2016 Honda Pilot: Rear Entertainment System Instead of Tablets
by Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor on January 27, 2016
Considering the widespread use of smartphones and tablet computers, buying a vehicle with a rear entertainment system (RES) probably isn't as big of a draw as it once was. But automakers still offer them and, in the case of our 2016 Honda Pilot Elite, you can often end up with one as standard equipment on top trim levels.
While I have a couple of old iPads for my two young children to use on road trips, I left them at home for my recent day trip in the Pilot and brought along Star Wars to test out our Pilot's entertainment system.
The system's main components include a 9-inch overhead pull-down screen, a remote control, an interface panel and two wireless headphones.
The remote control can be kept in the screen housing. You can use the remote to select various audio sources for the rear seating (the rear audio source can be different than the one for front passengers) or control disc playback.
Here's what you get with the lower panel behind the front seat console: an HDMI input, RCA-style input jacks, a 120-volt household plug port, two USB chargers (2.5 amp) and two wired headphone outputs.
The wireless headphones are small enough to comfortably fit small children. They have adjustable volume and auto power-off. Sound quality is mediocre, but the way I see it either (a) your kids won't care; or (b) you can bring along your own premium wired headphones if it's important enough to you.
As for disc playback, the Pilot Touring and Elite have Blu-ray functionality. If you get the rear entertainment system on the Pilot EX-L, it's just a regular DVD player and no Blu-ray.
Overall, the entertainment system worked well with the Star Wars discs I brought along. I was initially confused when I first loaded a disc; nothing happened on the rear screen. But once I figured out that I had to turn on the RES first by pushing the "Rear" button next to the disc player, it all went smoothly.
I played both a DVD and a Blu-ray disc of Star Wars just to see if I could notice a visual improvement with Blu-ray. Honestly, I didn't notice much, if anything. It likely has something to do with the size and resolution of the screen (Honda lists the screen as "VGA" resolution). But if nothing else, having Blu-ray capability expands your opportunities for playback.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect for me was the force-fed, communist-style nature of the experience. Instead of handing each kid an iPad and not really knowing what they were going to do with it back there, I just said, "You're watching Star Wars." There was something satisfying about that.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,234 miles