In-dash navigation continues to be one of the hottest categories in the Al & Ed's stores, and adding a Bluetooth hands-free device is almost automatic with each install. There are a number of vehicles, though, that don't lend themselves well to radio removal, or perhaps the client wants the benefits of navigation and Bluetooth, but likes the factory radio just the way it is. A portable navigation device works, but then one has to deal with suction cups, wires, plugs and that add-on feeling. The SmartMirror from Azentek is a good solution.
The SM450 is a replacement rear-view mirror that also has built-in navigation and Bluetooth. Unlike the "behind the glass" screens available, Azentek wisely provides a separate 4-inch color touch-screen that takes up about 1/3 of the mirror's area. The rest is a standard rear-view with very good optics. It's not much bigger than a factory mirror, but has plenty of usable real estate. The front of the mirror is simply laid out with five buttons. There are Power and Main Menu buttons, and the rest are for the Bluetooth hands-free. Answer, Hang-Up, and Pairing buttons are all easy to use and intuitive.
The screen itself has good brightness, color, and contrast, although it can wash out in bright sunlight. My wife's car is a convertible, so this is more of an issue for her than in most cars, where the mirror lives in relatively shaded surroundings. The touch screen operates easily and the menu system requires little getting used to. There is a built-in speaker for navigation commands and for the hands-free operations. The mirror has a flip-out antenna for acquiring GPS satellites, but also has an external antenna (included) if the vehicle has metalized tint or if the mirror is set back too far to get signal. Two nice features of the nav are a Lane Assistant view, which gives you a good idea about what's happening in freeway merges and turns, and a Text to Speech feature usually found only on the "better" navs. This calls out street names for you, making it easier to get your turns right, especially where street blocks are close together.
The Bluetooth paired easily with her Motorola Razor, and works very well. The SM450 was a snap to pair up and can be instantly connected or disconnected with a touch of the button. Incoming and outgoing number info is displayed on the screen.
I installed the SM450 on my wife's Chrysler Sebring in about an hour, including adding a Boyo backup camera. The mirror unit is very well made and feels very OEM. All of the necessary harnesses and plugs are included, and they even throw in an allen wrench to attach their base to the vehicle's window mount. This is not one of those clip-over mirrors. It is a true OEM-style replacement mirror and looks like it came from the factory.
The wife's car has the standard tombstone-type mirror mount found on most cars. Azentek includes a spare mount in the kit in case the vehicle uses a hanging post-type mounting, and they can provide optional bases for other mounting types. It took about twenty seconds to remove her factory mirror and to begin the installation. The SM450 mounted up in about the same time. Then the system was wired up for power and camera connection. The harness is well thought out and is wrapped in seamless vinyl covering for a real OEM feel. I had plenty of wire to get down the A-pillar of the car and make the simple connections. The backup camera has a dedicated input, and there are two more if you want to bring in an interior camera or other video input.
I have nothing but positives to say about the Azentek SM450 so far. It has a great fit and finish, and the kit is quite complete with plenty of loomed wire, the external antenna, additional mount and more. If I have any complaint, it is that the mirror optics are not 100 percent; there is a little distortion, but nothing that would cause me not to keep the mirror, plus one has to think of what might go missing when the factory mirror disappears. On some cars, there is compass and temperature info, OnStar, security, and in some cases radio functions all wired up through the mirror. Other than that, it's a no-brainer. The SM450 is a great solution when leaving the radio in the dash is the best choice.
John Haynes, aka Mr. Mobile of Al & Ed's Autosound, contributes articles from the shop floor about car stereo and electronics to CNET. Al & Ed's Autosound is a multistore professional installer of car audio systems and electronics.