We drive plenty of new vehicles for our reviews on Off-RoadTripz, and there is one thing that most of them have in common. The infotainment technology in those new vehicles has made tremendous strides over the past decade. More than any other development in the automotive industry (including safety and improved gas mileage), we think the advancement in infotainment has the biggest daily noticeable impact for drivers. Conveniently for those still driving older vehicles, it’s also the one thing that is most easily upgraded.
This time of year is when many folks find themselves in search of gifts for “Dads & Grads” – as Father’s Day and High School Graduations both occur in June. It occurred to us that a car stereo upgrade is the perfect gift for both groups, as Fathers and Graduates are both likely to be driving cars with underwhelming infotainment capabilities. So we’re here to recommend a Pioneer NEX Receiver for both the Dads and Grads in your life, to help them keep up with the latest technology in their aging vehicles.
Pioneer’s NEX or Networked Entertainment eXperience line of receivers feature an innovative and powerful new user interface which is responsive and highly customizable. The NEX models are designed especially for today’s smart phone driven lifestyle.
We recently worked with the folks at Pioneer to complete an upgrade of our 2008 Hummer H3 to one of their NEX Receivers. Our off-road rig was purchased used back in 2010, and is now very dated and limited in regards to technology, lacking navigation or Bluetooth connectivity. For this massive upgrade, we selected the Pioneer AVH-4201NEX. It is a 2-DIN Flagship Multimedia DVD Receiver with 7″ WVGA Touchscreen Display and bundled ND-BC8 Back-Up Camera. (NOTE : AVH-4200NEX is same unit without bundled camera)
Installation can be a bit tricky, so we took the vehicle to the experts at The Audio Connection in Maryland to make sure everything was handled professionally. They informed us that the Pioneer NEX receivers are actually a favorite among their staff, and made sure we had everything we needed for a proper install. As you can see below, that mainly included adapters required to complete an upgrade of a GM vehicle.
The installation took about 4 hours, and included both the backup camera and a remote microphone (located by rear-view mirror). You can see each of those in the images below, along with the black GM bezel adapter which enabled a proper fit in the dash.
The AVH-4200NEX features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and to be honest, those are the most critical features for most users these days. While this particular receiver doesn’t include navigation, we’re happy to use Apple’s Maps on Apple CarPlay for our navigation needs.
This isn’t meant to be a review of CarPlay, but we were particularly impressed with how Pioneer integrated that technology into their receiver, allowing us to switch seamlessly between the two interfaces while music continued to play without interruption.
CarPlay makes extensive use of Siri, so the included external microphone is critical for that functionality, in addition to Bluetooth phone calls. In our testing, we found the call quality to be exceptional, and found Siri to be more accurate than we’ve become accustomed to. That led us to believe the microphone is more effective than many we’ve tested in new vehicles.
We found the Bluetooth pairing procedure to be one of the easiest we’ve seen, initiated from the phone and confirmed on the receiver. Hands-free calling and wireless audio streaming (A2DP) are both independent of the CarPlay interface and work via Bluetooth. Sadly CarPlay still requires the phone be connected via USB, but that limitation is not specific to Pioneer.
The AVH-4200NEX features an Anti-Glare screen coating, but we still found glare to be problematic in certain conditions. However Pioneer is able to combat this some with an adjustable tilt on the screen. While the unit normally sits flat with the dashboard, you can tilt the bottom of the screen out electronically, and find the best angle for your vehicle and taste. When you shutoff your vehicle, the screen returns to the default un-tilted state, but it remembers the setting when you start back up again.
It’s no understatement to say that our Hummer H3 has poor visibility out the rear, so the bundled back-up camera was a great bonus with the Pioneer AVH-4201NEX. When installed properly, it automatically engages when you shift into reverse, and while the resolution and image quality aren’t the best we’ve ever seen, they are also far from the worst we’ve seen either. The ND-BC8 Back-Up Camera gets the job done and makes parking much easier.
Other fun features of the AVH-4200NEX include the ability to customize colors and backgrounds. There are also extensive audio quality controls, including a 13-band graphic equalizer and listening position selector. As of writing this feature, we haven’t had a chance to try out the video features, but the AVH-4200NEX has a HDMI input along MPEG video playback via DVD, USB, or even SD card. For full demonstrations on how to use all of the features included with the AVH-4200 NEX, we recommend this YouTube playlist created by Pioneer. We’re slowly working through these videos ourselves, and discovering even more great features of this NEX receiver.
Pioneer’s NEX receivers make a fabulous gift for Fathers, Graduates, or anyone else who needs to an upgrade in their vehicle. They’re even offering a $100 Mail in Rebate until October 1st, which makes it even easier to afford this perfect gift. Upgrading our 2008 Hummer H3 with a Pioneer AVH-4200NEX brings it up-to-date with modern infotainment technology, and with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it should be able to keep up for years to come.