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SYNC With MyFord Touch: Automotive Infotainment For All

SYNC With MyFord Touch: Automotive Infotainment For All
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Automotive infotainment systems are becoming smarter, and more powerful, featuring some of the same hardware as popular smartphones and tablets. It's time to apply our own unique analysis to technology finding its way into the automotive segment.

It was only a decade ago that compact cars came standard with AM/FM cassette decks, and CD players were upgrade options or exclusive to higher trim levels. Navigation systems were still in their infancy and only available as expensive add-ons to luxury cars or installed aftermarket. Even then, though, they had clunky interfaces and slow response times. Compact car niceties were limited to anti-lock braking systems, leather seating, aluminum wheels, side airbags, and a handful of other comforts that certainly didn't get the tech geek in us wondering, "How does that work?"

Our 2012 Ford Focus Titanium press car poses in front of a Douglas DC-2 at Thun Field in Puyallup, Wash.Our 2012 Ford Focus Titanium press car poses in front of a Douglas DC-2 at Thun Field in Puyallup, Wash.

That all changed towards the late-2000s when gas prices rose and there was renewed interest in smaller, more economical cars with premium features. Honda began offering its Civic with navigation, while other manufacturers added audio system upgrades like iPod integration, auxiliary inputs, and USB storage device capabilities.

It would seem the adoption of digital media, smartphones, and portable storage that began with the MP3 file format in the late '90s became mainstream. Car manufacturers saw the trend and adapted accordingly.

Why Am I Reading This On Tom's Hardware?

Perhaps you're wondering why Tom’s Hardware is venturing into the automotive space. The answer is quite simple. The infotainment systems in cars are evolving at a brisk pace. Already, they share some of the hardware you find also in smartphones and tablets. Manufacturers are essentially integrating similar capabilities with slicker, driver-friendly user interfaces, detailed voice controls, and deep integration with other subsystems, such as climate control, the on-board computer, and the gauge cluster.

Each manufacturer implements its chosen features differently, from Ford and its Microsoft-powered SYNC, General Motors with its reliance on OnStar, or Audi's upcoming Nvidia Tegra-powered systems. The best part about the booming infotainment space is that the systems aren't limited to high-end luxury cars and showy SUVs rolling on 22-inch wheels. They're often available for most of a car manufacturer’s car line-up, from sub-compacts to sports cars. We believe the infotainment space is going to be the epicenter of technological convergence, as each builder increasingly looks to some of our favorite brands to help advance their own feature-loaded systems.

While the automotive industry as a whole works toward the common goal of providing the most useful capabilities and interfaces for drivers, they seem to all have different philosophies about control and accessibility. Some approaches work surprisingly well, while others are clunky. But in typical Tom's Hardware fashion, we want to dig into the hardware at the heart of each manufacturer's implementation, come up with our own benchmarks, and hopefully send you away with a good sense of how well each infotainment system and technology package come together.

The Focus Of Our Automotive Coverage

We acquired a 2012 Ford Focus Titanium to kick off today's coverage. This is the highest-specced trim, loaded with technology that includes the latest version of Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch, HD Radio, push-button start, Ford MyKey, and rear parking aid sensors. It carries an MSRP of $25 675. Our test mule does not have the Ford Active Park Assist feature, which helps with parallel parking, though Ford offers it as an option. We got our hands on another vehicle with Active Park Assist, and will demonstrate that to you in this story, too. 

The reason we chose Ford for our first venture into automotive coverage was because the company is Microsoft’s first partner for mobile device integration. Different variations of SYNC, MyFord, and MyFord Touch are available across the entire Ford line-up, from the Fiesta to the Super Duty pickup trucks. We specifically selected the 2012 Ford Focus, an affordable car that features the complete SYNC with MyFord Touch system. If this were a CPU, it'd be a Core i3: a mainstream offering that still packs in modernity without the price tag of a Core i5 or i7 (or a more expensive luxury vehicle).

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  • 10 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , May 31, 2012 4:59 AM
    boot benchmarks for a car :o 
    What is the world coming to?
Other Comments
  • -3 Hide
    jhansonxi , May 31, 2012 4:58 AM
    SYNC is the reason that Ford's . I've also met several people who have SYNC and they've all had problems with it freezing completely or controls getting stuck. These problems either require them to stop and turn off the engine (a reboot) or take the car to a dealer to get SYNC reset.

