Review: Pioneer's AVIC-W8500NEX System Upgrades Your Car With Wireless CarPlay and More

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Pioneer has long been one of the biggest names in aftermarket car audio, and the company's lineup of NEX receivers offers a terrific option for adding CarPlay and other enhanced functionality to older cars or entry-level models that lack some of the latest technology.

Pioneer's 2019 NEX lineup includes models at a range of price points offering varying feature sets. Several months ago, Pioneer offered me the opportunity to try out the top of the line AVIC-W8500NEX, which offers a nearly 7-inch capacitive touchscreen display with onboard HERE navigation, wired and wireless CarPlay support, a DVD/CD player, and more.


As the top-end model in the lineup, the AVIC-W8500NEX carries a list price of $1200, so it's not necessarily for the budget-conscious customer. You can generally save hundreds of dollars by buying through Amazon sellers and other sources, but many of these are not authorized Pioneer dealers so you do want to be careful about where your unit is coming from.

And the unit itself is not the only item you'll need in order to add this receiver to your car. Anytime you're swapping out the radio system on your vehicle, you'll need a few other accessories like an appropriate wiring harness and dashboard trim plate for your specific vehicle. And depending on any other integration like steering wheel controls and backup camera connections, you may need a few more things.


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Article Link: Review: Pioneer's AVIC-W8500NEX System Upgrades Your Car With Wireless CarPlay and More
 

Unity451

macrumors 6502
Aug 29, 2011
443
1,768
California
I spent over $900 on a Pioneer stereo with DVD/Nav/etc. years ago, and that thing was and is a serious piece of junk. I'm sure technology has gotten better in the newer ones, but I'm floored by how poorly devices like this are supported to changing technology. Not only are there weak options for substantial software/hardware/peripheral upgrades, but good luck if anything ever goes wrong with it. They'll tell you to pull it out and send it to them to keep for 6 weeks+. And it's insane how quickly they put these things on the condemned, obsolete list.

I'm over dropping huge amounts of money on aftermarket stereos like this.
 

OneMike

macrumors 603
Oct 19, 2005
5,643
1,539
I use a new pioneer CarPlay receiver now and it’s great.

Many of the high models have features you probably don’t care about though. For example. If you have CarPlay do you really need the unit to have a built in navigation? Do you still use cds? Care about dvds when you can load media from a flash drive?

wireless CarPlay is cool though. That’s one feature I don’t have that I’d possibly want.
 

apple_iBoy

macrumors 6502a
Oct 28, 2003
685
408
Philadelphia, PA
Why do aftermarket car stereo units always have to use such tacky looking buttons with such ugly LED backlights? I can almost feel through my phone how unpleasant those would be to touch.
 

york2600

macrumors regular
Jul 24, 2002
238
195
Portland, OR
I'd highly recommend against buying any of the carplay models that Pioneer makes. I've owned one for 2 years and it's terribly buggy. The hardware *might* be great, but the software is junk and they never updated it even though it can be updated over USB. Carplay crashes on it at least once an hour, audio never routes properly, stereo locks up so bad you have to turn the car off and on, system refuses to boot if it's too cold or hot. I've owned a lot of aftermarket stereos over the years and this one is a serious turd.
 

emp1

macrumors newbie
Jan 31, 2020
1
0
Bought the Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX model. Wireless CarPlay is a hit or miss since upgrading to iOS 13. I’ve heard of others with similar issues. Pioneer support is clueless.
 

WildCowboy

Administrator/Editor
Staff member
Jan 20, 2005
17,267
1,172
I have had only two instances (I think) of the system locking up on me in months of usage. Have not experienced any CarPlay issues under iOS 13 with it.

As I noted in the review, definitely recommend against going with the higher-end navigation models. Apple/Google maps from your phone is much better than the onboard system.
 

H3LL5P4WN

macrumors 68020
Jun 19, 2010
2,450
2,564
Pittsburgh PA
I spent over $900 on a Pioneer stereo with DVD/Nav/etc. years ago, and that thing was and is a serious piece of junk. I'm sure technology has gotten better in the newer ones, but I'm floored by how poorly devices like this are supported to changing technology. Not only are there weak options for substantial software/hardware/peripheral upgrades, but good luck if anything ever goes wrong with it. They'll tell you to pull it out and send it to them to keep for 6 weeks+. And it's insane how quickly they put these things on the condemned, obsolete list.

