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Old 08-20-2015, 12:02 PM   #1
Orbitcorbett
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The problems with Chinese Android-based radios...

CHINESE MADE STEREOS and ANDROID STEREOS: We are now seeing a plethora of Chinese made car stereo products showing up in the marketplace. The Eonon is one of a couple of Android-based options for BMW E46 owners. I've evaluated these options myself to eliminate the "Business CD" radio in my own E46, and what I find in my research is that users tend to have many issues with them.

Now, I really like the factory appearance of these units, and that they are specifically designed to look right in the E46 dash. That is a very attractive element, no doubt. But, these radios start at over $400 and go to the $900 range, and even still, I see many guys complaining about all sorts of technical issues with them on this forum.

So, to help others here make sense of what these Android radios are all about, I want to discuss these Chinese-made stereos with Android operating systems, so you understand them better.

Android-based radios may seem really cool to have, but may be more trouble than they are worth. Most offer Bluetooth, DVD and CD playback, flash memory playback, as well as your AM/FM. However, in general, you may be giving up other areas such as: build quality, technology, sound quality, features, technical support, compatible accessories, incompatibility with your phone, confusing menus, inconsistent volume control, no HD radio reception, no provision for XM Sat tuner connection, lack of proper inputs or outputs, lack of internal crossovers or decent equalization controls, and poor shielding that leads to alternator whine and electrical noise problems. Some models even show Chinese characters in your settings menus!

In addition to the many problems listed above, these Android-based stereos have other problems to consider. Basically, these are nothing more than an Android tablet in the window dressing of a car stereo housing.

Being Android-based sounds great at first, but that also translates into LONGGGG startup times. Most Android radios take at least 30 seconds to boot up EVERY time you start the car. So, that means for 30 seconds after you crank up, you won't see your backup camera image, you won't hear any music, you'll just be waiting while the Android boot screen sits there and spins. If you don't think 30 seconds is a long time, try living with that EVERY time you start the car! Even if you manage to root the operating system, you might only decrease the start time to 20 seconds. By comparison, most major manufacturer's car stereo head units boot up in 2 to 5 seconds!

Having wi-fi connectivity and being able to run apps sounds like a cool thing, but it's not without its problems. First, your cellular provider will want to dip their fingers into your wallet every month for the privilege of sending data to your car. And, you'll need a lot of data, because you'll be streaming EVERYTHING through your wi-fi connection. Do you ever drive in areas on the highway or out in the country where you have flaky cell service? Yeah, you'll be getting long periods of dropouts on your music listening too while you drive.

And, few if any Android radios have any provision for XM sat radio, much less a proper Gen 3 round connector on the back to plug in an XM tuner module. So, if you like your XM, you'll have to stream that through your cell provider too, and be paying for more data every month.

And, as mentioned above, you won't be getting any HD radio broadcasts either, because none of these units offer that feature. HD radio is becoming more and more prevalent in larger markets, and is vastly improved over FM radio with CD quality sound, album art and artist info displayed on your screen, iTunes tagging, and many other cool features.

Also, Android-based apps may seem like a neat thing to have in your dashboard, but most of these apps are not designed for an automotive environment (i.e. with large button surfaces, simplified controls, or other means to reduce driving distraction). They usually have settings and features buried in menus with tiny letters that are hard to see while driving, and fussy to use when you're trying to dodge 18 wheelers on the highway! Distracted driving is a HUGE problem for drivers these days, and a good aftermarket head unit is designed for the car environment to reduce driving distraction and give you ONLY the features you need while driving with easy to see controls.

Another huge issue for Android devices is operating system updates and bug fixes! Many of these cheap Android products are only running older versions of Android such as Ice Cream Sandwich or Kit Kat. And, their manufacturers tend to be somewhat "fly-by-night", and may or may not be around very long in the future. Many seem like big companies, but are actually nothing more than back-alley shops where their tech support only speaks broken English at best. So, don't look for a great customer support experience, or prompt attention to your technical issues! And, don't look for fast bug-fixes when their stuff doesn't work!

