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A year ago, we sung the praises of the Pioneer AVIC Z-1 for its ability to pack GPS navigation, video, digital audio, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a hard drive into a single aftermarket device. In a kind of Moore's Law for car stereos, we find ourselves a year later looking at a device that packs even more features into a device that is about half the size. JVC's KD-NX5000 is a stylish, hard drive-based head unit equipped with nearly every entertainment and information feature that drivers could wish for. With 40GB of built-in storage (10 more than the Z-1) and a bright, 3.5-inch color LCD screen, the KD-NX5000 comes with integrated GPS navigation (with optional real-time traffic service) and a wealth of media options. Although its compact size can impede the usability of its navigation function, the KD-NX5000 is a serious contender for those looking for a capable, all-in-one car tech system.
The most striking design feature of the KD-NX5000 is the integrated 3.5-inch color LCD screen built into its front faceplate. The depth of its screen makes the unit tricky to install in standard single DIN-sized slots (on most cars, you'll have to take off the surround bracket to fit it in), but its bright, high-resolution display allows the system to offer a usable navigation system.
Once they've installed the unit, drivers have to go through a "calibration" process (driving around at over 25mph), which syncs up the system's GPS module with a minimum number of satellites. With the unit calibrated, entering destinations from the map screen's menu can be done in a variety of ways: punching in an address, GPS coordinates, or the name of a point of interest; using the onscreen keypad; entering a phone number; or selecting from a list of previous or preset destinations.
The KD-NX5000's 16GB hard drive-based navigation system contains 13 million points of interest (POI) with maps provided by Navteq. Destinations must be entered by using hard buttons on the faceplate or by using the system's remote control. We found the process of letter-by-letter destination entry somewhat labor-intensive, although the predictive address feature saved us from a lot of unnecessary button pushing. We were particularly impressed by the predictive phone-number entry: we had only to type in the California area code and first three digits of the number for CNET's corporate headquarters in San Francisco before the system gave us the address we wanted.
One of the most remarkable design features of the KD-NX5000 is the way that it manages to incorporate so many features without having a faceplate packed with buttons. To achieve this economy, many controls rely on the user pressing the same buttons to access multiple layers of selection. For example, pressing the Map button on the left hand-dial while in A/V mode will change the screen to show the map, while pressing it repeatedly on the map screen will change the perspective from a 2D overhead view with heading up, to a 3D birds-eye view, to a 2D view with north up.
Another example of multilevel control is the shortcut menu, which can be called up by pressing the Enter button while on the map screen. This brings up four icons, which can be used to mark a location on the map as a favorite, get information about a particular point on the map, select a category for quick guidance to a nearby point of interest, or set the destination as a preprogrammed Home address. When selecting a POI, the system gives a comprehensive list of the location's details, including phone number--a very useful feature for drivers who want to call ahead before setting out, for example, to a restaurant.
Map renderings are nowhere near as crisp as those of other OEM and double-DIN aftermarket systems we have seen. Adding to the vagueness of the maps is the fact that the zoom function's smallest scale is about the size of three or four city blocks, which is a pain when trying to navigate in built-up areas. Accordingly, the navigation function on the KD-NX5000 is likely to be used for general highway guidance rather than pinpoint wayfaring.
When guiding drivers to a destination, the system gives voice prompts for distance to and direction of upcoming turns. Holding the button when in voice-guidance mode will repeat the last command--a feature that we like to see on navigation systems. Voice guidance can be tailored to the driver's preference with options to select male or female prompts, the required output channel (left speakers, right speakers, or both), and whether music is muted or just attenuated during spoken directions.
The KD-NX5000 has another advanced navigation feature in the form of a subscription-based real-time traffic information service from Navteq. With the service activated, traffic information can be called up at any time by pressing a button on the right-hand corner of the faceplate. A setting in the navigation menu enables drivers to set the system to automatically reroute as needed to bypass traffic.
If the KD-NX5000's navigation functionality is somewhat limited, its breadth of audio and video media capabilities is undeniably impressive. The system plays audio and video files from both CDs and DVDs, as well as video, DivX-encoded video (MPEG1 and MPEG2 formats), JPGs, and MP3, WMA, and WAV audio files from recordable/rewritable CDs and recordable/rewritable DVDs. One observation we made when playing discs was that both the discs and the head unit got extremely hot, perhaps due to our test unit being a preproduction model, but a noteworthy point.