I'm over dropping huge amounts of money on aftermarket stereos like this.
And that's exactly why Car Play and Android Auto are so important.
- - Post merged: - -

I'd highly recommend against buying any of the carplay models that Pioneer makes.

I've owned a lot of aftermarket stereos over the years and this one is a serious turd.
Good to know. *notes that I have an Alpine unit in a saved cart on Crutchfield.com*
 
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konqerror

macrumors 65816
Dec 31, 2013
1,492
2,471
I spent over $900 on a Pioneer stereo with DVD/Nav/etc. years ago, and that thing was and is a serious piece of junk. I'm sure technology has gotten better in the newer ones, but I'm floored by how poorly devices like this are supported to changing technology. Not only are there weak options for substantial software/hardware/peripheral upgrades, but good luck if anything ever goes wrong with it. They'll tell you to pull it out and send it to them to keep for 6 weeks+. And it's insane how quickly they put these things on the condemned, obsolete list.

I'm over dropping huge amounts of money on aftermarket stereos like this.
Japanese design philosophy. First, start with yesterday's technology because all the bugs have been fixed. Then optimize the heck out of it, letting them put in the minimum amount of CPU, RAM, Flash in it. They'll comprehensively QA it so on day 1, it works very well.

Of course, when things change or there's a new OS, any updates to their "perfect" system, if at all, come a year late. This was a great model through the 1990s when things changed slowly.

Not just car stereos, but stuff like their Hi-Fi systems, home automation, appliances, and even cars in general.
 
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shyam09

macrumors 68020
Oct 31, 2010
2,082
2,013
Bought the Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX model. Wireless CarPlay is a hit or miss since upgrading to iOS 13. I’ve heard of others with similar issues. Pioneer support is clueless.
Have you tried unpairing and repairing, resetting to factory conditions (the pioneer unit), etc.?

I have the 8400 model, and rarely do I experience issues.
 

joeldonaldson

macrumors newbie
Dec 12, 2017
2
3
For example, if you're in ‌CarPlay‌ and you want to manually tune the radio without using presets, you'll need to hit the NEX menu hardware button on the system, then tap into the radio app there before you can make adjustments. Similarly, if you're in the radio app and want to get back to ‌CarPlay‌, you need to back out to the main menu screen and then tap the ‌CarPlay‌ icon there. It's really only two actions, but it feels like it should be simpler.
Did you try the button just to the left of the NEX menu button? That should switch between the current NEX screen and CarPlay. I use that button all the time on my Pioneer unit.
 
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QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,183
1,175
Colorado Springs, CO
I have had only two instances (I think) of the system locking up on me in months of usage. Have not experienced any CarPlay issues under iOS 13 with it.

As I noted in the review, definitely recommend against going with the higher-end navigation models. Apple/Google maps from your phone is much better than the onboard system.
Yeah, iOS 13 really stabilized CarPlay. The dashboard is fantastic and light and dark mode is a nice touch.
 

thogin

macrumors regular
Mar 27, 2011
104
132
The capacitive touchscreen is responsive, and I've only had a couple of glitches where things froze up and required a vehicle restart to get everything working again, but I've seen issues like that on other vehicles with wired ‌CarPlay‌ too. For the number of times I've used the system on a daily basis, I don't consider these glitches to be a significant issue.
This sounds like a major defect and it's being shrugged off. Can you imagine if Apple released a $1200 car stereo and you had to pull over, stop your vehicle and restart your engine just to get it working again? That would be a MAJOR embarrassment. Why does Pioneer get a pass here?
 
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hlfway2anywhere

macrumors 65816
Jul 15, 2006
1,314
1,563
Pioneer is trash. Had the AppRadio 4 and the screen started delaminating after a year. Pioneer support is not acknowledging this as a defect despite it being a widely known problem. Never will buy from them again.
 
