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Old 11-06-2013, 01:05 PM   #6
Registered User
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Zagreb
Posts: 46
My Ride: 2002 BMW 318D E46
Part 5 Review of usage 1/2

This part of review covers my findings in the head unit usage. I have used the unit for several weeks before starting this part. All observations are based solely on my experience with usage of this specific unit. In general, so far I can say I am pleased with the unit and did not regret buying it.

It would seem that the unit's responsiveness is rather good. I have tried to run multiple apps at the same time and have had no problems with the unit slowing down in such cases. Boot time is also very fast (about 15 seconds) and seems to be constant.

The unit also seems to be pretty stable under "normal" operating conditions (radio / music playback), in which I had no random reboots and no freezes so far (with the exception of the front DVR camera app which seems to reboot the unit after few minutes of usage). However, during longer drive times (2 hours or more) with the navigation software and radio/music playback constantly running the unit might become unstable and reboot (I have experienced this effect only on two occasions, both of which occurred during a long trip; conditions further described later). After that point I have observed periodic reboots if the navigation software is executed immediately after the first reboot. On the other hand, if the navigation software is executed a few minutes after the reboot, the unit will continue to operate normally without further reboots. Based on this behavior it would seem that the unit is gradually overheating if the navigation software is constantly running. There is a strong possibility the CPU power/thermal management driver might need an update. Assuming the CPU temperature can be monitored, I believe this issue might be fixed by reducing the CPU frequency in case of overheating.

The review of usage is also divided in two sections :
  1. User interface and configuration options.
  2. Usage of applications and accessories.

The first section covers the user interface and the configuration options, while the second (and probably most important) part covers the usage of the unit's applications and accessories. Due to the length of the review, I will try to focus on the most important features, emphasizing the things I like as well as the things that might need improvement.

1. User interface and configuration options

This part is rather long, so if you don't feel like reading my remarks, I have made a short video showing the user interface and the configuration options:

The home screen becomes visible as soon as the unit has completed the boot process. The unit remembers if the radio or some other media app was running on the last shutdown, and automatically starts it on the next boot (in which case that app will be shown on instead of the home screen).

This is the picture of the home screen:

All installed apps are accessible by scrolling the screen to the right. Application icons are rather large making it easy to select them even in driving. The launcher is visible while scrolling through application lists and provides shortcuts for phonebook/phone dialing, radio, audio player, Google navigation, video player as well as the access to the unit's configuration settings. So far I haven't found any way to change the launcher app shortcuts and it would be convenient to provide this option in the future updates.
Here are some pictures showing the list of pre-installed applications:
Main configuration settings are accessed by pressing the sixth shortcut on the launcher menu. User is allowed to change the settings for the sound, display, rear zone, Bluetooth, device settings (boot logo, LED colors etc.), wireless & networks, personalized settings (wallpapers, language, etc.), navigation settings (which app to use), date & time, steering wheel settings, touchscreen calibration and finally to perform the system updates. Factory reset and some device information is accessible in the bottom of the menu.
Following pictures show the main configuration options:
Besides the main configuration menu, device settings, sound settings and the Task manager app are also accessible by holding and pulling down the top bar on the touchscreen. Task manager can be used to kill or switch to the specific app.
Here are some pictures showing the top bar and the task manager:
1.1 Volume controls and sound quality
There are several different options to adjust the volume such as the volume balance, volume equalizer, DSP settings and the applications volume. In the applications volume submenu, separate volume ratios can be adjusted for the radio, Bluetooth, navigation and many other apps/inputs. I found this feature to be the very convenient as it is possible to adjust volume ratios for each and every input. There are also DSP settings that allow different sound effects to be adjusted, as well as the equalizer option that allows several presets and also the custom settings.

In the beginning when I got the unit there was a mild background noise that was present at all times regardless of the specific app being used (FM radio, media player, etc.). I had reported this problem to Sean and after three days I received software update that fixed this issue. The problem was in the unit's software and seemed to be related the DSP parameters for subwoofer and also to the speaker impedance mismatch. Even though the unit was tested on prior to shipping, the testbed speakers apparently had different impedance which is why this problem wasn't noticed. After applying the update I have no problems with the background noise, except for a very mild noise that lasts for a short time during the unit booting, but that is not bothering me.
Following pictures show the sound setting submenu as well as the available settings:
1.2 The touchscreen and the display settings
The touchscreen seems to be based on the resistive technology. As such it takes some time getting used to, especially if you have been using capacitive screen smartphone for some time. In the beginning I often accidentally ended up pressing some unwanted options/buttons instead of screen scrolling which I originally intended to do. Once I got used to it, the screen was easy to operate. If needed, the touch screen can also be calibrated in separate submenu by repeated 5 point finger touching of designated screen areas.

The screen visibility is good on a bright day light (especially if the brightness setting is set to max. level). There is also an option to adjust different screen brightness for both day as well as night driving. However, the time setting to switch between day/night screen brightness seems to be fixed and I have found no options to adjust it. Depending on the user location and the time of year, this is causing the screen to use daylight brightness setting when it is already night outside and vice versa (for example in this time of year here is night already at 5pm and it seems the screen won't switch to night brightness until much later [if at all?]). Consequently, in winter the driver might find himself exposed to too bright screen (daylight setting) during night driving and also in summer the screen can be too dimmed (night setting) during the day driving.

