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Thread: Review: Xtrons PB7646BAP Android 6.0 Head Unit - Pic Heavy

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    Review: Xtrons PB7646BAP Android 6.0 Head Unit - Pic Heavy

    Review of the Xtrons PB7646BAP Android 6.0 Head Unit
    by az3579 for ZHP Mafia
    Revision 1.0, 2017-11-29

    Overview / Disclaimers


    The Xtrons PB7646BAP Android 6.0 stereo is one of many similar Android head units available for the BMW E46 3 series platform, offering an OE-fitment head unit that can fit into the space designated for factory-installed navigation units without the use of aftermarket radio adapter plates. The PB7646BAP is also a viable retrofit option for those who lack factory navigation but want an upgraded stereo while retaining an OE look.

    I purchased my unit from Amazon for $359.99, the order being fulfilled by the manufacturer of the product, Xtrons. This product was available with Prime shipping, so it arrived two days after placing the order.

    A direct link to the product purchased can be found at the following link. Prices have dropped since purchase, and it is currently available for $309.99.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1



    Product Details

    The specifications for this unit, as pulled from their marketing, are as follows:
    · Octa-core processor
    · 2 GB RAM
    · 1024x600 resolution display
    · 32GB onboard storage
    · Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system

    More detailed specifications about the audio-related aspects of the unit can be found here:
    http://xtrons.com/pb7646bp-7-hd-digi...-75-mg-zt.html



    Ease of Installation

    The head unit comes with everything needed for installation and then some. There are various adapter cables included to assist with adding the features you need to the unit, so you can choose which cables you wish to use or omit.

    20171129-001 bybotond.pal, on Flickr

    20171129-002 bybotond.pal, on Flickr



    All of the included cables are plug and play, and are keyed or pinned accordingly so that you can’t make a mistake with plugged in a cable in the incorrect port.

    20171129-003 bybotond.pal, on Flickr



    In the event that you are unsure, you can reference the label on the top of the unit to reference where things should plug in. The label also shows various pinouts for any custom work you plan on doing.

    20171129-004 bybotond.pal, on Flickr



    Thankfully, there isn’t much to say about installation. Since everything is plug and play, all connectors fit together properly and are designed to work with the E46. Steering wheel controls work out-of-the-box when using the supplied CANBUS decoder harness.

    Since my car did not have factory navigation, I can’t comment on what additional harnesses may be needed for vehicles with factory nav, so that will not be covered in this review. If you have/had factory navigation, you should check with the manufacturer to see if any additional harnesses are needed, as factory nav equipped vehicles use a different harness setup than ones with the Business radio.




    Build Quality

    The face of the PB7646BAP is made of a textured plastic which extends to the buttons as well. This makes the buttons ever so slightly grippier than smooth buttons, making it less likely that your fingers will slip. It is not a rubberized coating, however, so this extra grip is negligible.

    Over the past couple of months, I have experienced severe glare from the screen when driving in the opposite direction of the sun. This becomes a nuisance when driving in the late afternoon as the sun is setting when it shines through your rear window. To cure this, an anti-glare screen protector may be of value, but I do not currently have one. This post will be updated when an anti-glare screen protector is installed. The display itself is nice and bright and always visible when using the appropriate brightness setting, but brightness does not adjust automatically as there is no ambient light sensor, so I found myself fiddling with the brightness every time the ambient light changed from light to dark and vice versa. It's a small annoyance, but it is definitely a point for improvement.

    Unfortunately, this head unit suffers from mushy feeling buttons. When pressed, they do not give a tactile button-press type of feedback, instead feeling like the mushy keys of a membrane computer keyboard. That means that a button press require more pressure to ensure it was properly pressed. This has not interfered with the usage of the device, however, and I did not experience issues with having to press buttons twice for the presses to register. An area of improvement would be to make the buttons have more of a click feeling when pressed to give the user positive feedback of successful activation. For those functions that aren’t controlled by buttons, there are on-screen controls to aid in these functions, such as an on-screen button for display brightness (or turning the screen off), as well as soft-buttons for those functions that do have physical buttons as well. Functions that can be controlled by buttons are:
    · Navigation
    · Radio Band (also opens the Radio app)
    · Menu (takes you to home screen)
    · Mode (cycles between music playing modes)
    · Mute/Power – single press for mute/unmute, long press for power on/off
    · Eject CD/DVD
    · Skip Forward
    · Skip Back
    · Play/Pause

    For those concerned about how the unit looks compared with the rest of the interior, I can put your mind at ease. The buttons are illuminated the same color as the interior lighting, though the brightness of the key illumination does not change with the LCM's adjustment dial. The lines on the head unit follow the dash for that aesthetic match. Since the cables are all squeezed behind the head unit, it does push the whole thing out a tiny bit, but it’s not really noticeable if you’re not looking for it.

