Top 5 Car Stereos

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It’s a rite of passage for any first-time driver to upgrade their car stereo, and with the proliferation of mp3s, streaming services and smartphones there’s never been a better time to buy a new car stereo to use with your new smart device.

Whilst car stereos haven’t changed all that much over the past 10 years, it’s safe to say the way we consumer music has. With this in mind it’s now really easy to stream music from your phone onto your car’s stereo, and with our top 5 car stereos you can all do of that and so much more.

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Pioneer MVH-350BT

The long-time car stereo experts Pioneer have recently released the MVH-350BT, which is specifically designed to play music stored on your portable devices for under £150. On the front there’s an illuminated USB and Aux-in gives your iPod, iPhone, or Android smartphone direct connection to your car speakers.

The system is fully Bluetooth-enabled so you can easily make hands-free calls and stream Bluetooth audio from your device, whether it’s iOS or Android.

The MVH-350B’s built-in amplifier is capable of a solid 50-watts across four channels. There are also 2 RCA pre-outs so you can hook up another stereo component, like a subwoofer for some extra kick. The only downside for the Pioneer is the lack of CD playback, which might be a deal breaker for some.

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Pure Highway H240Di

In-car entertainment manufacturer Pure has joined forces with Halfords to develop and manufacture a range of car stereos that will get you streaming music from your iPod or iPhone in no time at all.

The mid-range Highway H240Di costs £129, but for that you do get quite a lot of bang for your buck; it comes with digital DAB radio, traditional FM and AM tuners, and there’s connectivity for iOS devices via USB.

If you’re still using CDs as your main source of music, the head unit is compatible with a range of mediums including CD/CD-R/RW, CD/CD-ROM and MP3 CD/ USB playback. There’s also a clever bookmarking feature, which is perfect for listening to audio books on the commute to work. There’s an AUX input, and enough power to run four 45-watt speakers.

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Pure Highway H260DBi

Pure’s has also released Highway H260DBi, which costs a little bit more, coming in at £149. But for the extra £20 you get full wireless Bluetooth streaming and hands-free calling via Bluetooth, and an extra 5-watts across all four channels.

Drivers are able to safely make and receive phone calls via the Bluetooth receiver using the Highway’s controls and an external microphone to ensure the best call quality possible. Finally, you can also customise the button lighting to better suit your dashboard’s internal lighting.

Parrot-Asteroid

Parrot Asteroid

Newcomers to the in-car entertainment market Parrot offer the world’s first Android powered car stereo but for the added functionality you should expect to pay around £240.

The Asteroid is capable of running Internet applications and can access geo-location information via 3G and GPS. You can also listen to Internet radio stations and music streaming services too. Basically it’s like a fully-fledged Android tablet but for your car.

The Android-powered system comes with a decent sized 3.2-inch colour screen, which displays your phonebook, menus, music, playlists, album covers and Internet applications.

The Parrot Asteroid is compatible with an array of music sources whether it’s an iPod, iPhone, USB, SD card or Bluetooth wireless streaming. You can also access to your music via voice command; just say the name of the artist and the music will be launched automatically.

The Asteroid comes equipped with an impressive 55-watt MOSFET amplifier, spread across 4 channels. And there are subwoofer and 6xRCA preamp-outputs, too.

Thanks to a new technology called MirrorLink, it is now possible to bring smartphone apps directly to the screen of our car’s stereo. And, the new Sony XAV-601BT is one of the first systems to offer MirrorLink connectivity.

Sony-XAV

Sony XAV-601BT

The Sony XAV-601BT is a double-DIN audio-video center for your dashboard, so it’s quite a bit bigger than you standard head unit. There are a number of ways to enjoy music on the system whether it is via Sirius XM or Pandora, via the app control feature. There’s iPod compatibility, as well as Bluetooth, dual USB inputs and CD and DVD playback. The XAV-601BT comes standard with everything you could possibly want – except perhaps GPS navigation, but there is an added option for that too.

