Today I had a GPS/iPod player installed in my 2002 Nissan Sentra. I chose the Pioneer AVIC-N2 GPS for the following reasons:
it fits in a "single DIN slot" (standard automobile/car cassette stereo dashboard slot) which is all I had available for it
it has a relatively large screen for easy viewing (see below how this works with #1)
it supports an iPod hidden inside the dashboard, so I can have all my music in the car with me without a bunch of extra cables and power lines running all over the front seats and cup holders. Click here to see the manual for the Pioneer CD-IB100 interface cable from the AVIC-N2 to the iPod.
Small Rant on Car Manufacturers and iPods: It boggles my mind how out of touch the car designers at places like Ford, Nissan, and Toyota are. Most people I know have an iPod. Heck, almost every 14 year old girl I know has an iPod, they are less expensive than a pair of tennis shoes. But you can only get an iPod hookup in less than 1 percent of the automobiles made (some BMWs), and *THAT* hookup is pretty awful, and it only comes on expensive models. Meanwhile, look in a current Crutchfield catalog (or even HOMEPAGE) and try to find a single page that doesn't mention "car" and "iPod" and have a wizard on how to hook them up together. And then look at BlitzSafe and try to imagine how much money they have made in the last year working around Nissan and Ford's stubborn refusal to admit every person on earth wants an iPod in their car. It makes me shudder to think of the denial going on at Nissan and Ford as the dimwits design the new 2006 models to have music CD players in them and say "iPods are only for outrageously rich people who buy BMW cars for $95,000". Wake up for goodness sake! I have no reason to have a CD player in a car, nobody with an iPod does!! A CD reader is the way you import music into your iPod, nobody uses them to play music anymore! Ok, end of rant.
Below you see it installed in the "closed state" in my dashboard. The iPod is the touch of blue peeking out of the black hole above the manual shift (below the heat controls). I'm going to have something made to close the hole and seal the iPod into the dash forever (or at least for the months in between when I need to take it out to put more music on it). Click on any picture to get a much larger version.
Below you see the Pioneer AVIC-N2 when the screen is open.
This is just a close up from the last photo. My workplace is called "MailFrontier" (http://www.mailfrontier.com) and I have entered that into the GPS, you can see how it displays that.
You press a little button to have the Pioneer AVIC-N2 open the screen. Click the screen below to show a small MPEG movie of the Pioneer AVIC-N2 opening and closing.
Under the driver's side front seat I put the "hideaway unit". That is the little silver thing on top, I also had an Alpine amplifier installed (hey, as long as I was in a car shop having the installation done I figured what the heck :-). The Alpine amp is the big black thing under the hideaway unit. I'm a tall guy, and my seat is always as far back as it can go which completely hides this unit. Some people install the hideaway unit in the trunk, but my 2002 Sentra has fold-down back seats (so I can put skis inside the car through to the trunk) so there wasn't any good trunk location.
I had my install done by Auto Sound (650) 968-2684, 1205 W El Camino Real Sunnyvale, CA. I found the best price I could find on the internet for the Pioneer AVIC-N2 (about $1,500) and they matched it (they claimed the wholesale price was $1420). They were friendly, flexible, it was reasonable dealing with them. So far I'm happy with it.
NEW INFO on 7/15/05 - Several people have contacted me and asked what the interface between the iPod and the Pioneer AVIC-N2 looked like. Pioneer sells this as the CD-IB100, and it is *NOT* very good, but it is acceptable. Essentially it fools the AVIC-N2 into thinking it has a 6-CD-changer attached, where one iPod "playlist" is a single CD, and each song in the playlist is a track on that one CD. Click here to read the very simple 3 page manual that I scanned in. Below are some screenshots and descriptions of the interface to the iPod.
First of all, below is the MOST normal mode-> how you would normally see the front of the display while playing music with the whole GPS flatpanel closed. In this picture, I'm playing "Beautiful - by Christina Aguilera". The front panel is "clipped" to exactly 8 characters, so all you see is "Beautifu". If you want to play the next or previous song in the playlist, you can use the joystick (lower right corner of the whole unit). Push the joystick to the right will go forward one song in the playlist. Push the joystick to the left will go back one song.
To choose a particular play list or a particular album in "closed mode"-> The pictures didn't come out fantastic, so I'm going to walk you through this. :-) Below I push the "Band" button (see big red letter B below) where my finger is to choose whether I want to search by "Album", "Playlist", "Artists", or "Genre". What we see displayed in "A" is that the currently I am about to search by "Album", but if I press the "Band" button one more time it will display "Playlist", etc. When you have decided what you want to browse by (for this example let's say "Search by Album", I push the joystick "C" DOWN to see the next album name displayed in "A". We push "DOWN", "DOWN", "DOWN" until the album named "Stripped" is displayed in "A" (this is the album by Christina Aguilera). Then I push the joystick to the RIGHT to see each song on the album. I push "RIGHT", "RIGHT", "RIGHT", and when the word "BEAUTIFU" is displayed in "A", I wait for it to start playing.
Below it says "PLAYLIST" in the display window. (The picture is fuzzy, but the actual display on the AVIC-N2 is fine.)
Ok, so if you are still with me here, you probably want to see what the absolutely amazing and beautiful interface to operate the iPod from the fabulous touch screen Pioneer AVIC-N2. Here is where you will be disappointed. IT IS IDENTICAL IN EVERY WAY TO LEAVING THE FLATSCREEN CLOSED!! Seriously, even though the screen is plenty wide enough to display the WHOLE song title, it only displays the first 8 characters. And even though the AVIC-N2 could show all three at once -> Album name, song name, artist name, they only display exactly what you would see on the 7-segment LED interface on the closed unit. Kind of a let-down, everything else is so wonderful.
To choose whether you always want "Songname" or "Artist Name" or "Album Name" displayed in the pathetic 8 character wide screen, here are the steps below. You can also read how these match up to the online manual for the CD-IB100 iPod interface here. The pictures of the flat-screen did not come out well, so I put the text that is showing on each button in double-quotes in big bold red characters below. Here are the steps you can see screen shotted below:
Open the flat-panel and it displays "Beautifu" at the very top. This is the only place dynamic text will appear, everything else is wasted space.
Push the "A.Menu" button to bring up the "A.Menu Screen" (yes, I'm not making that name up, check the Manual).
Push the "Function" button to bring up the "Functions" menu.
Push the "Function 3" button to bring up the "3rd Function Screen".
It says "beautifu" in the text edit area, push the "Send" button next to it to rotate through "Christina" (which is the artist), "Stripped" (the album), and "Beautifu" (the song). When you are happy, close the flatpanel and that is what is displayed on the front from now on.
So it isn't fabulous, but it works, and it charges the iPod, and I can leave the iPod embedded inside the dashboard and not pull it out to change songs or playlists.
I made a small movie of myself navigating menus and choosing a playlist and then choosing a song using the open flatpanel. Click here to watch this movie (MAKE SURE YOU TURN ON YOUR AUDIO so you can hear my voice over).
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