quality is the same as for the DVD. DVDs sound great. And, CDs sound equally great. The touch-screen elements are great for the DVD. It's equally great for the CD. You can easily access a sub-menu, via-touch screen, to allow you to fast-forward, skip, repeat, and everything else that you'd expect to be able to and demand to do. But, here are some of the aesthetic negatives that have crept up into my psyche.

The graphics for the CD mode look horrible. It's like when you are working on a file on your PC computer and then you want to save it. Then a sub-menu comes up to ask you where you want to save the file - you know how it looks on your computer screen. You see a lot of folders and icons and a graphical display that is soooo boring as if to definitively say that saving files is not a very exciting thing to do at all. Well, the CD screen looks even worse. In fact, a PC computer's fonts are sexily sleek compared to the boxy, boring styling that has been designed here. As awesomely cool as this unit looks, the designers must have left all their "beauty-ideas" at home when constructing the graphics for the CD mode. Yuck! :yikes:

I wonder if you can download some kind of 'skin' to give this an entire facelift. As it is, when I play a CD, I turn on the NAVI system, which is much prettier to look at.

The "volume - matching" matches up with the DVD. That is, if you play a CD on Volume setting 5, the decibel level is the same as Volume setting 5 if you're watching a DVD. So far, so good. However, if you then switch to the Radio Mode, the radio volume levels are noticeably and even surprisingly higher (on the radio side) to the point where it could startle you/your passengers as you're driving. So, let's say that if you're on Volume Setting 5 while listening to a CD/watching a DVD and this (for example) equates to 70 decibels. When you move over to the Radio Mode, Volume setting 5 now sounds like 100 decibels. :hmm:

As with the DVDs, there is that same odd level of heat that warms the CD when you've played it for a period of time.

Does poor visual creativity make this a dealbreaker? Nah! Especially when you can just turn on the NAVI program, you don't have to look at the yucky "save-my-PC-file" mess. But, this is one area that is utterly visually uninspiring.

Quality of Sound:
A (the same goes for the DVD mode)

Ease of Use:
A (the same goes for the DVD mode)

Easy on the Eyes:
D (fuhgettaboutit) :dunno:

Functionality:
A (does everything that I expected it to do)



BLUETOOTH
The Bluetooth enables very quickly. At the unit's main menu, you would touch the Bluetooth icon. Alternatively, you can press the right-bottom circular button. Then, you would command your Bluetooth-capable phone to search for nearby devices. I have an HTC smartphone. It easily picked up the "car unit". In my HTC, I go to the main menu and enter the Tools menu. Within that menu, I press Comm Manager. I then tap the Bluetooth option to turn on/enable my Bluetooth function. Shortly, the Dynavin and the phone "pairs" up. You'll know this by looking at the top left of the Dynavin screen. When it's not paired, it flashes DISCONNECT. When it does "pair", it then says CONNECT. Very easy and very nice.

My Bluetooth mic is positioned/mounted right about where the edge of the interior ceiling meets the driver-side C-Pillar. It's clipped in such a way that the visor can no longer be flipped flush against the windshield. But that's ok and the minimized visor mobility does not impede my driving or block any less of the sun whatsoever. It's probably about 12 inches away from my mouth where I normally sit and drive.

There's probably no way of getting rid of that 'talking-in-the-distance' sound when a Bluetooth mic is anywhere except within 2 inches of your mouth. I've called several people using this function to ask for their feedback regarding clarity. All of them said that they can hear me. Most agreed that it wasn't as clear as if I just put a cell phone to my face. My wife thought that when I called her, I was standing near a waterfall. Another friend said that it sounded like I was underwater. He also said, however, that it doesn't sound any better or worse than any other Bluetooth-enabled phone calls that he has been on. However, if you're using Bluetooth and you are dialing someone else who is driving and using their car-installed Bluetooth with the mouth-to-mic being also 12 inches away, this does make for a difficult conversation.

You know, in professional sports broadcasts, many segments bring you "sounds-of-the-game". You can hear players/coaches explain what's going on in their huddle despite the fact that there is a bunch of fan noise in the background. On another note, I've seen these huge pieces of equipment that resemble Get Smart's Cone of Silence (featured in many sports shows and spy thrillers) that allow people to clearly hear conversations from afar.

Perhaps one day, that technology will be commercially mass-produced so that we can, once and for all, eliminate the tendency to preen towards the mic (or at least develop a wireless mic that we can clip onto our collar) while driving and yell our conversations into it. Indeed, the clarity is muted/distorted by those 12 inches (between the mic and our mouth). Add in random wind/vibration that occurs during the conversation and it could pretty much be a lost cause. If it's raining, the pitter-patter of the raindrops on the windshield completely drown out my voice, so it's useless when storming. Thus when you are using the Bluetooth mode, remember to roll up your windows, to use it when sunny, to shut off the HVAC, and to have everyone hush when you're speaking!

