Customer Review

14 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended - all glitz and no substance, April 4, 2013
This review is from: Pioneer AVH-X5500BHS Multimedia DVD Receiver with 7" Motorized Touchscreen Display (Electronics)
I have commented on this head unit in responses to other people's reviews here, but I wanted to just summarize myself - I would not recommend this head unit if you are looking for anything more than a simple car radio. It simply has too many bugs, a very bad, inconsistent and distracting user interface design, and the AppRadio 2 mode and the library of apps for iPhone are simply horrible in how they look on the head unit's screen and how the Pioneer touch screen works - it is a very mediocre touch screen and very frustrating to use.

Pioneer's big promise for this and other AppRadio 2 head units is to "put the iPhone experience in your car dashboard" (from some of their marketing materials) but in fact they make the iPhone experience so clunky and so distracting and difficult to use that I frequently don't use AppMode anymore - it's just not ready for prime time. It was a cool idea, but Pioneer has had over two years to perfect AppRadio and AppRadio 2 functionality and based on my experience with their products in this line, they haven't done a very good job. And you'd have to wonder how that can be since the AppRadio part of the head unit is simply a video display and a touch screen, how could anyone get those two basic components so wrong these days? The video display from an iPhone 4S using the RGB cable (the high-end Pioneer cable) looks like my Commodore VIC-20 did when connected to a color TV via the RF modulator back in 1983. Shame on Pioneer for not doing the right thing and adjusting the screen resolution of the apps and the head unit when the pixel scaling is done to make it look better. And shame on Pioneer's AppRadio development team for creating and approving apps that use user interface elements such as too small fonts or badly placed buttons and sliders that do not render well after going through the pixel manipulation chain from the iPhone to the head unit screen. All this kind of stuff has been figured out in the computer world decades ago, and here we are in 2013 with what is ostensibly Pioneer's flagship head unit that is just not ready for prime time.

Separately from AppRadio 2 issues are the user interface and operational issues of the head unit such as automatically starting playing a song (either the first song in your device or the last song that was playing, it seems to be a random choice) when your iPhone or USB or BT audio device is connected, not being able to turn off repeat that is forced on, and things like multiple "No Data Displayed" lines and a big musical note when no artwork is available. And a host of other things that should at the very least be configurable in a menu setting somewhere.

Then there is the deplorable Pioneer customer service whose attitude basically is: "Thank you for giving us your money. There is no firmware update available to fix any of these issues. We will let someone know about these. Have a nice day." We can all read between the lines...
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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 4, 2013 7:15:24 PM PDT
Agree 100%. Also, this radio will play the audio from every app that I have, save my SiriusXM app. If I plug in the iPhone cable while SiriusXM is playing, it will shut it off. Won't play through the bluetooth either. Certainly not a coincidence... You also brought up the issue of the random playback that I failed to mention. Anyone actually looking to use the advanced features of this head unit that has any sort of tech savvy will be sorely disappointed.

Posted on Apr 5, 2013 8:31:08 AM PDT
M. W. Foley says:
So glad I encountered this review. I've been mulling sending a recently purchased head unit back to get this one. I'm in software development and each one of your frustrations is significant to me. There is no excuse for not developing this interface beyond the primitive mistakes you are describing. Pioneer should understand it's not just knobs and buttons anymore. If you're going to bring these types of interfaces to market, you have got to get it right. There are plenty of successes they can model themselves after since this new age of interfaces has long since dawned.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 5, 2013 7:14:06 PM PDT
Thank you all for your comments. I am also an engineer (embedded systems and user interfaces) so the shortcomings of this head unit are painfully obvious to me and most of them speak to a lack of consideration for where this type of head unit is marketed - it seems that Pioneer is really schizophrenic in this area, they have their traditional car radio philosophy that governs the basic functionality of the head unit, and then they seem to want to try to break out of that quagmire by adding features to the head unit like iPhone and BT integration and touch screens but the two competing sides can't seem to get along well enough to design something that isn't just a fancy car radio but a totally innovative product. I can almost feel the tension in the room between the old car radio guys that have been cranking out pretty much the same thing since the dawn of time and the guys that want to really let something like this fly with really cool features that don't just make it an expensive car radio with a big screen.

A couple of examples of things that Pioneer really should have done, and which are really just software components:

1. The head unit should support a USB hub and allow at least two USB mass storage devices to be connected simultaneously (say a USB flash drive and an iPhone); or even better yet, allow multiple USB mass storage devices to be connected and selectable via the front panel and have the iPhone/iPod be a special case (so only allowing a single iPhone would be fine). Supporting a USB hub is a software feature that should already be part of whatever embedded OS Pioneer is using (and if they are using a Linux derivative and turning off USB hub support, then shame on them!). Why is this a useful feature? Because a user can put a large media collection on say a 1TB drive that lives inside the vehicle and have access to that music while still being able to use their iPhone (with it's paltry 64GB max storage capacity that must be shared for everything on the iPhone).

