SYNC: Powered By Freescale's i.MX516
Ford and Microsoft joined forces to release the first iteration of SYNC back in 2007, which enabled mobile phone and digital media player connectivity. It made its way into 2008 model year Fords as a $395 option on the Focus, Fusion, Edge, and more. The first iteration of Ford SYNC was fairly basic, and did not incorporate an LCD display. However, it included Bluetooth phone integration with voice-activated hands-free calling, phone book transfer, text-to-speech, and voice control of your music.
Ford’s second-generation infotainment system, dubbed SYNC with MyFord Touch, expounds upon the first SYNC system's capabilities, upgrading the Focus' center stack with an eight-inch touch-screen LCD that serves as the main interface for SYNC with MyFord Touch. The system supports complete voice control of all infotainment features, including phone, radio, navigation, and climate control. Voice control is backed up by physical buttons on the center stack and steering wheel for quick access.
Inside SYNC With MyFord Touch
Ford tapped Freescale Semiconductor for the system-on-chip, or SoC, that powers SYNC with MyFord Touch. At the heart of Ford's implementation you'll find an i.MX51x-series SoC with 512 MB of memory and 2 GB of NAND flash. Ford isn't particularly forthcoming with information about its implementation, but we confirmed that the company is using the i.MX516 (a fairly easy task, since Freescale only has two models in the family intended for automotive use). Interestingly, the i.MX516 packs an HD video processing unit, which SYNC with MyFord Touch does not yet exploit.
Though the Freescale i.MX51x family was released in 2009, it's powerful enough to drive Ford’s touch-screen user interface. The SoC's CPU consists of a single 600 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 core with Advanced SIMD extensions (referred to as NEON). The NEON instruction set helps accelerate media-oriented tasks, such as voice recognition and audio processing, though we're not certain whether SYNC takes advantage of the extensions or not.
The i.MX51 integrates Qualcomm's Adreno 200 graphics, formerly known as AMD Imageon Z430, with support for the OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.1 standards, Direct3D Mobile, and Direct Draw. Although we can't install benchmarks to the infotainment system itself, we were able to pull out an old HTC Incredible with CyanogenMod 7 on it to get a better idea of how well Adreno 200 performs in GLBenchmark. Scores from our tablet testing is included for comparison.
Although it's not as powerful as Nvidia's Tegra 3 or the latest multi-core PowerVR SGX-based design, Qualcomm's Adreno 200 doesn't need to handle ultra-high resolutions or 3D gaming. Instead, it's fast enough to render 3D maps, which is really all it's used for, since the rest of the UI relies on OpenVG 2D acceleration.
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.
P.S. What's up with the broken URL parsing?
What is the world coming to?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.