The main selling point of this is system is obviously 6.1-inch WVGA TFT touch screen, which is running a pin-sharp 800×480 resolution. The system is also Navigation ready – so you can add an optional TomTom satnav module and external GPS antenna for fast, accurate route planning. Passengers are also able to control the system with the Control App. For all this space-aged functionality expect to pay a not unreasonable £270.

Top 5 Car Related Gadgets

ScanTool

What do you do if your car is a bit, well …old? You can buy the latest fancy gadget and totally keep up with the Jones’s next door without having to fork out on an the expense of a new car. Take a look at the following top apps and devices available so that you can modernise your motor even if the chassis might be falling apart.

OBD-II Scan Tool

An OBD-11 scan tool will do what the typical modern mechanic does when he links his scanner to the car’s onboard computer in order to find out what ailments the car has. Of course knowing whether the oil pressure is too low or there is a possible leak in the head gasket is great but it’s another kettle of fish entirely to actually fix the problem.

Simply purchase an OBD-II adapter online and connect it with an OBD-II accommodating car, which is most modern vehicles and you can then use an app such as the Torque Pro, to learn about the state of your car’s health, without the fear that you’re getting ripped off by a mechanic.

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Smartphone Integration

If a car has smartphone integration – think certain Toyota models and the Pandora in the US – the information from the driver’s smartphone appears automatically on the dashboard’s LCD screen. The information can be controlled via the car’s instrument panel and some commands are even voice-activated. Sounds a little bit like Night Rider and David Haselhoff!

There are kits available, which will allow you to control your smartphone’s music selection through your car’s audio system and you can even watch videos on the LCD screen.

iCarBlackBox

Motor insurance claims can be drawn-out and indecisive affairs, especially if the ‘other guy’ is wavering the truth about an accident that you were involved in. With the iCarBlackBox you can record such vital information for your insurer’s perusal. Mount your smartphone on the windscreen of your car and when loaded with the iCarBlackBox it will record braking, speed and indicator use, etc. It can even play back the whole accident on video and prove who did what and when.

Could prove an intuitive investment for just 69 pence!

iCarBlackBox

Confused.com Parking app

How many times have we been driving round a city trying to locate a place to park? Such a dilemma recently happened to me in Brighton, where due to an inability to find a car park, I drove around for the best part of an hour and then copped for a £80 parking ticket as I ended up parking illegally.

Confused.com Parking app eradicates such dilemmas. Simply download this app and find the most convenient and least expensive places to park within a city – A potent money – and stress – saving tool indeed.

Parking app

Viper Smartstart GPS

A real James Bond car gadget, the Viber Smartstart does much more than simply directing you to a parking spot. An alarm goes off when you reach certain pre-programmed zones and likewise if you go faster than you should. You can control many of your car’s functions from miles away via your smartphone, such as turn the radio on or open a window.

You can even start your car up in winter from the comfort your eleventh floor apartment and by the time you appear out of the lift the car is warmed up nicely and ready to go! You can even find out if you left a door unlocked. Although these smart little tricks will require an ongoing subscription. There is a basic non-subscription model for a little over half the price as the subscription package, but it only works within the Bluetooth range.

Smartstart

Pioneer AppRadio’s new apps: Now there’s no excuse to run out of petrol!

Customising gadgets based on users’ preferences and habits really does seem to be the technological stonker finale of 2011. Pioneer’s innovative AppRadio was the first car stereo to develop a driver’s smartphone experience by bringing apps compatible to the iPhone 4/4S to their dashboard, a strength that led to the AppRadio being awarded a ‘European Imaging and Sound Association (EIMSA) award. Intent on upgraded its award-winning device, Pioneer has unveiled a collection of new recommended apps to work alongside the AppRadio in-car head unit.

