Monday, April 2, 2012

Sound System on the ActiveE

Sound system on the ActiveE

The sound system in the ActiveE is similar to any other model year 2011 BMW, but in the interest of providing a complete picture I wanted to do a quick post about what I've experienced with it.  The BMW ActiveE lease has an unusual feature in that it is unlimited mileage.  BMW actually wants us to put as many miles as possible on these cars to help test them.  The unlimited mileage coupled with the fact that the charges are completely free almost everywhere in the Bay Area (I have never charged at home) means that we've been putting a lot of miles on the car going up and down the San Francisco Peninsula and have gotten to know the sound system pretty well on those drives.  Due to the limited nature of this trial, there were no premium sound upgrades available.

There are three main ways I currently listen to music in the car:
  • Streaming Pandora Radio over bluetooth from my Android phone.  This works well, but I don't like having to fiddle with the phone to start a playlist or skip songs.
  • Using MP3s I've stored in the car's built-in hard drive.  MP3s can be transferred from a connected USB drive in the glove-box, or ripped on demand from CDs that are put into the CD player.  I don't know how much space is on this hard drive, but I've copied over more than 100 MP3s so far into multiple playlists.  The MP3 importing software in the car seems to work pretty well in that I can put MP3s in different folders on a USB drive and they will be accessible through a menu hierarchy representing the directory structure once imported, and the importer is not confused by other non-music files on the USB device.
  • The legacy formats such as SiriusXM Satellite Radio, CDs, radio, etc.
The options above work well, but I have a number of minor complaints / observations :
  • The display doesn't handle Unicode characters for my MP3 collection.  I put in a couple of MP3s with titles and filenames in Mandarin but they do not display properly on the screen, as you can see from the screenshot below.
  • Manually connecting a USB drive into the glove box to transfer MP3 files from my computer is cumbersome, and the car already has a data link anyway.  I'd love to be able to utilize the data link in the car to wirelessly send music from my home computer to the car, or at a minimum to transfer MP3s over Bluetooth.  Integration with Google Music or Amazon MP3 would be even better.
  • Playlist management.  I haven't yet successfully copied over playlist files from my music collection to the car, nor have I found out how to setup an on demand playlist, or set a selection of songs to repeat (I have a 3 year old that occasionally insists on such repetition).
  • In 2012, streaming internet music services such as Pandroa should be built-in, as they are far more useful than Satellite Radio.  The Toyota Entune software is supposed to offer Pandora in dash for the new Prius, so I would expect at least this much from the more expensive ActiveE.
Has anyone found out yet how large the hard drive is for MP3s?  Any other findings or comments about the sound capabilities of the ActiveE?

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