The other problem with some (not all) Chinese gear is a very obvious lack of quality control, fit and finish, and durability. Many have horrible internal shielding, so you are picking up buzzing and whining from electrical components in the car, and RF or radio frequency fields being generated. So this can really hurt your listening experience.

SUMMARY
After reviewing all this, I have decided to go with a double-din head unit from one of the major manufacturers, and install it with an inexpensive E46 dash kit ($20 or so). For the same or less money as an Eonon, I'll have a head unit that does what the Eonon doesn't offer - fast startup time, XM sat radio through the touchscreen with a compatible tuner, better smartphone integration, and literally every other feature the Eonon offers.

I feel it's far better to go with a major manufacturer such as Pioneer, JVC, Alpine, Kenwood, etc. These companies have a strong support network, are staffed by people who were BORN ON THIS CONTINENT, speak ENGLISH, and provide quality products that are built for the automotive environment from the ground up.

Sure, it's not as "elegant" or OEM looking as the Eonon, but I won't have to wait 30 seconds for the damned thing to boot up every time I start the car, and my XM sat will work great too.

The old saying, "You get what you pay for" has never been more true than in the world of car stereo components, and never more so than this day and time. I'm not saying ALL of this gear is bad, but some of it has issues that you won't realize until you've unboxed it, wired it up, and bolted it down into your dashboard.

I'm sure many might disagree with my ideas here, and that's okay. I'm just putting them forth to help others if possible.
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Old 08-20-2015, 01:10 PM   #2
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Hmm, your 1st language is English so yes that might be important to you. Mine isn't English so if a customer support guy isn't fluent in English would not be a reason for me to avoid a radio.
I 100% agree with you on the lack of quality on these cheap radios when reading through forums. I guess we have different expectations in US and Europe from what the eastern manufactures have. I find the price on a chineese radio very attractive, but actually didn't have in mind that I ever have to contact them to get support.

User interface looks like designed by the software programmer himself on many radios, ok I could live with that too. Startup of 30 sec. I could even accept that too...but once the radio is running, I expect it being able to actually receive radio stations even if your not 10 miles from the transmitter. Wow....I mean "the world have been designing radios for the last 100 years" and now they can't?

Reading e-mail or similar has little value to me. My Samsung can do that too and reading e-mails while driving is not an option I like.

Navigation would be top priority since my BMW Business Radio can also play music and CD. Yes these Andriod radios has navigation and can be updated to even better brands....but if you can't see the screen due to glare from the sun in the display...hmmm is that OK?

wifi is nice to have.....I would anyway setup my Samsung smartphone to work as a hotspot and not have to pay for two 3G/4G lines.....

I agree those brand you mention, they do excellent quality but still the price is too high and some don't run android but their own operating system. This will reduce the radio and how customable it can be.

Personally I'm not too much concentrated on HD quality music. The noise from the engine and wind would still be far worse. But simple thing as a loudness function seems to be lost in the range of features. This is so a fundamental missing option that again its a scandal a designer can forget to implement that. So designers please wiki on loudness (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness). But I guess the problem is that Google and wiki is blocked in some countries.

Looking reviews on YouTube I have seen radio with resistive screens....hey guys, that is stone age technology and so anoying to use when you are used to iPads and smartphones. Again so much lack of basic understanding what a customer really want.

Im an old electronics design engineer so I know a good FM radio should have a sensitivity of < -45 dB...you can't even find any data on these cheap radios but I guess its around -20 dB which means that you would have to be <1 mile away from the transmitter to get good reception.
Putting an antenna amplifier in would most likely not help a bit because the radio is poorly designed. Every design engineer knows your not designing a radio with only a 455 KHz middeltone filter and saving the few cents on the 10.7 MHz filter....I can hear in the YouTube videos this is what has been done and therefore radio reception will never be good.

