Fed up with your car's puny factory-fitted stereo? Want the movie-playing, camera-viewing, sat-nav-toting action offered by high-end car stereo systems? Fret not -- Pioneer's £500 AVH-6300BT is here to solve your problems. Sort of.
The unit slots into an ordinary-sized single DIN slot in your dashboard, but don't be fooled by its petite dimensions, as it packs a spec list that would put most stereo head units to shame.
Hit a button in the centre of the control panel and a 7-inch, angle-adjustable touchscreen folds out to join the party. The display lets you enjoy a host of visual media, including DVD and DivX movies. It'll even let you play video via apps on your iPod or iPhone for all in the cabin to see.
In theory, this should make the AVH-6300BT the greatest thing on the face of the earth, but there's a small problem -- its display is one of the worst we've ever come across. The 1,440x234-pixel resolution is so low it's possible to see each pixel that comprises an image from some distance, and the screen flickers outrageously, making it nearly impossible to discern any fine detail in your pictures. We could barely make out the licence plate number in pictures of cars.
Movie playback is marginally more impressive due to the fact that the images are constantly moving, fooling your eyes into thinking you're witnessing something awesome. Be warned, though -- the device will only play video if the handbrake is fully engaged, so this feature is only of use when you're stopped in traffic.
The aforementioned iPod and iPhone app mode is flawed, too. Video playback sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, and the AVH-6300BT doesn't support Apple's iPod out functionality, so the graphical user interface for iPod isn't displayed on the screen, which is an oversight. To make the most of the media on your Apple device, you'll need to use Pioneer's own iPod menu system.
The AVH-6300BT allows users to enjoy audio from a variety of more conventional sources. The USB port on the front lets you connect your own mass storage device, there's an SD card reader slot behind the front panel, AM and FM radio tuners make an appearance (DAB is conspicuously absent) and, there is, of course, a slot-loading CD drive below the screen.
£ marks the spot
Those who want to use the AVH-6300BT as a sat-nav may end up disappointed, as this feature doesn't come as standard. To enable it, you'll have to buy the optional AVIC-F220 navigation unit at a cost of £370, pushing the total cost of the system up to nearly £900.
If money is no object, you'll find the AVIC-F220 add-on provides some relatively advanced features, such as the ability to create driving reports that let you keep track of how eco-friendly you are behind the wheel. Sadly, the low resolution of the screen means you're probably better off buying a stand-alone sat-nav or using the one on your smart phone.
On a positive note, the AVH-6300BT supports Bluetooth, so users can pair their mobile phone with the system and make or receive calls over the car's speakers. It can also be connected to a rear-facing camera to help you park your car more easily, and its dual-zone function lets passengers in the rear enjoy different audio or video to those in the front, although you'll need additional screens to make the most of this feature.
Should you buy the Pioneer AVH-6300BT? Yes, if you don't mind paying over the odds for a terrible display and some half-baked features. We'd recommend you pop into your local Pioneer reseller so you can try this and other units for yourself before parting with your cash. We think you'll find there are countless other car head units, including many from Pioneer itself, that deliver a better experience.
Edited by Charles Kloet