Sony XAV-A1 A/V center
Sony's XAV-A1 looks like an ordinary in-dash CD player until you press a button and a motorized panel slides out and up to reveal a 7-inch LCD monitor. The XAV-A1 supports nearly every popular media format, including DVD Video, DVD±R/RW, Video CD, Audio CD, and CD-R/RW. It plays MP3 audio files, displays JPEG slide shows, and has three auxiliary connectors for optional devices such as a TV tuner, a rear camera, and a gaming console. It also has a dedicated XM radio connector and a breakout box. If four 50-watt channels aren't enough to rattle your windshield, the unit has outputs for four amplified (preamp) channels plus a subwoofer. Other than its steep price, our only gripe with the Sony XAV-A1 is the lack of native support for GPS mapping.
Touch the screen
The unit's centerpiece is a retractable 7-inch active-matrix touch-screen display with a resolution of 480x234 (336,960 pixels) and a 16:9 aspect ratio for watching DVD movies in wide-screen mode. It impressed us: colors looked vibrant, and the overall picture quality was very good when viewed from an extreme angle--a key feature, since most units are mounted in the center of the dash and viewed at an angle, from the driver and passenger seats. Even in the brightest light, the screen remained sharp. It's important to note that the Sony XAV-A1 has a built-in safety feature that disables video playback and other touch-screen controls unless the vehicle's parking brake is set.
Three buttons along the display's lower bezel adjust the tilt of the LCD and slide the whole panel forward and backward for optimal viewing. A fourth switches the front and rear outputs, offering quick zone control. For example, the driver might listen up front to audio from the radio or the CD player while rear-seat passengers watch a movie on a remote screen. The fifth button selects audio or video sources. Two buttons on the top bezel open and retract the monitor and tilt it forward.