In its physical appearance, the IVA-W205 uses a similar design to that of its predecessor in the Alpine lineup, the IVA-W200. A number of hard buttons across the bottom of the bezel can be used to switch between sources and different screens, as well as for controlling volume and power. Most other controls are available on the system's 6.5-inch LCD touch screen.
All navigation functions of the IVA-W205 are controlled by the Blackbird PMD-B200 portable navigation device (sold separately), which fits into a dock behind the roll-down LCD display. The Blackbird serves as the "brains" of the IVA-W205's navigation system, with all the functions of the portable transferred to the in-dash touch screen.
The unique design aspect of the IVA-W205 is its ability to swallow whole the separate, standalone Blackbird PMD-B200 portable GPS device, which gives it the ability to act as an in-dash nav system. With a push of the eject button, the LCD display rolls down revealing a large dock, into which the Blackbird is inserted headfirst.
With the Blackbird docked, the IVA-W205's screen shows a blown-up image of the maps and menus from the portable device, giving the in-dash system a less well-rendered, grainer visual quality than the smaller-screen portable. Nevertheless, the IVA-W205 retains the Blackbird's colorful maps and intuitive programming interface. With a separate receiver, the system can also be used to overlay real-time Navteq traffic information on the maps.
With the Blackbird PMD-B200 inserted and an external microphone connected, the Alpine IVA-W205 can also be used as a very useful Bluetooth hands-free calling interface. With a phone paired (and the "Bluetooth In" setting on "Nav"), the system can be used to place and receive calls.
In addition to its CD and DVD disc playback, the IVA-W205 can be used to play AM/FM radio and media from external audio/video sources via its rear-mounted auxiliary inputs. With external modules, the system can also be used as a satellite and HD radio tuner and can play audio from iPods and USB drives.
As part of the pairing process, the IVA-W205 copies over all phone book and recent call activity information from the cell phone--a feature that we particularly like. To initiate a call, users can either dial a number on the onscreen keypad or select a name from their phone book.
For disc-based audio playback, IVA-W205 supports Red Book CDs, as well as MP3- and WMA-encoded discs, all of which are inserted in the single disc slot behind the motorized drop-down faceplate. For compressed audio format discs, the display shows complete ID3-tag information for track, artist, and album.
One of our favorite features of the system's media playback functionality is its Folder List function, which displays folders on a disc five at a time. With a folder selected, the screen then shows a list of tracks within the folder, also five at a time; a one-touch scrolling feature allows drivers to browse their entire music libraries with ease. For those who want to skip songs and folders one at a time, there are also dedicated soft buttons for navigating discs without using the Folder List.
The IVA-W205 impressed us with it audio customization features. Standard output of 18 watts per channel can be enhanced with separate front-, rear-, and subwoofer 2-volt preouts. Bass and treble can be adjusted according to level and frequency, and a high-pass filter setting for front and rear lets users fine-tune their EQ.