    20171129-015a by botond.pal, on Flickr

    20171129-015b by botond.pal, on Flickr



    Performance and Usability

    The performance of the unit is what makes this device stand out. There are many aftermarket head units in this form factor available for the E46, but most of them are essentially the same unit but with tweaked software. Configurations available from various manufacturers of the E46-style head units are:
    · 800x480 or 1024x600 resolution, 2- and 4-core CPU, 1 GB RAM, 8- or 16 GB ROM
    · 1024x600 resolution, 8-core CPU, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB ROM

    The PB7646PAB is the latter of the two spec packages, and its performances shows. A cold boot after reconnecting the vehicle’s battery takes about 30 seconds, but this boot time is not one you experience often. This is because the device is configured to go into power save mode instead of shutting down when you turn off the ignition. As a result, it turns on instantly, and is immediately usable after turning on the ignition. The only times I’ve experienced a cold boot was when something major has changed with the electrical system, usually being a battery disconnect. I did not have issues with battery drain when I left my car parked at the airport for 5 days earlier this month.

    The operating system is Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It is an older operating system by today’s standards, but it is still compatible with the vast majority of applications in the Google Play store, and performs admirably with the provided hardware. There is a possibility that a 7.1 Nougat ROM may be released in the future, but this is not definite and is at the discretion of the manufacturer.

    Android 6.0 in this case has been fitted with a custom launcher, pictured below. Xtrons focused on providing large, easy-to-read icons that can also be easily tapped while driving. Disliking the amount of space taken up by the buttons, I replaced the launcher on my unit with a couple of different launchers available in the Play store in order to experience different customization capabilities and to test for stability. So far, I have not had any stability issues with these alternative launchers and found a couple of welcome customizations available in Android 6.0 that I did not have with my older Android 4.4 unit previously installed. These are changes made by switching to a newer operating system and not necessarily features of this particular unit, so you would experience this with other brands as well.



    The stock Xtrons Android 6.0 launcher

    20171129-007a by botond.pal, on Flickr

    Custom launcher, “Nougat Launcher”
    20171129-007b by botond.pal, on Flickr

    Custom launcher, “Nova Launcher Premium”
    20171129-007c by botond.pal, on Flickr



    Thanks to the plug-and-play nature of this unit and its associated wiring, the feature for reverse camera engagement is seamless. The camera view comes on immediately upon putting the car into reverse, regardless of whether the unit has fully booted. Since I do not have a reverse camera at this time, I can’t comment on the connections for the camera or for its functionality. There are available plugs for it in the included wiring harness, so once you obtain a camera, it’s a simple matter of physically mounting the camera, running the wiring harness, and plugging it into the supplied harness.

    Navigating from menu to menu is seamless. Animations are fluid and do not exhibit tearing between animation transitions. The specs are beefy enough to prevent the unit from slowing down much with numerous apps open. At any given time, I can have Google Maps, Bluetooth streaming, wireless (tethered hotspot from my phone), and various apps open, and not have to worry about slowness while switching between them. With my previous head unit (dual core, 1 GB RAM), just having Bluetooth streaming, WiFi enabled, and Google Maps open would cause the unit to introduce choppiness into the streaming music. 2 GB of RAM seems to be a sweet spot for alleviating these issues, so I am happy with the unit’s performance as equipped.

    As you would expect from a stereo head unit, you have AM/FM Radio capability, giving you the option of listening to local radio stations. Unfortunately, the radio wasn’t usable out-of-the-box. The reason for this is that the antenna adapter cable supplied with the unit stuck out of the unit too far, preventing me from easily re-inserting the head unit into its spot in the dash. Because of this, I had to forego the AM/FM radio capability for a few days without an antenna cable installed and ordered a 90-degree antenna cable extension from Amazon (link below). Once installed, the radio inserted into the dash properly and AM/FM functionality was restored. As an added benefit, my radio reception was a bit better than with my previous Android 4.4 head unit.

