And now for something completely different…A Car Stereo Review

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated.  I’ve just not had the desire to write too much about technology.  I was thinking about writing about my switch from Android to the iPhone 5, and I said “Naa, people see those all the time.”  And I’ve been having a fairly boring life technologically speaking, so I didn’t want to write about upgrading a lab, or using MDM systems.  Oddly enough, this review has nothing to do with computers, but my car.

My 2005 Mazda3 does not have the flip-up GPS option installed so I’ve been using my phones as GPS units.  I have a mount and a really kick ass bluetooth FM transmitter that’s worked so well for me, I bought one for my mother to use in her car and she loves it.  The sound quality is excellent and the mic is very clear.  Overall I was happy with it.  The mount was good, but often fell while driving which can be fun of course, and the bluetooth unit was obtrusive at times (they have a smaller one that doesn’t have the arm, but they didn’t have that when I bought it).

I decided to start looking at stand-alone GPS units, mainly because I didn’t want to rely on cellular data for navigation.  It became a problem while driving through Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh for work, and often while I’m working in the burbs I lose cell coverage and can’t navigate.  I was looking for units with lifetime map updates and traffic with a large enough screen to see easily.  The ones I really looked at would be between $150 and $200.  I didn’t want to drop $200 on a standalone GPS that I won’t use enough to justify the cost…plus I really didn’t want to have more wires and devices hanging around the car.  So I began thinking about in-dash units…

I was doing a lot of looking online for factory units, but those require so much altering and even then my car would probably not be able to use it without changing a lot of electronics, so that was out.  I went to look at fold-out LCD 1-DIN units, and in-dash 2-DIN units, but the cost on these are so high (the best price I saw was $700 plus the dash kit!) While these dash units are good brands and would probably be very nice, I didn’t have $700+ to drop on a unit.

After visiting some forums and even looking on eBay I came across a unit from a company called Eonon. The unit I saw was $270..still a bit much, but it was an entire stereo replacement with a 7-inch screen.  I read reviews and found that users were relatively happy but some of the weird issues put me off.  I decided to let it sit for a while and just continued with my phone.

A few weeks ago I found that Eonon released a newer updated unit for the Mazda3, and a forum I frequent was having a group buy.  After reading the reviews of the new unit being FAR etter than the old unit, and almost every user was happy I decided to bite the bullet and buy one.  Of course I was very hesitant to buy from some company in Hong Kong that I never heard of with a device running Windows CE 6.0, but I took a chance..besides, it comes with a 2-year warranty.

After a few days I received the unit (really fast, from HK!) in a really nicely packaged box.  First impressions: the build quality of the unit is pretty good!  It looks like it could be a factory unit, the buttons feel pretty nice, the screen is big, the knobs are solid, it just looks petty nice!

Eonon D5151 Out of Box

Eonon D5151 Out of Box

Looks 9/10

The D5151 looks really good in the car, it really looks like a factory unit.  The screen is not bad, in bright light it’s definitely difficult to see, but I’ve had similar experience in a Prius so I wouldn’t fault it too much.  You can chance the boot logos, backgrounds, and the LCD colors to help customize it.  The buttons are a little flimsier than the stock stereo, so I took a point off for that.

Stock on Left, Eonon on Right

Stock on Left, Eonon on Right

Radio (6.5/10)

The stereo is of course the base of the D5151.  The radio interface is far better than the old one, it’s easy to read and easy to use.

Radio Interface

Radio Interface

The sound from the stereo is pretty good; however, I did find some issues with it.  When you set a preset (say I set 93.3 on #1 and 104.5 on #2) it will play whatever preset you’re on just fine.  Oddly enough, when you switch to another preset for some reason the numbers that show what station you’re on (in the center of the stereo) will stay on the first preset.  Seems to be a small software bug that hopefully can be fixed.  The radio does play whatever station you’re tuned to just fine, it just shows a different number.  It’s not as bothersome since I use my steering wheel controls and don’t look at the screen much anyway, but it’s still an odd problem.

The second issue I found with the stereo is that the tuner seems to be either really sensitive, or really crappy.  I normally get perfect signal with the stock radio, and this one gets the same quality most times, but while driving I’ve noticed the signal dipping in and out randomly.  Not sure if this is hardware related or software related..but it’s a bit annoying so hopefully that can be fixed.

Finally, after some time the radio has some random pops, not very loud and no set pattern, just random clicks or pops.  I have read online that these go away after a bit of a “burn-in” period, so hopefully that is the case.

I have contacted the company regarding all of these issues and will update with any word from them.

Bluetooth/Phone (9.5/10)

I pair my iPhone with my car automatically.  I use it as a phone and for playing music a lot.  The sound quality of the phone calls is really good.  I can hear the person clearly and apparently they hear me very clearly.  Siri even works very well through the mic!  The music streaming is also really good.  I don’t seem to notice any issues with playing music via bluetooth, I wish the screen would show music info while playing, but it just shows a music note on screen.  I can control bluetooth audio via my steering wheel, which is nice, and if a phone call comes in it just rings through the speakers and shows the caller ID on my screen no matter what I’m doing (radio, gps, etc).  It’s really a nice step up from the old bluetooth FM transmitter.  I only took a half-point off because of the lack of music info on screen..nothing major.

Navigation (Stock: 5/10 Upgrade: 9/10)

This section is probably the most important one.  The GPS software that comes with the unit is KudosGPS, and I gotta say, it sucks.  The interface is very Windows 8 looking, which isn’t a problem, but it’s very simple and doesn’t function that well.  It was quick to load, and it did a fairly good job with navigation, but when you turn your car off and turn it back on it completely forgot that you were navigating somewhere and seemed to forget my state and city everytime.  It was only a $30 add-on, but I was very underwhelmed with it.

I decided to install iGo Primo on the unit right away and the difference is amazing.  iGo is really the way to go if you’ve got a Windows CE device and you want a good looking, very nice functioning GPS system with lots of points-of-interest and updated maps. It’s a little slower to load, but it looks WAY better, had many more points-of-interest, and it allows me to add so much to it (like better voices and themes).

iGo Primo GPS

iGo Primo GPS

Overall

I like it.  For under $300, I have a fully functioning touchscreen GPS, in my dash with bluetooth/hands-free capability.  It looks like it’s from the factory, it sounds pretty good for the most part, the GPS (once replaced) works really well, and the installation was a breeze!  Honestly, if they fixed the radio issues and replaced the stock GPS with a better one like I did I would totally say this is a 9/10, but overall with the stock GPS I’m giving it a 7.5/10 (8.5 with the new GPS).

Would I recommend this company to others?  Probably.  I’m going to give the radio a bit to see if any of the audio issues get resolved, I’m also going to see if their customer service gets back to me about anything (I’ve read online of software patches).  I will update as things progress.

4 thoughts on “And now for something completely different…A Car Stereo Review

  1. And how have you done it? I went to Igo website and theres no mention of the eonon as compatible device. And i would like to ask How is the ipod interface? Can we choose by artist, album etc on screen
    or it just show you a list of all your song in alphabetical order? Looks like a real neat radio but im
    worried about the ipod interface :/

  2. I went to http://www.navitotal.com/ and found resources there.

    The iPod interface is actually pretty nice. It basically shows just like the iPod; view by artist, album, and song. I don’t think there’s a search function. The worst part of the unit is the radio itself (for me at least). The signal strength is horrible in my area..I’m going to try an FM booster to see if that solves anything.

Leave a Reply