R-Link Experimentation


I’m still finding my way with the ZOE’s R-Link multimedia system. Since getting the ZOE I have mostly just used it as a conventional satnav and not much else, so this weekend I decided to experiment a bit further with it.

First of all I tried out the multimedia functions. R-Link has a nice radio that is straightforward to use – it can be a nuisance to scroll through all the different stations but there is a ‘favourites’ option so you can get to your regular stations quickly.

I plugged in a USB drive containing various MP3 albums and videos. By default it starts playing the MP3 tracks as soon as you insert the drive but it does so in alphabetical order, which seems pretty daft. However, you can select music by album instead and then you get a more logical ordering.

It played a couple of MP4 music videos fine, though it wouldn’t play some large MP4 TV programmes, nor a video in MOV format.

I haven’t yet used the satnav (provided by TomTom) very much yet. However, I did experiment with putting in a couple of addresses via the voice recognition system (activated by a button the steering wheel). After a shaky start, and once I realised you need to listen for a prompt beep before speaking, I found it worked pretty well (albeit rather slowly) and surprisingly effectively.

Finally I tried changing the system units from miles to kilometres as I want to do some energy consumption testing to compare with other data reported in kilometres. I was surprised to see that this changed the units used for distances in the satnav to km and km/h but had no effect on the main driver’s dashboard which continued to use miles and miles per hour. This odd result, the fact that the ZE Voice pedestrian alarm sound can’t be set via R-Link, and the very limited control of the car’s main systems that you get through it (e.g. power levels, regeneration control, etc.) lead me to conclude that the R-Link is pretty much just a glorified satnav with some multimedia functions and is not at all tightly integrated to the vehicle’s core systems. This is perhaps not a great surprise since it was developed by TomTom.

In fact while the R-Link has some neat functions it is considerably more limited than I had hoped. Given it is an Android system permanently connected by GPRS to the ‘cloud’, where are the functions you expect to find on even the most basic Android tablet? I was expecting to be able to download music, audiobooks, games, utility apps and so on – and ideally also be able to browse the Internet.

While R-Link theoretically has the capability to download apps from the R-Link store – Renault’s version of the Google Play store – the current range of apps is pathetically poor with just a few forgettable options. There is just a single game available to buy – and that’s just Soduku (never mind Angry Birds or anything advanced).

I will continue to explore R-Link’s capabilities, but it will have to improve significantly over time through updates and upgrades before it can become a serious rival to some of the more sophisticated ‘infomedia’ systems being developed by Renault’s competitors.