Review of the Pioneer 5100 NEX
Someone sent me a PM asking if I got it installed, and what I thought of it. I gave them a long reply but then decided I should post it here - since its all my response. without further ado:
Yes, I got it. As to how I like it, well...
I own an iPhone, one of the major reasons I got the 5100 was because it has Apple Carplay. If you don't hook up an iPhone it has some support for an Android phone that I haven't seen and can't comment on. If you hook up neither, then it has the Pioneer interface. Any comments on the 5100 really need to distinguish between the Carplay experience and the Pioneer experience. So without further ado:
Carplay - Apple Carplay works well, with some caveats. First off, with my iPhone 6plus I have to connect it directly to the head unit via an apple charger cable to use Carplay, it will not work over bluetooth. That is a pain if you are making a lot of short trips and have to keep plugging the phone in and disconnecting it again and again. As well, you have a white cable sticking out - now on the Smart thats not much of a big deal or an eyesore because you have the handy pocket to the side of the steering wheel to put both the phone and cable into when driving.
Once connected, Carplay gives you a few options using an Apple iPhone interface. You can use Itunes to play your music, you can use Apple Maps (more on that later), and you can use some other services that didn't interest me or didn't work in Canada. Mostly I use it for Apple Maps and iTunes. Both work very well to be honest, quickly accessing my phone and being ready to be used. I have the Smart Pure Sound system in my car (6 speakers plus a base under the driver seat), and it sounds fantastic playing music off the phone.
My biggest gripe with this setup is the fact that Apple Maps doesn't appear to have a way to cache the map data around me, so using Maps eats up my data plan, and since I am in Canada, its not possible to get unlimited data on a smart phone.
If you don't actually hook up the iPhone, you can still play your music off of the head unit via bluetooth but you use the Pioneer interface which is not nearly as good, although still functional.
Pioneer - This is where my major criticisms of the unit lie. If you don't connect your phone directly via the cable, you are using the Pioneer interface. It is essentially, a real mess. The UI is horrid. It works, but its confusing, and its inconsistent. UI elements jump all over the place depending on what screen you are on, they are unattractively arranged and confusing as hell a lot of the time. The UI designer should have been taken outside and shot.
You can choose to play music off your phone or from a USB stick that you insert inside the glovebox. Both work okay but the UI for playing music and selecting your source is merely functional. It has a strong tendency to remember whatever you last played, and play that the moment you start things up. There is no way to tell it to not play anything other than to select a source that is not in use. Even if you pick something new to play it may play the last thing instead until you reselect the thing you want to listen to. Its irritating.
The GPS system is very slow to start up. I estimate and average of 30s to 1 minute or more before it finds the GPS satellites - every single time you start the car. It doesn't remember them between parking and then restarting the car to leave. This gets very irritating if you are making a lot of short trips. I am a delivery driver so this gets annoying.
The interface for entering an address for the GPS/Map is also irritating because its slow. You have to select the city every single time, then the street, then the number. Each selection is made on a separate pop up screen (well actually it slides in from the side), and each takes a second or two. In short it can take a minute or two to enter an address, plus since the touch screen is a bit dodgy, it frequently misreads what you touched, so you have to double check the entry to make sure the address isn't off by a bit.
As well, it doesn't see a region. The city I live in - Victoria, BC, in Canada - is actually composed of multiple independent cities each with their own city council and mayor etc. However the reality from a resident's perspective is its all just one big city. So the city of Victoria proper melds into Oak Bay, Saanich, Esquimalt, etc. Streets regularly pass across city boundaries, and in some cases one side of a street is in one city and the other in another city. Its not intuitively obvious where something is actually located. Now, this is the result of the stupidity of our city setup, but for practical purposes, since the head unit doesn't see the boundaries and just skip to the next city logically, you need to know what city the address is in. This results in my having to open up Apple Maps, look up an address, decide where it probably is located, then enter it into the Pioneer maps on the car, and hopefully guess correctly. Sometimes I have to reenter the whole thing again - oh and the UI forgets the street and address so you start all over again. At least it remembers I live in Canada so I don't have to keep entering the country name as well. With Apple Maps if I enter an address in Esquimalt it will just find it for me.
