Pioneer's goal with the AVIC-U310BT, the entry-level model in its AVIC in-dash navigation line, was to meet the three major needs: GPS navigation, digital audio playback, and Bluetooth hands-free calling.
The AVIC-U310BT is a double-DIN unit, which takes up twice the vertical space of a standard DIN-size car stereo, so make sure that your vehicle has room to support it before going out and purchasing it.
At the top of the mostly fixed faceplate is a single CD slot. Below and to the left are the physical controls. The primary physical input is a control knob, which can be twisted to adjust the volume or scroll through lists, nudged directionally like a joystick, or pushed like a button to make selections. The knob doesn't feature much tactile differentiation between a directional press and a center press, causing more than a few accidental fumbles when attempting to navigate the U310BT's menus.
Above and below the control knob are buttons for Mode, which toggles between navigation and audio playback modes, and List, which puts the U310BT into browsing mode for exploring digital media sources, iPod taxonomy, and radio presets. Finally at the bottom of the unit's faceplate are buttons for Source selection that double as a power button, and an AM/FM Band selection that doubles as a Back button when browsing audio menus and digital media lists.
Occupying the majority of the faceplate is the removable touch-screen display. The full-color screen measures 4.3-inches diagonally, about the same size as the screen on the Garmin Nuvi 205W or the TomTom XL 340 S. The screen is quite responsive to touch inputs.
The detachable screen has a rechargeable battery of its own, so it can be used independently of the rest of the U310BT to input destinations, plan trips, and store favorites. However, the detached screen lacks a GPS antenna of its own, so it cannot be used as a portable navigation device. Along the top edge of the faceplate is a power switch and an SD card slot that can be used to load data for use with the navigation function, but not media. Along its bottom edge is a Mini-USB port for connection to a PC.
Behind the scenes, the Pioneer features inputs for your car's AM/FM antenna, a 1/8-inch analog auxiliary input, an input for wired remote adapters, and Pioneer's proprietary connection for add-on modules. There are also inputs for the included GPS antenna, external microphone, and USB connection. Although the AVIC-U310BT supports iPod playback, it does not come with a 30-pin dock connector, so BYO-Sync cable.
Although the AVIC-U310BT is a big double-DIN unit, it doesn't support video playback from DVD, digital, or analog sources.
The unit features no preamp inputs and only two sets of preamp outputs--front and switchable rear/subwoofer output--so users will have to choose between a dedicated subwoofer output or in-dash fader control of external amplifiers. This isn't much of a big deal for the average user who will probably drive their speakers with the U310BT's internal amp, but it could be an issue for system builders.
The unit ships with a standard USB cable for connecting digital audio players and storage devices, a Mini-USB cable for loading data from a computer, an external GPS antenna with magnetic mount, an external microphone for Bluetooth hands-free calling, a standard wiring harness, and a CD with instruction and the AVIC Feeds software.
Starting with navigation, the U310BT uses solid-state storage to hold its navigation data, so searches and map rendering are quick. The unit features text-to-speech, which reads proper street names aloud for easier navigation, and highway lane guidance, which displays an indicator of what lanes are valid for the current route when approaching highway intersections. Traffic is not available with the U310BT.
The unit ships with a dismally small set of points of interest. There isn't even a category for restaurants; one of the most often used POI categories. Instead, Pioneer expects users to connect their U310BT's faceplate to their PCs and load custom POIs using the AVIC Feeds software that ships with the unit and is available for free download. People who want more preloaded destinations can opt for an additional POI pack SD card, but that adds an estimated $100 to the U310BT's bottom line.
Moving on to hands-free calling, the Pioneer connects to your phone with Bluetooth wireless. Pairing can be initiated on the unit or on the phone using a four-digit PIN code. Once paired, the AVIC-U310BT can automatically pull your contacts into its memory. We were able to quickly pull our entire 100 contact phonebook onto the Pioneer in seconds. The receiver does not support stereo Bluetooth audio streaming.