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Pioneer AVH-P8450BT Review

review pioneer AVH-P8450BT iphone

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#1 MMM

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 02:18 AM

If you want a review of the features of the AVH-P8450BT there are plenty of other resources on the web. Stop reading now. If you're think of buying one of these...read on. I tried to read lots of reviews before buying this unit but I didn't find one that gave an honest appraisal...all glowing, not much negative, and all feature orientated....so here's a real review. I wish I new this before buying one… Firstly, I’m not a Pioneer basher. This is my unbiased personal appraisal.

I own one of these, and its been installed in my car for 3 weeks being used with an iPhone 4S – so, time for some feedback. I purchased it primarily for the iPhone integration (music and handsfree phone), for the reversing camera input, and to use the IPhone as the GPS nav. I wanted a "good" unit for the price paid. $800AUD (on 30% off special!).

Pros:
The installation was easy (except USB2).
Nice big screen 7” which has great resolution. Just bright enough in sunlight though.
Touch screen performance is ok, but a little slow – not like the iPhone 4S.
Sound is very good
Lots of features and rear connectors
Can plug an external portable HDD with lots of video (but only for rear screens if connected)
Handsfree phone over Bluetooth with external mic works well

Cons:
Ok - here's what they don't tell you.

User Interface
GUI Operation is not totally intuitive, not like an iPhone. I needed to go to the manual several times to figure out some features. Manual is pretty ordinary and sooo small I needed to download one onto my iPad just to read it. The GUI take a bit of getting use to. I still haven't figured out how to get the favourites feature working.

Touchscreen works but the “buttons” are small ….so when you're driving you needs to focus to push the right spot…quite distracting.
This also goes for the physical button controls across the bottom of the unit. To do anything you really need to *look* and the unit to push the right button..you can't "feel" as there're no bumps on, say, volume up or down. Didn't realise I'd actually miss a volume knob to adjust settings.
Overall it's fiddly, hence you take your eyes off the road (for too long) to do almost anything. Maybe my fingers are too fat. They’ve also put a lot of small touch screen buttons right in the corner of the display which means your finger clashes with the surround of the screen. It doesn’t feel natural, and you need to kind of “point” with your fingernail to hit the right spot.

MixTrax
MixTraks – didn’t work with my iMac (iMatch is enabled). It needs to process your library first and I assume update the meta data in the songs (eg. For BFM). This didn’t work and it didn’t load any songs into MixTrax sw running on the iMac. Hence no preprocessing and I can’t use MixTrax feature at all. But can use MixTrax EZ….the EZ just puts a cheesy audio effect between songs which I don’t like. I wish MixTrax actually worked. Maybe it works fine on a Windows box. Pioneer support replied with "it takes some time to process the library"..yeah, thanks.

iPhone Integration
My biggest issue though is the iPhone integration (the main reason to buy this unit IMHO).
Overall the iPhone integration is not seamless and can be annoying…but it does work if you’re patient.

iPhone Advanced App Feature
To get the compatible apps to work on the headunit (ie pioneer display), you must use the AppRadio app. But you *must* run it manually on the iPhone and not run any other app on the iPhone screen. Hence the iPhone is not really multitasking anymore. This limits the use of the iPhone in the car to just the pioneer supported apps. As a result, you can't check messages or email while waiting at the lights, use a GPS app etc. The reason being the iPhone sort of “redirects” the RGB video onto the headunit using the AppRadio app. Stop the AppRadio, and headunit screen goes blank.
Forget using google maps as navigation sw, as when the car is moving (handbrake off) you aren't allow to enter a destination. You must pull over to apply handbrake. Tell me a GPS on the market that restricts you like this!
I’m now using MetroView GPS ($14.99) on the iPhone and I’ve given up on using the headunit as a navigation interface. And I'm not paying $79.99 for the pioneer nav app.. So because I now use the iPhone interface, I’ve lost all use of the Advanced App feature (unless I stop the navigation sw). I'm surprised how much I actually use the iPhone while waiting at traffic lights...read an email, send text etc. Can't do this with Advance App mode activated.

Advanced App sounds great, but in practice you're forever mucking around with the iPhone to start AppRadio *every* time you use the car or switch between iPhone apps and AppRadio. Sounds really great to have the capability, but I'm finding it more a gimmick than useful. Especially since it only works via the iPhone connector.
So my conclusion is despite being a really cool feature, Advanced App doesn’t get used by me. Pretty cool to be able to show people that I can browse the web from my stereo though.