Having said that, when driving, I am certainly grateful for the hands-free alternative. I mean, I already have enough to focus on when in DC's gridlocked areas. And, when you are eating a burger with one hand, sipping a drink with the other, maneuvering your stick shift with another, and writing down notes with the other, and fumbling through the multitude of functions on your Dynavin with the other, one more freed-up hand is a good thing! And, as I'm not a fan of inserting a Borg-like earpiece into my ear, this is the best way to go. But, the technology regarding sound and clarity still needs to grow. :banghead:

The Bluetooth works exactly as you would expect. One plus is that if you didn't want to dial a phone number using your smart phone, you could dial by using the on-screen number pad that pops up when you turn on the Bluetooth mode. Yet, having said that, who actually remembers people's phone numbers? I can barely remember my wife's number and certainly can't even remember my best friend's number! So, in reality, unless you're calling your wife/significant other all the time, the dialpad that shows up on the screen is superfluous.

Meanwhile, let's talk very quickly about what happens when a call comes in. During an incoming call, you'll hear the Dynavin ring tone. I think that there is only one tone that plays. It sounds like the kind of music that would play if Tinkerbell was flying very fast. I don't think you can change it. It'd be nice if there were some ringtone options.

When you have an inbound/outbound call, whatever mode (radio/cd/dvd) you were in, will stop (except the NAVI) and the sounds will shut off and the screen will enter the Bluetooth mode so that the phone system can take precedence. While you're having your conversation, you cannot listen to/watch/observe anything else (except NAVI). You cannot toggle to another mode (except NAVI). That is actually fine with me because I do want to minimize distractions and background noise while talking. And, it was thoughtful of the designers to allow the driver to toggle back to the NAVI screen so that we don't miss our exit!

Niceties? The volume that you use during Bluetooth mode is thankfully on a separate system from the Radio/CD/DVD. That is to say, when you are listening to the Radio/CD/DVD at Volume 5 and then you make a call/receive a call, here's what happens. Ring-Ring. Hello? Hmmm, I can't hear the caller very well. Frequently, you really have to turn up the Bluetooth volume to hear the incoming caller. Sometimes, I've turned it up to volume setting 35 (max is 39)! But, very thankfully, when you disconnect and the system returns you to the previous mode, it does NOT blare out level 35 volume. In this example, it reverts back to Volume 5, which is where you had it before you entered the Bluetooth mode. My ears thank the Dynavin engineers for that bit of thoughtfulness!

Oddities? Well, I am growing bored with the Bluetooth display/layout. I wished that just as you can choose different color backgrounds for the NAVI mode's main screen, it would've been nice if we could change the "skin" colors of the phone display as well. Green-and-black, blue-and-black, yellow-and-black, whatever-and-black would've been nice touches. I also think that it would be really cool if there was a "skin" design that mimics the old-style phone pad from a coin-operated phone booth - you remember those metallic dial pads? Note to the Bluetooth designers: the look of the screen reminds me of the first generation Apple computers with their monochromatic green computer screens. If you can't find a way to get the design/layout/colors to evolve, then can you at least also load up PONG for us to play? Thanks!

Also, the number zero (0) and the star (*) and the pound (#) are in an unfamiliar location, to the right of the '6'. Was it so hard to put it where we're all used to it? There is no dial-by-voice-recognition in Bluetooth. This has probably a lot to do with the 12 inches from the mouth to the mic. Here's something that I find strange. Let's say that I press the lower right round button to enter the Bluetooth mode. Intuitively, what do you think *should* happen when I press it again? I mean, when you press the MUTE button once, it mutes. When you press it again, it unmutes. When you press NAVI button once, you enter the NAVI mode. When you press it again, you leave the NAVI mode. Now, when you press the lower right button, you enter the Bluetooth mode. And, when you press it again, you (are you ready?) redial the last number. Huh?

Although this suggestion isn't as intuitive as press-once-for-on-and-press-again-for-off, what I'd recommend is this. Press once to enter the Bluetooth mode. Once in, pressing the button opens up a menu (change ring tone, change color scheme, change dial-pad design). So, let's say that I wanted to change the ring tone. I would press the same button again and it brings up my options: 1. Change Ring Tone, 2. Change Color Scheme, 3. Change Dial-Pad Design. I could turn the knob to highlight my desired choice (Change Ring Tone) and then press the button to select to enter that submenu. Let's say that there are 4 ring tone options. Again, I could turn the knob to highlight my desired choice and then press the button again to select. Once done, it brings me back out to the main telephone screen so that I can start calling. I certainly like the idea of a 'redial' button, but that can be put on the main touch-screen somewhere.

