Pioneer AVIC-F500BT

Dash-mounted navigation and entertainment system

Pioneer AVIC-F500BT
  • Pioneer AVIC-F500BT
  • Pioneer AVIC-F500BT
  • Pioneer AVIC-F500BT
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Allows you to keep your standard car audio system, touch-screen display, USB and SD card connectivity, iPod connector, hands-free Bluetooth calling, includes amplifier

Cons

  • Isn’t compatible with SUNA traffic system just yet, uses V14 maps not V15, reversing camera costs extra

Bottom Line

The AVIC-F500BT is a unique but welcome addition to the navigational market. This is the perfect device if you want to add the latest in navigation and entertainment to your vehicle without altering your existing stereo.

Would you buy this?

A navigation and entertainment system designed to work with a standard car audio system, Pioneer’s AVIC-F500BT is an unusual device.

It is best suited to vehicles that have standard OEM audio systems. Although most of these can be removed, many of them will leave a space larger than a standard single or double DIN. For example, the factory audio system on a Mazda 3 takes up an excessive amount of dash space and would be difficult to remove effectively. Instead, the F500BT allows you to install a navigational and entertainment system that works in tandem with your factory stereo while providing a wealth of extra features.

Included in the F-500BT sales package is a 4x50 MosFET amplifier than can be installed either behind your dash or under a seat. The amplifier acts as a gateway between the factory audio system and the F500BT; effectively it's the brains behind the ability to run both systems simultaneously. As an example of the capabilities provided, the amplifier allows music playing through the car audio system to be muted when voice instructions from the F500BT are being read aloud during turn-by-turn navigation.

The F500BT needs to be professionally installed. In addition to the contents in the sales package, you’ll need to purchase a mount that differs depending on your vehicle. Expect the mount and installation to set you back between $100 and $200. An optional accessory is a reversing camera, which automatically displays a live image from the rear of your vehicle as soon as the car is put into reverse. Once installed, the touch-screen unit is detachable and can be used in a second vehicle if you wish — though keep in mind this obviously won’t allow access to all of the system's features.

The F500BT is simple to operate thanks to its clean interface. The main menu consists of three large icons — destination, contacts and AV source — as well as smaller shortcuts to phone and settings menus. Most of the controls and functions are accessed via the 5.8in touch screen, although there are a number of buttons to the left of the screen, including menu, map, power and a volume dial. These buttons feature a soft white backlight; unlike the F900BT you can’t alter their colour. The address entry screen is fairly straightforward and comparable to most portable GPS units on the market. The touch screen is responsive and easy to use, and you can switch between QWERTY and ABC keyboard layouts.

The general navigational experience is positive. When you are listening to music and navigating at the same time, the amplifier mutes your factory audio system whenever the F500BT announces text-to-speech instructions then resumes the music as soon as the instruction ends. The maps are detailed and include a database of red light cameras, fixed speed cameras and school zones. Unfortunately, the recent launched SUNA traffic system isn’t compatible with the AVIC-F500BT just yet, as this unit has WhereIs V14 maps installed. Users will have to wait till the latest V15 upgrade is rolled out, which won’t happen until March or April 2009 according to Pioneer.

While radio and CD and/or DVD functions are handled by your factory audio system, the F500BT allows you access videos (MPEG4) and music (MP3 and WMA) from USB drives and SD cards. You can sort your files into separate folders and the unit lets you scroll them on the touch screen. The SD card slot is located on the right side of the unit, while the USB port is at the end of a cable that runs from the rear of the unit to a convenient location in your vehicle when installed (usually in the glove box or centre console). This cable also has an iPod connector. (You can’t connect both an iPod and USB device at the same time, however.)

Rounding out the features is Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to handle calls through the F500BT. Once paired, you can access and call contacts through the touch screen and redial recently dialled numbers. The unit includes a small built-in microphone on the front to handle calls.

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