S550: A SplitView Saga

The short version: my S550 came equipped with SplitView, but by the time the car came to me, the accompanying wireless headphones and remote control were missing. I've concluded it's not worth replacing them, because (a) an iPad is way better for video these days; (b) a previous owner already "unlocked" the screen so that it displays video to both the driver and passenger; and (c) sourcing and programming the headphones and remote would probably run ~$360, which ain't worth it. 

Now, the long version. 

What is SplitView, you ask? It's an option (sticker price = $710) that allows the front-seat passenger to watch video (like from a DVD) on the COMAND display, while the driver sees a different image (like navigation) on that same display. Mercedes explains

Two sets of pixels can be displayed, and a mask on the screen filters out one set or the other, based on viewing angle. The COMAND controller determines the driver's content, while the passenger uses a dedicated remote control. The passenger also has headphones to ensure the driver isn't distracted by a movie soundtrack. 

See it in action here

Nifty trick in 2009 when it was first introduced, but kind of pointless today, when anyone interested in watching video from the passenger seat would prefer an iPad (bigger screen, works with any bluetooth headset, supports streaming services, etc.). 

My car came to me without the wireless headphones and remote control. So how do I know that SplitView was optioned on my car? Well, it's listed on the options sheet. And the CD changer supports video DVDs. Also, there are dedicated slots for the headphones and remote in the glovebox. And finally, the SplitView cars have a video input jack in the center console (this is a yellow RCA jack composite analog input, not HDMI). I guess you could hook up a camcorder or VCR to this, if you were so moved? Another S Class feature that perhaps no one has ever used. 

Anyhow, in order test out the system, I popped a DVD into the changer (Finding Nemo) and was surprised to see that the video was visible while driving from both the passenger and driver side. This suggests that a previous owner unlocked the Video in Motion (VIM) restriction, which also appears to bypass the SplitView feature. So now both driver and passenger can watch DVDs while driving! (You may be asking yourself -- isn't it unsafe for the driver to be watching a movie on the nav display? To which I can only reiterate what I said above -- no one in 2023 is going to watch a DVD on an 8" nav display in a world overflowing with iPads.) 

Nevertheless, I explored options for restoring headphones and remote control to their glovebox place of pride. Well, as should surprise no one, Mercedes has made this expensive and unnecessarily complicated. Retail price is $357 for new headphones and $581 for the remote control. Wow.  Fortunately, eBay offers somewhat more reasonably priced options, at $89 for the remote and $169 for the headphones. Identifying the right part numbers is made more complicated by the fact that Mercedes made different headphones and remote controls for controlling rear seat video screens (for cars that have the rear seat entertainment package). 

But that's not the end. Once you have your replacements in hand, the COMAND system must be programmed to recognize the individual headphone and remote control (this "pairing" is presumably to deter theft). My selling dealer quoted me $210 to do the pairing. Crazy. An independent shop quoted me $100 for pairing, which is still a lot for a 15 minute process. 

So, all together, it would probably cost around $360 for a remote and headphones that would doubtless sit unused in the glovebox forever. Makes more sense to buy a new iPad! 



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