When I went to purchase a new truck last August, I had a specific check list of the features I wanted. The truck had to have 4 wheel drive, a capable and fuel effecient engine, a touch screen head unit along with a display screen in-between the gauges, four doors, and white in color. I am not exactly sure why I always buy vehicles that are white in color, but I can’t resist them.
So what did I end up with? A 2013 Ram 1500 4×4 Crew Cab. It came with the 3.6L V6, paired with the eight speed transmission. In terms of technology, it came with the UConnect 5.0 touch screen. This includes bluetooth calling and audio streaming, XM/Sirius satellite radio for 1 year, auxiliary audio and USB input, basic FM/AM radio, a compass, and multiple settings from activating hill assist to controlling the audible tone for the door locks. While I love my truck, I felt like the head unit was not cutting it. Another key issue was the constant freezing, restarting, or just general disappearance of the head units audio and visual display, even after multiple software updates.
I wanted navigation and a bigger screen. I still can’t believe they will give you a 7 inch display in between the gauges and only a 5 inch radio screen! So my search began for an affordable solution to get a unit that would retain the Original Equipment Manufactures look, while adding navigation and a larger screen.
I had first considered just upgrading to the UConnect 8.4AN. This seemed simple enough and would allow me to keep the OEM look, while adding navigation. However after browsing through a few www.Ramforumz.com threads on the subject, I was not satisfied with this route. Little did I know, when I first contemplated this endeavor, my truck lacked the stock steering wheel audio controls. This meant in order to just plug and play the UConnect 8.4AN, I would have to take my steering wheel apart, and if I did not, I would lose any physical button for audio and tuning control. I considered this as an option, however, buying a used unit on Ebay would not provide a warrantied product! So I decided to leave this behind and continued to search the internet for an aftermarket unit. To my dismay, while I was able to find many suitable units, I was not pleased with the common $1,000 price tag, or the modifications that would have to be made to my truck’s dash to fit them. This avenue quickly became a lost cause as well.
At this point I started to give up and just look for a window mounted GPS. That’s when I found it! I was the ram forum when I noticed a user posting about and aftermarket radio that had an OEM fit, which was sold by radioupgrade.com. He seemed unsure about the head unit, but believed it to be a promising and affordable option and was inquiring for any other users to give their experiences with this unit. I continued to research, through a few other forums and I learned a bit more about this unit. At this point I was very interested in purchasing the S100 radio. I started to look into the Radio Upgrade website in more detail and I noticed the company was based out of Texas. This got the hamster wheel spinning and I opened a line of communication with the owner about possibly having a radio sent to do a review on the product. Around 1 week later I had this radio in my possession and my review was to begin.
UNBOX and INSTALL: Video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1E50-TXxo0
When the package arrived it came in a basic brown box with all the customs and other shipping papers. Opening this box revealed another box, however this time it was the real deal. It was the “S100 Digital (800*480) TFT LCD Monitor.” The rest of the box explained more about the radio’s many features. Inside the box there was the 7 inch head unit, and a brown box containg all the wiring necessary to install the head unit.
In terms of install go ahead and watch this video from radio upgrade ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOzkhrWC_VE ). All I have to add to this is make sure you plug in the harness for the red and white component speakers (left and right), so that the factory AUX port still works. Also I would run the iPod cable either into the coin drawer or the upper glove box to keep the install looking clean and neat.
Review: Video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWDw1LlQ3SA&list=UUgW9qSemak1eIPT5-spHufg
When I booted the unit up the first thing I noticed was the red ram logo with “DODGE” under it. It took about 7-10 seconds to come alive and I was then presented with a circular menu screen. The options are Media, Tool, Bluetooth, Navigation, Browser, Radio, and POP. The top left has a setting button and the top right a back button. The device itself has two physical dials, the one on the left controlling volume and the dial on the right is used to tuner, next, and previous. There is also a physical home, navigation, and eject button.
TV Tuner: Has the ability to view live television if proper adapter is connected.
Audio: Your CD drive player. Fairly basic, yet works well and keeps it simple.
Ipod: When the apple device is connected, with old 20 pin connecter, it will go into accessory mode for music. The software allows the device go back one menu, however no further than this. It is recommended therefore to just go to “songs” or a specific playlist so that the unit can be used to control the device.
DVD: Works well with great picture quality.
Video: Works well with great picture quality.
VCDC: Have yet to test, this should allow for saving multiple CD’s to the Units 4GB hard disk. This allows the unit to save space by not building in a physical disc changer.
AUX1: This is for the factory AUX input in the center console.
Record: Allows you to record video from any camera input on the vehicle. I have an aftermarket camera that was originally on my UConnect. This input can be recorded and is plug and play.
Photos: Will show all photos on SD card or saved onto the units hard drive.
This section contains a DVR (need an accessory camera), folder menu containing all files on the device, calculator, a calendar, GPS signal monitor, games (tablet quality), manual, world clock, and system info.
The Bluetooth function allows for both making calls and streaming audio. The audio streaming is almost flawless and will stay well connected to the device, even after the unit has been restarted. The unit comes with both built in microphones and an external microphone for the Bluetooth calling aspect. I have used the built in mic and so far it has done better than my stock microphones, which were installed on the rear view mirror. I will later be adding the external microphone and will give an update on the audio quality.
When I first hit the navigation button, a screen appeared showing an “IGO” system. This was not a system I was at all familiar with, which instantly made me worried. However after playing around with the navigation software, over the last few days, I am pleasantly surprised with it. The IGO system has turned out to be a breeze to use. When searching for addresses, cities, states, or even points of interest, this unit surprises. Most instances it only takes the first few letters for it to seemingly read one’s mind and display the intended location. The navigation itself is straight forward and the voice directions sound closer to a human than many other units I have used. It has plenty of settings to change the graphics, route avoidance, and even the vehicle it displays. I choose a Semi-truck, because why not! The system will also turn the music down before giving any voice guidance.
This unit does in fact have an internet browser, which is a form of the Opera software. With the included Wifi adapter, it is feasible to use the browser and surf the web, however I have not attempted to do so and am unable to get the vehicle close enough to my homes wireless router to make this function work. Not necessarily the most needed option, but it could come in handy at some point and I imagine a phone could be used as a mobile hotspot for this, or you can sit in the drive through lane at your local Starbucks (please don’t actually do that).
The radio tuner function on the unit works well and is rather basic. It will allow for FM/AM and will have to scan you region to pick up on the local frequencies. This can be done by clicking the “AST” button and only takes a minute or two. I have not noticed any difference in audio quality between this or the stock unit.
The POP allows a user to display up to three screens simultaneously. What is the point in this? I have no idea. It may be to display on extra screens or it may just allow you to watch your favorite action flick while using your GPS at the same time on the same screen (not really advisable). The only use I see in this would be allowing the backup camera to stay on with the navigation if one was to be towing, however I have not been able to get this to work. This feature may have more usability in the future, but from my experience with it, it seems somewhat gimmicky.
I like this unit a lot, and I mean a lot. When I first got it, I though I would be disappointed that I was to be installing an aftermarket unit. However this was not the case. I was not settling with this unit. It has all the features that a $1,000 unit would posses at almost half the cost. It retains almost all the factory functions, with the exception of the UConnect. It still keeps the truck looking factory and it works well, very well. I know I’m probably leaving a lot out here, but this radio just has so many great functions that I would have to write a novel to list them all. That being said, it never feels cluttered or confusing.It is always intuitive and a breeze to use.
If you have any questions about my review feel free to comment below or on any forum I post this blog in. If you would like to purchase this head unit click here. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you made it this far thank you for reading and I hope this has helped in some way.