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Dispatches from Denali: The USB Chronicles, GMC Acadia Denali style

Sections: Car Audio, Infotainment, Navigation

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The IntelliLink Home screen in the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali

This is the home screen of the GMC Acadia Denali’s IntelliLink infotainment system. The capacitive touch “buttons” around the perimeter are surprisingly easy to learn and use. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

Those of you who read the “My Week with Eq” series will be familiar with the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox’s peculiarities when it comes to reading USB sticks. I’ve found that story is no different in our 2013 GMC Acadia Denali tester.

While essentially the same system under the skin, GMC’s IntelliLink infotainment suite differs in flavor just a little bit from Chevrolet’s MyLink. I find the IntelliLink assistant’s electronic voice more pleasing and natural than that of the MyLink Mistress, for starters. And as I mentioned in my first Dispatch from Denali, I like the positioning of the Acadia Denali’s IntelliLink touchscreen interface much better than the high-and-forward MyLink touchscreen in the Equinox. Finally, I like where the USB slot is placed, high on the dashboard in a central storage cubby, as it seemed less intrusive and prone to getting awkwardly jammed up against than in the Equinox, where it was placed in the middle of a large, laptop-sized hole under the center armrest.

The top-of-dash storage cubby in the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali hides a USB port

This is where they hid the USB port for the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali’s IntelliLink infotainment system. It seems to be a much better place than the Chevrolet Equinox used for its USB port. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

IntelliLink also differs from MyLink in how it decodes USB devices loaded with music, apparently. Using the same known-working USB stick I had been using in the Equinox test last week, I plugged in and gave the system time to index the USB drive, then hit the voice command button on the right of the steering wheel. The pleasant IntelliLink voice lady came on and told me to “Please say a command.” I said, “Play Artist 3 Colours Red,” as I had in the Equinox. Only in the Acadia Denali, that command failed to be recognized by IntelliLink.

A perusal of the touchscreen’s USB menu showed why: For some reason, IntelliLink didn’t pick up on all the artist information, instead recognizing only one artist on my USB drive. I was able to summon that artist by using the voice command above, but the other three artists on the USB stick were not listed in the “Artist” category within the USB menu. Instead, to see the full list of artists, I had to go through the “Folders” category, which had everything organized just as it is on my computer, by artist, then by album, then by tracklist order.

While that’s a bit strange and somewhat of a headache to deal with, the overall usability of the IntelliLink system in our 2013 GMC Acadia Denali remains higher than the MyLink system in the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ we had last week:

  • In addition to the superlatives listed above, entering destinations into IntelliLink’s Navigation feature is more intuitive and easier to accomplish. Bonus points to IntelliLink for recognizing the name of my little hamlet when pronounced correctly, as locals do, rather than only recognizing it if I intentionally mispronounced it, as MyLink’s Navigation feature required.
  • The steering wheel-mounted controls are more intuitive to use, as well. Where I had issues with the Chevrolet Equinox’s SRC/track change/preset cycler combination button on the wheel, the Acadia Denali features a separate SRC button and track change buttons, making it far less likely that I’ll inadvertently change sources when all I really wanted to do is change USB tracks or cycle through my radio presets.
  • The capacitive touch “buttons” located around the perimeter of the IntelliLink screen are less distracting to use than the more numerous traditional buttons of the MyLink setup in the Equinox, despite the fact that such touchpads don’t provide as much positive identification by feel. Thanks partially, I think, to fewer buttons overall, I’ve had an easier time memorizing the position of each button and what it does when pressed in the GMC than I did in the Chevy.
The Tone Settings screen of the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali's IntelliLink system

For some reason, our 2013 GMC Acadia Denali’s Tone Settings screen contained only “Talk” and “Manual” presets. We plan on asking a GMC rep about this to see if maybe there has been a software update issued or something that our tester hasn’t received yet. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

One final oddity I noticed about the IntelliLink system: For some reason, the built-in EQ for the excellent Bose sound system has only “Manual” and “Talk” presets. While “Manual” lets me dial in any combination of fade, balance, bass, mid, and treble I could want, I’m disappointed there aren’t any presets for various popular genres like “Rock,” “Classical,” and “Acoustic.” The Equinox’s Pioneer-powered MyLink system had several EQ presets for different genres, so it seems odd to me the more-expensive GMC wouldn’t have at least as many presets as its smaller corporate cousin. This is something I plan to ask our GMC media contacts about– perhaps there’s a software update to address this that has not been installed on our tester yet.

Disclosure: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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