The Kenwood DDX8019, the latest entrant in the growing in-car, audio/video market, comes with an impressive spec sheet. It can play digital audio discs as well as DVD and DivX video, and offers a standard USB digital audio interface. In practice, however, the device's clumsy menus make playing music or video more challenging than it should be. On the bright side, with the addition of Kenwood's GNA-G510 module, the system can be transformed into a very useful GPS navigation system.
The Kenwood DDX8019 features a standard double-DIN-sized touch screen. Like the Panasonic Strada CN-NDVD905U and the Eclipse AVN 5510, the system is built with a single line of hard buttons along the base of the faceplate, with most submenus accessible via soft buttons on the 7-inch touch screen display. Aside from the volume buttons, the Kenwood DDX8019 has three hard buttons for navigating audio or video sources and screens: Function, Video Select, and Source.
Unfortunately, we discovered many irrelevant screens as well as non-intuitive steps when navigating with these buttons. For example, the Function button cycles through three screens: the main source screen, a blank screen, and a "picture and easy control panel" screen. This latter screen is of extremely limited use. When playing music, it allows you to skip tracks and folders yet doesn't show any tag information. Seeing as it is possible to skip tracks and folders and see tag information using the main source menu, we couldn't figure out the reason for this extra screen.
The Video Select button is more useful for swapping between on-screen sources, but we still found redundancies. For example, when toggling between visual sources, you're forced to navigate through options even if a certain device isn't connected--leading to a succession of blank screens or messages, such as "iPod disconnected." We would have preferred a "smarter" Video Select button that recognized only available sources. The audio Source button shares similar problems, as you have to navigate through all sources (unconnected or otherwise) to get to your chosen output.
The clunky design continues with the DDX8019's touch screen menus. Pressing any part of the touch screen displays a crosshair image at the touched point--irrespective of whether you've pushed a button. These images, which linger for a second or so, are an unnecessary distraction and make the screen resemble an old arcade-style shooter game.
Top-level menu screens feature a bar made up of four grainy, jagged icons that run down the right-hand side of the screen. These buttons control source selection, source control, audio control, and setup. Pressing the source select button displays information on available media, and reveals a significant design omission: despite the graphically elaborate menu, there is no option for CDs--you have to select DVD if and when you want to play any disc-based audio.
When playing MP3-encoded discs (the system also supports WMA and AAC formats), the screen can be set to display ID3 tag information according to preference. You can configure the information to show artist, album, folder, file, or track title by pressing each of the three soft buttons.
In the 2-line configuration, the MP3 playback screen limits ID3 tag information to just one line of text while displaying larger buttons. However, rather than facilitating audio control, this configuration scatters the play, pause, and folder skip buttons across the screen haphazardly. We found that this configuration made it more difficult to navigate music selections.