I’m always interested in the best car stereo. So I had to check out this one.
What you’re looking at is Pioneer’s newest, and perhaps best head unit for the car. What makes this one particularly remarkable, aside from the presence of Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay, is that it’s a single DIN. You see, all prior iterations, that included smartphone integration, were of the double DIN sort, meaning a wide swath of potential customers were excluded. But not any more.
I had the luxury of testing out the AVH-3300NEX first hand at a Pioneer event a few weeks ago in Hollywood, CA at the lovely and always celeb filled hotel, the Roosevelt. And here is what I know.
First off, this single DIN unit will set you back $600. That is of course the suggested manufacturer pricing, so it seems be in reason that you might find it cheaper. Install, based on my interview with a Product Manager from Pioneer, shouldn’t run more than $150, including additional parts and labor.
CarPlay and Android Auto
I’ll let you make the judgement call if $750 is a (un)reasonable amount of money, but in my book Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) is worth every penny. That being said, I don’t have much experience with aftermarket head units, largely because the use case hasn’t ever called. But I can say, based on my limited interaction with the AVH-3300NEX, it does seem like a worthy contender if you’re looking to upgrade your single DIN system with something that affords you the latest in car audio tech. Especially if you own an Android or Apple device.
Now, as far as the screen’s stability goes, which mind you is touchscreen and can be hidden away with the touch of button, the 3300NEX is impressive. I asked Pioneer’s product manager and he noted that the double DIN’s will always be more stable, but he assured me that the company spent a lot of time ensuring the stability of this unit’s screen. After all, 95% of your interactions will be via the touchscreen and as I’ve learned if there is too much give or wobble to the screen, it’s painstakingly difficult to use. And I’m happy to report the 3300NEX is by most accounts usable, although I didn’t have a chance to test it in a moving car, so real world testing remains to be scene. The speed at which is screen ejects from the base of the unit is fairly fluid and quick, all things considered.
Next on the list of concerns is not only the screen’s sensitivity, but how fast the menus and images move. Unfortunately, I can’t say the experience is completely analogous to that of any of today’s smartphones, but it’s most certainly speedy enough and fluid enough to put any of those concerns at ease. I should mention that the 24-bit LCD screen measures 7″ diagonally with an 840 x 480 resolution. So things look vibrant and not washed out, though I wasn’t able to see it perform in direct sun light, which is always a concern, but really only something Tesla has been able to overcome, or so I’ve been told.
If security is a concern, as it should be, there are two options with Pioneer’s AVH-3300NEX. The first is what the company calls a “partial detachment”. Which means you can remove a fraction of the faceplate and thus rendering it useless. Apparently it’s not coded, so if a thief can get their hands on another one and the head unit can be repurposed. So think of it as more of a deterrent. The second is a pin system. You simply enter a 4+ digit pin, and until it’s re-input, the system is useless. So gone are the days of the completely removable faceplate, but honestly, who wants to carry that around when they exit their car?
So what else should you know?
Sonically I wasn’t able to test the system. I could make the argument that those that invest in this unit will likely install an aftermarket amp, but that may not always be the case. But you should know that it comes with a built-in 50 w x 4 amp, a 24-bit DAC and the ability to tune the speakers using an external mic that plugs into the AVH-3300NEX. There is of course Bluetooth for hands free calls, though I can’t say how well that works, though there is a built-in microphone that also works in tandem with Apple’s Siri eyes Free.
There are two other models available, though this one is their flagship model. However, and for some reason, the other models include the ability to add a backup camera if you so choose. I’m not sure why the 3300NEX doesn’t include that feature and Pioneer didn’t have an answer either.
Pioneer includes an app for mirroring certain apps that aren’t yet available in CarPlay or Android Auto, such as Waze and Navme. Pioneer updates their hardware about every two years. They of course wouldn’t say what that would look like, but it’s worth noting if you’re planning to make an investment. That said, they will issue OTA updates, but since the unit doesn’t have its own cellular connection you’ll have to get involved, phone wise of course. And last, but not least, the AVH-3300NEX includes a 1-year warranty and ships with its own remote control.
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