My Vento completed 75,000 km recently and as part of the celebration, I did some shopping!
On top of the shopping list was the RCD 340G head unit, along with other items like the leather steering wheel cover, fabric seat covers and custom 3D floor mats. This thread will focus on the RCD review
For almost everything that I purchase, usually am very intrigued by the history of it. I try to dig into the past of why and how the product has evolved, what has been the tradition etc - all with a view to appreciate its present state, and possibly be able to take a peek into the future!
And hence I dug out some for the RCD unit as well! For those of you who are also bitten by the history bug like me, read on, else you can skip this part and jump directly to the section on the latest model i.e. the 340G.
Within VW, the evolution of the humble in-car entertainment (ICE) system has witnessed a linear trajectory of technology upgrades over the past many years.
For the purpose of this historical piece on the headunit, I have closely followed the technology evolution with respect to Europe's best-selling VW Golf
hatchback. So, this means some units may not figure in this write-up.
Back in the 1970s, when the first generation Golf was launched, VW introduced the "Braunschweig
" radio. It only had one rotary knob on the left for power and volume, one on the right to select the station, and three buttons in between — one for medium wave and two for VHF.
That was all.
In the 80s, VW introduced the gamma radio (displayed the radio frequency digitized in an LCD screen), known as "Ingolstadt
" stereo CR, giving the driver and passengers more control over what came out through the speakers.
Also offered features like the Dolby button for noise reduction in cassettes, as well as code-protected radio.
In the early 90s, the stereo became a standard fitment. New features like automatic station search and traffic announcements were introduced on the "Alpha
" radio cassette player.
In the late 90s, the cassette started to be challenged by the compact disc in the Golf Mk4. While it still took cassettes, the gamma radio featured a CD-changer connection for the first time.
By early 2000s, the fifth-generation Golf only came with double DIN devices — the "RCD 300
" with CD drive is a good example. Cassettes became a thing of the past, as CDs got more popular than ever.
The Golf Mk5 didn't remain indifferent to the mobile phone's growing dominance. The design and technology of the radio navigation system looked to the future, offering the option to connect a digital MP3 player.
The RCD 300 was followed by the RCD 310 and the RCD 320, but that was introduced in other models/markets (like India).
Here's a sample pic of the RCD 320
(I had this in my Vento back in 2015):-
By the late 2000s, following the RCD 510, the new "RNS 510
" in the Golf Mk6 came with a touch screen and DVD drive for the navigation system — and not only that. It was a proper multimedia system, offering a USB port, digital audio reception (DAB), dynamic navigation and 30 GB hard disk.
One can appreciate the change in terminology here, earlier it was the RCD
(cassette disk) and from the MK6 model onwards, the head unit terminology adopted the RNS
Post completion of the first decade into the 21st century, VW took a major leap forward as far as infotainment systems were concerned. The "Discover
" Media System came with 3D map display, Bluetooth, and a WLAN hotspot, among other features.
The system also features voice control and proximity sensors, for a better interaction between man and machine.
The 2016 facelift on the Golf
took things further with the introduction of the latest generation of modular infotainment systems. For example, the glass-covered Discover Pro
comes with gesture control (a first in the compact class) and ditches analog buttons.
Now, after having looked back in the memory lane for the Golf
hatchback, it's time to look at the present day.
I am talking about the RCD340G
headunit installed in my Vento
Upon long-pressing the Power On button, I am greeted by this welcome message:-
message does NOT appear when you just switch ON/OFF the ignition. That's only a "soft" restart. One has to do a long-press on the Power button, to do a proper "hard" restart for the Welcome
message to appear.
The system information gives a clear indication of who the manufacturer is, along with the software versions:-
This unit (with the software version 5518) is manufactured by Toppower Automotive, a subsidiary of Visteon Corporation. However for all commercial purposes, funnily, this unit is branded or named as "Noname
" in common trade circles. The units are called "Noname" because the manufacturer name is removed (from what info I could gather, this removal is done deliberately) on most radio units when getting shipped out by the resellers.
How's that for some trivia!!
"Noname's" competition comes mostly from the other manufacturer called "Desay" (their units have the software version mostly starting with version 0317). More of the manufacturing trivia, in a bit though.
Coming back to the unit that I have, the 340G (some even add the phrase "Plus" after this) is the improvised generation model post the previous 330G.
Reason being, from a user point of view
- the 340G comprises Android Auto, Car Play and Mirror Link, whereas the 330G has only the Car Play and Mirror Link functionality.
Upon a soft restart i.e. by a mild pressing of the Power button, this CLASSY
clock face appears on the display:-
Reminds me of the clock on the Vento's elder sibling Passat!
The system settings under SETUP are pretty standard. For Skoda cars, the "VW" apps is replaced by "Skoda" apps. This box needs to be checked else the data transmission from phone to VW applications will not take place.
Upon pressing the Volume/Power button one more time, the "Radio" feature turns on automatically or by default. I understand that this feature is in-built/common to almost all the RCDs out there, irrespective of the manufacturer.