    6-inch antenna extension cable on Amazon:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Personally, I like the Radio interface. It has nice, dark colors for easy reading at night, with a nice color scheme matching Android 6.0 Marshmallow. You can skip to certain areas of the frequency band by just tapping on its general location in the “timeline”, then using the right-side rotary knob to fine-tune the station. You can also just use the knob flat-out to select your station, or press an on-screen button to auto-search for a station with a strong signal. What appears to be 6 programmable presets is actually 18; you can swipe left-to-right on the presets section to cycle between all the various presets. When a radio station is selected, the station name and/or song name/artist display in a scrolling fashion on screen. Station changes are immediate with no lag in audio between the changing stations.

    20171129-008 bybotond.pal, on Flickr



    This Xtrons head unit comes with Bluetooth 4.0 technology, allowing for music streaming if you wish to keep your music solution wireless. If already paired, the unit pairs with your phone automatically on ignition, and seems to pair on its own at least 90-95% of the time in my experience. It was rare that I had to manually go in and connect to my phone, which is more than could be said of my old Eonon unit. With the Eonon, I would find myself constantly going back in and manually connecting to my phone as it wouldn’t automatically pair a large percentage of the time. I can safely say this is not an issue with the Xtrons unit.

    Call quality through Bluetooth is sufficient and found myself able to understand the other party on the phone when making a call through the unit. I typically have a hard time hearing people on phone calls in general no matter the phone type, so this is par for the course. With the case of this head unit, it wasn’t any different than a regular phone conversation, which is a good thing. When I asked others about the call quality through the built-in mic, they said they can hear and understand me just fine, which is impressive for a built-in mic with the cabin noise while at speed on the highway. If you are worried about call quality and wish to use an external microphone, there is a dedicated aux connection in the back of the unit via the supplied cable that you can use for your external mic. Contacts sync up when the phone is paired via Bluetooth, so you can dial directly from the contacts list, or you can enter a phone number manually via the large numberpad.

    20171129-009a by botond.pal, on Flickr



    Playing music through Bluetooth yields a decent sound quality as long as the equalizer is properly set on whatever app you’re using on your phone. Being Bluetooth, the quality isn’t as good as USB or an aux cable (depending on the quality of the source file), but 320Kbps MP3’s sound perfectly fine through Bluetooth. When music is playing, the Bluetooth A2DP streaming app will show the artist and song name, giving you the basic options of Skip Back, Play/Pause, and Skip Forward. Music selection has to occur on the phone or music player itself.

    20171129-009b by botond.pal, on Flickr



    Speaking of music playback, there are ample options for this in addition to Bluetooth streaming. There is a total of three USB ports on the head unit; two of the ports are accessible via a dual-USB port dongle that plugs into the back. The final USB port is accessible through the front via a Mini-USB port that you can use with the supplied Mini-USB to USB Type-A dongle. There is also a Micro-SD card slot on the front, so you can also load music, pictures, and video on that medium. I do not play videos or view photos on my unit, but I do use these methods for music. I am happy to report that the built-in music app, as well as third-party apps downloaded from the Play store, detect these storage mediums and import the music without issue. If you wanted to use these devices for pictures and video, you can do that as well and access them through either the supplied applications or any third-party app from the Play store. There’s also a built-in tuner app where you can fine-tune the sound to your liking.

    Main playback screen
    20171129-010a by botond.pal, on Flickr

    Swipe to the right for album/playlist selection
    20171129-010b by botond.pal, on Flickr

    Swipe to the left for song selection within that album/playlist
    20171129-010c by botond.pal, on Flickr

    Built-in tuner
    20171129-011 bybotond.pal, on Flickr



    Note: There is iPod capability according to Xtrons, but I am unable to test as I no longer have an iPod. I did not see an included iPod cable to plug into the back of the unit, so I’m assuming it works through standard USB and a cable. If I am able to find someone with an iPod, I may end up testing this in the future, but this is not a definite. I’ll try to test this with an iPhone as well.

    Xtrons advertises the unit as being capable of screen mirroring. Unfortunately, I was unable to get this work, and had trouble figuring out where to even try to set it up. There was no option in the Settings menu like there was in on my old Eonon unit, and the only app that I saw that seemed to resemble some kind of mirror application was EasyConnect. I was never able to make it past Step 3, which is Install MOB connection service. For reference, my phone is a Google Pixel running Android 8.0.

