The Alpine IVA-W200 mobile multimedia station offers a wealth of options for in-car entertainment and communications. Some of the system's functions look a little dated, and its Bluetooth interface is clumsily integrated. Nevertheless, it is simple to set up and generally straightforward to use for those who want to watch movies or listen to a range of digital audio while on the road.
The double-DIN-sized IVA-W200 makes use of a touch screen interface called "PulseTouch" that, according to Alpine, uses "different vibrations and pressures to effectively simulate real button and slider control."
In practice, the mechanical pulsing action that comes when you touch the screen is a little disconcerting; multiple, machine gun-like pulses come when you withdraw touch pressure. The unit has a row of useful hard buttons along the bottom of the screen bezel, including a Source select button, an open/close button (which causes the motorized LCD screen to roll down, revealing the single CD/DVD slot), as well as handy volume and one-touch mute controls. All other controls are via the pulsing touch screen.
To operate the video function of the Alpine IVA-W200, drivers need to perform an elaborate procedure, designed to ensure that the unit can't be used to play DVDs when on the move: first depress the foot brake; then activate the parking brake; then, with the foot brake still depressed, release and re-engage the parking brake; finally, let go of the foot brake. And rest. The video is now ready to go. The IVA-W200 plays all DVD formats including store-bought DVDs, DVD/Rs and DVD/RWs, DVD+Rs and DVD+RWs, DVD As, DVD VRs, and VCDs. The resolution of the video on the IVA-W200 is a little grainier than those we've seen on other aftermarket video players, such as the Eclipse AVN6000 and the Dual XDVD8182.
Nevertheless, there is a wealth of options for adjusting and customizing the onscreen display. DVDs can be played in one of three screen formats: Wide-screen stretches any picture to fit the width of the unit; Cinema changes the picture format into a 16:9 aspect ratio; Normal displays the picture in the center of the screen with a vertical black band down each side. Pressing the touch screen while a DVD is playing brings up a soft-button menu for basic video controls, including play, pause, skip, fast forward, and rewind. Viewers can skip chapters, play movies in slow motion, and even program certain DVDs by chapter using an onscreen keypad that's accessed by pressing the Key button in the upper left-hand corner twice.
The IVA-W200 has a feature called iPersonalize, which is a catchall for customizing audio and video output. For DVD playback, iPersonalize works mainly through a feature called Visual EQ, which includes individual settings for night mode (for movies with lots of dark screens); a softness/sharpness setting; a contrast setting; brightness, color, and tint adjustments; as well as two presets that enable viewers to store a customized arrangement of the above settings.
We found the sharpness adjustment to be the most useful of the numerous customization features, and sharpening up the images helped to improve the sometimes sketchy picture quality.
Digital audio playback without backup
The IVA-W200 is designed to handle most common audio inputs on the market. RedBook CDs and WMA and MP3 discs are all inserted in the same slot as DVDs, and play without any problem. In addition to being a garden-variety AM/FM tuner, the IVA-W200 is wired to receive satellite radio (with a dedicated Sat button on the bezel), HD radio, and iPod inputs. The latter three capabilities are only available with the purchase of additional equipment and/or services. The standard off-the-shelf unit plays MP3 and WMA discs. The unit can also be used as a display for external Alpine navigation systems, and it can be hooked up to another auxiliary input through an additional RCA jack.