Okay, I installed it...
Just thought I'd send a follow-up letting folks know that I received my RNS-E from Tony on Thursday and installed it on Saturday morning.
I didn't have the keys to remove my Symphony head unit, so I had to go up to Audi to have them pull it out. The primary installation went very smoothly, all very straightforward, but I had a heck of a time getting the GPS antenna placed behind the gauge cluster. For some reason I couldn't get my gauge cluster all the way out past the steering wheel (is the multi-function steering wheel a little tighter or something?), so I had to kind of snake my arm in behind it delicately and run the cable through to the space behind the nav system. Also, the thread showing how to remove the gauge cluster mentioned that the two screws holding it in place couldn't slip out, but mine did and I had to retrieve those as well. No biggie, though. Found them and got them back in fine.
With the antenna placed behind the gauges using mounting tape, I'm able to hit anywhere from 5-7 satellites, so definitely great placement for it.
Now I'll share my take on the RNS-E. For perspective, I've owned the Acura DVD navigation system in my previous 2000 TL and currently in my wife's 2004 MDX, and I've owned the Lexus DVD navigation system in my previous GS430. I also did two week evaluations of the TomTom GO Plus and the Garmin C330 before deciding on the RNS-E.
VERY nice screen. The map display seems anti-aliased and looks very sharp. The various modes and options (overhead map, 3D map, turn-by-turn directions on/off, auto-zoom for intersections on/off, etc.) let you configure it how you want it.
Cool UI effects. The transitions between modes (nav, audio, etc.) have a "high cool factor".
MP3 playback. I just pop the SD card out of my smartphone and into the car, and I can listen to my favorite music anywhere I go.
Definitely better sound quality than the Symphony. I'd seen others mention this, and I agree.
OEM look. Of course, this is the main selling point of the RNS-E. It belongs where it is. Doesn't look bolted on.
Looks great at night. Of course, the Audi interior lighting at night looks great already, and this just adds to it.
Very good voice navigation instructions. The instructions told me, "Take a right, then an immediate left, and your destination will be on the right side of the road." Very impressive.
Ability to select POIs along the current route. This is a great feature I've always wanted, and so far of the systems I've used, only the RNS-E and the Garmin C330 have it. When you're driving somewhere, you want to know which restaurants, gas stations, etc., are along your current path, not behind you or off to the side. VERY useful!
Can be programmed while the car is in motion. It warns you that you're doing something questionable, but once you acknowledge it's carte blanche. The Lexus system was locked down, so this is a nice feature.
As cool as the UI looks, it's definitely a little clunky compared to the other systems I've used. Entering destinations is awkward, and not just because of the dial control. It's much better than i-Drive, but not as nice as the wizard-style Acura or Lexus implementations.
POIs aren't sub-categorized. You can select "Restaurants", but you can't select "Restaurants>Italian". When you're in another city and craving a type of food (I always want to try the local Thai), it's a great feature to have. However, search does work and reasonably well, so there's a decent workaround.
It appears that setting an MP3 SD card to random shuffle is disabled by using the steering wheel controls. I want to set it to random and if something I don't want to hear comes on, to hit "Next". Well, when I do so it goes to the next track and turns off random shuffle. Anyone know if I'm doing this wrong?
I still need to upgrade my XM receiver and get Audi to configure the dash information display to show nav instructions. All in all, though, I'm elated. It really completes the car for me since I'd gotten so accustomed to having a factory navigation system in my previous few cars.
Now a plug for Tony. As you can tell from my other post on this forum, I was very nervous about sending a respectable chunk of cash to someone I'd never met, much less someone outside the United States where repudiation laws aren't as well-defined. Well, Tony has been EXCELLENT! To begin with, he's an amazingly nice guy. As far as the transaction, he has been completely professional and supportive every step of the way. He only asked for a nominal deposit on the system until it was shipped, and before shipping he sent pictures of my exact unit with my home address displayed on the screen. He sent me the UPS tracking number so I could monitor the shipping. As a testament to Tony, he was out of GPS antennas when we went to ship mine, so he deducted the cost of me ordering my own GPS antenna with expedited Fed-Ex shipping from the cost of the kit. Daily he checked in with me to verify whether I had any questions and to keep me posted on the progress, even up until yesterday to help me through the installation and configuration. If you want an RNS-E, especially a US RNS-E, I can't recommend him highly enough. I hope this testimony helps someone else get over their reservations.