Product Review: Pioneer AVIC Z140 BH automotive technology auto product reviews auto tech
Pioneer AVIC Z140-BH. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s Website
Pioneer of Canada

Review by Justin Pritchard, photos by Justin Pritchard and courtesy Pioneer

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Pioneer AVIC Z140-BH

The smartphone is today’s go-to device for one-touch access to multimedia, contacts, information, entertainment and directions. Ironically, and in spite of how rapidly the benefits of advanced connectivity are becoming a part of the modern motoring experience, that Blackberry, iPhone or Android is typically illegal to use while you drive.

Automakers have responded with ever-improving ‘infotainment’ systems in their latest models that seek to provide easy access to many information and connectivity features. Your new Nissan can access Google, right from its dashboard. Your new Acura can read your text messages to you. Your new Lincoln can give you weather updates on the fly. Built-in mobile Wifi is becoming popular. The list goes on.

For years, Pioneer has been proving that shoppers needn’t buy a new ride to benefit from advanced connectivity. The electronics manufacturer’s line of AVIC ‘all in one’ head units offer top-line functionality for drivers using almost any ride as a personal listening space, a mobile office, or anything in between. The new AVIC Z140-BH is Pioneer’s flagship in-car infotainment hub, and your writer recently took one for a test drive.

It was an intimidating proposition, at first.

The AVIC-Z140BH is a serious product. It does everything. Everything. It has graphic processing power on par with a gaming PC, numerous advanced functionalities and more ways to access your multimedia than you can shake a jump-drive at. As aftermarket systems go, this unit is the leader in high-tech, in-car entertainment and communications – and I have a level of tech-savviness that would make Mark Saltzman nauseous.

But the AVIC is designed to mimic the functionality of a smartphone, like my Android-based Motorola Razr. There are numerous similarities. Like my phone, the AVIC uses a few fixed buttons to reduce distraction and ease navigation, in conjunction with a colourful sliding, animated, touch-activated interface. Just like on your favorite smartphone, directions, contacts, music and other information is always a tap or swipe away.

You can even ‘drag and drop’ custom shortcut items onto your AVIC’s home menu for easy access – in the same way you’d customize the home screen on your iPhone or Android.

The AVIC sweeps smoothly between navigation, radio tuner, Bluetooth playback and other functions—thanks partly to a built-in graphics accelerator, which is sort of like a turbocharger for pixels and colours. This ensures the menus look great and animate cleanly, and also punches up the visuals if you’re playing back a movie or video. The unit is also HD radio compatible, and pre-wired for Sirius Satellite – though this requires a ‘sold-separately’ tuner module.

Product Review: Pioneer AVIC Z140 BH automotive technology auto product reviews auto tech
Pioneer AVIC Z140-BH. Click image to enlarge

Pairing the Z140BH with my Motorola Razr handset via Bluetooth was easy, and aside from a small handful of split-second lags, the entire thing ran liquid smooth. Bluetooth technology drives the connection between the user’s cell phone and the AVIC unit, allowing data like music, phone calls and contact lists to be exchanged wirelessly between the two.  I particularly appreciated the Bluetooth media streaming, which allowed me to play audio tracks and internet radio from my phone, no wires required. Phone call quality was as good as any Bluetooth system you’ll find built into a new ride, too.

There’s a USB input available if you store your mobile tunes on a thumb-drive, and the seven-inch touchscreen folds out of the way to accept a CD… if you’re still listening to those. That screen is anti-glare coated, so it’s easy to see, even in direct sunlight. You can even adjust the angle between the screen and the unit in small increments for ideal ergonomics.

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