Wasted opportunities? No touch-tone capability from the on-screen Dynavin unit. So, you can dial a phone number using the touch-screen keypad. But, if you have to hit #1 for billing or #2 for dial-by-name-directory or #3 for a customer service representative, you'll have to reach for your smartphone and hit the buttons on your phone's dial pad. When accessing my voice mail, I definitely need to key in some additional numbers via touch-tone. So, keep your eyes on the road when you're fumbling with your smartphone. There's already enough burger-eating/drink-sipping/stick-shifting/note-taking/Dynavin-adjusting going on with your other hand, you know? I also wished that there was a "kill" button that would quickly unpair the device if you needed to have a private conversation. Yes, on my smartphone, it's a two-step process to unpair (not including the fumbling and the reduced focus on the road). But, the whole point of the hands-free system is to be hands-free!

While we're on this subject, if you are speaking on Bluetooth and you turn off the car, the phone call hangs up. Even if you command your phone to come off hands-free (in this case, you can talk to your phone but the Dynavin unit's Bluetooth is still operational), you will lose the call when you turn off the car. That's annoying. That, however, may not be a programming issue and there may be nothing that can be done about this. If you already began a Bluetooth-enabled conversation and then you parked and wanted to get out and continue the conversation, you'll have to remember to disengage the Bluetooth altogether (in my HTC smartphone, there is a prompt to turn Bluetooth off) so that you can turn off the car and still proceed with your conversation. Another funny thing is if you don't turn the Bluetooth off and make a phone call while standing near the car when the car is on, the Dynavin unit will pair with your phone and you won't be able to converse with them because you're nowhere near the on-board mic. I learned of this because I was at a repair shop and I was sitting in the waiting area while my car was in the bay. The car was running at the time as the technicians were checking a few things. When I made the phone call from the waiting area, my phone said that the connection was made. I kept saying "hello-hello?" Of course, as I wasn't close to the on-board mic, the one that I called couldn't hear me. But, he started to say naturally, "hello-hello?", which confused the technicians. They finally told me that I needed to turn off the Bluetooth altogether and we all chuckled about it.

Useless feature? That would be the phonebook. This is easily the tonsil or the appendix of the Bluetooth mode. I'm still not sure where this adds value to the system. It does store all of the incoming and outgoing calls you've made while your Bluetooth is paired with the Dynavin. But, it seems that the memory is erased once you turn off your car. So, unless you actually live in the car for much of the day or week and never turn off your car, the phonebook is essentially extraneous. And, since it only lists numbers (and most people that are truly on-the-go can't remember who has what phone number anyway), it looks like a bunch of computer codes. :facepalm:

Meanwhile, a nice function of the NAVI, for example, is that you can "add as favorites" when there is an address that you want to save for future reference. There should be something similar for the phonebook. You know, touch the phonebook icon to see your most commonly called/favorite entries. Just as the NAVI favorite could be listed as "home", the phonebook favorite could be "home" or "office" or "movie theatre" or "wifey". Wouldn't it be great if you could access your favorites from the phonebook menu? Touch it and then voila! Ring-ring-hello? That'd be awesome and certainly something to write home about.

Quality of Sound:
C (mic technology just needs to catch up)

Ease of Use:
B (nice big buttons for those who like to dial using the screen)

Easy on the Eyes:
C (boring colors and unstylistically boxy graphics)

Functionality:
C (wasted potential here and useless features there)



RADIO
Let's start with how it looks. While the colors are about the same as the oh-so-boring Bluetooth screen set-up, the layout of the radio is eye-appealing. Why? Despite the same color scheme, it has got a modern-looking font. You can easily read the information on the screen with a moment's glance. I like how the screen displays the artist and/or song and/or station genre that's playing. Further, I like the feature that allows you to save the name of the radio station and not just the frequency. So, while the typical aftermarket radio allows you to save "107.3" or "94.7", what you can have show up on the Dynavin is "Mix 107.3" or "Fresh FM". That's neat!

Getting it to display the radio station's moniker on your Channel Presets, though, is really an exercise in timing and finesse, which is somewhat aggravating. In essence, when you want to lock in "Mix 107.3" or "Fresh FM", you have to wait for that to show up on the display line - there's a display area above the preset channels where words/phrases/titles flash on-screen. Once you see it, then press and hold the preset channel and the preset channel will be labeled. But, you have to press the preset channel that you want to label for about 1 second. The challenge is that in that mere one-second, the words/phrases/titles might have and probably will have changed. You actually have to press the preset channel before the desired words/phrases/titles appear to lock that in. It's really like shooting a moving target. This could get aggravating. But, it'll happen with a little patience.

