Honda Insight 1.3 ES-T Hybrid Review - Entertainment Review

Another reasonably successful aspect of the Insight’s infotainment platform is media playback. Courtesy of a USB socket in the central armrest, support for the Apple iPod / iPhone along with generic mass storage devices is provided, the latter taking in MP3 and WMA file formats. In both cases, the system works pretty well, detecting newly connected devices without a fuss and delivering fairly intuitive access to both overall libraries, and in the case of the iPod, playlists.

Incidentally, reports suggest the Insight also supports some though not all iPhone-based Internet radio services over USB, though this isn’t a feature we tested. For sure, Spotify in your Insight could be an intriguing solution.

Of course, what the Insight does lack is local storage of any kind. Exactly how much of a shortcoming that is will depend on your personal preferences. In the long run, however, local storage of music files is arguably part of a dying usage model. Being able to plug in a personal digital device or sync wirelessly to some kind of cloud-based media repository is where it’s at.

For the record, the Honda has also provided a fall back in the form of a 3.5mm aux-in socket should your portable media device prove incompatible with the USB port. As for the system’s optical drive, a few years ago it might have seemed disappointing to find that it only supports redbook audio CDs. But flash memory devices are now so cheap and convenient, the home-burned CD as storage device is almost history.

Given the absence of digital radio tuning or video playback of any kind, the final part of the entertainment package is a conventional analogue radio. Unfortunately, it’s easily the weakest part. The problem involves the radio’s inability to automatically scan the air waves and present the user with a list of currently available stations. Sure, you can execute a scan at your leisure, but it’s so much more seamless and user friendly if the system is constantly updating the station list according to what’s actually available.

It’s also does a very poor job of tuning into the strongest available signal for those stations that operate on multiple frequencies. Moreover, it’s just plain fiddly to use and reflects the fact that the infotainment system’s overall feel is overly complex and clunky where it should be clear and simple. Put another way, the Insight’s infotainment system is much more Sony SonicStage than it is Apple iTunes and all the worse for it.

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