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entropys

macrumors 6502a
Jan 5, 2007
554
670
Brisbane, Australia
Don’t rule out Sony, either. I have the AX3000 and it’s awesome and affordable. Only thing it lacks that people obsess over is wireless CarPlay, but I always have and always will charge while driving anyway, so the cord doesn’t bother me.
I think if I was going wired carplay in an cheap aftermarket unit it would be a Sony. Good value for money.
i have a wireless carplay kenwood with a capacitive screen. absolutely awesome.
these pioneers are overpriced and the screen isn’t near as good as the kenwood.
 

Ntombi

macrumors 68040
Jul 1, 2008
3,395
1,142
Bostonian exiled in SoCal
I have a Pioneer 4500NEX, which has wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, and it’s been great for me.

It’s only crashed once in the several months I’ve had it, it always connects immediately, and the touch screen is fine.

I highly recommend it.
 

name99

macrumors 6502a
Jun 21, 2004
642
373
I can't comment on this particular model. But I will say
- If you want to see the state of the art, and compare across head units, THE place to go is

- If you hate your current car stereo, you'll probably be very happy with a low-end upgrade. I upgraded my Mercedes (2007) with a cheap Kenwood maybe two years ago, total cost with labor, installation of a backup camera [connected to the head unit screen], and hooking up the controls to the steering wheel controls, was under $300. For that I got a much nicer audio setup (ability to connect a USB stick full of music+audiobooks) and CarPlay (plus Android Auto if you want it) plus the backup camera. My system came with two USB connectors which is really nice in terms of allowing you to have USB storage AND the ability to plug in a phone, without having to unplug things.

- If you do upgrade three non-obvious things you may want to check. If you're buying low-end, you may just accept them, but if you're buying high end you'll be pissed off if you don't check them
+ how fast is the response to button presses? This used to be REALLY bad. It's often still not great... CarPlay, fortunately, is fairly tolerant of this, but screens you have to mash hard and slow feel horrible.
+ how fast does it boot? eg what's the delay from power-on to audio. This is usually astonishingly bad because the car vendors have no competence in, and no interest in, stripping irrelevant junk out their Linux boot chain. You have to put up with this every time the car is powered on (these things don't sleep because software sleep modes would require competent SW engineering...) so...

+ WHAT IS THE SCREEN LIKE IN BRIGHT SUNLIGHT? This is THE BIGGIE.
For the most part I am very happy with my system, but the screen is useless in Los Angeles sunlight. This is fine because I mount my iPhone on a magnetic mount and use the phone screen in sunlight. But I'd be upset if I'd bought a more expensive unit.
Screen seems to be one place the low-end units save money, and it's easy to make a screen look good inside a show room, but it's still useless when the sun is coming through the back window at maximum strength. Make sure you test this!
 

rozwell

macrumors regular
Apr 17, 2004
242
1
I've only recently had the urge to replace a head unit. I love everything about my car but even being a newish '18 model (same for '19 too) it had no upgrade option and came with a measly 5", super dim, resistive touch unit lacking CarPlay.

I found every option to fail in some way. $200-$400 range had poor screens or lots of lag. $500-$600 range was better but limited by DIN standards. $700+ gets you into 9"+ floating screens but have super low resolutions for their size and viewing distance. On top of all of this I found everyone but Sony to have cheesy UI's from 10 years ago and tiny hardware buttons that never matched the car. Forget about software updates too, as most take their sweet time (if ever) to update. You might not think this is important until you upgrade to iPhone 11 and Alpine + CarPlay is so washed out it's barely visible when it was perfectly fine with any older iPhone.

Then after all of that you often have trouble retaining features like cameras, sensors, buttons, software settings, etc. Even with a Maestro or specialty controller you very likely will be giving something up. Those adapters work best on cars that actually had good factory upgrades available, unlike mine.

This makes sense for what I consider a dying product category - Aftermarket head units seem best suited for 10+ year old cars which is a shrinking target market itself. Manufacturers know this and put the bare minimum effort in while charging insane prices for what you get. You'd almost be better off velcroing a tablet of choice over the existing screen. Bigger, cheaper, better, faster, and you weren't retaining much integration anyway... If I could figure out a camera trigger/switcher I would do this in a heartbeat.
 

Craiguyver

macrumors member
Jan 26, 2013
71
94
Minnesota, USA
$1200 and it doesn't support m3u playlist files. So if you don't want to use CarPlay but still want to use a playlist you've created, you're hosed.