Navigating the Dashboard
By Brett Solomon
Today's mobile electronics systems demand more as they take on the role of multimedia systems. Hence, head units demand more real estate for displaying audio information, navigation directions and (most important to the younger set) entertainment in the form of a DVD movie or Xbox game. What was once a simple alarm-clock style LCD display and two knobs has become a 7-inch widescreen LCD monitor with an integrated DVD player.
Manufacturers are scrambling to enable consumers to take advantage of today's multi-faceted multimedia environment. The responsible ones are doing so with the understanding that this technology has got to be ergonomically correct. Driver distraction is potentially disastrous, and not just in terms of liability. Good engineering on the part of the latest mobile interface products provides the latest capabilities with ease-of-use, so your clientele can have their cake and eat it, too. Your store, meanwhile, takes advantage of the profits in top-of-the-line head unit sales that lead to top-of-the-line sytems.
Alpine's latest offering in the high-end arena is the IVA-D900 (SRP $2,300). The most interesting aspect of the unit is the industry's first crystal-clear WVGA display. In fact, it is even touted as a safety feature. The new display technology utilizes a low-temperature polysilicone monitor that the company claims has a higher resolution than that of its competitors. As such, consumers should experience a better picture in direct sunlight, with better off-axis viewing angles. Those who remember first-generation LCD head units know it could be quite difficult to discern certain icons on the screen in bright conditions. Window tint became an almost mandatory accessory sale to improve performance.
According to Steve Witt, Alpine's vice president of brand marketing, "On its own, the IVA-D900 is a premium audio and visual head unit, but its real power lies in its ability to serve as an intuitive, centralized hub for controlling a myriad of audio and visual components within the vehicle." As such, the IVA-D900 comes with video-switching circuitry on-board, thus making the installer's life easier in a full-boat video installation. The IVA-D900 is XM Satellite Radio-capable and features 16 character displays of artist, title and station information presented in a logical format. Although the Alpine unit does offer a unique display, it has veered away from the touchscreen paradigm. Instead, there are buttons surrounding the lower portion of the screen, and the GUI points an arrow to create a button with multiple features (instead of having tiny buttons with discrete functions at the bottom of the head unit).