Showing 1 review for Clarion NX501 (NX-501)

Customer Review Summary for Clarion NX501 (NX-501)
Average Customer Rating is 3.9 out of 5 stars:
3.9
based on 25 Reviews
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Average Attributes Rating:
Durability
4.1
Value
4.2
Features
4.4
Design
4.6
Usability
3.8
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October 9, 2012 Clarion NX501 review
Review by
greengo from Ottawa, Canada
Overall
Durability
Value
Features
Design
Usability
I purchased this unit from Sonic Electronix over a year ago. There were no issues with shipping, Sonic took care of all the customs, duties, etc., for shipping to Canada, as promised. The installation of the unit itself was straightforward, and it fit nicely into the double-DIN space of my 2007 Honda Pilot. I also installed a Sirius SCC1 satellite radio tuner at the same time, and re-purposed my old iPhone 3G as an iPod dedicated to the Clarion, stashed in the glove box. The main things I use the NX501 for are iPod, navigation, Bluetooth cell phone interface, satellite radio, and AM/FM radio, in that order. The iPod playback is fine, and whatever album art is present on the iPod gets displayed on the screen during playback. The skip button is a bit sensitive, and you need to press directly and deliberately on the arrow, or else the track won't skip as expected (although you may still hear a 'beep'). Sometimes you'll hear a double-beep, indicating that two tracks were actually skipped. The other main issue is that when starting the vehicle, the iPod isn't always detected right away, and you have to power-cycle the HU to get it to be detected. I just updated to the latest firmware version (July 2012) from Clarion's website this past weekend, and I haven't noticed this problem since the update, so hopefully this issue is fixed. I normally just select one of my playlists and hit shuffle, so I don't do a lot of manual searching for individual songs or artists. This is do-able, but when scrolling down a long list of songs or artists, the touchscreen is a bit sensitive, and will sometimes select an item you touched, when really you just meant to scroll down with a swipe gesture.

Navigation is excellent, the only gripe I have is that the voice instructions will almost always use a 'highway' name, rather than the actual commonly-used street name. The street name is displayed at the top of the nav screen at the same time, so I'm not sure why the audio instructions always describe a highway. I've looked through the various nav options, but can't find any way to change this. I particularly like the 'quick search' feature. If I'm looking for a Thai restaurant, I can just enter 'Thai' in the quick search, and it will start listing various locations with 'Thai' in the name, by order of proximity.
I don't use the satellite radio that often, not because of any problem with the unit itself, but more because I find the audio quality of Sirius XM satellite radio quite poor. Much of the time the audio sounds like an old cassette tape recording, on a tape that's been played too often (old timers will remember the 'warble' sound of a poor quality audio cassette). The only issue I had with the NX501's satellite interface was that the button to store a preset station didn't work. However, I'm happy to report that this has been fixed in the recent firmware update. It would be nice to have a 'mute' button in the main nav screen, so that you could easily mute any iPod or music playback. When voice instructions from the nav unit are happening, any music playing back will automatically lower in volume, but sometimes as you're getting close to the final destination, you want to turn the music right off, but to do this, I need to switch to the iPod screen, hit 'pause', then switch back to the nav screen.

The Bluetooth hands-free interface works well, but the only feature I really wish it had was a way to trigger the dial-by-voice feature of my Blackberry. Without this, if I want to dial a number, I have to access my phone's directory via the NX501's interface, then scroll around to find the number I want. Not easy to do while driving, and a definite distraction. It keeps a record of recently received and recently dialed numbers, which makes searching for commonly used numbers a bit easier, but it would be nice if it tied this list to the phone's directory. For example, I have three numbers stored in my Blackberry's contact list for my wife; her work number, her cell number, and our home number. If I access her directory entry via the NX501, it shows all three numbers. However, if I select her name from a list of recently received calls, it only shows me the number she called from, not all three numbers. If she called me yesterday from work, and I want to call her today, but I know she's not at work, and I want to call her cell, I can't do it via the 'received calls' menu, and must call up the full directory, then search. My other issue is that when talking on the cell phone via bluetooth, the caller's voice only comes from the left or right channel, but not both (you can choose which channel, but why not a mono audio feed from both channels?)

Aside from my gripe about the audio quality of Sirius radio, the unit's overall audio quality is excellent. I replaced my stock Pilot speakers with Infinity speakers (2 way speakers in the rear door, and two-way component speakers up front, with the tweeters mounted on the sail panels), and it sounds fantastic, especially for iPod audio playback. You can push it nice and loud, with no audible distortion, and there are various EQ settings for tweaking the sound to your heart's content. I had originally planned on driving the four door speakers with an external power amp, but after hearing the sound from the HU driving the Infinity speakers, I was quite happy with that. I do still plan to install a subwoofer, but that's part of phase II. :-)

I only recently started using the AM/FM radio, since I found when I was installing the unit that I needed a special adapter for the Honda radio antenna. I ordered the adapter, but then never got around to installing it until recently. I've programmed in my presets, and it sounds just fine. The 'analog' radio dial representation on the display is a bit wonky; it scrolls vertically, whereas most radio dials operate horizontally, and the 'up' and 'down' buttons on the top and bottom of this dial are non-intuitive. It would also be nice to be able to edit the station names of the presets, rather than just displaying their frequency.

I haven't yet used any of the following features:
-DVD playback
-Rear seat DVD displays/audio zones
-USB audio (i.e. USB memory sticks or other devices besides iPod)
-rear view camera

I do have a license plate camera unit, which will get installed as part of phase II, with the subwoofer upgrade. I already have a portable DVD player (two screens, one master, one slave) for the kids when we go on trips, but eventually I'll get some headrest DVD units, and start utilizing the DVD playback capability of the Clarion.

In short, I highly recommend this unit. The price is right, it's packed full of features (way more than I can use), it sounds excellent, and has a great user interface. Many of the minor complaints I had have now been resolved by the firmware update, and hopefully Clarion keeps refining and adding new features in future updates.
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