Still refusing to accept the fact that the next generation in-car entertainment master units have to be carputers, Pioneer has introduced their first mech-free multimedia hub on January 6, 2010 at the CES 2010.
Setting the landmark for a new domain of Music Video Headunits (model names prefixed with MVH), these media centers are compatible with a wide range of audio and video digital sources such as SD memory cards, USB storage devices, portable media players, iPod, and iPhone.
The Bluetooth enabled variations include Pioneer MVH-P8200BT targeted for the American market, Pioneer MVH-8200BT aiming at the European Union, and the Asian MVH-8250BT, while the cheaper no-Bluetooth variations include MVH-P8200, MVH-8200, and MVH-8250 respectively. Surprisingly, the device is not available in the Japanese market under the Carrozzeria badge.
Lacking the model number prefix “P” in both the European and Asian variations, they do not offer IP-Bus connectivity for add-on devices with Pioneer’s traditional IP linkage, such as CD changer (CDX-P1280/CDX-P680), AUX-in (CD-RB10), USB adapter (CD-UB100), Bluetooth wireless adapter (CD-BTB200), and iPod interface adapter (CD-IB100II). Looks like they’ve decided not to milk Americans for those few bucks on this occasion.
Certified by the DivX, Inc. (NASDAQ: DIVX) on December 9, 2009, it’s a Home Theatre 720×576 Profile supporting DivX AVI player. Features that I like include the 8-band graphic equalizer, the trio of 4-volt RCA preouts, 113-color selectable background image and button illumination, the 7-way rotary commander, and last but not least, its whimsical yet attractive looks.
The device controls the iPod/iPhone pretty fine. Using Pioneer CD-IU50V USB+A/V direct iPod/iPhone extension cable, the audio/video is transmitted via the 4-pole 3.5-mm AUX-AV-in—with decoding being done in the iPod/iPhone itself, leaving the quality of sound as-is—and the iPod is simultaneously controlled via USB. So you can control everything right from your steering wheel.
Having no control over what’s been playing, the 4-pole 3.5-mm AUX-A/V-in on the front panel (without using the USB-A jack) works with Nokia mobile phones equipped with a 3.5mm A/V output jack (Nokia N97, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia N95 8GB, Nokia N95, etc.) as well as every other cellphone or PMP (portable media player) having the same jack—you have to find yourself a male-to-male 3.5 mm 4-pole TRRS extension cable in this regard.
The SD and USB sections run on the same back-end chip, so every annoyance and limitation either one is faced with, is prospected in the other, like partitioned HDD/flash memories not being supported, NTFS-formatted HDD/flash memories not being supported, and H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) MP4 videos being simply ignored, to complain a few. Apart from those, and the annoying pop-ups requiring your action when a multimedia file’s playback is not supported, SD/USB functions work pretty awesome. This way you can also use USB MSC (USB mass storage device class) to connect your cellphone or PMP via USB, browse its flash memory/HDD and play from within each MP3, WMA, AAC, and DivX AVI file you desire. Discreetly positioned behind the partially detachable front panel, the SD card slot can also be used as a source to the aforementioned media. I’m bewildered by how they made file browsing seem like rocket science, ever since they’ve come up with the idea of the list feature, quoting Jeremy “Jezza” Clarkson, “How hard can it be?”
SD or SDHC
There’s no SDHC logo carved on the front panel, and the owner’s manual clearly states it’s a 2 GB maximum capacity SD specification 1.1 physical format supporting device, so you might think there’s concededly no SDHC (SD spec 2.0) support. For a today’s SD-capable product, a lack of SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity, up to 32GB) support is very disturbing, let alone the fact that the next generation Secure Digital eXtended Capacity or SDXC in short (up to 2TB) was unveiled at CES 2009. But contrary to Pioneer’s declaration, this device actually does support SDHC.
It’s strange when a manufacturer underrates its own product, but I tested various class 2, class 4, and class 6 FAT32-formatted 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB SDHC cards and microSDHC cards (inserted inside microSD to SD/TransFlash adapter) from SanDisk, Silicon-Power, Transcend, Panasonic, Canon, Nokia, and Kingston, and the MVH-8250BT managed to recognize and read all their capacity flawlessly.