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StreamS HiFi Radio

Download the StreamS HiFi Radio app and you will have access to Internet radio in the car. High quality digital audio is guaranteed with this app and, in using pioneering buffer controls, a strong quality signal will be maintained even in areas where signal strength is not always consistent. Favourite internet radio stations can also be selected and stored via the user-preference dedicated AppRadio interface.

Dash Command

Sounds exciting! The Dash Command app enables users to see all key performance specifications in real time. The live data that is displayed on the screen of the AppRadio head-unit includes fuel consumption, fuel level, engine speed, engine temperature, diagnostics, braking and acceleration, all the things that are displayed on a dash board anyway only a lot more accurately, meaning you’ll never have to guess how much fuel’s left in the tank and be on tenterhooks to whether you’ll make it home or not! Although be warned, this app does require the use of an optical cable that is sold separately.

AUPEO!

Again based on personal tastes, the AUPEO! App enables drivers to customise their music playlists constructed on personal preferences. Based on a list of attributes, such as favourite artists, favourite genre of music, and AUPEO! will provide you with a playlist centred around such preferences.

Tom Tom and Renault launch electric car navigation

At last someone has seen the light and for once produced something entirely useful for the electric car; and that someone is Tom Tom. Not content with dominating the navigation market the navigation superhero has turned its attention to the electric car in a way that is so beneficial to electic car owners you have to ask yourself why has it taken so long?

TomTom-Dash

Thankfully Renault has seen the light and designed space in its Fluence Z.E.electic car for an in dash navigation system developed by Tom Tom which not only obviously navigates, using Tom Tom’s tried and tested GPS software, but also allows drivers to navigate to the nearest recharge station. Thus solving one of the major worries for electric car owners. Genius.

The Carminat TomTom Z.E LIVE, receives direct information from the battery about its charge state and then taking the current planned route into consideration, calculates whether a recharge will be necessary. If it is, it’ll display just where the nearest charging points are located along the route.

While it’s at it, it will also provide the most energy efficient route in the first place, eking out those extra precious miles from every available cell.

The Carminat TomTom Z.E LIVE also carries many of Tom Tom’s now standard features such ad HD traffic, local Search with TomTom Places and Google, safety camera alerts and IQ Routes.

Giles Shrimpton, Managing Director of TomTom Automotive points out “This is the first navigation system TomTom is launching in the area of electric vehicles and it represents a great milestone for us as a company in this exciting new market”. Renault has clearly scored a bit of a coup with this, and providing Tom Tom expands this to the other electric car manufacturers, it will be one less thing in the minus box for electric car owners.

Frankfurt Motorshow: Ford shows off the technology coming to its 2012 ranges

The Frankfurt Motorshow finally closed yesterday after a gargantuan two and a half-week run at the Frankfurt Messe. We were given the opportunity to go the Frankfurt Motorshow – not only were we invited, we were expected to drive one of Ford’s new Focus Estate’s from Paris to Frankfurt.

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On our journey we took in the sights of Paris, Reims, Saarlouis and Frankfurt. This gave us plenty of time to absorb, fiddle and play with some of the amazing technology that can be found in the new Ford Focus.

We’ve already road-tested the new Focus a few months ago – but this time were given the keys to the new wagon version – or as we call it in the UK – the Estate.

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Over the course of the 3-day drive we tested every conceivable piece of technology that this car has on offer; from the Parking assist, Lane Departure, My Key, Door Edge Protector and Active City Stop.

During our long journey we thought we give the Ford Focus Estate a proper real-world road test of all of its tech. Our first port of call was the lane departure system. Now when using this system on a motorway we were pleasantly surprised how the system gradually steered us back in our lane with little or no fuss. In many cases you barely even know it’s there when it’s set to intervention mode.

But how would it fair on a b-road in the French countryside and on proper a corner? Well surprisingly well, if you aimlessly drift across the white line whilst on a corner the system it applies a respectable amount of turn to bring you back to where you should be. The system is very clever and over the course of a journey if you keep straying out of lane the dashboard shows a coffee icon to suggest it might be time for you to take a break.

