JVC El Kameleon KD-AVX44 review:

JVC El Kameleon KD-AVX44

When connected to an iPod, the El Kameleon allows songs to be browsed by artist, genre, etc.

Aside from disc-based media, the El Kameleon comes equipped with a USB pigtail that can read digital music from a USB drive, iPod, or other MP3 player. The unit doesn't come with a dock connector, so you'll have to bring your own sync cable to pair an iPod. Once connected with an iPod, the unit sorts songs by artist, album, playlist, podcasts, and other criteria. Navigation is slow when browsing songs stored on an iPod, particularly for hard-drive based models. While the El Kameleon is able to display videos stored on an iPod, it doesn't support the functionality out of the box. The unit requires the additional purchase of a KS-U20 module from JVC to enable video. The El Kameleon is also upgradable for satellite radio, HD radio, and reverse camera integration.

When installing the unit, we came across two very minor issues. The first is that the El Kameleon doesn't come with screws for use with mounting brackets, requiring a run to the local hardware store to complete the installation. The other is that the sheer number of connectivity options meant that there were more than a dozen RCA pigtails coming off of the back of the unit, in addition to the standard power and speaker cables. Stuffing this mess of wires behind the device and into the dash was daunting in our small test car, particularly because, unlike most in-dash receivers, the El Kameleon has a rear fan that must be kept clear for cooling purposes. However, people opting for professional installation will never encounter these issues.

Once installed, the El Kameleon performed brilliantly. With 50-max watts playing through four discrete channels, the sound quality was clear and free of distortion at listening volume. The internal amplifier can be adjusted to high power for aftermarket speakers, low power, which makes stock speakers sound great, or off, for use with a completely externally amplified system. There are preamp outputs for the front, rear, subwoofer, and center speakers to build a full, 5.1-surround system. Also present are video out and second audio out for dual zone playback, and audio/video in for use with an external source or backup camera.

We were able to watch movies on the clear, albeit small, screen thanks to DVD- and DivX-video playback.

Video playback is crisp and smooth with DVD or DivX. We tried a disc with a few Xvid AVI files and surprisingly the files played, so it's possible that the device supports any MPEG-4 encoded video, but since it's not explicitly stated, we can't be sure.

In sum
Able to handle just about all of your in-car audiovisual needs with a great-looking touch-pad display that won't utterly dominate your dash, the JVC El Kameleon KD-AVX44 is a huge value for its $499 price point. The El Kameleon crams just about all of the features you'd expect to find in a big double-DIN receiver into a svelte single-DIN package.

The screen is not practical for extended viewing because of its small size, but you can't safely watch a movie while driving anyway. For a similar price, other units can be had with larger motorized screens. The extra screen real estate can mean better viewing experience, but moving parts can be clunky and prone to breakage. Also, these units often require multiple adapters at an additional cost to reach the same level of functionality offered out of the box with the El Kameleon.

What you'll pay

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