If your Ford had a Matthew McConaughey, it would be a Lincoln

Eonon GA5166: Car Android GPS, the Oppo Review

My 2002 BMW 520d Estate (wagon) was suffering from the typical E39 pixel burn-out issues on the "BMW Business CD" head unit. This lead to a nearly unusable stereo which would also switch mode (from CD changer to radio, for instance) while taking a turn with gusto or being bounced around on a cobblestone street.

The end goal was to replace the failing stereo and add the ability to do bluetooth/hands-free phone calls, stream Spotify or other music from the phone(s) to the car, and to have Nav. We looked at OEM BMW parts, which were not too cheap and finally I succumbed to the Eonon since it was cheap and had lots of gizmos.

Fair warning, Eonon wanted me to purchase and review this head unit so badly that they put it on sale. It was still $374 and shipped directly from Hong Kong to my apartment in Belgium. Forget the $100 in customs duty I had to pay later.

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The Eonon GA5166 is an android-based "tablet" with a touchscreen that is built to be a plug-n-play replacement for any E39 radio except DSP. It is based on a dual-core Rock-Chip tablet shoehorned into a form factor for your car. For me it was an E39. Eonon has different model numbers of this same equipment which can easily fit non-standard OEM dash setups like your Ford Focus as well as a generic 2-DIN version.

This unit is different than other units, as it is a full Android install running Jelly Bean. Other head units run their own software and are fairly locked down. Depending upon your car it will tap into your Canbus and let you change settings and such. It also comes with a wiring harness for your car and includes a signal converter so your steering wheel controls will still work.

When the unit arrived it was packed in a shipping box and a generic looking OEM box that you'd expect to find behind the counter at your local flea market. This is indeed the pinnacle of cheap Chinese technology and Engrish. Once opened the contents were pretty straight-forwarder. I freaked out at first as the wiring harnesses were labelled as E46. It turns out the wiring plugs between the E39 and E46 are the same. The unit's model number did line up with the E39 unit which I ordered.

I then went to install the thing. Popping out the old BMW radio is easy. There are scores of videos on Youtube explaining the process. There are no instructions explaining the install of the Eonon. Per Eonon, it is 100% plug-n-play and should pop right in. This is not the truth.

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I wish I took photos of the install process. The bottom line is that it will fit; you need to remove the plastic bracket which is used to hold the Business CD (or Tape) in place. Once that is out you can then use the L-brackets supplied to mount the radio. I also screwed up the antenna install. The E39 has powered antennas that are signal seeking and built into the windows. There is an adapter supplied with the Eonon unit for this, but you need to run switched 12V to the blue wire on the antenna adapter. I didn't do this; there were no instructions telling me to do this, and running random 12V to various stereo components can cause the unexpected release of the magic blue smoke which makes them work; something I wished to avoid.. Because of this radio reception absolutely sucks since neither window antenna is switched on. That's OK, because local radio is all in another language, and we're listening to streamed music, anyway.

Fit and finish isn't perfect, but it's far better than having a generic 1 or 2 DIN unit in some kind of Crutchfield adapter. The bottom sticks out some and because I had to leave the L-bracket mounts loose to get the mounting screws to line up, it isn't the most solid of installs.

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Once installed with all the wires run you wind up with three different USB ports, an iPod/iPhone port, built-in bluetooth and WiFi, and two SD card slots for storing apps or music. The unit magically plays MKV, MP4 and MP3s without effort. The steering wheel controls work for fast-forward/rewind on MP3s or music Cds.

I typically hook up my phone as a WiFi hot spot and join the head unit to my phone, which then provides internet access for the Eonon. I can then surf the web using Chrome while I drive. No, I don't actually do that. But, I can install the applications for some of my favorite radio stations back in the US as well as Spotify and stream whatever I want directly on the head unit.

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I downloaded Navmii (ex FreeNav) software. I then paid for the ad-free version and added the database of Belgian Speed/Safety cameras. It works pretty well. My biggest issue is that the"Navi" buttons on the unit and home-screen seem to be hard-coded to launch Google Maps. This is OK if you have your unit connected to the interwebs but Navmii provides useful off-line maps.

Here are some action shots:

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Would I do it again? Eh, probably. It's more useful than what we had in there before and now that the wife and I are getting used to working the unit, even with its quirks, it's OK. Is it worth the $400 I paid? Wait for it to go on sale and see if you can get a better deal. It's still better than putting together OEM parts and half the cost of the $800 Avidyne units.

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