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

Older Vehicle Installation (2000 BMW 528i)

Our second test vehicle is a 2000 BMW 528i (E39) wagon, which comes from an era when the double-DIN form factor was fairly standard. The E39 doesn't have a double-DIN radio, though. BMW had a tendency to make differently-sized radios for every one of its models. However, the 528i does have steering wheel controls and an integrated factory amplifier we can use to test the head unit's pre-outs.

Creating the harness for the E39 was a lot easier this time around. After all, we already had half of the work done from our Routan install. We did need to use a harness to take the Asteroid Smart's pre-out and send a signal to the trunk-mounted factory amplifier.

The steering wheel adapter was a little more annoying. You see, BMW switched its radio wiring harness during the 2001 model year, and all of Parrot's instructions referred to the newer connector. Fortunately, after searching through a couple of online communities and cross-referencing other models, we found the wire we needed for the steering wheel controls. The harness we connected to the car did not pass-through the steering wheel control wire, so we had to tap it in the dash.

The installation kit was much more of a pain. Since our 528i came with the factory cassette deck and separate display panel, we had to remove the radio cage. BMW does not make this process easy. There were pieces of dash that had to come off. From there, it took about an hour to get everything lined up and looking good.

Luckily for you, our scenario is unique to BMWs of the time. If you have a Japanese, domestic, or other European car that stuck to the double-DIN form factor, this should be much easier. Plus, the Asteroid Smart's shallow depth means you shouldn't run into any trouble behind the head unit as you tuck extra wiring away.

This car doesn't have a back-up camera, so there's nothing to report back on that. The steering wheel controls work great, and even took advantage of the factory voice command button that was reserved for navigation systems our car never shipped with. Sound quality is a little better than the stock cassette and CD changer in terms of clarity, but the low-end falls out completely. In the end, we decided that the factory amp and sound system don't play nicely with Parrot's Asteroid. But we plan to replace all of those cheaper components anyway.

  • 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