    This is shockingly bad code quality for an embedded system. I may get a Ford vehicle in the future but it won't have SYNC in it. I'll epoxy a tablet to the dash if I need entertainment that bad.
  • -1 Hide
    jhansonxi , May 31, 2012 4:59 AM
    SYNC is the reason that Ford's quality has dropped:
    http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/22/autos/ford_jd_power_initial_quality/index.htm

    P.S. What's up with the broken URL parsing?
  • 10 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , May 31, 2012 4:59 AM
    boot benchmarks for a car :o 
    What is the world coming to?
  • 3 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , May 31, 2012 6:08 AM
    never had a problem with my SYNC in my ford.
  • 1 Hide
    TheZander , May 31, 2012 6:14 AM
    Drove a brand new rental Ford with all the Sync options. It was nice to be able to play music straight from my phone without taking it out of my pocket or plugging anything in. It was also nice when a call came in and a simple button push switched seamlessly from my music to the call, with good voice quality I might add. The information provided is useful and placed in areas with a focus on keeping your eyes in safer directions than some layouts, and the steering wheel button placement makes sense and also works well (for the most part) once you get used to it.

    However, there are little things here and there that show the system has tremendous potential, but lacks polish you expect when it's in your automobile. I own a reasonably new Ford (2006 Freestyle.) It's been an exceptional, sturdy, and reliable car for several years now with no mechanical issues to date. My dad owns an old Lincoln Navigator with over 370,000 miles on it, still with the original engine running. Fords have been pretty good to me and my family over the years. You put in the key, turn it, and the thing runs. You push the buttons on the door and the windows go up or down. Flip a switch and the heater comes on.

    You expect your automobiles to be like this. Ford Sync does not yet feel like this. "Do I push this button this way or that way?" "What word order do I need to use for this command?" "Why do I have to re-command Sync to start playing my phone's music via bluetooth every time I start my car rather than it just start automatically?" "Why does the system hang once in a while for no apparent reason?"

    It just doesn't yet feel like it's reliable and responsive. I was intrigued and impressed by Sync, but it needs more polish, fluidity, refinement, and most of all consistency and reliability for it to please the masses day after day, and THIS is why Sync is the single worst factor in Ford's otherwise good reliability ratings being lowered, as mentioned above.
  • -5 Hide
    danwat1234 , May 31, 2012 6:15 AM
    I like my 1999 Honda Civic. Bullet proof reliable with 226K miles, simple and fast around corners (with an upgraded rear sway bar and good all season tires). It came with AM/FM radio and that's it. I have an FM transmitter to run anything else. All of this fancy technology ... my gaming laptop and my basic 10-key cell phone is enough. But it's great that this tech is available in inexpensive cars.
    I don't think that anybody would buy a new car just for this technology, at least I hope not. But new cars also come with stability, traction, ABS, EBD and panic brake help which is nice.
    My next car will be electric, maybe a 3-wheeled Zaptera. That's a reason to upgrade!
  • 3 Hide
    tuanies , May 31, 2012 6:20 AM
    Quote:
    SYNC is the reason that Ford's quality has dropped:
    http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/22/autos/ford_jd_power_initial_quality/index.htm

    P.S. What's up with the broken URL parsing?


    We touch on that in the conclusion. V2.0 of the software fixed a lot of the crashes and issues. We did not experience any crashes during the week we had the car.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , May 31, 2012 6:25 AM
    Quote:
    I like my 1999 Honda Civic. Bullet proof reliable with 226K miles, simple and fast around corners (with an upgraded rear sway bar and good all season tires). It came with AM/FM radio and that's it. I have an FM transmitter to run anything else. All of this fancy technology ... my gaming laptop and my basic 10-key cell phone is enough. But it's great that this tech is available in inexpensive cars.
    I don't think that anybody would buy a new car just for this technology, at least I hope not. But new cars also come with stability, traction, ABS, EBD and panic brake help which is nice.
    My next car will be electric, maybe a 3-wheeled Zaptera. That's a reason to upgrade!


    That sounds fancy, my daily is a '90 Miata with no power steering, manual windows, no side door guard beams and a first generation airbag. Its a ton of fun though.
  • 0 Hide
    s3anister , May 31, 2012 7:10 AM
    This is cool tech but I wish ford would have started doing this a year or two earlier than they did. I'd love to see an HDMI input instead of composite in and a higher-res screen for example.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , May 31, 2012 8:38 AM
    Quote:
    This is cool tech but I wish ford would have started doing this a year or two earlier than they did. I'd love to see an HDMI input instead of composite in and a higher-res screen for example.