The Parking assist function is probably the coolest piece of tech that you’ll find in any car under the £20,000. Basically, all have to do is press the button, drive past a parking space (slowly) and the computer ping’s with a message saying that a parking space has been found.

Now comes the leap of faith; you take your hands of the steering wheel and you control the accelerator, brakes and clutch – then with a wing and a prayer the car parks itself. To give you an idea of how good this system is, Ford set a rather clever challenge where we were tasked to try and beat the car when it comes to the difficult challenge of parallel parking. I think I’m a pretty good driver and an even better parker.

So, I was confident that I could beat any computer, even one as good as the Focus’. The winner would be the blogger who could get the car park within a space and, most importantly, closest the curb. Rather embarrassingly I failed and failed miserably. The car won and won by a margin of 20 inches.

Another piece of tech Ford was excited to announce was their new My Key tech. Although the system has been available in the US for a while now MyKey is finally making its way to Europe.

The My Key is a intelligent key that can be pre-programmed for teenage drivers. So when you give the car to one of your children they will be subject to much stricter set of conditions than the main driver normally would face.

For instance if the passengers seatbelts are not fastened the volume to that all important cool car stereo will be muted. It’s a clever carrot and stick approach to promote safe driving. Elsewhere the main driver can limit the top speed of a car; so the less experience driver won’t be able to go above the corresponding national speed limits.

With excessive speed being the cause of 30% of accidents involving young male drivers and 21% of all female drivers in Europe. The technology, which will be rolled out across Ford’s entire European range after the Fiesta, lets parents pre-program a master key that sets various limits on the vehicle. Top speed settings can be limited, with warnings beeping at 70, 90 or 100kph. Failure to fasten seatbelts can also activate a chime and mute the audio system.

In an Opinion Matters survey conducted last month, 53% of those who would consider purchasing MyKey also said they would allow their children to use the family vehicle more often if it were equipped with the new technology.

Ford is hoping that this piece of technology will, one day, become a system that will actually reduce your insurance premium when insuring teenagers on the family car.

The final piece of tech that Ford had on offer was their Door Edge Protector – and it might well be the simplest, but it’s probably our favourite. There’s nothing worse than scratching your car when you’ve parked in a tight spot – or worse – scratching another person’s car when the kids get in and out of the car.

If you have regularly scratch your door in the your garage at a work or at the supermarket then you will love the Door Edge Protector. Most impressive is the system is completely hidden when the door is closed – meaning you won’t be compromising the looks of your car.

The Door Edge Protector really does solve the problem a protective flap concealed in the door that pops out when the door opens providing a buffer that prevents damage to your car or anyone else’s. The Door Edge protector debuts in the 2012 Ford Focus.

backSTAGE iPad Headrest Mount

With the summer holidays just round the corner, families everywhere are getting excited about their summer vacation. Although if your well-deserved break involves travelling with the kids in tow for a unnerving duration, you may want to kit out the journey with some kind of entertainment. iPads are a popular choice of ‘kid mollifier’ when travelling, although if your brood comprises of more than one, preventing the inevitable ‘I can’t see the screen’ scenario from occurring is an underlying parental worry. This is where the backSTAGE iPad headrest mount may step in.

BackMount

A Velcro attachment allows users to install and remove the case with ease while the wide adjustable strap on the back winds around the headrest holding the backSTAGE firmly in position. Being nice and secure behind the seat of a car, fights over ‘who’s holding the iPad’ are immediately eradicated, allowing the backseat passengers be entertained for hours, leaving the adults in peace to get on with the driving.

Created by Scosche Industries, award-winning innovator of consumer technology, the backSTAGE is made from a netted PVC material, meaning it provides solid protection to the iPad and could be used as a standard iPad case. A neat mesh pocket is integrated on the front of the backSTAGE headset, great for holding any iPad-related accessories such as charging cables and earphones, whilst a cut-out at the front of the case means that users can easily scroll and swipe through the material on their iPad.

