Fighting with Sync by Microsoft

Posted by Thoughts and Ramblings on Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Grandfather just bought a new pickup, which he enjoyed showing to the rest of the family. Since Ford spent months trying to fulfill his order, he was about to give up when the dealership found a vehicle similar to what he wanted, but included several features he did not want, and thus didn’t pay for. (With behavior like this, no wonder the auto companies are failing, but that’s another discussion). One such item was Sync, by Microsoft.

My first impression with a brand name like that was the thing was going to be a piece of junk. I do have to admit, when I first played with it, I was surprised at what it could do. First of all, it has a USB port, and I got the shock of a lifetime when I discovered you can connect an iPod to it, and it will read the library and play it’s media. Guess Microsoft finally admitted that they lost the portable music player war. In addition, it includes a hard drive so it can rip CDs and become it’s own MP3 player. Then, I started to test the system further.

First, the navigation system. It’s just like many of the other navigation systems out there, but it’s downright impossible to scroll the map. You have to tap on a location to center the map on that point; there’s no dragging your finger across it to move it around. I thought that I may just be spoiled by the iPod Touch, but then my dad told me that Garmin’s products do this, so it’s just that this device is behind the times. Changing the zoom level in the map is very laggy. Many times I thought that it may not have registered my push of the button (you have to press rather hard), only to see it update about the time I resigned myself to pressing it again.

Then came the voice recognition. I told it to go to “Best Buy”, and it started a search for Thai food. I then have to wait no less than 20 seconds while it conducts it’s search, meaning that I cannot cancel it or tell it that it guessed wrong and I didn’t want Thai food. This was the only error in the voice recognition where it’s guess had any similarity at all to what I said. How does beauty and cometic sound anything like “Gas station”? Considering that it got more than half of what I said wrong, this system is horrible at best. As if to add insult to injury, it will not let you type anything into it if the vehicle is moving at more than 3mph. This is understandable to prevent the driver from typing and driving, but did it ever occur to these people that the passenger could be using it? Also, when I finally got a list of Best Buys near me, it failed to find the closest store, which has existed far longer than the car.

Then came the music system. It recognized many of my grandfather’s CDs using the built-in database, but if you run across a CD it doesn’t know, you are SOL. It recognized the first disk in a 2 CD set, but not the second (how do you pull that one off?). So, with the second, you just type in the missing information right? Well, not if the car is moving faster than 3mph you can’t, not to mention the keyboard outright sucks, is missing a shift key (has caps lock only), and a bunch of other nuisances. Furthermore, changes to album wide information do not change the associated tags to tracks within the album. So, I decided the best solution is to rip on the computer, and then transfer over via a USB drive. Well, it read the USB disk just fine, but it will outright refuse to let you copy anything to the internal drive. Is this an effort to combat piracy? Seriously, if you provide such a lousy interface for input of data, a CD database that screwed up on the second CD I tried, you have to provide a way to use a superior system (computer) to input the data.

As a result of a few days casually playing with this system, I’ve concluded that it is a waste of money. It’s slow, inaccurate, nearly impossible to use well, and is a cause of more frustration than the relaxation it is supposed to provide. Microsoft, go back to the drawing board and start over, or get out of the game.

Legacy Comments:

MacGeek - Dec 28, 2008

You can thank our justice system for the 3mph limit as we live in the land of instant sueage (sewage?). All cars destined for America, and only America, have this limitation.