At the top of Pioneer's AVIC line of navigation receivers, and indeed its entire line of car audio receivers, sits the AVIC-Z110BT. This grandest of car stereos features just about every bell, whistle, and whizbang that Pioneer has to throw at mobile audio and video. From GPS navigation that can be upgraded to receive traffic data to iPod integration with fully indexed voice command, if it's available in the world of car audio, it's available in some capacity on the Z110BT.
The AVIC-Z110BT's design is quite conventional as far as double-DIN navigation receivers go. The 7-inch color touch screen occupies the overwhelming majority of the nonremovable, motorized faceplate. The screen features a resolution of 800x480 pixels and a wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio. Below the screen is an illuminated ribbon of buttons for (left to right) voice command, volume down and up, home, mode, skip back and forward, and eject/open. The illumination color of these buttons can be customized with one of eight default colors, a custom RGB value, or a scan mode that fades among the colors of the spectrum.
Tapping the eject button causes the motorized faceplate to slide and rotate downward, revealing the DVD/CD slot and an SD card slot. Touch-screen controls that appear when the unit is open allow for ejecting optical media, ejecting the SD card, adjusting the screen tilt, and closing the faceplate.
On its back are the connections for the standard wiring harness, an additional AV input/output wiring harness, the external GPS antenna, the external microphone, the AM/FM antenna input, and the USB/aux input harness. Other less commonly used inputs include an IP Bus input for connecting external accessories, a power connection for the ND-MDT10 MSN Direct antenna accessory (sold separately), and a port for a steering wheel control adapter (also sold separately).
Perhaps the best way to describe the Z110BT is "feature packed." However, the bulk of its functions can be organized into three categories: navigation, audio/video playback, and hands-free calling.
Starting with the GPS navigation, the Z110BT delivers turn-by-turn directions featuring text-to-speech, which enables proper street names to be read aloud. When approaching a turn on a major road, the map is replaced with a visual representation of the turn. If that road is a major interstate or highway, the visual representation also includes lane data, which further helps to avoid confusion. Multiple destinations and waypoints can be added to the same trip. Custom points-of-interest can be added using Pioneer's AVIC Feeds software.
Pioneer's voice command functions work well with the navigation portion of the feature set, allowing for POI search and address entry using natural speech.
If paired with the optional ND-MDT10 MSN Direct receiver, traffic and incident data can be shown on the map and can be avoided when calculating a route. Local POI search and fuel price search are also added to the Z110BT's capabilities with the receiver.
Pairing a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone opens up the options for hands-free calling and Bluetooth audio streaming. Once paired, the AVIC-Z110BT will automatically download and index your phone's address book, creating a voice tag for each contact that can be accessed using the voice command system. Calls can also be initiated by speaking a phone number or with a virtual 10-key pad when the vehicle is stopped.
The last bit of the puzzle is multimedia playback. The AVIC-Z110BT is able to handle DVD video, DivX-video-encoded DVDs, MP3-encoded and Red Book audio CDs, and can read digital audio files from an SD card. Additionally, USB and analog auxiliary inputs allow the connection of portable storage devices, MP3 players, and iPods/iPhones. The deck supports MP3, WMA, and AAC audio files and WMV, MP4, and H.264 video files on USB devices or SD cards. iPod video playback is not supported out of the box, but an additional CD-IU50V iPod connectivity cable joins the USB and aux inputs with a 30-pin dock connector, enabling video playback and faster data transfer.
When connecting an iPod, MP3 player, USB storage device, or SD card, the Z110BT will scan the files and metadata to create voice tags similarly to the way that it does for your phone's contacts. Once the scan is complete, you will be able to use voice commands to play any artist, album, or song. The system had issues recognizing some of the more complex names that we tested; but the majority of the time, the AVIC-Z110BT had no problem understanding what music we were asking for.
We'd say that the Z110BT does a good job of recreating the easy-to-use voice control that we've come to love in Ford and Microsoft's Sync system, but there's a weakness. The AVIC-Z110BT's indexing takes forever to complete, and devices must be reindexed if disconnected and reconnected. For a small 2GB SD card or USB key, this isn't much of an issue, but there were times when indexing a 16GB first-generation iPod Touch took well over half an hour, during which time the voice command cannot be used and access to the device is limited. That's far too long. Voice command is of limited use if it's only accessible for the last 10 minutes of your commute.
The home menu has a hidden feature. Tapping the Home key brings up the three-icon home menu, but tapping it again brings up a user menu that can hold up to 15 quick links to functions. For example, if you find that you often search for gas prices, you can add a fuel price icon to your user menu for quick access.