I’m going to be carping and nagging on this, since I don’t want to see these flaws next year. Keep in mind no other car audio manufacturing company—including the ostentatious Alpine—cannot come close to what Pioneer has achieved, so to me, these flaws are unbearable.
- Partially detachable face—things that I dislike about it start with the front panel being partially detachable. If it’s “for additional peace of mind,” why didn’t bother designing it fully detachable in the first place? Replacing the traditional hard carrying case, Pioneer is providing MVH-8200/MVH-8200BT consumers with a small cloth bag, which honestly feels cheap.
- Bluetooth audio streaming not supported—a sensible consumer electronics Bluetooth-enabled product should support Bluetooth audio streaming and controlling, not in this product line’s BT-enabled variations (MVH-P8200BT/MVH-8200BT/MVH-8250BT) though. They dropped the proven Bluetooth chip—used in their old flagship DEH-P980BT/DEH-P9800BT/DEH-P9850BT/DEH-P810—and went for the French, and like always picked the worst and the cheapest out of Parrot’s line, so A2DP is not supported, and neither is AVRCP. A2DP or Advanced Audio Distribution Profile could be conveniently used to stream stereo music from a Bluetooth mobile phone to the head unit, while AVRCP or Audio/Video Remote Control Profile could let you have control over what’s being played. According to this, you’ll only have control over your cellular activities.
- No rear USB-in port available—we’ve been hearing complaints about the USB device fractures caused by a strike of a driver’s or a passenger’s hand over the USB flash drives inserted inside front panel USB ports. For cautious people, a rear USB port is more adequate. The lack for a rear USB is more evident in case of hooking up a portable USB hard disk drive.
- No rear AUX-in port available—the AUX-in is on front, right beside the front USB, for a reason, and that’s because Pioneer’s CD-IU50V USB/AV interface cable for iPod (Audio/Video) and iPhone has two connectors in one end, one 3.5mm A/V TRRS 4-pole mini jack, and one USB-A. So if you’re not an iTard, and you want to hook up your 3.5mm “normal” player, you have to setup an ugly cable-going-all-over-the-dashboard configuration.
- MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) MP4 video not supported—sadly it’s not a carputer (car PC), I know, but having Matroska Video (MKV) in the wish list, H.264 support is essential, if you’re targeting kids-turned-drivers.
- Awkward screen ratio—one of the things that seems wrong is the MVH-8200 family’s screen. It has a 3.0-inch wide/16:9 (1.778:1) TFT active matrix display, nothing wrong, yet. How about I tell you it’s not 16:9? Read the story below:
The specifications sheet says the MVH-8200 family has 1440×240 or 345,600 pixels. That’s—kind of—a lie, since they have a tradition of counting R/G/B sub-pixels (thin film transistors) separately. So let’s divide 1440 by 3, and get 480. Now that’s how one’s supposed to count pixels: 480 × 240 or 115,200 pixels. So, it’s a 2:1 aspect ratio (480 ÷ 240) looking into the pixels, and that’s worrying when you look into the specifications’ wide/16:9. Pixels are not square; this requires a ratio correction procedure, something Pioneer has shamelessly omitted in almost every screened in-car DVD player they have produced so far. So wait up, it’s gonna get ugly!
Having a diagonal measurement of 76.2 mm or exactly 3.0 inches, the screen’s viewable physical dimensions are 66.8 × 36.7 mm—a specification called effective display area. This results in a screen physical display aspect ratio (DAR) of 1.82:1 (66.8 ÷ 36.7). This is in contrast with their screen aspect ratio of 1.778:1 (wide/16:9) stated in the specifications sheet.
When pixel configuration aspect ratio differs from physical display aspect ratio, pixels are not square, which in MVH-8200 family’s case, they have a pixel aspect ratio (PAR) of 0.91:1 (1.82:1 ÷ 2:1).
