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Full Review - Sony XNV-770BT
on November 23, 2010
Prior to the new iOS 5 update for the iPhone, when you connected to the stereo via bluetooth (with an iPhone), the screen would say, "BT Audio". Now, with the iOS 5 update that is available for the iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, and 4S, the iPhone now sends data to the stereo display over the bluetooth connection. The screen no longer says "BT Audio", instead it shows the title of what you're playing, the time, track, date (of podcast), and all the other normal data you would see when playing something. You also have more control over starting/stopping, rewinding and fast forwarding from the stereo itself. It is a WONDERFUL feature that was not advertised for iOS 5. The bluetooth feature is without a doubt what I like most about this stereo, and it just got 200% better. Even if you don't have an iPhone but can connect to it by bluetooth with another phone, it works great and the sound quality has always been crystal clear/CD quality.
With this update, when you connect to the stereo WITH a cable (again this is for the iPhone), then you will also see the album art.
For the quick and dirty review on this stereo, here's my thoughts. It's pricey, but it's an awesome unit. Satellite radio works great, and the navigation works great. I used to be a Garmin user but recently switched to TomTom because I've found the maps to be more up-to-date and I like the IQ Route feature (see below). I still have an old Garmin though and I get plenty of use out of it. The screen does tilt to allow for better viewing, I love that, and the removable navigation module is pure genius. However, one big thing that I absolutely do not like is that the navigation module only comes with the maps of the US and Canada, and you CAN'T buy and add European maps to it. This is a problem for me as I ship my car overseas. See below for the workaround if this is an issue for you. TomTom also only gives you 12 months of map updates, which is a bad call. Being that this is one of their flagship GPS units, it should be a lifetime update like they offer on some of their other models. There are a lot of additional costs associated with this stereo depending on what accessories you want to add to it: satellite radio/HD radio/rear view camera/steering wheel control. The rear view camera option is GREAT, but they don't even advertise that unless you dig deep into the manual.
Also, they are not clear at all in the manual about what you need to buy in order to add the optional features, so I've included the part numbers in the review below. If a remote control is important to you, I think the button layout they've chosen is terrible.
Overall, it's an excellent, solid stereo, with great navigation, but shame on Sony and TomTom for not giving lifetime map updates or the ability to add new maps. I honestly think that the better deal is the 660 model, which costs hundreds less and is only different in 2 ways... The screen is just a little bit smaller, but it's because they've included a volume control KNOB that is much easer to use than the volume control BUTTONS on the 770. Other than that, the two units are identical. For me this stereo is 4 stars, but I would imagine that for most folks it'd be a solid 5. You'll be happy with it even though it does have a few shortcomings on the GPS side.
Touch Screen Interface/Menu:
The interface is very simple and user friendly. When you bring up the interface you can choose from Navigation, AV Source, and BT Phone (bluetooth). If you get busy and don't touch anything on the screen, the menu will go back to what you were previously looking at. There are 6 radio station preset buttons. If you want, you can choose to show navigation AND your A/V source on the screen at the same time (very cool), and can even choose where the additional window will appear on the display. Lastly, you can adjust the angle of the screen so you're not always have to touch it at a 90-degree angle; this feature is really nice. It also has day/night/auto settings.
The remote control is small and nice, but what I do not like about it is the location of the volume control. If you're holding it in your right hand, the volume control buttons are on the bottom right of the remote. Essentially, they are in the absolute worst place possible for being able to hit them easily while holding the remote with one hand. Whoever designed the button layout simply did not have a brain. However, I imagine that not many people will use the remote, so it's probably not a big deal for most folks.
With this feature you can tell the stereo how you're driving, i.e. Chill out, freeway, etc, and it will choose songs for your mood. In order to use this feature, you'll need to get your USB Device (iPod or whatever) and then plug it into your home computer and set it up with some software. After that, you'll be good-to-go. It works pretty well and more than anything, it's just fun to do; I love it.
It works great, but a DVD player in the front seat? I can't see that as something I'd ever use, and here's why... Sure, it's nice to have a DVD player in the car, but I know in nearly every state, it's illegal for the driver to have a video display device operating and in view while driving. I know most installers will not setup the DVD player in the front seats to operate while the vehicle is in motion, so just know the law in your state and take care. I suppose you could make some sort of "blind" so your front seat passenger could watch a DVD while you can't see it, that would work...
