Parrot Asteroid Smart review
Parrot is well-known for Bluetooth hands-free kits, and the Asteroid range is really an extension of those. The Smart is the flagship model: a double-DIN headunit that replaces your existing stereo.
The 6in, 800x480 touchscreen displays a familiar Android interface, albeit one that’s tailored for in-car use with big icons and text.
Don’t expect the latest KitKat version of Android, though. The Smart runs a modified version of Gingerbread 2.3. In fact, it’s almost better to think of it as a proprietary system since there’s no access to Google Play: apps are downloaded from Parrot’s own Asteroid Market. (You can side-load apps if you’re that way inclined, but they may not work.)
There’s a decent choice of driving-related apps including Waze, Glympse, TomTom, Coyote Series, Parkopedia and more, with the majority being free. However some, including Coyote, require a yearly subscription, so using the free trial should help you work out if it’s worth shelling out for its features.
The screen is capacitive unlike many double-DIN headunits which use the older resistive technology, favoured by older standalone satnavs. It’s responsive, but the glossy finish meant we couldn’t see anything except reflections when the sun shone directly onto it – and that will happen a lot as you drive around. We also had a slight problem with condensation inside the screen, but this was visible only with the screen turned off.
The Asteroid has built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and comes with a USB GPS receiver and dual-microphone for hands-free calling. To get an internet connection you can either tether a smartphone or 3G tablet, or use a USB 3G dongle.
Parrot Asteroid Smart: Music and video
The Asteroid Smart also has an FM/AM radio and an audio player for your music needs. There’s no CD player, but chances are that you already have your music ripped to MP3 format anyway. It’s annoying that there’s no DAB radio integrated and Parrot says there’s currently no way to add one.
We initially copied a 40GB music library to a USB flash drive, but for reasons we couldn’t fathom, the Smart refused to ‘see’ any of it. A second try of a smaller 8GB collection on a 16GB stick worked fine.
Bear in mind that the default player supports only MP3 or WMA tracks. You can play uncompressed FLAC if you install VLC. Assuming you’re happy to listen to MP3, the stock player is pretty good. The track and album names are shown with a progress bar, and you can choose whether or not to display album art.
Swiping up and down changes the volume and left or right skips tracks. If you have steering wheel controls, you can use them if you invest in the separate Unika kit, which costs about £65.
The only snag there is that the volume controls adjust only the main volume. You have to dig into the options for adjusting navigation volume and others. Plus, we’ve heard from others that the factory voice recognition button doesn’t work – on our car we were able to use the Mode button to change the audio source, but couldn't set a button to launch voice recognition.
Another way to play music is from your smartphone. The Smart had no problem playing music from an iPhone 5C and will also charge your phone when it’s connected.
If you use Spotify or Deezer, you can use these services on the Smart, and there’s also TuneIn Radio.
It’s unlikely that you’ll use the Smart for watching videos, since like most apps, Gallery functions only when you’re stopped. Also, videos can be played only from an SD card – not USB unless you use the beta VLC app – and swapping SD cards is a tricky business since the slot is deeply recessed behind a removable panel on the left-hand side of the Smart. We resorted to a pair of tweezers to remove cards.
Plus, you’ll need to use the included 8GB SD card if you want the satnav app to work since the maps aren’t transferable to a bigger-capacity card; at least there’s roughly 5GB of free storage for any apps and videos you want to store.
Another problem with videos is that, while the Asteroid Smart supports head-rest screens via a single composite video output, you can’t play videos to entertain your kids while you’re driving. A big missed opportunity there, then.
Next page: phone and satnav