Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Car: 2014 Forester 2.5i Touring with EyeSight; Venetian Red
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
The answer as to which way is better is totally in the eye of the beholder. Some people are appalled at paying $2000 for the package, while others are perfectly willing to rationalize it as worth the price of admission to have everything neatly integrated -- I took the latter path.
It also depends on what you can afford. Many competing cars cost more without the nav than the Outback does with, so again you can rationalize. If you get the car at invoice, the cost of the nav+ moonroof is actually $2500, so one could say you're paying about $1700 for nav + rear camera + iPod and $800 for the moonroof.
Since I got the nav, I can't tell you too much about aftermarket, but as you noted, double-DIN adapter plates are now available for the 2010 Outback, so it is entirely do-able to go aftermarket.
As far as what's integrated... well, the main things integrated include the rear camera, steering wheel controls (including voice activation), Bluetooth, and iPod/USB. The external LED clock also auto-sets from the nav clock signal - so you never have to set it, except to toggle daylight savings. Other than that, there's unfortunately no other integration with the car (you can't program door locks or interior light delays, no enhanced trip computer functions, etc.) which is a bummer.
Any mid-to-high end double-DIN nav will support all of the functions as well (except setting the external clock), but I'm sure installation is a major project, especially with the rear camera and steering wheel control integration. Even professionally installed, a good aftermarket system should cost less than $1700 including the rear camera and iPod interface, so if you don't like the factory nav, it's certainly worth exploring aftermarket options.
The mic on the factory system is in the head unit; I'm not sure about the non-nav H/K, but my guess is that you can't reuse that; it's probably proprietary. Aftermarket systems have a long mic cable that you can easily route under the A-pillar or near the steering wheel that will work fine.
The killer feature for me was that the factory system boots up and displays the rear camera picture in less than 10 seconds. I've read lots of reviews in years past where aftermarket systems take over 30-60 seconds to start up -- making the backup camera worthless when you need it the most (I.E., in a hurry). I'm not sure if newer-generation systems have improved on this.
So again, it's all about simplicity, priorities, complexity, etc.
The factory nav works fine for me, but the mediocre user interface and relatively steep learning curve leave something to be desired considering it's 2010. It also doesn't support XM Traffic, but that wasn't important to me but may be to others.
I give it a 7 out of 10 stars. But if I had to do it again, I'd probably still get it.