2. Why display "No data received" (sometimes THREE LINES WORTH!) and a big black music note when you don't have data to display? How useful is that to the end user? Is Pioneer afraid that someone will call them to complain that there was no data presented when they were listening to an HD radio station?

3. Why does pressing the album art image when playing via iPhone take you to a list that lets you back up into the alphabetical album list rather than in the more logical artist or related items list that the iPhone's music player back arrow control does? The back up feature on the Pioneer when you go backwards beyond the currently playing album is almost always the wrong place to land.

4. "Screen image may appear reversed". OK, I got it. It may appear reversed if someone snuck into my car in the middle of the night and replace my backup camera with one that shows a reversed image. Other than that, once I see that message once (preferably NEVER) there is no reason to ever show that message again. It's like seeing a message on your instrument cluster that says: "Warning: Running out of gas may cause your car to stop moving in a forward direction!" every time you start your car.

5. (Last one for now) - try having two iPhones paired and active with the head unit via BT. Listen to music on one of the iPhones. Unlock the screen on the other iPhone. The unlock sound from the latter iPhone causes the Pioneer to stop the first iPhone playing and play the unlock sound from the second iPhone. Good so far. Now, when you press the Play button on the head unit, it starts playing the audio from the second iPhone. In some weird alternative universe, that makes perfect sense, but is almost never what the user expects. I expect that BT audio streams are either mixed at the head unit or at least that the head unit goes back to the previous BT audio source when you press Play.

Ugh... and I really wanted to like this unit.

Posted on Apr 7, 2013 9:55:00 PM PDT
What units would you recommend then?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 7, 2013 10:12:24 PM PDT
I don't know. I'm just a guy that wanted to replace his factory stereo with something better. At the time I was looking and ultimately purchased this head unit (in Nov 2012), very few of the double DIN head units did Bluetooth with the iPhone 4S running iOS 6.X properly. This was due to a bug in the Parrot Bluetooth module that a lot of manufacturers use, and for whatever reason, Parrot and/or Pioneer were slow to come out with a firmware update to fix these issues. This was common as well on the Alpine, Kenwood, JVC and Sony double DIN head units that I looked at around the fall of 2012.

So I can't give you a good answer as to what I would recommend. I did like the Sony and it had something similar to Pioneer's AppMode but the Sony suffered from the same Bluetooth problems as all the other head units of that era did. If the BT on the Sony had worked properly, I would have bought that one instead. 'm tempted to sell my Pioneer head unit on eBay and just buy something else.

In reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2013 8:51:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2014 5:43:32 PM PDT
Alfred Ricci says:
(This is an update to the original post below.)
I bought the unit and it is AWESOME!! I did an enormous amount of research and nothing has the features this one does. So, I bought it - and I'm SOOO HAPPY I did. I'm also in technology, over 20 years, and this interface is so easy, so well thought out, so packed with functionality - and it sounds amazing, simply amazing. Just buy it. You'll be glad you did. There's a reason this gets 4.5 out of 5 stars - because it's simply the best unit on the market - and it's easy to use!
Your post, in reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2013
~~ What is a good alternative?? ~~ I was very interested in this unit until reading these comments. Being in the Quality Assurance area of IT for over 20 years, I can feel your frustration. I'd love to hear what other units would give the most bang for your buck with our the bugs.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2013 9:04:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 11, 2013 9:23:33 AM PDT
W. P. CORSA says:
Im looking at this HU as well. Would really like to know what you guys suggest over pioneer. HD radio would be ideal. Which manufacturer makes the best screen (resolution brightness) pioneer jvc kenwood? Any news on next years units any big improvements? I would like to do a full install this summer but if something better is on the way I will just do speakers and amps and use an old single din while I wait...otherwise I'll probably just buy this piece of crap and deal :( any advice
Would be much appreciated

Posted on Jun 4, 2013 11:20:22 PM PDT
Thanks for the review. I would have to agree with you. Pioneer needs to hire some UX people who live and breath this stuff instead of having their head in the a((. I was amazed how crappy the appradio UI was... and honestly it's not just pioneer. This advanced head unit technology is not ready for prime time in general. All of them are laggy with serious half a(( apps that were a good idea in concept but not folllowed through with at all and certainly no one was there to raise a flag and say that this is not right. My estimate is that it will be 2021 before we see a truly awesome double din touch hybrid HU that rocks. In the meanwhile I'm looking at the DEH-80PRS in hopes that this single din retro deck will give me the responsiveness and manual control that I look for in a car stereo.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2013 11:26:50 PM PDT
Bender, hit me up on facebook. facebook dot com slash petethevolcano. I'd be interested to chat more with you about this stuff. I'm pretty passionate about finding a good solution and if one doesn't exist why shouldn't we make one ourselves. I'm a UX designer by trade so like yourself seeing an underserved market like this really bugs me.

Posted on Jun 18, 2013 1:34:03 PM PDT
David Behr says:
Guys, I'm grateful for your thoughtful comments and reviews, but they are begging the question, what head units did you end up with? I'm shopping now and am finding it very difficult to choose a deck.
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