It's nice to see that Sony offers this stereo with either the volume control KNOB or the volume control BUTTONS. The most used feature of a radio is without-a-doubt, the volume control, and on this model (the 770), the volume control is 2 small buttons side-by-side on the bottom left of the face. On the 660 model, the volume control is the circular knob on the left side of the face. Although the 7" face is more sleek looking than the 6.1" face, you give up a lot when it comes to functionality in my opinion. It's just so much easier and faster to be able to turn the knob on the 660 than to push the 2 buttons on the more expensive 770 model. It's also much easier and faster to use the knob when you're not looking at the stereo and want to keep your eyes on the road. Make your own decision here, but just realize, if you want the more functional knob on the 660, you also get to pay a good bit less; it's a double bonus. Also, the difference in screen size may sound like a lot (7" vs. 6.1"), but it's not that noticeable. FYI, the screen is measured diagonally.
It's specifically made for the iPod and iPhone and you can connect your iPod (or another USB Device) by an optional USB cable and control it through the receiver, and you can also connect your iPhone via Bluetooth. You can connect other bluetooth-enabled phones, but depending on the phone, you may have limited functionality.
One feature I LOVE on the TomTom is that it does IQ Routes. It calculates the most efficient path of travel depending on the time of day and on traffic, because the shortest route is not always the fastest. TomTom has had this feature for a while so most of the bugs have been worked out of it. This is a feature that you can't find on a Garmin, and it works really well. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the lane assist feature. No more wondering what the upcoming freeway junction is going to look like and having to do a quick lane change at the last second. One thing that we all know is that sometimes, map data is wrong. Well, TomTom now lets you do something about that. There's a feature that lets you correct it now and even upload the correction to the TomTom community. You can also get map corrections from other users when you connect the navigation module to your home computer. It's very cool, and is an awesome feature. There's even a feature that lets you add the locations of speed cameras into your navigation unit, and then you can even report the location of the camera to the Tomtom community of users.
The GPS view is very clean and can show a 3D view or a top-down view. The 3 touch screen buttons on the bottom of the screen show speed, volume, and route info/time. On the TomTom you can navigate to a point on a map, whereas on a GPS like the Garmin, you need to have an address; this is a nice feature to have. Also, you can modify the GPS display that is shown when you're driving; another GREAT feature.
The Navigation Module/GPS Map Data:
The navigation module is about the size of a cell phone and holds all the map data for the GPS. It can be disconnected from a housing unit and brought into your house so you can connect it to your home computer to update maps, load destinations, trips, etc... It connects to the car stereo via a housing unit that most folks will store in either the glove compartment or another easily-accessed compartment. You are given the maps for the U.S. and Canada. Unfortunately, you are only given 12 months of map updates, which, considering the cost of this stereo, is simply absurd. TomTom offers lifetime map updates on some of their other GPS products, so I have no idea why they didn't do that here. Also, if you want to add other maps, like Europe, TomTom DOES NOT allow you to do that. This could be a big problem for folks like State Dept employees, or Military Personnel who ship their vehicles overseas. There is a difficult workaround though... When you get to your destination in Europe, call the Sony support number for the country you're in and buy the European Navigation Module, then just swap it out with your U.S. Navigation Module. It's a terrible way to have to do it, but it's the only way I've found to make it work. TomTom customer support told me that they had received numerous calls about this issue so hopefully they'll change this. In the meantime, this may help you if you're one of the few in this situation:
When you call Sony Europe, you'll need to give them the European model number for your stereo, which is XNV-L770BT (all they did was add the L)
For your information, the part #'s for the different navigation modules are below. Also, Sony USA can not send you the modules for Europe; you must call Sony Europe.
148925611 - U.S. Navigation Module
148925621 - U.K./Ireland Navigation Module
148925631 - European Navigation Module
----------------------------Optional Accessories & Part Numbers--------------------------------
Rear View Camera:
The part number is XA-R800C.
Satellite Radio/HD Radio:
I love satellite radio and I listen to that exclusively. Because I have the satellite radio hooked up, I decided to not buy the part for the HD radio option since I wouldn't use it. If you want HD or Satellite Radio, here are the parts you'll need to buy:
HD Radio Part: XT100HD
Sirius Satellite Radio Part: Sirius SCC1 Connect & SNYSC1
Steering Wheel Interface:
If you car has a radio control system in the steering wheel, you can buy the interface to work with this stereo. Part number PAC SWI-PS