Given the screen width of 66.8 mm, it should’ve been 37.575 millimeters high, just to meet the wide 16:9 (1.778) screen aspect ratio criteria. But we all know it’s a 1.82:1 screen instead, making it 0.875 mm shorter than being a real 16:9 screen (37.575 − 36.7). This might be less than a millimeter, but that’s in a small 3.0″ screen, making it an impermissible 2.3% error. To give you a hint of how ridiculous this is, think of it as a half-inch height shortage in a 42″ plasma TV!
There are rare models where pixel dimensions and screen dimensions are of the same ratio, eliminating the need for a ratio correction procedure. An example is the 800 × 480, 152.4 × 91.44 mm, 7-inch wide 15:9 (1.66:1) screen on the mighty ¥220,000 Carrozzeria AVH-P900DVA, and its predecessor, the ¥250,000 Carrozzeria AVH-P90DVA, varietally Pioneer AVH-P7900DVD, AVH-P7950DVD, AVH-P7800DVD, and AVH-P7850DVD, respectively.
For analog broadcasting, it’s got an AM tuner’s signal-to-noise ratio (S/N ratio) of 62 dB (IHF-A network), and an FM tuner S/N ratio of 72 dB (IHF-A network), but the specs don’t provide quality measures for multimedia sources (i.e., SD, USB, and AUX).
Considering its amplifier section’s signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) of 91 dBA (reference 1 W into 4 Ω), it’s not what you’d call RS-alike high-quality, but still way beyond almost every CD/MP3 in-dash head units manufactured by the others, and add to that the fact that if you add a USB adapter (Pioneer CD-UB100), a Bluetooth wireless adapter (Pioneer CD-BTB200), and/or an iPod interface adapter (Pioneer CD-IB100II) to a nice head, say DEH-P88RS family (Asian DEH-P80RS/DEH-P80RSII, European DEH-P88RS/DEH-P88RSII, American Premier DEH-P880PRS, and Japanese Carrozzeria DEH-P910/DEH-P930/DEH-P940), apart from controls driving you crazy over inconvenience, you’ll lose quality twice:
- All those add-on devices are low-quality by nature, at least lower than what you embeddedly get in an MVH-8200BT, let alone the 105 dB (1 kHz) (IHF-A network) Audio CD section of DEH-P88RS.
- Analog IP-Bus cables used to hook up those add-ons cause loss of quality. Read more:
To obtain sound fidelity, Pioneer engineers have employed best of 1990s technology in their IP-Bus extension cable—used to connect their state-of-the-art Audio CD changers back then. To overcome cancellation of inductively-coupled noise and electromagnetic interference, they used four-conductor low-resistance shielded cable with separate metal foil shield and drain/data wires. But that’s not good enough in the 2010s.
You need the analog IP-Bus male-to-male extension cable (Pioneer CD-IP600) to hook them up, and that cable is 6 meters (20 feet) long. So if you’re going to have them all, you’ll end up hooking them up over and over in series; that’s 18 meters of daisy-chaining if you’re using all three! And your AUX-in (Pioneer CD-RB10) is at the end of the chain, the lowest of the quality. Alternatively, Pioneer gives you the choice of a 1.5 meter male-to-male IP-Bus extension cable (Pioneer CD-IP150).
So you see, your high-end head is ruined, because you get your bragging -24/-36 dB/oct PRS digital network and the nasty analog add-ons at the same time! So forget PRS plus add-ons, and stick to this mechless head unit for now, if you’re a portable multimedia junkie…
Regarding sound quality, it’s the best mech-free headunit around, not the best all-rounder though.
I’m looking forward to an RS kind of mech-free headunit, where putting money aside, only quality and features matter: 13-band graphic EQ, 5-volt pres, Bluetooth A2DP and AVRCP, rear USB, rear A/V in, completely detachable face, video out, dual SDHC slot, acceptable file system support, broader range of multimedia file types support, fast yet convenient file browse/search, a tray bay to keep portable media players inside, Microsoft Zune HD support, a true 16:9 FWVGA screen, and the return of DSP chips with Sound Field Control (SFC).فارسی