Elizabeth’s E39 540i – Dynavin head unit
Recently I started looking around for a new head unit as I wanted something a bit newer than what I’d had for the past year and while the lure of cheap Chinese, eBay head units was hard to resist common sense kicked in. With zero after-sales support you’re completely on your own, plus, once you factor in import duty, they rarely work out as cheap as they seem. I wanted something that looked OE but offered all the functions and benefits that you’d expect from a modern head unit and I wanted something that just, well, worked, delivering everything I wanted out-of-the-box. And with the Dynavin N6, that’s exactly what I’ve ended up with.
Dynavin is arguably the biggest company producing correctly-sized aftermarket head units for a wide range of BMWs (seven models in total, including the E39 and E46) and the N6 is the latest incarnation of the unit, released just last year. At £599.99, it’s not cheap but the spec list is both comprehensive and impressive. It’s also about as OE-looking as you could hope for. Aside from the disc slot and memory card slots, it looks like a factory head unit, which is exactly what I wanted. I still cannot get on with double-DIN or even single-DIN head units mounted in an E39 with a big ugly plastic surround – I’d rather pay more and get something that looks right.
When the Dynavin arrived I have to say I was impressed. The unit looked great and all the mounting parts, wiring looms and cables were neatly packaged in separate boxes, making them easy to find and work with. As I was replacing a similar sort of unit, I figured I’d have a go at installing the Dynavin myself. This may have been considered to be either brave, foolish or both because I don’t do car electronics. However, fitting the Dynavin turned out to be pretty easy, even for a complete amateur like myself.
Step one was assembling the cage which holds the unit in place which was a little fiddly, but I persevered and got it done. Once I’d removed all the old cables that were no longer necessary I needed to mount the Bluetooth mic, GPS receiver and USB cable in their respective locations of choice before feeding all the wires through to the back of the dash where they could be connected up to the head unit. The USB cable was nice and easy as it was thick and didn’t flop about. I dropped the glovebox and found a conveniently located hole that was just big enough to feed the wire through. Working from the radio aperture I was able to drop the end of the USB cable just into the hole and could then pull it through from the glovebox side. And, with the USB cable in place first, I was able to use it to help me to feed the other cables through the holes, using cable wires to tie them together before just pulling them through. I decided to mount the mic by the interior light near the rear view mirror and did so by popping off the light and sunroof control panel before positioning the mic where I wanted it and tucking the cable along the edge of the panel so, once clipped back in place, it would hold everything in. And it worked! I ran a small length of cable over the top of the headlining between the mirror and the windscreen, short enough to be barely noticeable, and then tucked the rest of it up into the gap between the windscreen and the headlining, before bringing the wire down by the A-pillar, tucking it between the panel sections, then feeding it up into the space behind the glovebox and pulling it through to the radio mounting area. The GPS receiver was much easier, as I tucked it into the corner of the dash, where it’s got a good view of the sky and doesn’t slide about. I used one of those sticky rubber pads to make sure it was secure and then tucked its wire along the edge of the dashboard before running it through to where I wanted it in the same way as the mic wire. With all that done it was time to connect everything up and I test booted the Dynavin to make sure everything worked before stuffing it into the dash. It was actually amazingly easy as I’d never, ever done anything like this before and it didn’t even take long.
But, to the ultimate question: is it any good? The answer is yes, very good indeed! I know I’ve already spoken about the aesthetics but in situ it looks excellent and as OE as it is possible to get. It feels really nice to use and is a well-made, sturdy unit. The touch-screen buttons are lovely and big, which means that selecting things when you’re driving along is easy. The touch-screen is very responsive and does exactly what you want it to do. Setting everything up is a breeze, too. It’s easy to understand and easy to select the function you want. Also, the presentation of everything is excellent. The 16:9 screen measures 7” with a 800×480 resolution. An auto-dimming function can be linked to the headlights or the built-in ambient light sensor, and all the various menu screens look smart, well-laid-out and well-presented. Aesthetically, I can’t fault the DynOS software: everything looks nice and modern and clean. The time is set automatically from the GPS receiver, so you don’t have to worry about that, while the homescreen is fully customisable in terms of icons, so you can have whatever is important right there, close at hand.
Bluetooth is brilliant – Dynavin did away with a built-in mic and replaced it an external mic which works really well. Everyone I’ve spoken to when using it has reported that the call quality is excellent. The first time you pair your phone with the unit it imports your contacts and that’s done with, they’re all there for you to access, with all the usual call menus you’d expect. The N6 also supports A2DP music streaming. The unit comes with iGo Primo sat nav pre-installed on the supplied memory card and it’s really good. It loads quickly, looks great, has loads of options and works brilliantly. The search function offers all the usual options like postcode search and I particularly like that when you perform a street search, rather than forcing you to choose numbers it lets you choose where on that street you want to go to by showing you a mini map and letting you scroll along and tap exactly where you want to go. Often when travelling to a show, a meet or even a company, numbers are no good if a location doesn’t have a number and even postcodes won’t get you exactly where you want to go, so this is perfect as you can just physically tell the sat nav exactly where you want it to take you. There are lots of voices to choose from, instructions are clear and easy to follow. Another feature that appeals to me is that when you tap the ‘distance remaining’ display an extended display will pop up that shows time remaining and additional information. Updating is easy, too. You simply create an account online, download the software to your computer, pop the memory card out and use the software to apply whatever updates you like.
Beyond that you’ve got iPod connectivity, a CD/DVD player, a 4GB hard drive for storing media files and loads more like the OBC function. This still works on my older pre-CAN Bus car, although the information I receive is limited. However, it still gives me exterior temperature and engine coolant temperature, which is nice. My reversing camera hooked up with no problems and works perfectly and the unit can also integrate with PDC and all my steering wheel controls work perfectly as well. The unit also works with DSP, offers a huge range of audio fine-tuning, including a five-band equaliser and speaker delay and loads more.
Overall I am extremely impressed and exceedingly happy with my Dynavin N6. It does everything I want, it does it well, and it looks good doing it. As far as praise goes it doesn’t really get much better than that because that’s exactly what you want from a head unit. If I want to upgrade my in-car audio, it’s got options for that and I can also add a DAB tuner if I wanted to. It’s an incredibly comprehensive solution that comes with everything you need and is easy to install and use. You really can’t ask for more than that. Okay, it might seem a little bit expensive, so how about 10% off? Simply use the code ‘PBMW10’ when ordering and, voilà you’ll receive 10% off your order. Be quick, though, as the code is only valid in June and July. You won’t be disappointed!
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