iPod on the Road, and So Much More: Pioneer's AVIC-Z1 Car Audio/Video System

Posted Monday, January 29, 2007

So it turns out that $2600 still buys a pretty nice car stereo.

Oh, but don't call Pioneer's AVIC-Z1 a car stereo. It is an "AV multimedia navigation server," thank you very much, and it deserves the multi-syllabic moniker.

First, some background. I live a few hours north of San Francisco. I drive to the Bay Area a lot, and I know its roads just well enough to get myself thoroughly lost now and then. I've always wanted a navigation system, but it was one of those someday purchases: "I'll get one once I'm done buying camera lenses."

A couple of weeks ago, my car's stereo died. I saw the opportunity to spend and I seized it.

I did some research on the Web and in some car audio retailers. But it was kind of research that makes your credit card wake up with a hangover: you look at a dozen different things, then you see the top of the line and forget everything else.

What Your Two Grand Buys
What do you get for $2250? Here's a partial list.

  • A seven-inch, 16:9 widescreen, touch-sensitive display
  • An AM/FM stereo tuner
  • A slot-loading DVD/CD drive that plays back DVD-Video discs (including DVD-R and DVD-RW), audio CDs, and MP3 CDs
  • A GPS navigation system, with on-screen maps, turn-by-turn voice directions, and more than the usual array of nav-system goodies
  • A 30GB internal hard drive. The drive stores maps for the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) and Canada. It also holds the entire Gracenote CDDB database: when you insert an audio CD, the display shows the CD's artist and track information. (Updates are available twice a year: you download the update, burn it to a CD, then insert it in the Z1's drive.)
  • The ability to rip audio CDs to the internal drive and create playlists
  • Full voice recognition for all functions: navigation, music and video playback, and more
  • An optional iPod interface: stash the iPod in your glove box and control it using the touch screen.
  • Additional inputs and outputs that let you connect video cameras, a second display, and other devices
  • Optional Bluetooth phone interface
  • Optional interfaces for XM and Sirius satellite radio

Over the next week or so, I'll be reporting on my experiences with this spectacular toy. I had the installer do some customizations that will give me some cool capabilities.

In the meantime, I leave you with a couple of images. This one shows the Z1's iPod playback screen.

Touching the iPod button in the upper-left corner displays the main AV menu, which lets you switch between audio and video sources. Note that the current playlist (in this case, "Eduardo's Mix") appears in this display. Pressing the Search button brings up a set of buttons that let you browse the iPod's library by artist, album, song, or genre.

And this screen shows a few of my favorite technology analysts.

Yes, it's an episode of "The Three Stooges" -- originally recorded with El Gato's EyeTV, and then compressed and transferred to a fifth-generation iPod -- playing in my car.

This, my friends, is what personal technology is all about.

Now help me pay for it. Life '07? Your guess is as good as mine. In the meantime, the world's top-selling iLife book is on sale at Amazon for $23.09 -- 34 percent off the cover price. Order The Macintosh iLife '06 today.

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