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Searching through long lists of songs, albums, and artists is made easier by the inclusion of an alphabet search function (a feature inspired by newer iPods), which can be turned on by pressing and holding the center search button while in a submenu. While we like the idea of this function, its execution is less than ideal. The alphabet search function gets confused by upper and lower cases of letters as well as prefixes to artist names (instead of going from the top of the list of artists beginning with "K" to the top of the list of artist beginning with "J", the system stops at The Kinks, seeing the "T" as a separate letter.) This has the effect of significantly slowing down--and therefore limiting the usefulness--of the alphabet search feature.
Having said that, we do like the memory function of the iDA-X001, which enables users to back up one level and return to the same point in the previous menu that they navigated from. For example, if you select a track from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, you can press the Back button to take you back to the other songs in the album, instead of having to go back to the root level menu. A very useful feature in the setup menu allows drivers to customize which iPod categories (playlists/artists/albums/podcasts/audiobooks/songs, and so on) will appear when a player is connected.
All menus and information is displayed on the system's bright 320x240-pixel TFT screen. Alpine has put a lot of effort into ensuring that the menus on the display mimic those on the iPod itself: the screen is configured in the same aspect ratio as that of an iPod display, and even the text fonts are based closely on those used by Apple.
When tabbing through menus, there are only around 12 characters that are displayed for each track/album/artist name. Although the title can be set to automatically scroll across, this process takes about 10 seconds to commence and the scrolling is a little too slow for our liking.
Perhaps the most visually impressive feature of the iDA-x001 is its ability to show album art from suitably equipped iPods. In the default view, CD artwork is shown as a thumbnail graphic, with the track name, album, and artist information shown alongside. In this view, the album art is small, but crisply reproduced. In the full screen view, in which the artwork is blown up to a size of 200x200 pixels, the image loses some of its resolution, becoming fuzzy, though still legible from the distance of the driver's seat.
The stylish Alpine iDA-X001 is a useful interface for making your iPod library accessible in the car. We like its advanced digital connectivity that enables the transfer of album art and lossless playback, as well as its clean faceplate design and its well structured menus. However, its main jog-wheel interface is still a good way behind the simple functionality offered by the iPod itself.