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JVC KD-AVX33 review: JVC KD-AVX33

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The Good The JVC KD-AVX33 is a slick, feature-rich in-dash multimedia player that supports an impressive number of audio/visual sources including DVD video and audio from generic USB drives. Its small screen delivers stunning clarity.

The Bad As a corollary of its spartan faceplate, the system relies on a complex menu structure for browsing digital audio files. It is slow to switch between sources and display ID3 tag information.

The Bottom Line The JVC KD-AVX33 offers a hatful of media and communications car-tech features in one device. Its small screen and elegant faceplate design make it a stylish piece of hardware, but its usability is slightly hampered by a slow processor and lack of a touch screen.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7

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.

The JVC KD-AVX33 comes with a front-mounted 3.5-inch LCD display, which delivers startlingly clear video and images.

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.

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