I would like to see radios which is actually designed for using while driving. which again means a total rethinking of what is needed and what is important.
But OK I guess cheap also means no knowledge has been built into the product..
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Old 08-20-2015, 01:32 PM   #3
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Thanks, i appreciate your insight and comments on this subject. I agree with much of what you say here, and of course, my comments were primarily aimed at the US owner, as far as language and customer support.

As we know, all internet enabled technology these days requires frequent updates, bug fixes, and firmware fixes. Android tablets (and likewise these Android radios) will require updates too. Some must have the updates loaded onto an SD card or flash memory, so this is a consideration.

And, aftermarket double din head units also get firmware updates from time to time from the manufacturers, so this is important.

Here in the States, we are now able to take advantage of Android Auto, which is a Google system that interfaces an Android smartphone with your radio head unit, and gives you simplified controls and interface with voice-initiated navigation. So, while driving you simply press the mic button on the screen, state your destination, and navigation is automatically implemented. This is hugely beneficial to reduce driver distraction. The system also handles text messages with voice (it reads your texts to you and allows you to speak the responses), and many other advanced features. To get this technology, you won't find it in any Chinese Android radio, you must use a compatible aftermarket double din head unit with a smartphone running the latest Android version. I think this is a real game changer. I have this in my other vehicle.

Also, many double din head units can interface with your smartphone for other navigation duties, and many have nav built in, so this is a great alternative to the Chinese Android models.
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Old 08-20-2015, 01:33 PM   #4
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I've been around the block and back again with Android in my Pathfinder (keeping my E46 clean) and my conclusion is that Android does not belong embedded into a head unit. Android can make a nice interface and platform for apps, but it should be decoupled from the HU. Instead, head units should have the capability to be fully controlled by Android (or iOS) devices/apps. That way, you can dash-mount an Android device and use it to control your HU, but also independently run Nav and other apps on it. And your HU can be hidden away, or inconspicuously mounted so you can feed it CDs if you're still living in the 90's.

Sony made a step in the right direction with their line of HU's with "App Remote" that can be controlled by Android/iOS apps. But they stopped short - the HUs can only be partially controlled by their apps. Maybe another manufacturer will step up and do it right.
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Old 08-20-2015, 02:01 PM   #5
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I understand it must be a great option to have voice rec. in the HU. I think it works OK in English but other languages isn't supported. I have even tried BMW's voice rec. in an M5 in german language. Wow that didn't work well....when saying "find gas station" it looked for hotels :-D

Yes sure the units might need SW updates once in a while, but what I can read here it seems more like the manufactures are sending Alpha releases to the customers (not even beta). The bugs that customers experience are really too basic to be acceptable. Like radio is forgetting volume setting when you turn off the ignition. Holy......who makes these patches?

Personally I don't mind Andoid in a car.....but the apps should be chosen for that purpose (beeing in a car).Not any music player works in a car if you have to stay focused on the road. I read about people who īkeept holding up or down button on the steering wheel in the attempt to let the function go quicker through a list or a song...but the speed doesn't change. Again so simple UI bugs that it's unbelievable.
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Old 08-20-2015, 02:23 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by sroberts View Post
I've been around the block and back again with Android in my Pathfinder (keeping my E46 clean) and my conclusion is that Android does not belong embedded into a head unit. Android can make a nice interface and platform for apps, but it should be decoupled from the HU. Instead, head units should have the capability to be fully controlled by Android (or iOS) devices/apps. That way, you can dash-mount an Android device and use it to control your HU, but also independently run Nav and other apps on it. And your HU can be hidden away, or inconspicuously mounted so you can feed it CDs if you're still living in the 90's.
.
As one of the primary people right in the middle of this for the last 6 years I can say that this closely mirrors my experience and opinion. From the manufactures point of veiw, android is FREE, its flexible, and it gets people excited so they buy without thinking. So a bunch of companies jumped on the bandwagon and started pushing out half cooked examples without truly considering how android would work in a car environment. Some manufacturers have addressed that better than others but in general Android does not do well shoehorned into a car stereo.....not without a ton of work at least. There are specific circumstances where apps are useful to achieve a certain functionality and specific user types that android works great for (and is why I carry some android based units) but for most "regular customers" a conventional, non android based stereo is a far more user friendly choice.