Sound quality-wise, there's nothing for me to complain about. There is an equalizer that's built-in with pre-programmed settings (in the SYSTEM/DISPLAY/SOUND menu) to allow you to enjoy your type of music to the fullest. It's crisp and there are no background noise distortions. And, I feel that you get more out of your stock speakers with this unit playing than with the factory-installed radio. There is a small complaint though. When you go from volume setting 1 to volume setting 2 to volume setting 3, it seems like a noticeably steep increase in decibels. In the radio mode, the increase in volume could've been more subtle. The volume levels seem more uniform when you're going from setting 1 to 2 to 3 when listening in CD/DVD mode.

A more moderate complaint though is that the volume in radio mode is noticeably louder than the CD/DVD mode. It creates two types of distractions. When you switch from CD/DVD to radio, you may be startled by the difference in loudness (just try volume 6 in CD mode and volume 6 in radio mode and see how your ears feel). The second distraction is that radio volume easily drowns out the NAVI audio, which can't deliver its turn-by-turn instructions at a high enough volume level to be effectively heard.

Let's talk about the AF, PTY, and TA buttons. I find them completely unhelpful. There's a good explanation of what they do, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Data_System

AF
Alternative Frequencies This allows a receiver to re-tune to a different frequency providing the same station when the first signal becomes too weak (e.g. when moving out of range).

PTY
This helps the radio identify and sort program types. But, this is not really used in the USA.

TA
Traffic Announcement mode works if your radio can pick up traffic bulletins, but again, this is not really used in the USA.

Just leave them all off.

APS
All Preset Search. When you press this, the unit will automatically save something in all of the 18 FM and 12 AM presets that it can find. However, don't touch this. You've worked so hard to get all of the preset channels set up with the correct labels. You will be steaming if you accidentally erase everything by pressing this button. Note: the unit is provided with anti-glare film that you affix onto the screen. On the upper right is the tab that you could pull to re-orient your anti-glare film. Thus, the upper-right part of the film easily comes loose and may not stick flush to the screen. So, your tendency will be to press this part of the film down. But BEWARE. This part that you're pressing is also where the APS button is. So, if you press too hard while you're in radio mode, APS will reprogram everything. Drat and double-drat!

Some things that I would've certainly preferred:

1. Being able to more easily advance frequencies up and down. Here's a missed opportunity. You would think it would be old school to turn clockwise/counterclockwise the lower right button to advance radio frequency. Nope. All that does is advance preset channels. Well, that's fine. But, then what you should be able to do is to, with your thumb, move the entire button to the right or left. Every time you thumb it to the right, you advance the frequency (or left to go the other way). Or, move the entire button to the right and hold it there for 2 seconds and then the Dynavin can scan for stations without overwriting the labels the way that APS does. I don't like the touch-screen aspect of this function. When you're driving, there is no "feel" to this. Knobs are needed for this.

Happily, the lower left button has familiar, old-school functions You depress the button for two seconds to turn the unit off. Or, by pressing it quickly once, it enables you to scroll through a bunch of settings: volume, fader, balance, bass, treble, contrast, brightness, color. Gotta love old school!

2. Radio frequency to the 1/100th? A popular station in my area is 107.3. But the display on the Dynavin shows 107.30. Is that really necessary? This makes channel surfing twice as long because while most systems will advance frequency by .1 at a time, this one advances by .05 at a time, effectively making the search twice as long. In fact, it even takes longer because you have to press the touch screen with just the right pressure and in just the right spot to advance the stations. It is tough to do this when your eyes are supposed to be on the road. In essence, when you're driving, don't expect to easily change stations manually. So, program your preset channels. That's why they are there.

3. There are two touch-screen buttons, above the frequency display, that moves your station frequency up and down (shaped like a right arrow and a left arrow). Weirdly, when you are pressing the left arrow, your finger/hand blocks your view of the frequency display. So, it's like you have to crouch your neck to see under your hand to see the frequency display. This is not well-designed. Oddly, it's so easy to rewind/advance in the CD/DVD mode. Not so, though, when it comes to changing frequencies in the radio mode. A simple suggestion is to put these two touch-screen buttons BELOW the frequency display in future generations. Again, if we could use the lower right circular button to surf stations, that'd make this mode much more user-friendly.

Now, do you have your radio presets all set up? There are a lot of them, aren't there? Indeed, there are 18 FM presets and 12 AM presets. That seems excessive. 10 FM and 1 AM are probably enough! Anyway, at this point, my best advice to you is this. Once you've got the stations and the labels set up and you disengage the AF/PTY/TA, just leave everything alone. It's like building a house of cards. Do it and then do not disturb. You'll be a lot happier this way.

