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2010 Forester, Legacy
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50 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I just wanted to give my review of the U310bt here because it doesn't seem to have a lot of real hands-on reviews around and it's a good head unit. I was going to put one in my wife's Forester, but the lack of voice activated dialing killed it for her.
So here it is installed in my Legacy.

The U310BT is the lowest-end Pioneer Nav you can get. I got mine used (in new condition) on eBay for $250 shipped. That's a very reasonable price for a touch-screen nav. I bought it because it was double-din, had rear USB (you'd be surprised how many stick it on the front), was reputed to have great ipod controls, and had bluetooth.

The unit has a lot of good features, like 50x4 mosfet power, a 4.3" screen, and is expandable with Satellite and HD radio add-ons, but is missing several features from higher-priced models. First and foremost, the screen cannot and will not display video. It's not for that. There's no backup-cam option. The nav also sucks isn't voice activated. The included POI database is sparse, even terrible. If you set those features aside, it really is a great stereo, especially for the price.

For all that, it is easily the best way to get your iPod integrated into your car at this price point. Basically, the screen displays what an iPod classic would display, and the combination 4-way toggle/volume knob acts like the click wheel would. You can also scan through long lists alphabetically using the list button.

On top of that, it will let you use the iPod's own controls to call up songs. If you use an iPod Touch or an iPhone with this car, that means you can create Genius Playsists or listen to Genius mixes. I only wish it did two more things with the iPod interface. One is, I really wish you could listen to Pandora or Slacker using your iPhone with this stereo, but you can't. It can only access the iPod portion of your iPhone. It's not a huge deal; I could (and might) use the Aux-in and mount my phone on the dash to accomplish that. Update 3/26/12: As of iOS4, I am able to listen to Pandora, Slacker, Youtube, Rdio, etc using the USB cable, and I even had rudimentary control over them (skipping tracks basically). It also displayed the track information, most of the time. This solved a major gripe I had with the unit. The second is, I really wish it supported older iPods. It supports iPod Photo and newer, but I have a second-gen iPod Mini which charges over USB, and should theoretically be compatible, but doesn't show up. I have three older iPods that should work with this stereo, but don't; and only one that does, and it's my wife's. However, I can't complain too much, because this appears to be the norm for stereos right now.

The audio quality is excellent and is a HUGE improvement over the stock radio. The Legacy OEM radio was already miles better than the 2010 stock Forester stereo, and this kicks it up several more notches. Very clear, lots of power, and very customizable. You can create your own parametric eq settings. The interface is a little esoteric but very fine-grained control of the eq is possible with some tinkering. It has a couple cool features for audio playback, too. There's a loudness control, and also a feature called "S.Rtrv" which I think stands for "Sound Retrieval". It supposedly reclaims some audio quality lost on compressed music. Oddly, it works on audio CD's too. I think it's just a fancy name for presence control, but it does actually make your iPod's songs sound better.

The hands-free experience is a mixed bag. Granted, the audio quality is excellent, the stereo displays your battery level, signal strength, and carrier correctly (worked flawlessly with my iPhone 4, Samsung Captivate, and Palm Pre Plus, but dropped my Blackberry Tour a few times), copies your phonebook to its memory, and even rings your phone's ringtone over the car speakers, but it lacks one huge component: voice activation. My wife's BlueConnect does a much better job of actually making calls.

Update 3/26/12: Here's a better comparison of the BlueConnect vs. this Pioneer's handsfree system: The BlueConnect does hands-free dialing, but it's setup is arduous and time-consuming. Also, the shrill, ear-piercing ringtone it makes when your phone rings puts me in a bad mood instantly. The audio is better on the Pioneer, but the interface to dial is not voice-controlled, and is a bit clunky. If you set a phone number for your significant other in the "Home" settings for nav, you can simply hit Menu, Phone, Call Home. The incoming call quality is better with the Pioneer, as it comes through your stereo speakers. The outgoing quality (how you sound to others) is comparable.

I didn't really need a nav, and I'm glad I didn't. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I used it. The nav has voice guidance and a fairly good layout. But the maps are so sparse that I really don't trust it to get me where I need to go. At first, I thought the maps were sparse, but they are more detailed in the 2D overhead view. And with the POI database that's included being SO pitiful, I'd be entering addresses for each destination. Compared with my wife's Garmin 1370T, I don't actually use POIs on the Garmin either. Also, the 3D display leaves something to be desired. I have another video to show you what I mean. Sorry, I guess I deleted the video at some point. Basically, the 3D view is a little sparse and doesn't show you what's coming up that well. The 2D map view is MUCH better.

Now, you can load an unlimited number of Points Of Interest from places like Poifriend.com on an SD card, which is cool. I may play around with that in the future. Being able to load music onto a nice big SD card would be nice, but it doesn't work as of this firmware revision. :( The new firmware came out, I applied it, but never played with this. I never really needed POI's.

Update 3/26/12: After having used this Nav a bunch over the last year and a half, there are some awesome features that I didn't find right away. First of all, the voice guidance is as good as Garmin's, with the same humorous pronunciation of street names. Secondly, as you approach a turn, it switches to a big giant icon of the turn you need to make, with a more detailed distance meter. This is quite useful if you have a bunch of turns coming up. Finally, if you're on the interstate or other large highway, when you approach the exit you need to take, it will often show you a 3D picture of the intersection with the lane you need to take to take the exit. I found this quite useful even on familiar roads.

So the bottom line is I'm satisfied with the U310bt, because I really just wanted a Bluetooth stereo to control my iPod and display the information on a nice screen. If you don't need nav, and you don't mind navigating menus to dial on your "handsfree" bluetooth, then this is a great head unit for you.
 

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07 forester
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250 Posts
Now thats a write up. Great job and great hands on info for those who are in the market for stereos.
 

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2010 Forester, Legacy
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50 Posts
Discussion Starter #4

So I got an unexpected chance to test out the Nav, and since my iPhone takes decent video, I decided to slap something together.
 
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