And since discussing Android can be more contentious than discussing religion....and before some android fan tells me how many different ways Im wrong.....if you feel that way, Im not talking about YOU. Im talking about generalities...based on thousands of customer interactions over many years. So please dont turn this into an argument.
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Old 08-20-2015, 09:10 PM   #7
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I completely concur with JeffB325 and Bayerische on this. People see the word "Android" and think it's like a phone in your dash, and will be really cool. And, when they see what that works like in real life, they are often quite disappointed. Just look at this forum alone and how often people pop up wanting to sell Eonon decks that are a few weeks old. (I'm not trying to spoil it for you guys, just telling it like it is.)

Again, I'm not saying that NOBODY does an Android deck right for these or other cars, I'm just saying I've not seen one that I would want to be stuck with in day to day usage.

Many times I'm out about town running errands, and in/out of the car a lot. That 30 second long boot up time would just become ridiculous! Hell, FIVE seconds seems like a long time for me, just to see the backup camera image pop up. When I crank up, I'm ready to GO. I need my stereo ready to go TOO.

Now, if the manufacturers ever get smart and put some kind of low power circuit in the head unit to keep it in a low power state for a few hours so the thing can go into sleep mode, and then come back on instantly within that time period, THEN that might improve the situation. Even still, you have the issue with apps that simply are not designed for the car environment. You don't want to squash a pedestrian while you're trying to read that little fine gray text they put in the menus, with features buried 3 steps deep, nor do you want to get run over by an 18 wheeler trying to interact with a finicky music app.

Tablet computers and iPads are best used in home, office, or in a stationary environment, NOT while you're dodging traffic.

And, even if you are in Denmark, Germany, or other places in Europe, communicating with people in China for tech support would be just as big of a problem as it is for us in America - perhaps more so! At least a lot of Chinese people do understand SOME English, so all is not lost. If you are English speaking, at least you will have some advantage there.

So, again, I reiterate that a good aftermarket double din from Pioneer, JVC, Kenwood, Sony, or Alpine would be a better driving partner to live with every day than these Android models - that is, until the companies who make them address these software and hardware issues.
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Old 08-21-2015, 12:18 AM   #8
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Just to be fair Avin units have a standby mode that is configurable up to a couple days. Plus a 2 second boot time when coming out of standby....so boot time is not an issue. And Avin is a US based company run by US based people and sold by US based dealers......so they are NOT the same as the cheap chinese units you are talking about.

Doesnt change my general opinion about android functionality being for a niche customer but does address most of your points outside of the OS specifically.
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Old 08-21-2015, 06:14 AM   #9
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Great, I had finally made a decision on the eonon ga5150 and was just willing to accept the bugs in it. But now reading this thread I'm back to square one and have no idea what to do, lol.
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Old 08-21-2015, 10:29 AM   #10
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The problems with Chinese Android-based radios...

Eonon is certainly never going to count me as a sales tool (see many posts in their threads about my issues) but to counter one point in the above, my backup camera functions immediately even during the boot sequence. I don't have to wait for the boot sequence to complete. I think I can adjust the standby time as well but haven't messed with it. I have wasted too much time getting base functionality to actually work to worry about these types of details :-)

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Old 08-23-2015, 02:00 AM   #11
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Great, I had finally made a decision on the eonon ga5150 and was just willing to accept the bugs in it. But now reading this thread I'm back to square one and have no idea what to do, lol.
Same with me mate. I am shifting from Eonon to Avin Avant 2 I reckon, more expensive, but seems overall to have less bugs and faster, despite "only" being dual core and on JellyBean instead of KitKat.

