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Alpine iXA-W407 Digital Media Station review: Alpine iXA-W407 Digital Media Station

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The iXA-W407 is also expandable, via modules, to support HD radio, satellite radio, navigation, and a rear camera. Users can also add a rear seat entertainment system by connecting to the W407's single set of RCA AV output connections.

The Multi Info screen is home to four customizable widgets that display information such as the date, time, audio source info, audio controls, sound controls, etc. It's a neat feature to have, but we can't really see many situations in which we wouldn't want to be viewing our audio source or navigation map.

As mentioned earlier, the iXA-W407's touch-screen responsiveness has been greatly improved. Jumping between sources and functions is quick and smooth. However, that smoothness doesn't translate over to the media search function. Instead of using a smooth scroll and flicks of the finger, you must move through your libraries five entries at a time using scroll buttons, which can be time consuming for devices with thousands of songs. Alpine's single-DIN car stereos offer multiple browsing modes (percent, alphabet, and standard search) and zippy scrolling, so why is this up-market device not similarly equipped?

With the W407 connected to an iPod or a USB storage device, playback starts almost immediately and music is organized based on playlist, artist, album, and genre. In the case of the iPod, podcasts and audiobooks are separated into their own categories. USB mass storage devices must be indexed in order to provide this level of organization, but a quick index of a USB drive with over 200 songs took only a few seconds.

Video quality was OK, but it was a bit grainy because of the display's relatively low resolution for its size. While the screen's wide viewing angle makes it easy to read the large onscreen text, the lack of angle adjustment will make prolonged viewing of videos awkward in vehicles with low installation points.

One point of contention we have with the device is the rather complicated installation process, which requires you to tap both the brake light and the parking brake, as opposed to just the parking brake like most other systems we've tested require. If the brake system isn't tapped correctly during the install, the Alpine iXA-W407 will not only lock you out of video playback, but also all of the setup menus. This means that even if you're not interested in video, you won't be able to pair a phone or edit your sound settings until the proper connection is made. We understand the need for safe and distraction-free driving, but it is our opinion that this is one level of security too much.

In sum
There are places where the W407 seems over simplified and areas where it is still too complex. For example, the removal of Alpine's control knob frees up screen real estate, but we miss being able to quickly whiz through media libraries with the twist of a wrist. Behind the scenes, the Alpine's installation is still considerably more involved than competing units' installation processes, requiring two layers of security be met before even simple menus can be accessed. Thankfully, installation is usually a one-time deal, so we didn't ding the iXA-W407's score too badly for it.

Overall, we're pleased with the Alpine iXA-W407's approach to in-car entertainment. The interface is less cluttered, more responsive, and easier to navigate than the previous version's. The lack of an optical drive shouldn't be a turn off to people who carry most of their media on an iPod or USB mass storage device.

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