Quality of Sound:
A (again, I like the audio)

Ease of Use:
B (let's get back to appreciating old-school functionality)

Easy on the Eyes:
B (nice layout, though again, different color options would be nicer)

Functionality:
B (patience needed to set up your stations but it'll be worth it )



NAVI
With people being more on the go nowadays, a navigation system (NAVI) has graduated from a high-end luxury option to something that everyone could really use.

The Dynavin V5 NAVI mode does have some thoughtful touches. When directions are spoken, the two front speakers "go out" and the audio directions are given while the back speakers play on. Because the software program is contained on a microdisk, theoretically, any updates to the NAVI mapping software or firmware updates should be just a case of removing the out-of-date microdisk and replacing it with another one with the newer, updated versions.

Also, the touch-screen buttons are ample in size so that even those who are wearing gloves can probably navigate the menus.

Happily and expectedly, NAVI runs on its own system, so it runs independently of the other modes. That is, you can turn on the NAVI mode AND listen to any of your other modes simultaneously. You can listen to your radio or CD or IPod while the 7" screen is displaying route information. So, if you have the radio on and you want to access the NAVI, just press the NAVI button. The radio will still continue playing but you'll see NAVI information on your screen. Press the NAVI button again and it'll return you to your previous screen. If you program your NAVI with a destination address and you come out of NAVI mode to view the radio screen, for example, the NAVI program is still running. That means that you'll still get audio turn-by-turn instruction and if you press the NAVI button to re-enter that mode, the screen will show you up-to-date GPS/routing information as if you've never left that mode.

Unfortunately, the provided NAVI system (powered by IGo) is pretty basic in terms of what it provides. So basic, in fact, that I can't seem to make it display the direction of travel as "up" in 2D mode. And so basic, in fact, that when you come to a complete stop, the GPS is unable to get a "lock" on you, which causes the screen to continually change your orientation as it "looks" for your car.

In any case, what most people want is a system that will guide you from Point A to Point B. And this will do that of course. You know, a Nissan Sentra will take you from Point A to Point B. A propeller plane will take you from Point A to Point B. A 64k modem will take you from Point A to Point B. But, it all lacks pizzazz and pop.

I also have a portable Magellan Roadmate 1470 with a 5" screen. It features crisp and bright colors. You turn it "on" and it starts to work within 3 seconds. It also has "lane-assist", which points out which lane to be in to be able to successfully navigate through each of the directions. But, while I would highly recommend the functionality of the Magellan Roadmate 1470, I grew tired of shifting the wires from the cigarette lighter to where I mounted it on my windshield, so the concept of having an in-dash unit is appealing to me. The IGo navigational program that comes pre-programmed with the Dynavin unit does have an array of useful features, but it is certainly no Magellan Roadmate 1470. * sigh *.

Let me give you my quick opinion here. But, keep reading... Because of the microdisk, you can find more pleasing alternatives that are aesthetically and powerfully superior.

Quality of Sound:
B (tough to hear voice-over at times)

Ease of Use:
A (large buttons and functions are intuitive)

Easy on the Eyes:
B (blobbish kind of look but obvious visual guidance provided)

Functionality:
C (I miss my Magellan Roadmate 1470!)


Many casual and serious contributors to Dynavin chatrooms and forums have mentioned something called Primo, a revved-up NAVI program that can be used with the Dynavin unit. I am lazy and found a fellow E46 Fanatic (a forum for E46 owners) who was resourceful enough to download Primo onto a 4GB microdisk for me. Now, nothing worthy comes with zero cost or zero pain. But, I was happy to "invest" a very small sum to put my hands on this program. I recommend that you should look into this desirable, low-cost , high-impact upgrade. The fellow E46 Fanatic's handle is: 2000_328CI, if you are an E46 Fanatics user (www.e46fanatics.com) and want to reach out to him. :thumbup:

Once you have the microdisk with the Primo program ready to upload, just remove the microdisk (in the tiny slot below the bottom left circular button) that came with the Dynavin V5 and pop in the one with the revved up program. You can then enter the appropriate folder where you've saved the file and then execute it to initiate the IGo-to-Primo metamorphosis.

Primo is a terrific upgrade and its abilities even surpass my Magellan Roadmate 1470 on several levels. This program packs a myriad of helpful functions, which I will leave for you to discover. But, some of the neat items include the ability to place special markers, which is helpful if you want a reminder where a speed trap is or a speed camera is; there are several skins/looks available for daytime and nighttime mode; lane visualizations are sleek; on-screen information is highly customizable from the colors of the fonts to the types of info you want displayed to even the avatar that represents your current position. For this last point, I have my avatar set as an Indy 500 Formula 1 race car!

