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.
For all these formats, there is an equally impressive range of preconfigured EQ settings--including dance, country, reggae, classic, hard rock, pop, and jazz--plus three, user-configured EQ memory settings. In addition, there are separate controls for subwoofer output, amp power, and fader/balance.
For MP3 digital audio, the screen displays full ID3-tag information for folder, track, and artist. Folder lists can be displayed by holding down the up and down arrows on the right-hand dial. A feature that we particularly liked is the system's ability to display browsable still pictures, which they call BSPs, from DVD-Audio discs on the color screen (see the image of the Beatle's Love album in the gallery). If there is more than one of these graphics, then users can cycle thorough to choose the one they want to see.
The KD-NX5000's built-in hard drive is one of its major attractions, as it enables drivers to compile their own media libraries, eliminating the need to bring stacks of CDs on the road. Audiophiles can rip CDs to the hard drive using JVC's Lossless Encoder, which maintains original CD quality, while those wanting to cram in as many songs as possible can store files in compressed format. JVC estimates that the KD-NX5000 has enough capacity for 6,000 songs.
Ripping audio discs to the library is a straightforward procedure: An option in the A/V menus allows drivers to copy the current track, all tracks, or a specific track of their choice. The copying process for one track takes about 10 seconds, during which time the playback of the track is paused as the hard drive imports the file. When an MP3 or WMA file is copied to the hard drive, the system also copies over all the ID3-tag information, which is then displayed when the track is played back from the hard drive. As with the navigation of files on discs, the hard drive music can be navigated using the List function, accessible from the menu, which enables users to search music by genre, album, or track. When in audio playback mode, the Source menu enables users to access and organize the tracks saved to the hard drive.
Once a file is copied to the library, users can use the Title Entry function to tag and edit songs according to genre, title, and track name. While this is a useful feature, we found the process of entering letters via the four-way dial and the Enter button very time consuming. Those wishing to catalog 24GB of music in this way had better set aside a couple of months for the task.
We are used to watching video on our iPods, but we must admit to being skeptical of the realistic prospects of watching a video on a screen this small from the distance of the driver's seat; in practice, we found these misgivings to be unfounded. In Full 16:9 screen configuration (there are also settings for Regular and Auto aspect ratios), movies on the KD-NX5000's display are remarkably clear.
The easiest way to control the video function of the system is via the included remote control, which enables users to play, pause, skip forward and back, and adjust all screen menus with the dedicated buttons. In keeping with the design of the head unit, which packs loads of features into a limited amount of real estate, the remote has a sliding panel that gives access to controls for each of the stereo's different functions, while a button for Top Menu and a four-way keypad give users an intuitive interface for controlling videos.
In an indication of the sheer number of features on the KD-NX5000, its instruction manual runs to 119 pages. For those tech junkies who want more connectivity and entertainment options than those offered in the base unit, the KD-NX5000 can be hooked up to add-on modules for iPod control, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth hands-free calling. While its irregular size, complex menus, and rough navigation maps leave something to be desired, the KD-NX5000 is about as much car tech per square foot as you can get. It will be available in mid-February this year.