After reading through the forums, most people seem to be complaining way less about Avant and their support seems to be top notch too.

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Old 08-23-2015, 10:08 AM   #12
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Just like Jeff stated Avin is a US based company run by US based people and sold by US based dealers.

We provide support past normal business working hours as many of our customers like to work on their cars late in the afternoon into the night and on weekends. We can be contacted by phone for support at 415-580-2846.

If you are really stuck and need extra help we can even do Skype Video call so we can see where you need help and walk you through the install.

Jeff has our AVIN Android head unit in stock in California and provide world class customer support too.

Both Jeff and I are actual owners of BMW E46 and between the two of us have over 20 years of experience so we know the ins and out of the E46.

The AVIN Avant-2 is the #1 Android head unit for our E46 with the customer support and experience to back it up!
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Old 08-24-2015, 01:10 AM   #13
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Eonon is certainly never going to count me as a sales tool (see many posts in their threads about my issues) but to counter one point in the above, my backup camera functions immediately even during the boot sequence. I don't have to wait for the boot sequence to complete. I think I can adjust the standby time as well but haven't messed with it. I have wasted too much time getting base functionality to actually work to worry about these types of details :-)
Hi Wake74, sorry for any inconvenience. We have communicated in other thread about your situation, and in fact, we are always trying best to help you, you knew it. Kindly let us know if you have any further questions about your Eonon products. Thanks.
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Old 08-24-2015, 01:21 AM   #14
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Hi mates, the startup time of Eonon Android units is around 23 seconds actually, and it is only for the first time you turn in on. It will become very fast afterwards.

We have got a warehouse in the US. Generally, we make shipment from our US warehouse directly if there are stocks but except the Group Buy orders.

Suppose there were any problems on your Eonon unit within 60 days, we would help you return it to change with a new unit directly, and we pay for the return postage back and forth. Eonon is keeping improving and always trying best to provide high quality products with great service for you.
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Old 08-24-2015, 02:20 AM   #15
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Great service with paying for S&H if any waranty issues should come.

But still not as good as if this unit is sold in EU.
Seller in EU MUST offer min. 6 month warranty and 2 years right to complain. If any problems should araise within warranty period, seller must pay all S&H...(it's not an option). If a units fails within the first 6 months, the owner is free to chose if he wants a repair or a replacement. Every delivery must be completed within max. 30 days.
But purchase outside EU is wild West....(no rights), therefore buying somewhere outside EU not very attractive.

I will defenetly buy an Android HU, just have to do a long reserch to find the best :-)

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Old 08-24-2015, 07:50 AM   #16
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Pioneer managed to make it all work with Android Auto.

The Avant-2 works well but it does get bogged down worse than my Nexus 7 which is now 2+ years old. It's still a new market and I'm sure they will improve the software. The sounds quality is great though and it does do the job I need. There is no reason these units couldn't have 4.4.4 unless the hardware was cost saved to the point where it's not supported.
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Old 08-24-2015, 10:41 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by BayrischeMotorWerk View Post
Great service with paying for S&H if any waranty issues should come.

But still not as good as if this unit is sold in EU.
Seller in EU MUST offer min. 6 month warranty and 2 years right to complain. If any problems should araise within warranty period, seller must pay all S&H...(it's not an option). If a units fails within the first 6 months, the owner is free to chose if he wants a repair or a replacement. Every delivery must be completed within max. 30 days.
But purchase outside EU is wild West....(no rights), therefore buying somewhere outside EU not very attractive.

I will defenetly buy an Android HU, just have to do a long reserch to find the best :-)
Hey BayrischeMotorWerk, thanks for your praise that "Great service with paying for S&H if any warranty issues should come." Many fans are satisfied with it so far.