Startup/Initialisation
The worst issue for me, though, is you can't just leave the iPhone plugged into the connector, or plug the iPhone to the connector *before* starting the car. Reason is that when you switch the headunit on (ie ignition on), it connects to the iPhone via the connector immediately (as iPod 1), and about 15 seconds later it also connects to the iPhone via Bluetooth Audio. As a result, the headunit now nolonger recognises iPod 1 audio - thus you can’t control the iPhone using the headunit iPod1 source anymore..well actually you can control it, but there’s no audio. You now need to switch to the Bluetooth Audio source input to hear anything. But using Bluetooth Audio as the source means you don't have the music search features from the headunit (you can’t search for songs, select playlist etc) You can't do it from the iPhone either as the iPhone Music app is disabled because its connected to "a dock”.
The only way to stop this is to disable Bluetooth Audio “auto connect” for the iPhone...but this then disables the handsfree phone function from the headunit. $#@$# Can't win.

I searched the web trying to find a bug fix..but pioneer FAQ explains this is normal behaviour! Pioneer’s workaround is to wait and ensure the iPhone connects via bluetooth first...and *then* plug it in the connector. You need to do this EVERY time you start/stop the car. This is a pain, especially if you forget or leave in a hurry (or you don't actually *want* to unplug the iPhone). So, I’m forever unplugging the iPhone and plugging it back into the connector to get it thing working again. To be honest this is really, really crap and pioneers should fix it. Really crap..and again..really crap....just once more...ok you get the idea.
I don’t want to mess around the phone every time I use the car…I just want to plug it in, and drive. Currently it’s difficult, and the unit needs and experienced user to learn its quirks with the iPhone. But….it does work with limitations.

iPhone Cable
The pioneer iPhone cable provided with the unit is a monster. Really ugly and is the worst part of the car install. It's not flexible and thin at all, and limits how you install the iPhone in the car. Try routing that sucker up to the dash where the phone is mounted (in GPS satellite view). It’s like an afterthought. It needs a dedicated dock of some sort that can be easily mounted in the car (AND see the GPS satelittes).

Equaliser
Oh, and one other thing, every time you adjust the equaliser setting the audio goes silent for about 0.5 sec as it processes the adjustment. Imagine every time you adjust the bass or treble on an analogue stereo the sound stops and then starts. This messes with my ability to tune the sound. The "sound gap" kind of resets your brain and it needs to re-adjust to the new sound. This isn’t a major criticism, just annoying.

Reversing Camera
Speaking of annoying, when the reverse camera is displayed it ALWAYS shows a warning "CAUTION: Displayed Image May be Reversed" Well guess what...it isn't reversed, and I don't need the warning cluttering up the screen.

Handsfree Phone
Actually works quite well. Only issue I’ve found is you don’t have a feature to use the numeric keypad via the headunit. Eg. Connect to voicemail and you can’t enter numbers to delete messages etc. You need to use the iPhone keypad instead.

USB Inputs
These are on the rear of the unit..yes, the rear. Why put it on the rear! Once the unit is installed you can't get at them. Pre-out you can understand, but not the USB input. There are two ports. USB1 is used by the huge mother iPhone cable, leaving only USB 2 free. To use USB2 I needed to buy a USB extender cable and then go to heaps of trouble making the other end look like its permanently installed in the car rather than just dangling on the floor. An input on the front of the unit would have solved this.

Turn if Off
You can't turn off the unit. Yes, it's true. I cannot work out how to switch it off. It shows a nice big screen with a pretty background and the word "Off". To turn it off properly you actually need to switch the car ignition off. Yep, you need to turn the car completely off.
So what you say?...well you want to put the power antenna down?...you need to turn the bloody car off, even if the radio isn't selected. You want to charge a video camera of the car while camping in the bush? well, the stereo is sucking the battery dry doing absolutely nothing except telling me it's "Off" What the $@# were they thinking!
If I'm wrong and someone has worked out how to switch it off properly, let me know. But, if I am wrong, it just proves the GUI is not intuitive. Now I need to rewire the car to have a 12V socket that's permanently on the batterty so I can charge devices without using the ACC ignition switch.


