Gadget Inspector: Maximize The Ride! Audio, Visual & Navigation

These days, technology

watches the road for you, and with all the gizmos available to divert you from

the primary activity—driving—it’s a wonder anyone’s hands are on the wheel at

all… they are probably preoccupied with CDs, DVDs and who knows what else.

Remember the hoopla when

the eight-track went the way of the Edsel and cassettes became all the rage? Ok,

so you don’t remember. Ask your mom and dad... or maybe even your grandparents.

At any rate, from what the

Gadget Inspector has been reading lately, it looks like the CD is ready for

automobile obsolescence, with the iPod prepared to corner the market.

Blaupunkt, Alpine and

Clarion are among those who have taken the leap into mobile iPod technology,

with Blaupunkt and Clarion keeping things under $200, and Clarion stepping it

up into a somewhat higher-end range, topping out at $400.

You can now plug in your

iPod, MP3 player, USB drive or SD memory cards and drive away. But CD fans,

rest easy: the technology isn’t gone yet, and probably won’t be for a while.

Road trips aren’t what they

used to be. Thanks to state-of-the-art audio systems and satellite radio, no

longer do you have to constantly punch the dial, looking for stations and

hoping you’re in an area that picks up frequency. Getting all tangled up in a

map and trying to decipher microscopic print to figure out where you’re going?

Forget that! Today’s vehicles come equipped with navigation systems. Audio

books? Please. Now you can cruise around with a DVD player.

And those childhood days

spent asking, “Are we there yet?” while parents kept a nonstop supply of books,

games and snacks going? Not anymore. Hook up a backseat DVD player and enjoy

some peace and quiet while the ankle-biters watch Spongebob for the thousandth


Just check

out what Dual has to offer: a headrest-mount portable DVD player with

TFT/LCD monitor that mounts to any headrest in any vehicle by simply slipping

the straps over the headrest, sliding the player into the vest, and plugging in

the DC adapter. DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW compatible, it comes with an AC adapter for

home use.

The compact

system has monitor and remote controls and, best of all, comes with two pairs of

earbuds for the option of private listening. Keep the crumb-catchers happy, and

you’ll never have to hear the big purple monster singing that god-awful “I

love you, you love me” song ever again!

For those of you who are

driving to the poorhouse in a Ferrari, Bose offers the Media System, complete

with 30-gigabyte hard drive that can store 200 CDs, navigation, hands-free

phone use, control knob proximity detectors, satellite radio and voice


When it comes to multimedia

entertainment systems for your car, Jensen offers many options that include

Bluetooth, iPod music downloads, and touch-screens to play CDs, DVDs, MP3s or

WMA files. Their VM9022 multimedia receiver ($699 list), for example, has a 6.5-inch

motorized touch screen and integrated center channel amp. It supports DVDR,

DVDRW single and dual layer, CDR, CDRW, CDDA, MP3, WMA, SVCD, VCD, MPEG1, 2 and

JPEG, has a high-performance 'A' grade TFT screen, picture in picture, and

reads up to 1000 songs on a single DVD, compatible with single and dual layer


Navigation ready, the VM9022 also has has

an AM/FM tuner, Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free and A2DP headset

profiles, 7 band EQ with spectrum analyzer, 8 preset EQ curves, Dolby digital

and pro-logic II, plus 5.1 with time delay. There’s more! Two A/V inputs for

external media connectivity, game consoles, additional screens, iPod and iPhone

connectivity through 8 pin DIN, front, rear, subwoofer and center outputs,

anti-theft password protection, integrated center channel amp, SD card

interface that supports up to a 4GB card, a USB that supports thumb drives and

hard drives, and multi-zone remote. All this while you’re trying to drive?

The Kenwood DNX5120

All-in-One Navigation/DVD Entertainment System ($999) features a 6.1” Touchscreen and

USB/iPod. With built-in Garmin navigation technology, the DNX5120 has maps of

the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and includes over six million points

of interest—because we all have the time and money to travel to exotic places …

in our cars, no less!

The touchscreen has a

user-programmable startup, variable-color illumination of the front panel

controls, and two RCA 2V Preouts for system expansion. It’s also satellite

radio ready, HD radio ready and Bluetooth ready.

A longtime favorite is the

Necvox 7" Widescreen LCD with 10-Disk DVD Changer and true DIN InDash

Mounting. The DA-7169 dual or single DIN system ($399) fits in any 2" or 4"

x 7" dash. The wide-screen motorized in-dash LCD monitor has wireless

remote control and a user-adjustable viewing angle, dual A/V inputs and one A/V

output. The changer features electronic shock protection circuit and three

mounting positions. Integrate it with the Necvox AM/FM Stereo VHF/UHF Tuner

with 40W x 4-channel amplifier.

Pioneer has wowed the

automotive multimedia arena with their AVH-P4000DVD (6.1-inch screen) and

AVH-P5000DVD (7-inch screen). Both systems offer audio and video, iPod

connectivity, hands-free Bluetooth compatibility, and much more.

The in-dash double-DIN DVD

Multimedia AV Receivers have DVD Video, DivX, and MP3/WMA/iTunes AAC playback.

The iPod Direct Control feature (CD-I200 required) provides audio and video

menus, and functions and selections via the on-screen touch panel. Pioneer’s Link Search enables you to hold the “list”

button while listening to your favorite artist and get pop-up folders containing

that specific artist, and the

Passenger Control Mode allows

use of the iPod directly to browse and select music, while connected to the

head unit for playback. And with USB Direct Control you can connect two devices

at once, allowing for great expandability. You also get two RCA Hi-Volt preouts

for adding external amps and speakers, the built-in MOSFET 50 W x 4 amplifier

for excellent sound quality, and the Supertuner IIID for advanced analog and digital processing.

Any man with good taste

will tell you that it’s all about checking out the rear view. Pioneer knows

this, which is why they also offer the optional Rear View Camera

(ND-BC2 or ND-BC20PA), which are both compatable with several of Pioneer's navigation systems. As they explain, “While you’re in reverse, the

rear-view camera can be in full screen,” adding another level of safety while

driving. Just keep that thing off of my wide angle, will ya?

Pioneer also adds a

disclaimer to their website: "Do not use your Pioneer system if doing so will

divert your attention in any way from the safe operation of your vehicle.”

Ironic, considering all the bells, whistles, buttons, slots and video screens

they offer!

Next time, cool gear for

your ride. Until then, let it roll, baby, roll ... all night long.