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Kia UVO: Mainstream Infotainment In The 2012 Soul

Kia UVO: Powered by Freescale i.MX355

When Ford unveiled SYNC in 2007, there was an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft that prohibited other manufacturers from using Windows Embedded Automotive in infotainment solutions. That agreement expired in November 2008, but it took a couple years before other manufacturers took advantage of Microsoft’s efforts.

Kia was the second vendor to hop on the Microsoft Windows Automotive train; it debuted UVO in the new-at-the-time 2011 Sorento and Optima. Availability of UVO expanded to the rest of the company's portfolio for the 2012 model year, including the Rio, Sportage, and Soul. Oddly, the trio of Kia Fortes (sedan, hatch, and coupe) is not available with the UVO option, but can be had with navigation.

At the heart of Kia’s UVO system is a Freescale i.MX355 system-on-chip, which succeeds Freescale's i.MX31L, found in first-generation Ford SYNC hardware. The i.MX355 is based on a single-core 400 MHz ARM1136 (ARM11) CPU core based on the ARMv6 architecture. This remains unchanged from the i.MX31L.

Unlike the i.MX516 Multimedia Applications Processor, featured in our look at SYNC with MyFord Touch, or the higher-end i.MX356, Freescale's i.MX355 lacks a graphics processor and instead relies on an IPU (image processing unit). The IPU handles display output and offloads deblocking, deranging, color space conversion, blending of graphics, video planes, and horizontal/vertical resizing tasks from the CPU core, yielding a fluid user interface. The company does offer an OpenVG 1.1-compatible GPU in its higher-end i.MX356, but we doubt it would have been useful in Kia's implementation of UVO.

Kia complements the Freescale i.MX355 SoC with 128 MB of DDR memory and 1 GB of NAND flash. The non-volatile memory is split up into 256 MB for the operating system and 700 MB of user storage for UVO's Jukebox feature. CSR provides its Bluecore4-Ext IC to enable UVO’s Bluetooth connectivity. The chip supports Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), facilitating hands-free calls and streaming audio. 

When it comes to connectivity, Freescale's i.MX355 supports enhanced serial audio interface (ESAI) for audio output, USB 2.0 host, camera sensor interface, and more. The semiconductor company claims the i.MX355 ESAI interface supports 5.1-channel or multi-speaker audio, and Kia takes full advantage of it to drive the Soul's eight-speaker sound system (technically, it's a standard front/center/rear/subwoofer setup, but car vendors like to count discrete tweeters as separate speakers) and the backup camera's sensor.

Sitting front and center of the UVO experience is Microsoft's Auto 4.1, which is a member of the Windows Embedded Automotive family. The operating system is very flexible in terms of features it makes available, and we saw that from SYNC with MyFord Touch. But Kia scales down what its implementation can do to keep the system fairly simple.

  • sp0nger
    This seems super basic to me..

    I see what you did there kia, but as a reader of toms i would be much more interested in you inspecting the tech around more advanced systems in higher end cars
    Reply
  • sp0nger
    On second thought i would love to see your break down of the new GTR those systems are insane, thats worthy of a 10 page read
    Reply
  • tuanies
    Thanks for the input. We're working on bringing coverage of higher end vehicles and have a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track and Audi Q5 with NVIDIA Tegra and QNX in the pipeline.
    Reply
  • ivyanev
    Isn't it strange that a smartphone can do all theese things(except for multichanel music maybe)
    Reply
  • palladin9479
    9535232 said:
    Thanks for the input. We're working on bringing coverage of higher end vehicles and have a 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track and Audi Q5 with NVIDIA Tegra and QNX in the pipeline.


    Genesis Coupe's are nice.

    Come on ya'll should do a Morning or Matiz. Or heck review a tricked out Daewoo Damas, just for kicks.
    Reply
  • ZakTheEvil
    So the backup camera is there to compensate for the poor "style over function" body design that limits the rear view?
    Reply
  • Parrdacc
    Amazing that car companies like Ford and KIA and others are just now doing this. Meanwhile all us car enthusiasts have had most of these capabilities for years now. I have had hondas with head units like JVC and Alpine that do the same thing. The current JVC I got four years back is running strong with Bluetooth connection to my phone with voice, GPS, Voice navigation and recognition, usb mp3 playback, ipod connection, which I do not use as I find just plugging in a usb to the front of the player just easier than the running a cable to the ipod.

    Well, welcome to the party Ford and KIA.
    Reply
  • Parrdacc
    Oh, on more thing. A 4.3inch display. Really. I got a 7" display thats touchscreen and that was without any custom work done. The KIA appears to have a double din which should be more than capable of using a 7" inch touchscreen, or at least one that is larger than 4.3 inches, so why they went this route I do not know. A buddy of mine has got a Nissan with a factory radio and his display is about 6".
    Reply
  • willard
    Ugh, Kia. I owned a Kia once. Took $5k in engine repairs over three years to keep it on the road. Blew two head gaskets, three thermostats went out, radiator failed once. The front end CV joints are bad about going out on most of their older cars as well (I went through three), and good luck if you need to replace a wheel bearing (which also like to go out on the front end). Need a special Kia service tool to do it, which they don't sell and no mechanic has except Kia dealerships. Enjoy your $400 repairs you could have done yourself for $50 if they just used standard tools.

    Kia costs less up front, but WAY more in maintenance. Buy a Hyundai if you're looking for a quality car on the cheap. They don't fall apart on you like Kias do.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    Picked up a Hyundai for my wife a few years ago and love it (well... for the price anyways... it is no VW). I am now looking for a commuter car for myself and am looking at KIA (which is the cheaper Hyundai brand). I had been wondering about their UVO system because I am thinking about a Rio5 which also has this as an option. It dosn't seem that great, but it is good to know that what is there works solid (other than the texting issues), so perhaps I will spring for it when the time comes to jump on it.

    Can you select a playlist instead of an individual song? or is it too basic for that?
    Reply