    HDMI input would be nice. I think Honda is the only one that has HDMI input on the Honda Odyssey, but only on the $45k Elite model.
  • 1 Hide
    A Bad Day , May 31, 2012 12:25 PM
    mayankleoboy1boot benchmarks for a car What is the world coming to?


    Don't worry, eventually there will be overclocking benchmarks for a car...
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , May 31, 2012 1:08 PM
    wow, that interface is incredibly slow and terrible! I understand that it is a portable device... but it is a car, with an engine, not a mobile phone. If they can make airbags that check if they need to go off at any given moment, then surely they could put a storage device in the vehicle that can load maps in under 1sec, and find a route in 1/2 the time this does...
    I mean my 3 year old GPS can do it... and it isn't exactly a 'top of the line' model either.
  • 3 Hide
    radon_antila , May 31, 2012 1:10 PM
    A Bad DayDon't worry, eventually there will be overclocking benchmarks for a car...


    CarMark Record: 1982 DeLorean, OC'd to 1.21 jigawatts on water (1985)
  • -1 Hide
    CaedenV , May 31, 2012 1:19 PM
    Oh! and I like the idea of the 'my key' feature... but let's work on it a bit
    -there are roads in America that have speed limits of 70 and 75mph (you would imagine an American car company would know this...). Lets have a few more speed limiting options. Personally I like to cruise at ~70-75mph on the freeway, but as people do not know how to drive in my area it is not really safe to use cruise control and just zone out in a lane (people WILL merge right into you... annoying). Perhaps limit it to 5mph over the limit?
    -Include power seat settings
    -Include favorite radio station settings, or built in playlists
    -Include temp settings (prefered fan speed, and temp)

    Good idea, bad implementation... just like every other integration of PC tech in a car.
  • 1 Hide
    cknobman , May 31, 2012 1:46 PM
    I had a 2008 Lincoln MKX with a fully decked out SYNC system in it and my wife and I loved it. We never experienced crashes or freezes of any kind.

    We traded it in for our 2011 Prius fully loaded with Toyotas tech package. I can say without a doubt that SYNC beats Toyota's system hand down. SYNC is quicker, easier, and has more capabilities.
  • -1 Hide
    warezme , May 31, 2012 2:21 PM
    ..., dang, I just put a flip down CD player with ipod connector on my 69 MGB roadster.
  • 0 Hide
    Bugsy68 , May 31, 2012 3:46 PM
    My dad had SYNC in his Mercury and he loved it! He got a new Lincoln Town Car last year that didn't have SYNC and now he really misses it. Is there any way to add it to his car? Is it even possible to add it? Any idea how much it would cost? My guess is that it wouldn't involve too much more than swapping out the radio since the car is pretty basic technology-wise (unlike the car above and it's lcd displays etc).
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 31, 2012 3:47 PM
    Had Sync in my 2010 Escape and now the MyFord touch in 2012 Edge (leased both) have really enjoyed the features. Worth it just for the hands free calling
  • 1 Hide
    ikefu , May 31, 2012 4:09 PM
    The hands free calling and voice dialing in my 2012 Escape seems to just work better than most other implementations in other brands that I have rented. I'm a big fan of Ford's recent vehicle quality. Woot for American brands not just pulling their head out of the sands but actually getting out there and kicking some serious butt again.
  • -1 Hide
    jimmysmitty , May 31, 2012 4:17 PM
    Bugsy68My dad had SYNC in his Mercury and he loved it! He got a new Lincoln Town Car last year that didn't have SYNC and now he really misses it. Is there any way to add it to his car? Is it even possible to add it? Any idea how much it would cost? My guess is that it wouldn't involve too much more than swapping out the radio since the car is pretty basic technology-wise (unlike the car above and it's lcd displays etc).


    He just needs to go to the dealer, Ford or Lincoln, and ask. They should be able to add any features to the car. Thats what the sales guy I got my 2012 Fusion told me. Of course it will cost a bit of money but it might be worth it in the end. I am contemplating adding SYNC as it would be nice to have but then I also want other extras added to my Fusion......
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