Using Google Maps, Waze, Spotify, YouTube Music, or making phone calls is as easy as 1-2-3 in the car, thanks to Android Auto and CarPlay. One of the main reasons is that everybody now has a phone in their pockets, so having their apps and contacts on the go is extremely convenient.
Buuuuut… not all cars have Android Auto and CarPlay, and not everybody can afford or wants to buy a new model with such features.
This is where Pioneer comes into play.
This is the case with the recently launched DMH-ZF8550BT, a new head unit that packs a feature lineup you can hardly find elsewhere.
First and foremost, let's start with the thing most people will notice first. The media receiver has a 9-inch touch-capable display that packs a very innovative approach. Depending on your dashboard design, the device provides two different installation modes. On the one hand, I can be integrated into the dash and offer a flash mount, basically making the media receiver look like factory-installed equipment. On the other hand, it can use a floating design if it doesn’t fit into the dashboard. The floating installation method will fit the majority of vehicles.
With a 1-DIN design, the device also allows horizontal, vertical, and tilt adjustability, but only when the floating installation method is used.
Getting back to the screen, it sports a 1024x600 pixels resolution, so most apps should look at least decent on Android Auto and CarPlay. HD media is supported if you want to watch a movie (and I truly hope you'll do that when parked).
The support for Android Auto and CarPlay is one of the main highlights. Pioneer offers wired and wireless connectivity, so if you want to also charge your mobile device when driving, you can always turn to the cable mode. On the other hand, if you'd rather keep your phone in your pocket during your time in the car, the wireless option allows you to do this without losing Android Auto and CarPlay support.
Both features also come with split-screen integration, meaning Pioneer allows you to run Android Auto and CarPlay apps while also having a separate UI on the screen. Split-screen integration is already part of the Android Auto and CarPlay feature lineup via Coolwalk and the Dashboard, respectively, but with this option, you can run multiple apps side-by-side natively on the Pioneer head unit.
Pioneer has also integrated WebLink for easy smartphone mirroring and dual camera inputs. The latter comes in handy if you want to connect a parking camera, so you'll see live images on the 9-inch screen in real time as you go in reverse.
While music streaming services, such as Spotify and YouTube Music, are already the new norm behind the wheel, many people still want to listen to their own music. Pioneer allows them to do this via USB, as they can plug in a flash drive and listen to MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, or FLAC files via the car's speakers (if the Bluetooth connection is active). Video playback is also supported, as the device can play MPEG-4, DivX, and WMV formats.
The media receiver does not sport an HDMI connector, but on the other hand, it comes with AUX for audio and video output. And speaking of audio, the device obviously sports RCA pre-outs, subwoofer control, and a 13-band equalizer. It boasts built-in MOSFET 4x50W support.
At the end of the day, Pioneer's DMH-ZF8550BT ticks all the essential boxes for a modern media receiver, especially as most people are specifically interested in getting Android Auto and CarPlay support these days. Unfortunately, the price tag could make many people out there walk away, as paying so much just for phone projection support doesn’t make much sense.
The device can be yours in Australia for $1,250, so you either need the rest of the features or look elsewhere for Android Auto and CarPlay. The good thing is that DMH-ZF8550BT sports a very solid feature mix, so the wireless and wired Android Auto and CarPlay integration is just the icing on the cake.