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Parrot Asteroid Smart Review: Android In Your Car's Dash?

Under The Hood: TI's OMAP3630

Inside of the double-DIN enclosure is a Texas Instruments OMAP3630 system-on-chip. The 3630 was particularly popular a couple of years ago, and it's also found in Motorola's Droid 2, X, and Palm Pre 2. It's an older piece of silicon, but it's also mature, which is more important than performance in an automotive application.

The ARMv7-based SoC features a single Cortex-A8 core operating at up to 800 MHz and able to throttle down as low as 300 MHz. Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX530 graphics core adds OpenGL ES 2.0 support. Of course, you don't get access to the latest Tegra-optimized titles, but the 2005-era GPU can still make Angry Birds possible on your car's head unit, which is pretty sweet. The 45 nm SoC also includes TI's IVA 2 engine for hardware-based video decode. It's limited to 720p resolutions, well beyond the Asteroid Smart's 800x480 display. 

Although the latest smartphones come with as much as 2 GB of memory, the Asteroid Smart's 512 MB is more typical of Gingerbread-era devices. That should be plenty of RAM for an application like this, and we didn't run into any workloads that appeared memory-starved.

Parrot employs a 24-bit/192 kHz four-channel DAC. The company wasn't able to confirm the DAC's make or model, unfortunately. Now, if you're puzzled by the six-channel pre-outs and four-channel DAC, bear in mind that the front and rear channels are only needed for balance and face, while the subwoofer output is simply derived from the front or rear channels with an added crossover.

Audio enthusiasts looking for detailed equalizer settings, more flexible crossover slops, or even active three-way crossovers will want to look elsewhere or employ an external processor. The Asteroid Smart employs a fairly basic configuration. With all of that said, we were happy with the system's output quality using the internal amp and pre-outs.

  • Tanquen
    I’ve been looking for some time now to get a phone friendly head unit but they all come up lacking. You need to root them to get any real functionality and they are slow. Slow to boot and run apps with old operating systems and not all that stable. Pioneer now has AppRadio 3 but it still has issues also. Seems like such a simple thing. I just want to mirror my phone on the head units display.
    Reply
  • blackmagnum
    What a name!
    Reply
  • woodshop
    Throw in at least a dual core, 1 gb ram, Android jelly bean (for Google now) and a 720p screen. Only then will people buy these head units. Or, just tape your nexus 7 to the to the glovebox and it can serve as a secondary airbag.
    Reply
  • flong777
    It is interesting to see this third party hardware to update vehicles without computer touch screens but after reading the article, it doesn't seem worth the trouble. Even if you do a great job of installation your left with a buggy system and a mediocre GPS. It appears that third party updates like this one need to grow up some.

    What is the real deal killer is the mediocre audio - you would have thought that they could have gotten this right as the technology for quality audio has been around for at least 15 years.
    Reply
  • Bloodire
    $100 tablet and $70 software. Bang! touchscreen on your car. Oh and whatever is costs you to mount the tablet.
    Reply
  • daekar
    Why would I want to put something like this in my car when I and everyone I know has a smartphone? I just place my phone on the dash when I want nav, and I usually don't even bother taking calls while driving. If I did, I'd use a Bluetooth headset. Besides, lots of people keep cars far longer than they keep phones. 7 years from now, do you really think that this device will be able to keep up? The whole touchscreen control nav console infotainment thing is completely impractical. Take away controls with tactile feedback. Replace with a screen with almost no feedback at best. Add proprietary software and a dash of obsolescence. I just don't see it.
    Reply
  • the_crippler
    Now I find myself wondering what software Bloodire is talking about...
    Reply
  • tuanies
    11128834 said:
    Throw in at least a dual core, 1 gb ram, Android jelly bean (for Google now) and a 720p screen. Only then will people buy these head units. Or, just tape your nexus 7 to the to the glovebox and it can serve as a secondary airbag.

    You can do that but it won't look as nice nor would your steering wheel controls work.

    11129463 said:
    It is interesting to see this third party hardware to update vehicles without computer touch screens but after reading the article, it doesn't seem worth the trouble. Even if you do a great job of installation your left with a buggy system and a mediocre GPS. It appears that third party updates like this one need to grow up some.

    What is the real deal killer is the mediocre audio - you would have thought that they could have gotten this right as the technology for quality audio has been around for at least 15 years.

    The audio quality is fine, just the function is lacking. I believe they have TomTom on the Asteroid Market now too for those that dislike iGo.

    11129722 said:
    $100 tablet and $70 software. Bang! touchscreen on your car. Oh and whatever is costs you to mount the tablet.

    Will not look as nice though.

    11130207 said:
    Why would I want to put something like this in my car when I and everyone I know has a smartphone? I just place my phone on the dash when I want nav, and I usually don't even bother taking calls while driving. If I did, I'd use a Bluetooth headset. Besides, lots of people keep cars far longer than they keep phones. 7 years from now, do you really think that this device will be able to keep up? The whole touchscreen control nav console infotainment thing is completely impractical. Take away controls with tactile feedback. Replace with a screen with almost no feedback at best. Add proprietary software and a dash of obsolescence. I just don't see it.

    Some people want a clean look that doesn't require slapping their phone on the dash or just want an upgrade from the plane factory setup, maybe an old factory navigation setup. The removal of tactile feedback and controls are typically with cheaper cars, the luxury vehicles still have buttons. But 7-years down the road, you could probably replace this Parrot with a 4th or 5th generation unit :).
    Reply
  • tuanies
    11130452 said:
    Now I find myself wondering what software Bloodire is talking about...

    He's probably talking about GPS software, ie TomTom or Garmin
    Reply
  • brazuka331
    Add a place for me to put a SIM card for its on data and full Google Play store support and i'll buy it! Why is it so hard for these companies to make what seems so simple! We want an in-dash and works like a tablet with full android and not your sh**ty bloatware!
    Reply