    20171129-012 bybotond.pal, on Flickr



    Google Maps works flawlessly on this unit. The 1024x600 resolution suits the application well, with route instructions and maps fitting properly on the screen. Every menu is sufficiently visible. This can be an issue on units that have the lower 800x480 resolution, like my old Eonon unit. There are no display issues here. There isn’t much to report on Google Maps because everything works as it should, including the voice search via the built-in mic. Google Maps should be updated through the Play Store in order to ensure the latest features, and it is recommended that you tether your head unit to a mobile hotspot or plug in a 3/4G hotspot dongle into one of its USB ports to get the full functionality of Google Maps. If you do not wish to use mobile data with the head unit, you also have the option of downloading an offline navigation solution with its own dedicated maps.

    Google Maps in daytime mode
    20171129-013a by botond.pal, on Flickr

    Google Maps in nighttime mode – switches automatically based on time
    20171129-013b by botond.pal, on Flickr



    Other potentially useful built-in applications include:
    · DVR – this could be for the dash cam functionality the unit offers
    · Torque Lite - useful for viewing real-time OBD2 data for your car when paired with a compatible Bluetooth adapter
    · DAB+ - I believe this a Europe-only feature, for use for radio
    · GPS info – shows you connected GPS satellites and strength
    · TPMS – I do not believe this will work with E46’s, but I am unable to test
    · AVIN – I believe this is for audio/video connections, but once again, unable to test
    · Apkinstaller – Allows you to sideload apps via an APK file instead of using the Google Play store

    Finally, to make things easier on myself, I attempted to get Google Assistant installed on the unit. Unfortunately, the application doesn’t appear to work on this version of Android, or perhaps this particular type of hardware.

    20171129-014 bybotond.pal, on Flickr



    My workaround for this problem was to use the built-in Voice Search, which actually seems to work fine for the commands I give it. All I use it for is to play a certain album. For example, I’ll tell it “Play album Supermodel” and it will play the album named “Supermodel”. “OK Google” works as well, no matter what screen you’re on. This is a very handy feature for when you’re on the road and don’t wish to fiddle around with touching the screen to get some music going. For this feature to work, the music must be stored on the device or on an attached USB/SD device.



    Final Thoughts

    After all is said and done, I can safely say that I feel good about this purchase. After some of the downfalls of my previous Eonon head unit, I was hesitant to buy another device, but in the end, I’m glad I did. When shopping, I made sure to buy one with ample specs so I didn’t have any of the performance issues of my old unit. I am very happy with this unit for what I paid, and now it’s even cheaper, perfect for those who were waiting for a review before buying one. The only two things I wish they'd have done differently include the button feel when pushed and a matte screen so glare isn't such an issue.

    Surely there are some things I could be missing from my review, so I will add them in the future as I remember them. Keep an eye out on the change log below for anything that I add.



    Change log

    v1.1 - 2017-11-30
    - Added information about device brightness and lack of ambient light sensor in Build Quality section.
    - Added information about key backlighting not adjusting with dial on LCM

    v1.0 – 2017-11-29
    Initial release
    Last edited by az3579; 11-30-2017 at 05:32 AM.
    BP
    2005 330i ZHP / 6MT
    Connecticut Valley Chapter
    Patroon Chapter
    Imolarot / Naturbraun

    It's not the car you drive, it's how you drive it.

  2. #2
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    Thank you! Fantastic review.

    A couple of questions:
    • Does it have any sort of ambient light sensor or day/night mode?
    • How quiet is the lowest volume setting, natively? Can that be adjusted?
    • Do the steering wheel controls work for Bluetooth audio e.g. if you open up and start playing Spotify on your phone and connect via Bluetooth, will the next/previous track buttons work on the steering wheel?

    I'm sure I will have other questions, but that will get me started.

    Really appreciate the review!

  3. #3
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    Such a great review! Thank you.
    2006 6MT Coupe, Alpine White • Premium, Cold Weather and Xenon packages
    MFactory 3.38 LSD • 27mm M3 bar • ECS strut brace • PedalBox • Koni FSD's


    Other tweaks: see my profile




  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by BMWCurves View Post
    Does it have any sort of ambient light sensor or day/night mode?
    There is no ambient light sensor. I haven't seen any similar units that do. The screen dims ever so slightly when the lights are turned on, but it's such a small brightness difference that it's hard to notice. I do find myself pressing the on-screen brightness button to adjust every time ambient light goes from dark to light and vice versa. Also, the button backlighting does not change brightness when using the adjustment wheel on the LCM, which isn't a problem for me since I run full brightness on my interior lighting, but may bug those who do not. Added this information to the review.