The following are not drawbacks necessarily, but suggestions for improvement when future Dynavin versions are created. It seems like it takes an inordinate amount of time to start up - maybe 20 to 30 seconds. My Magellan Roadmate 1470 takes about 3 seconds. I wonder why there is such a big difference. Also, the NAVI volume controls are buried behind several submenus. Couldn't the way we control the volume be with the lower left button, just like with every other function? At the very least, create a "speaker" icon to quickly access the NAVI volume settings.

Having said that, the NAVI volume also needs to be raised. You can barely make out the audio directions when you are simultaneously listening to the radio/CD/DVD. The NAVI volume program could be better thought out. 1) let us access the volume using the lower left round button or through an on-screen icon as just mentioned; 2) increase the volume cap A LOT; 3) Like the Bluetooth volume program, put this on a separate circuit so that you can raise or lower the volume of the audio instructions to your liking separate from the Radio/CD/DVD mode; 4) give us the ability to MUTE the spoken guidance too, which would also stop the two front speakers from muting out when the turn-by-turn directions are given.

For example, let's say that you are listening to the news or to your favorite song and you're coming on your turn. The voice-over will of course give you the audio alert. But, let's say that you really wanted to hear that news piece or the song in its entirety, it would be nice if there was a way to MUTE the NAVI audio guidance and then unmute it when desired. Further, when the NAVI-MUTE is engaged, it would be nice if there was a way for the engineers to figure out how to keep the front two speakers on (instead of "going out") during the NAVI-MUTE operation.

Also, what do you need to do if you just want to turn on NAVI but turn everything else off? I mean, sometimes I want to just drive with the NAVI on without music in the background. The only way that I can think of doing this is by pressing the MODE button until you enter a function that is offline. But, doesn't it make more sense if one of the options on the clock-like interface was to just "REST"? Or, perhaps one of the exterior buttons could include this feature.

In any case, get Primo and get out of the dark ages. Here are my grades for the NAVI with Primo installed:

Quality of Sound:
B (tough to hear voice-over at times)

Ease of Use:
A (large buttons and functions are intuitive)

Easy on the Eyes:
A (much, much better vs IGo 8)

Functionality:
B (maybe too many functions. Do I really need to know how to convert US-to-Euro shirt sizes?)



BACK-UP CAMERA
I have a penchant for always backing up into a space when I find one, even in the privacy of my driveway. I find this to be a time and stress-saver. When you back into a space, nothing is moving so you should not have a difficult time of easing in. When you initially park front-in and then you have to back-out when you leave, that just raises my annoyance levels. You have to crane your neck left and right continually as you back out; pray that you time your reversal correctly without inadvertently hitting something/someone; awkwardly maneuver your car safely out of your space - especially when there are other cars competing for your parking space. Yup, I prefer to back in all the time with ease and then to leave my parking space with the world in FRONT of me.

Functionally, when you put your car in reverse, the camera automatically comes on. Everything is disengaged except for the Bluetooth. You can still talk on Bluetooth while you are backing up your car. All other buttons go inactive. In the daytime, my camera projects an amazingly clear picture. In the evening though, there is that faint fuzzy distortion with horizontal lines that seem to "descend" down the screen. It reminds me of those movies where people are watching TV when aliens are landing or erupting solar flares are interfering with the reception.

I appreciate the back-up camera. It helps me to avoid hitting other peoples' cars when I'm parallel parking and to avoid hitting other objects as I am backing in. My satisfaction is increased because the camera is waterproof; provides color images, and has infrared capability. If you're wondering, here's a link to the model that I purchased:

http://www.sonicelectronix.com/item_...CCD-Black.html

I know, I know - that's a pretty beefy accessory for putting the car in reverse every now and then. Well, if you're not the type of person that backs up very much, then you can forego this option OR you can also go and get yourself a Playstation game console, hook it up, and play until your fingers hurt. Yes, you can actually do that (but don't ask me how)!

Quality of Sound:
n/a

Ease of Use:
A (Comes on every time you put it in reverse)

Easy on the Eyes:
A (The 7" inch screen is a boon but is NOT a replacement for common
sense and your side- and rear-view mirrors)

Functionality:
B (conceptually, this is style over substance)



WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED? :idea: MY WISH LIST:
1. Where could I go to buy the protective film by itself? I'm puzzled as to where to go if I wanted more of these. At this time, there are some small bubbles that are appearing and the stickiness of the film that covers the upper right corner is starting to diminish slightly. Still looks fine but surely a replacement will be needed at some time.

