Available audio/visual sources include the single-disc CD/DVD slot with non-DRM MP3/WMA/DivX playback capability, a USB pigtail with mass storage and iPod connectivity, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth audio, and an analog AV input (oddly labeled Video Tape Recorder) with pass-through for rear-seat entertainment.
The AVN726e supports add-on modules for Sirius (with traffic) and XM satellite radio, HD Radio (with iTunes tagging), rearview camera with reverse lead, and a full-speed iPod connection cable that enables faster browsing of music and playback of video content.
Installation of the Eclipse AVN726e included routing and mounting the microphone for hands-free calling, securing the external GPS receiver and tapping the parking brake for video playback, in addition to the standard power and speaker connections that all head units require. The first boot sequence takes about 2 minutes, while the GPS software is loaded into the system's memory. Subsequent starts are nearly instantaneous.
We were able to quickly search for points of interest and input addresses, thanks the AVN726e's large onscreen keyboard and intuitive autocomplete system that predicts the next possible characters in a string, deactivating the keys that make no sense with the previous letters.
With a destination set, we were pleased with how quickly the Eclipse unit chose our route. A few intentionally missed turns proved that the unit rerouted us back to the right path with the same speed at which it chose our initial route. The robotic male and female voices for the text-to-speech system were a little annoying and, at times, difficult to understand. Clearer voices are available, but to choose them you lose the TTS' capability to read street and POI names aloud.
Peak power is output for the internal amplifier at 50 watts x 4 channels, while average output is about 14 watts to 15 watts. Those needing more power can use the three sets (front, rear, and subwoofer) of 5-volt stereo preamp outputs to supply a clean signal to an external amplifier.
The internal amp sounds good and a loudness function really adds to the punch of smaller OEM speakers, but the ultraclean signal provided by the 5-volt preamp outputs makes this Eclipse receiver an even better starting point for building high-power systems with high-quality components.
Scrolling through large digital media libraries, such as those on our iPod, was a bit tedious, requiring dozens of button presses to get to the end of long lists of artists.
Navigating DVDs is a bit clunky, with onscreen controls that amount to a bank of virtual buttons piled at the bottom of the screen. However, the screen's quality made watching a movie from our parked car a pleasant experience. The unit supports Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, although without a dedicated center channel output, you'll have to do with a virtual center fill.
While the Eclipse AVN726e is priced slightly higher than the competition, we feel that the quality of the components and the outstanding feature list make it worth every penny.
The 3D maps with buildings, landmarks, and elevation changes are better than any other aftermarket GPS unit that we've tested. The design is clean and the menus (with the exception of the DVD controls) are very intuitive. We would like to see a detachable faceplate, which is a rarity in double-DIN units, but--as JVC has proven--isn't unheard of.
We're mostly happy with the AVN726e's feature set, which packs navigation, AV capabilities, and hands-free calling into a single, simple-to-install package. However, we had to ding it a point for requiring a separate add-on module to add traffic data.