Conclusion
Overall, 6/10. I admit this review is a bit negative – if you just want positive info read all the other reviews. But, I reckon a few key software changes could really make a huge difference to the usability of the unit with the iPhone. And lets face it, if you don’t want the iPhone integration, IMO why would you pay the extra for one of these? I think the software engineers have lost focus on the core purpose of this unit. They need to get back to the basics and make the iPhone integration the main feature and do this *well*.
Pioneer needs to get some real-world feedback and fix it. Then they'll then have a dead set winner of a head unit.
To be honest I can handle a lot of the annoyances/quicks above except for the iPhone integration. To me it’s hardly “Made for iPhone” as advertised. Yes, it does work but it’s not a great end user experience at present.
Oh, and a Power Off feature would be nice too. LOL

Pioneer, I look forward to the firmware update…please!

Edited by MMM, 21 August 2012 - 02:48 AM.


#2 thebookfreak58

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 10:56 AM

Any updates to this review?

#3 Tritty

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 11:15 AM

I have one of these installed into the wife's car, a fault I noticed is when skipping from track to track (when on the ipod source) sometimes it completely freezes up or shows incorrect track information, you can't skip tracks quick either, you have to wait for it to start playing before skipping. I have also noticed that the touch screen becomes un-responsive at random, the only way to fix it is to remove the face and reset the unit, which means you lose all settings..not sure if it's just this unit or not but it is annoying none-the-less.

#4 KGB

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 03:03 PM

Can plug an external portable HDD with lots of video (but only for rear screens if connected)

This is good, any further info about browsing files and folders etc. When you say "only for rear screens" is that because you didn't earth the handbrake switch and had it installed in the proper, legal manner? Not that I'd want to watch movies in the front anyway but some might.

iPhone Advanced App Feature

I thought this sounded like it would be cool but then would actually turn out to be full of problems.

Forget using google maps as navigation sw, as when the car is moving (handbrake off) you aren't allow to enter a destination. You must pull over to apply handbrake. Tell me a GPS on the market that restricts you like this!
I’m now using MetroView GPS ($14.99) on the iPhone and I’ve given up on using the headunit as a navigation interface. And I'm not paying $79.99 for the pioneer nav app.. So because I now use the iPhone interface, I’ve lost all use of the Advanced App feature (unless I stop the navigation sw).

Why would you not just ground the handbrake wire and fix it?

The worst issue for me, though, is you can't just leave the iPhone plugged into the connector, or plug the iPhone to the connector *before* starting the car.
*snip
$#@$# Can't win.

Annoying, yes. Not that big a deal to me though - doesn't seem too hard to plug your phone in after you start driving.

The pioneer iPhone cable provided with the unit is a monster.

That would be crap, how big are we talking? I was hoping to have the cable wedged out of the dash through a join in the panels somewhere and just running a few cm to a cradle.

These are on the rear of the unit..yes, the rear. Why put it on the rear!

Derp. They are on the rear because having cables and $hit hanging out of your dash and brand new $1000 stereo is fking hideous! I have the complete opposite view to you - having front (esp front ONLY) USBs would probably be enough to stop me from buying a product. I'd much rather take a few minutes longer installing a $5 cable to extend the USB socket to the dash or to a pocket.

You can't turn off the unit.

Odd. Very odd. Can you pop the screen off?


Thanks for the write up (and thanks for bumping it guys!). I'm looking for a double DIN AV HU in thenear future so it has helped me a lot!

#5 smokey

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 04:03 PM

I'd like to see an update on the long term liveability of this source unit too

 

I've just purchased one, even after seeing a lot of similar feedback - but i put a lot of the criticisms down to 'inconveniences in a perfect world' rather than real functionality issues.

 

For example - saying I can't check my messages while at the same time as streaming internet radio seems like a bit of a first world problem!

 

I think a lot of the functionality is also unlocked by using a bypass switch. Once you do this you can literally do anything - browse the net, watch youtube, use Nav Free or Google Maps (thank christ it's now been improved and we no longer have to purchase the $80 GPS app from Pioneer).

 

 

One final point for future readers is that they have had big issues getting this to play nice with iphone 5. It has taken them a few months to sort it out, and involves a messy connection of adapters and extra cables - hopefully they will come up with an integrated cable for future release. And hopefully it's not as thick as the boa constrictor they are currently using for iPhone connectivity.



#6 Carbon Car Systems

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 07:05 AM

Pioneer have just released a new "version" of the AVH-P8450BT which will now be replaced by the AVH-X5550BT, we will have a video product review up in the next few weeks:

 

http://www.carboncar...-4v-f-r-sw.html







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