2. I'm not sure if 'screen burn' is/will be/may be an issue.

3. Find a way to allow the unit's main screen to show 12/24 hr clock time instead of the only option being military time.

4. When you press the + button once on your multi-function steering wheel, the volume actually gets louder immediately.

5. Have separate volume for each mode (Radio, CD/DVD, NAVI, Bluetooth, etc). This way, you can hear how you want to hear things without accidentally scaring all the passengers when you switch modes.

6. NAVI should share volume controls with everything else on the lower left round button. AND, current volume cap should be increased. NAVI would also benefit from a NAVI-MUTE button/function.

7. Can we change around the 8 outer buttons? Here's my suggestion for the left side, from top to bottom:
Radio - to automatically move you into the Radio function.
Disc - to automatically move you into the Disc function so that you can play your CD/DVD
Menu - to automatically move you to the main menu with the clock-like interface.
NAVIMute - Press once to mute turn-by-turn instructions and again to unmute.
And, here's my suggestion for the right side, from top to bottom:
Eject - just like where it is now
Rest - to turn off all functions except Bluetooth and NAVI.
UNPAIR - to allow yourself the ability to quickly unpair and talk using your smartphone when more privacy or clarity is preferred.
NAVI - just like where it is now

8. The current version does not have satellite radio or HD radio capabilities. Perhaps, if there is ample demand, these functions could be added and accessed through the clock-like interface in the main menu.

SUMMARY
A colorful GPS is a great investment anyway and traffic laws are pushing everyone to adopt a hands-free system (and I think the Bluetooth earpiece is either ugly, reminds me of the Borg, or Halloween-y). So, purchasing these aftermarket upgrades would be $200-$350+ anyway. However, the last thing you want to do is to pay a ticket for an all-out buffet and then wind up just getting the salad. If you're going to invest in this, make sure that you are indeed going to use at least half of the features available. I only use 5 of them: Radio; Disc (CD/DVD); Back-Up Camera; Bluetooth; NAVI. AND to get your money's worth, be one that drives your car fairly regularly. You'll see little value in this investment if all you do is drive your car back and forth to work and to the grocery store.

The lowest retail prices that I've seen on the internet are $649 for the version 5 product, as of February 2011. Add $95 (oem HVAC relocation bracket) + $160 (installation charged by Invius Motorsports) and you'll quickly realize that this purchase is not a casual one. Also, you might as well take advantage of the system-ready back-up camera option. While the Dynavin is camera-ready, one does not come with the unit. I invested another $185 here ($115 for the camera, $70 for install) to add that very durable and high-tech license-plate-with-camera-in-it accessory. And, finally, I invested $30 for the Primo program, furnished by the fellow E46 Fanatic. Total investment for me: $1,119.

Now that I've really had a chance to drive with it and play with everything, I am a happier driver (very important when you're in an area with the 2nd worst traffic congestion nationwide)! I can say I experienced giddy anticipation before I purchased it, excitement after I received it, and ongoing joy after I installed it. No Buyer's Remorse here. Add to all of this the fact that it looks handsome and is flush in fit and finish, and here's how I feel: :D

I am now looking forward to turning on the ignition for a whole new set of reasons. I can't think of many/any nicer interior mods that you can have for your E46 that will increase your level of personal joy as much as this. While there are several technical improvements that ought to be incorporated into future generations, the Dynavin V5 may still be the best thing yet to happen to a car's interior since air conditioning. :bow:

jeffb325@NavigationSolutions 03-19-2011 06:27 PM

Great write up....and i thought mine was detailed....

Im pretty much in agreement with you on most points, although time and familiarity has dulled my enthusiasm a bit! :D:D:D fun to see your excitement!

I have one thing to point out though......there is a "return to home" button in every source, its in the "pop up" menu, and on the DVD player its a "back arrow, like on the radio. Not intuitive I know, but its there. I personally just use the mode button, same as the oem setup, and a lot more intuitive for me... but to each his own.

2000_328CI 03-19-2011 07:51 PM

Amazingly thorough review buddy and happy to help :bow:

BobSC 03-19-2011 08:39 PM

Great review! Nice job OP.

xi_ter 03-19-2011 09:22 PM

Thanks for the effort writing a thorough review. There are many E46 owners interested in the Dynavin route.

Ivanhoe 03-20-2011 11:29 AM

OP very good info :thumbsup:

illogik 03-20-2011 06:03 PM

Great writeup and I pretty much agree with your conclusions. Thanks for taking the time!

TitanSilverE46 03-21-2011 03:54 AM

Not everyone has installed the Backup camera option so I have one question. Is the wiring already installed from the head unit to the license plate, or do you have to add this wiring?