Whilst the backSTAGE headrest mount may not be the most innovative and technologically sophisticated of products featured on Latest Gadgets, for a modest £29.99, it’s got to be worth it just to keep the kids quiet, and it has got a pretty cool name.

BlueAnt S3 Compact Bluetooth Car Speakerphone review

BlueAnt, makers of the super tough T1 bluetooth headset and the super cool Q2 bluetooth headset have leapt from your ear to your car dashboard with the S3 Compact Bluetooth Car Speakerphone.

About the same size as a BlackBerry Bold with a big fat clip at the back, the S3 is a multipoint speakerphone that – in a similar fashion to it’s in-ear cousins – will talk you through set up from the moment you turn it on. Installation is a case of finding somewhere to attach the big fat clip – generally your car sun visor.

BlueAnt-S3

If you’re popular enough to get calls the S3 will announce the caller’s name or number (which is handy if you have more important things to be looking at … like the road) and you have to reply with “Answer” or “Ignore” for action. I did a non-scientific mumble test and the S3 seemed to demand a reasonable level of clarity – it couldn’t decipher my teenage boy level of mumbles but was fine with slightly rushed or slurred speech.

There is a pretty cool vibration sensor that can detect when you get back into the car and then automatically reconnects your phone. The sound quality is good – with wind, noise and echo cancellation technologies all combining to provide what BlueAnt refer to as “loud, booming” audio. You can also use it as a multipoint device, connecting passenger and driver devices. You could technically listen to music or a podcast through the S3, but you’d have to have a pretty rubbish built-in car stereo system for this to be an option. More realistically, you can listen back to turn-by-turn GPS apps guide you safely from A-to-B.

BlueAnt claim you can get 20 hours talk time and 600 hours standby off a 3 hour charge, and testing seemed to bear this out.

The BlueAnt S3 is out now. www.blueant.co.uk

Review: Parrot ASTEROID car receiver

Parrot-Asteroid

Parrot, the so-called ‘King of the Bluetooth’, seems to be living up to its name with the Parrot Asteroid, a hands-free telephony system that, via Google Android, facilitates web connectivity, fabricating a purported “new generation of in-car technology”. This glossy and good-looking stereo system, which is likely to enhance even the most suave of car dashboards, comes equipped with a GPS dongle, which, once connected to the car receiver, enables users to enjoy several on-line services previously unattainable with less technologically refined car stereo systems.

One such urbane feature includes Parrot Maps, a cartography service which, not only locates a vehicle’s location and identifies the names of nearby streets and businesses, but also enables drivers to plan an itinerary and to dial – hands-free – related numbers – Great for delivery drivers unable to locate a business on a labyrinth-like industrial estate!

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The Parrot Asteroid’s geo-localisation technology will also alert drivers of the nearest petrol stations and car parks, as well as being informed of real-time traffic updates.

This multi-compatible car stereo enables drivers to cruise along to their favourite tunes from various sources, including a USB Key, MP3 player, iPhone, iPod, SD card, and, thanks to a 3G card, which incidentally is not provided with the product and has to be bought separately, online radio stations.

Stuck on a five-mile tailback on the M3 and itching for somebody to talk to? Rectify the situation by talking to your Parrot Asteroid!  A singular Parrot Asteroid button enables drivers to counteract the galling effects long-distance solo driving can have on drivers, as users can tell their Parrot Asteroid the name of an artist or album they want on, and this highly innovative device, will immediately locate and play the artist of choice. What’s more, if an artist or album is unable to be located in the peripherals connected to the Asteroid, if a 3G Key is attached to the car stereo system, a search will automatically begin on online musical libraries – Exemplifying the crux of hands-free telephony.

Find out more at http://www.parrot.com/uk/products/hands-free-car-kits/parrot-asteroid