    How quiet is the lowest volume setting, natively? Can that be adjusted?
    The lowest volume setting is pretty quiet. When just sitting in the car with no vehicle movement, it's still very lightly audible, but when driving, you can't hear what's on the radio. I found that when listening to music while on the highway, settings 12-14 are perfectly audible and comfortable, which isn't even halfway through the volume range. All volume settings can be adjusted using the volume control knob or the steering wheel buttons.

    Do the steering wheel controls work for Bluetooth audio e.g. if you open up and start playing Spotify on your phone and connect via Bluetooth, will the next/previous track buttons work on the steering wheel?
    Yes, steering wheel controls work with the typical audio controls associated with the radio. Volume up/down and skip ahead/back buttons work perfectly regardless of the app you're using. Unfortunately, the steering wheel remapping app that comes with the unit doesn't do anything, so don't expect to be remapping any buttons.

    Really appreciate the review!
    Sorry it took so long - hopefully the thoroughness of the review explains why I've been so lazy to start writing it up. lol
    BP
    2005 330i ZHP / 6MT
    Connecticut Valley Chapter
    Patroon Chapter
    Imolarot / Naturbraun

    It's not the car you drive, it's how you drive it.

  5. #5
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    Amazing review, thanks!

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
    Randeaux/Rando/John/jr - '06 Cic ZHP; Southern California
    "ZHP or not, I still like you"


    ZHP Performance Package, Cold Weather Package, Leather, Jet Black/Black/BlackCube, NAV
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by az3579 View Post
    Since the cables are all squeezed behind the head unit, it does push the whole thing out a tiny bit, but it’s not really noticeable if you’re not looking for it.
    Do you think a different 90º adapter for the antenna might improve this? I remember seeing a post somewhere where it was said that the retail adapters don't provide enough clearance.
    2006 6MT Coupe, Alpine White • Premium, Cold Weather and Xenon packages
    MFactory 3.38 LSD • 27mm M3 bar • ECS strut brace • PedalBox • Koni FSD's


    Other tweaks: see my profile




  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dual View Post
    Do you think a different 90º adapter for the antenna might improve this? I remember seeing a post somewhere where it was said that the retail adapters don't provide enough clearance.
    I don't think so, but I don't really want to buy any more cables to try to get that last 1mm. It's not bad at all, and I can live with it.
    I'll take some pics so you can decide for yourself whether you can deal with it.
    BP
    2005 330i ZHP / 6MT
    Connecticut Valley Chapter
    Patroon Chapter
    Imolarot / Naturbraun

    It's not the car you drive, it's how you drive it.

  8. #8
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    No need for that, I don't think. I was just curious. I can live with a bit of a bump if I go with one of these.

    (I think the post I am recalling involved hitting the barrel of a straight Motorola connector with a flat-blade screwdriver to create a bending point.)

  9. #9
    nice write up!
    2003 ZHP 332i | S54 6 speed

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dual View Post
    No need for that, I don't think. I was just curious. I can live with a bit of a bump if I go with one of these.

    (I think the post I am recalling involved hitting the barrel of a straight Motorola connector with a flat-blade screwdriver to create a bending point.)
    I think that was @ZHPizza but I could be wrong.

    Really fantastic writeup, Botond. I’m curious to see how your iPhone testing goes whenever you try it out. Question: I know you said the brightness doesn’t change with the rheostat, but do the buttons’ brightness change when you change the screen brightness? I like keeping things fairly dim in the cabin at night, especially on the highway.
    Emma - 2005 BMW 330ci ZHP 6MT Estorilblau Individual

    Installed: Sportline 8s 18x8.5F - 18x9.5R | aFe Dry S Intake | 135i Brembo Front Calipers | M3 Front Sway Bar | 325xi Rear Sway Bar | M3 Dead Pedal | M3 Front Seats | Z4 Mirror | Lexus ES300 Yellow Fog Light Retrofit | Koni Yellows | Llumar CTX 40% | Coby Tri-Stitch Wheel & Boots

    Awaiting Install: M3 Wing Mirrors | MagnaFlow 16533 Cat-Back | 135i Rear Brembo Calipers

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