On the plus side, the Pioneer maps system doesn't use any data. Also it can be updated by downloading the map update, sticking it on a USB stick and then plugging that into the glovebox and updating the head unit. I haven't done it yet but it looks pretty easy overall. The original Smart head unit was effectively not able to be updated - the dealer told me not to bother because it was expensive and they had to order CDs from the US to be mailed to me which could take 3 months if they arrived at all. This is why I originally replaced the Head unit in the first place.
As well, the Pioneer map system gives really ****ty directions at times. It will do so inconsistently as well. It might order you to make 3 left hand turns in a big square to make a right turn because it doesn't think you can legally make a right turn at a given intersection. However the next time you go to the same place, it suddenly has no problem with a right turn. Its told me to make illegal turns using exit lanes on some roads (crossing 2 lanes of traffic turning left to use a exit onto another street for instance). Its told me to go left around the roundabout - in the middle of a parking lot. It has a preview screen for your destination that is so zoomed in you frequently can't recognize where it is in the city. The next screen is the one that shows you where you are going but in a top down view that is so big you can't read the streets either - however its actually useful since it shows which way you are going, rather than just giving you a postage stamp size zoomed in image. If you enter an address, but don't actually tell the unit you are starting the directions, then shut off the car, it forgets you were going somewhere. If you do start the directions and shut off the car it remembers - usually, but not always. Since it gives really bad directions, I usually look at the overview map, start driving in the right direction and don't actually start up the directions until I am close and it can't **** up the instructions too badly.
Address wise, I would say its accurate to within around 50 to 400m of a location, so while its usually pretty good, it can sometimes be way off as well. Apple is pretty much perfect with Apple Maps by comparison.
Oh, sometimes the GPS just fails to find the satellites at all and won't do anything. You have to shut off the car and restart it. This doesn't happen too often, but it has happened to me multiple times in the last year (say 6-8 times). When this happens you lose all functionality on the unit at all, so you can't play music for instance.
There are other problems, but thats the gist of my analysis of the system. To summarize:
Apple Carplay is awesome but eats data if you are using Apple Maps. Also you have to plug in your phone every time. This may not be true of the latest Apple phones, so its worth checking out to find out. They may work via Bluetooth which would be fantastic.
Pioneer - really not ready for prime time. The UI Designer should have been shot at dawn. The unit functions but only barely. The GPS is usable - and I do use it all the time - but is super slow to boot up, every single time - can forget where you are going, gives really ****ty, even dangerous directions, doesn't distinguish between minor (2 lane roads) and roads that have 3 lanes going each way (so it will cavalierly tell you to cross a major road that is a highway in all but name for instance), and can't be relied on some of the time.
Oh, and the biggest criticism of the entire unit: When you start it up - every single ****ing time you start it up - you get a Warning screen that tells you not to pay too much attention to the GPS and get into an accident. Its a CYA from Pioneer's lawyers I am sure. It absolutely cannot be disabled - there is a guy down in the US attempting to figure out how by disassembling a unit and trying to figure out what chip settings on the boards might make this possible, with no joy as of the last time I looked. I cannot emphasize just how irritating this screen gets. You have to hit Okay every time you start the car. As I said I am a delivery driver - i.e. lots of short trips. I estimated once that I will be clicking this Okay button 26,000 times a year on average.
So in short, if you have an iPhone by all means get a Head unit that supports Apple Carplay, I think its awesome, but be aware of the data costs and perhaps wait until you can use it all via Bluetooth and not have to plug your phone in every time.
I would not recommend buying the 5100 - or indeed any Pioneer product at all. I certainly will never buy another Pioneer product in this life. This unit is so shoddily implemented they should be embarrassed to even sell it, and should be forced to do public penance to anyone who was stupid enough to buy it. Its utter crap.