The Eclipse AVN6600 is a double-DIN, in-dash head unit that combines a navigation system with a range of audio/visual media playback options. The unit, designed similarly to the Pioneer AVIC Z-1, is wired for Sirius satellite radio and includes an optional connection for an iPod, which when linked, can be controlled through the unit's touch-screen buttons. The AVN6600 is also equipped for a TV tuner and high-definition radio, and includes inputs for a backup camera and even a videotape recorder.
The AVN6600's primary navigation and media controls are two strips of hard buttons found along each side of the unit's 6.5-inch TFT widescreen display. We found these buttons a little scattered: most of the audio controls are in a cluster on the left-hand side, while the seek/skip track buttons are found to the right, underneath the navigation buttons. The presence of two identical Menu buttons (one for audio, one for navigation) is useful, but takes some getting used to. We did like that the AVN6600 comes with a one-touch mute function, however.
Iconic navigation system
The AVN6600's DVD-based navigation function is its main selling point. Destinations are entered using a bright, touch-screen keypad, and can be selected using address, previous locations, points of interest (POI), or by moving a crosshair cursor to a desired spot on the map. We particularly liked the unit's many POIs and the small logos displayed to identify commercial businesses--in some cases (such as Target and Home Depot, for example) the logo is that of the store itself.
The AVN6600's "inside-out" method of programming destinations also met with our approval. Rather than entering state, city, street name, and then house number, in that somewhat illogical order, the unit asks for details more conventionally, starting with the destination's house number. Yet the system is accommodating, and can accept information in seemingly any order. Once a destination has been entered, drivers can retrieve precise GPS coordinates or even phone numbers for commercial locations by pressing the Info button on the right-hand side of the screen.
While the resolution of navigation maps on the AVN6600 is lower than that in some factory-installed units we've seen, streets are clearly marked. A useful hold-zoom function allows users to zoom in or out without having to repeatedly press the same button. Another elegant feature is one-touch scrolling, which lets users search a map for a certain destination. Maps can be configured in either full- or split-screen modes, although the lack of resolution and detail when zoomed in can make it difficult to distinguish between the two views.
Perhaps our favorite feature of the navigation system is its virtual run-through of a planned journey. Once a destination and route preferences are programmed, a driver selects the Route Preview button, and then uses the Play, Pause, and Rewind buttons to review the entire trip on the map. When ready for actual navigation, the system provides real-time, turn-by-turn instructions. During route guidance, the system shows distance to destination, estimated time of travel, and compass direction.