If you are from EU, you can consider to shop it from our UK store (www.eonon.co.uk) directly if needed, so as to enjoy the local warranty, pretty more convenient. Now our UK site is under adjustment, and it may be available soon. Thanks for your attention.
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Old 08-27-2015, 05:56 PM   #18
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Just like Jeff stated Avin is a US based company run by US based people and sold by US based dealers.

We provide support past normal business working hours as many of our customers like to work on their cars late in the afternoon into the night and on weekends. We can be contacted by phone for support at 415-580-2846.

If you are really stuck and need extra help we can even do Skype Video call so we can see where you need help and walk you through the install.

Jeff has our AVIN Android head unit in stock in California and provide world class customer support too.

Both Jeff and I are actual owners of BMW E46 and between the two of us have over 20 years of experience so we know the ins and out of the E46.

The AVIN Avant-2 is the #1 Android head unit for our E46 with the customer support and experience to back it up!
I have now installed 4 Avin-2, three E46s and one E53 and have nothing to say that is negative with the purchases.

In addition, working with Tommy and Avin is fantastic in all cases, including Tommy personally providing support at almost all hours.

I cannot comment on EU situations etc etc and I enjoy my purchases daily. Fantastic products and great support. Period.
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Old 08-27-2015, 06:12 PM   #19
Orbitcorbett
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Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Tallahassee, Florida
Posts: 25
My Ride: 2000 328i sedan
AVIN radios...

Thank you Tommy for posting about the AVIN radios. If I were in a position to spend that kind of money, I would most certainly go that route, given the ability to configure a short boot period. The long bootup of most Android head units is a dealbreaker for me.

In my other vehicle, I use the Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX, and I would put that head unit against most anything on the market. Not only does it fully boot in under 5 seconds, you can literally hit the ignition key, shift into reverse, and you have your backup camera screen. No waiting, no having to dismiss the liability warning screen, nothing. Of course, once it boots, you do have to dismiss the liability screen, but the Pioneer lawyers make sure you have to do that.

Otherwise, Android Auto in that head unit with my Nexus 6 phone is a dream come true.

Since my E46 is a second vehicle, I won't spend that much money on a head unit for it. I've decided to go with a double-din Pioneer (lower model), and a double-din install kit, to keep the spend lower, and still have my XM sat radio tuner, and all the features I like best.

After having read the many posts about Eonon units, and reading their tech support responses to customers, I've decided that the language barrier is too much to deal with on those. Though they do seem to try to address questions, problems, and support issues on a continuing basis, I do not see them being able to truly provide first class customer support. It's apparent that they are trying, but there are too many dealbreakers with them for me. Long boot times and lack of a 3rd generation input for a Sirius XM tuner module (SXV200 or SXV300) are two problems I can't get past.
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Old 08-27-2015, 08:09 PM   #20
dan4081
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: florida
Posts: 528
My Ride: 2000 323i
Nothing wrong with your choice of the Pioneer but just be prepared for what it takes to install in an E46.
Double Din doesn't fit with out modifications...this means cutting and remolding the air conditioner vents so the unit will fit in place. This isn't a maybe...if you put an aftermarket double din HU in this has to be done.
You will also have to modify the vent arms for the lower air vents to still work.

Also, your pioneer will not be plug and play so you will need a pac or similar unit to integrate with your steering wheel controls. This means cutting and splicing the wires in the steering wheel.
Only you can decide if the work and cutting/modifying is worth it to you.

BTW, I have a single din Alpine in my E46 but am seriously considering a Dynavin for the OEM look, fit, and also the nice plug in integration.

Edit: You mention the reverse camera works pretty much as soon as you start the car and shift in reverse with your Pioneer. I believe the Eonon and Avin also do this...no need to wait for the android to boot up.

Last edited by dan4081; 08-27-2015 at 08:13 PM.
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