The display of the unit is actually tempered glass and is a big fingerprint magnet:-
The screen brightness is decent during the day times and is sharp in the evenings/night, the brightness can be adjusted to suit oneself. There is an option to switch off the screen and put the clock face:-
However the GUI of the "Radio" is simply and slickly designed, no fancy disco lights jumping around with the music (my previous HU Caska had it, and was a distraction of sorts when driving):-
There are a total of 10 stations to choose or configure. As of now, the Radio Data System (RDS) comms protocol is not enabled or active in the unit, hence the logo/name etc for the radio station doesn't appear. Only the frequency numbers like 91.0 Mhz, 94.3 Mhz etc. appear on the display.
Will try to figure out maybe later, using the right pin commands.
To move to the next station, you can either just press the "next" arrow shown on top right/left or just turn the knob on the bottom right. This knob serves two purposes - one for choosing the pre-selected station, or other purpose for scanning the frequency across the available range.
During auto scan, the word "SCAN" appears on top right in red letter font, to make the user aware of it.
Nifty, I would think:-
Obviously, you can also manually scan the stations by selecting the "Tune" feature at the bottom and then turning the knob accordingly.
Now, once the radio starts, it will operate at the last adjusted volume level, as long as the maximum pre-defined turn on volume is not surpassed!
The volume settings:-
The maximum start-up volume can be set for different values. Naturally, the lesser the better.
Another nifty feature is the "speed-dependent volume increase". As the name says, the volume of the head unit increases exponentially in proportion to the ambient noise in the cabin. For this to be fully effective, the sensitivity or the slide bar needs to be maxed to the right most position, as shown below. If a low value is set, then the volume increase is exponential. If a high value is set, then the volume increase associated with speed, is quite sharp or sensitive. At zero value, the volume increase as a function of the car speed increase is nil or null.
And believe me, this speed dependent volume feature works like a charm!
The volume options are found within the sound settings:-
There are NO pre-set combinations (like Rock, Pop, Jazz etc.) otherwise found in most aftermarket head units.
The equalizer is pretty mundane with just bass, mid and treble variations:-
Now, on a related note for sound options, here's something that is NOT at all user-friendly. There is NO "mute" or "unmute" option on the unit display when you are playing the Radio particularly:-
If I have to mute or unmute the radio, then I need to use the button on the steering wheel only. My previous Caska unit had a physical MUTE (or unmute) button, which we had got used to, and found it quite effective specially for the passenger's use.
Bluetooth pairing is very fast between the phone and the unit. Upon successful pairing and pressing the PHONE button, the entire phone is at one's disposal for use, be it calls, contacts, text or playing music:-
The voice quality for calls during Bluetooth connectivity is quite good.
Upon pressing the APP button, the r-e-a-l
utility of the 340G is unleashed:-
As mentioned earlier, all the 3 options - AndroidAuto
(on the unit, the letter "a" is displayed/written in small case correctly but on the phone display it is in Caps which is incorrect), Apple CarPlay
(for Android phones) can be selected.
An important pre-requisite is that AndroidAuto MUST be installed on the phone BEFORE it is connected to the unit.
The message prompts you to connect the device using the USB. Now, there is an interesting trivia in this aspect also.
In the recent past, Google used to provide wireless
connectivity for AndroidAuto to only a select set of countries - namely the USA, Canada and Mexico. However, this list has now been expanded to cover 15 more countries in Central and South America.
Yes, you read it right, there's still no India in this list unfortunately!
In my view, there can be two possible reasons for this - the US market probably has Wi-Fi enabled head units in a majority of the cars (for the strong wireless connection required) and secondly, Google is just dragging its feet to not release the wireless tech for other markets!
However, coming back to the wired
part, there are certain advantages to it - the phone charging is taken care of as long as it is plugged into the head unit (See below picture
) and the acoustic loss (when playing music via phone) is at a minimum since a physical cable is used for data transmission.
Upon tapping AndroidAuto, the home page catalog comes up:-
The primary application is Google Maps (it gets the first position in the catalog), followed by host of other apps like Amazon Music (which is present on my phone), phone, Google Play Music, podcasts and settings.
At the bottom of the screen, you can see the Google Assistant mic, notification center, latest app (Amazon Music in this case) control and a circular, white HOME button.
Now, as we know, there are 4 key tenets of AndroidAuto's existence:-
As for me, I am usually inclined to keep things uncluttered so I will not want to add host of apps on the home page.
Will stick to GMaps for "Navigate", my phone for "Communicate", Amazon Music for "Entertain" and ofcourse the Google Assistant for the 4th category.
Am kind of not-so-keen using other apps like WhatsApp on AndroidAuto, because that's just too much distraction while driving, in my view. Surely, one can use voice controls etc. for that, but not for folks like me.
However, if one were to explore some more apps, AndroidAuto provides options to choose other "essentials" as well, which one can do from the phone:-
If you are still keen to explore the entire universe, then you can visit this mediaplace