Darkoz 03-21-2011 05:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TitanSilverE46 (Post 12948990)
Not everyone has installed the Backup camera option so I have one question. Is the wiring already installed from the head unit to the license plate, or do you have to add this wiring?

You have to add the wiring yourself, it comes with the camera

BMW Loe 03-21-2011 12:21 PM

The radio to CD increase of noise can be tolerable using the LOUD function in settings. I found that it levels out the sound going from CD to radio or vice versa to where it's not startling.

BrutaL 03-21-2011 02:27 PM

Sticky this :thumbsup:
Great write up. Im sure many of us here share your likes/dislikes about the Dynavin.

re: BT. You dont have to press BT (right) button on the Dynavin when pairing your device to it. On your device just select the, "CAR KIT" (on my iphone,) and it will pair up with the Dynavin (v5)

BrutaL 03-21-2011 04:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BrutaL (Post 12950517)
Sticky this :thumbsup:
Great write up. Im sure many of us here share your likes/dislikes about the Dynavin.

re: BT. You dont have to press BT (right) button on the Dynavin when pairing your device to it. On your device just select the, "CAR KIT" (on my iphone,) and it will pair up with the Dynavin (v5)

edited to add: we can listen to any source (yes radio too!) uninterrupted if/when we decide to connect phone to DVN bluetooth. NEVER EVER PRESS the BT round knob on the DVN again. :excited::evil::excited:

viceversa 03-21-2011 04:38 PM

Great review :thumbsup: I was kind of wondering if the BMW logo comes on at boot or if it's got Dynavin popping up everywhere on the screen. Also, good to know it works well for those of us with fat fingers:
http://tammybruce.com/wp-content/upl...dfatfinger.jpg

illogik 03-21-2011 06:37 PM

The stock firmware comes with the Dynavin logo. The "alternate", which I'm sure most everyone is running on their V5s (http://dynavin.freeforums.org/dynavi...2010-t452.html) replaces all the loading logos with the BMW one. Very clean!

And to address some of the points of the OP:
- To increase the volume of the Navi TTS voices, add these lines to your sys.txt (thanks to Darkoz). If you're running Primo, it'll be sys.txt in your iGO Primo directory...


[dynamiccompressor]
compressor=1
a0=56806
thrs=24703
ratio=8
gain=10


- To eqalize the volume discrepancy between the sources, enable the "Loud" setting in the main setup (as Loe has noted above). This setting also helps with the TTS volume, and can be used in conjunction with the dynamiccompressor setting above.

BMW Loe 03-21-2011 07:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by illogik (Post 12951472)
The stock firmware comes with the Dynavin logo. The "alternate", which I'm sure most everyone is running on their V5s (http://dynavin.freeforums.org/dynavi...2010-t452.html) replaces all the loading logos with the BMW one. Very clean!

And to address some of the points of the OP:
- To increase the volume of the Navi TTS voices, add these lines to your sys.txt (thanks to Darkoz). If you're running Primo, it'll be sys.txt in your iGO Primo directory...


[dynamiccompressor]
compressor=1
a0=56806
thrs=24703
ratio=8
gain=10


- To eqalize the volume discrepancy between the sources, enable the "Loud" setting in the main setup (as Loe has noted above). This setting also helps with the TTS volume, and can be used in conjunction with the dynamiccompressor setting above.

+1 , another benefit of using the LOUD setting

poopfacekillah 03-23-2011 09:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 2000_328CI (Post 12944588)
Amazingly thorough review buddy and happy to help :bow:

Any possibility that I can arrange a pickup or you sendign me an SD card with the build on it? I broke my SD card that came with my DVN-e39 and am having a rough time finding a copy...

I across the WW bridge...

Thanks

jaycard73 03-23-2011 10:54 AM

awesome write up!...was on the fence about dynavin, but reading this makes me much more comfortable in my decision to go this route. thanks! :thumbup:

JJR4884 03-23-2011 11:34 AM

need to take a vacation day to read that, will report back lol

homeryen88 03-23-2011 12:00 PM

Thanks for the many compliments about my blog/review/impressions.

Fibonacci00782, LOL for the witty Flintstone's remark! :lmao:
JayCard73, PM'd you about who to contact for the Primo upgrade.
JJR4884, if one only makes $1000 per week and is thinking about investing in this product, then one hour here is certainly worth it! :thumbup:

Make 2011 yours!

DM1 03-23-2011 05:08 PM

Great review!!!,... makes me want to save a few bucks to get this for christmas!

My only concern is the install down here. I know a few people, but I don't think that anyone has one here maybe in the whole Country,... Jeff, are you aware of any Mexican orders?


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