Following video is showing the described effect:

It would be very nice if the software update was provided by which the time of the day/night brightness settings switching could be adjusted - either manually or preferably by using GPS location. By using the GPS location, latitude information in conjunction with exact time could be used to establish the sunrise/sunset times and therefore also the right time to switch between day/night screen brightness.

Following picture shows the display configuration submenu:

1.3 Bluetooth settings
Presently, the unit is paired as the Bluetooth slave device only. The Bluetooth pairing key and the head unit's name can be set in the options menus. The unit has been tested with the HTC Sensation z710e and the HTC EVO 3D. In both cases I had no problems in pairing the unit. After the initial pairing process has been completed, the unit will automatically pair when the cell phone is in range.
Here are some features I found lacking:
  • As a slave device, the unit cannot presently pair with the OBD dongles, making it impossible to use the Torque app via the Bluetooth.
  • There is no possibility to pair more than one master device (such as two smartphones) at the same time. Even though nowadays many of Bluetooth headsets support this feature (dual cellphone pairing), the unit lacks this feature, limiting the pairing to single cellphone only. In addition, the first cell phone must be unpaired manually in order to pair the second one.

Following picture shows the Bluetooth configuration options:"

1.4 Device settings submenu
In the device settings is possible to adjust change the boot logo, the orange tone of the side buttons LEDs, as well as some other options which I have not been using as I did not understand their exact functions / roles. The android logo visible during the boot time and cannot be changed by the boot logo option. Button LEDs can be adjusted to three orange tones and I was able to match button LED colors with the rest of my instrument cluster and dash LEDs. The SRC button LED is always red, while the phone buttons always light in red and green and cannot be changed. Button LEDs are lighted only if the car lights are turned on, with the exception of SRC LED which is lighted as soon as the unit is turned on.

Here is the picture showing button LEDs adjusted to match instrument cluster:

Following pictures show the available device settings:
1.5 Internet / Wi-Fi connectivity
The WiFi has been tested on several access points with different security settings and I had absolutely no problems using the Wi-Fi option.
  • I still need to check if the WiFi dongle must be inserted in the white USB cable to work properly.
  • I still need to try the third party 3G dongle to see how it will behave.

1.6 Personalized and language settings
In these menus the user can change the language and wallpapers. Wallpapers can also be reset to default. The unit supports the number of different languages as any android unit.

1.7 Navigation settings
The default navigation software is iGO Primo. Primo is installed on the unit's internal flash memory (referred as the "hard disk") and does not require navigation micro SD card to be inserted (default installation directory is /Android/iGO). I received the Primo app with 2011 maps for EU. If needed the Primo app can be uninstalled and/or moved to external micro SD in order to save the 4GB "hard disk" space.

Besides the Primo app, it is also possible to use other navigation software if it is installed on the unit's hard disk. If the micro SD card containing the iGO directory is inserted in the navigation SD slot, the option is provided to switch between "hard disk" and the external location of the navigation content. This feature works in a way that the pre-selected iGO folder from the micro SD card is symlinked to the root of the hard disk. The primo app needs to be reinstalled in this case.

Details describing my experience with the Primo navigation app and the GPS reception in general are further described in the second section (Primo navigation app and GPS antenna).

Following picture shows the navigation settings:

1.8 Date & Time
The clock is visible on the front screen as well as on the top bar of the unit. As such it is clearly visible at all times (regardless of the specific app being run). Even though it may seem to be amongst the least important features, I often found myself relying on the unit's clock rather than the instrument cluster's one. The clock can be adjusted either manually or automatically if there is internet connection available. Once adjusted it seems to run accurately (this claim is based on my experience in three-week usage time).

It would be nice to provide the options in the future software update that would allow automatic clock adjustment from the GPS data and also to correct the time according to the DST policy for specific country/location. That way the user would always have the accurate time - even if he is travelling through different time zones and countries with different DST policies.

1.9 Steering wheel controls
The default steering wheel options provide the possibility to increase/decrease master volume (volume up/down buttons), switch between files or radio stations being played (up/down arrow buttons), switch to the home screen (R/T button) and switch to the phone dialing app (voice button). I found the default settings to be just fine and did not need to change them. If needed, the steering wheel buttons can be configured for different settings in the options menu.

In future update it would be nice to introduce the possibility of pressing the button combinations in order to get some additional functions. For example, I find it difficult to switch between applications while driving. In some cases it might also be convenient to dynamically change the steering wheel button functions with respect to the specific app being run.

Here is the picture showing the options for the steering wheel button customization:

1.10 Other options
Other options allow the system upgrade and factory data reset. System upgrade option works similar to other android based devices. So far I had upgraded the unit's software once without any problems.

Following pictures show the device information for the reference:
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Last edited by tstaroveski; 12-09-2013 at 08:56 AM.
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