When we got the JVC KD-NX5000 in for review earlier this year, we were so impressed with the single-DIN navigation/multimedia device that we slapped a CNET Editors' Choice on it. Now JVC Mobile is following the release of this year's "hero" product with a couple of other in-dash devices that make use of the same design. With its bright, 3.5-inch color LCD display, the KD-AVX33 boasts many of the same multimedia capabilities as its navigation-enabled cousin. While it doesn't have a built-in hard drive a la the KD-NX5000, the KD-AVX33 comes with a range of media playback options including an as-standard USB port, support for Bluetooth audio streaming as well as the ability to play compressed audio codecs such as MP3, WMA, and WAV.
The KD-AVX33 owes its good looks to the simplicity of its faceplate design. As its primary control, the system features a four-way D-pad similar to that of the KD-PDR30 and KD-HDR1 and identical to the control pad on the front of the KD-NX5000. The main interface is surrounded by a few small (we think too small) dedicated hard buttons for making and ending phone calls, changing sources, and calling up the main AV menu.
Nearly all of the remainder of the system's faceplate real estate is taken up by its full color 3.5-inch display, which, while smaller than that of nearly every other in-dash video system on the market, enables the KD-AVX33 to get away with being a single-DIN sized stereo. (Installers should note, however, that they will have to take off the DIN-slot's frame to fit the system in, as it is slightly larger than other single-DIN systems). As with the KD-NX5000, we are impressed with the clarity of the screen, but as we explain below, the lack of hard-button controls combined with its wide range of features means the device has to rely on complex menu structures. We would love to see the display upgraded to a touch screen in future models.
The KD-AVX33 is a feature-packed multimedia device. In addition to its support for a range of disc-based audio (CDs, MP3 WMA and WAV-encoded discs, and DVD audio), the stereo has an as-standard USB 2.0 port for playing digital audio files directly from thumb drives or USB-enabled MP3 players, and the ability to stream music via Bluetooth from A2DP-enabled devices. For video, it supports DVD, DivX, and MPEG 1 and 2 formats as well as external devices via video-in RCA connectors.
In addition to these as-standard features, the KD-AVX33 comes with plenty of expandability options with four sets of 5-volt preamp outputs and a gold-plated video output. Audio output at 20 watts per channel comes via the device's 24-bit digital-to-audio converter, and audiophiles are given the choice of two settings (music or movie) for the system's built-in 5.1-channel Dolby ProLogic II decoder. Nine preconfigured EQ presets and three user-programmable settings programmed via a seven-band equalizer give drivers plenty of options for tweaking acoustic output to their own liking.
For communications, the KD-AVX33 comes with a built-in Bluetooth receiver for making hands-free calls while driving. And for paired phones that support the relevant Bluetooth profile, the KD-AVX33 can also display incoming text messages on its screen in a similar way to the JVC KD-BT1.
When playing back digital audio files, the display shows information for album, track, and artist and provides a useful guide to what's playing. Drivers can skip tracks and folders one at a time by using the four-way dial, but the system takes longer than we would like (about 7 seconds) to display the new tag information for each song. We are also a little disappointed with the browsing functionality of the KD-AVX33. While it is possible to view digital audio libraries, users cannot get there very easily from the default CD playback screen.