The JVC KW-NX7000 isn't cleverly named like its sibling the El Kameleon, but it is just as cleverly designed. With its smart features, such as the proximity-based interface or the flash-memory-based navigation data, we found the KW-NX7000 extremely easy to use. However, it was the fun little touches, like the custom greeting messages, which made us fall in love with this receiver.
The faceplate of the KW-NX7000 is dominated by a huge 7-inch motorized touch-panel display. Just below the screen is a row of buttons for power/attenuate, volume control, map, display, skip forward/back, and open. The motorized display is detachable, a feature that we don't usually see with these big screen, dual DIN systems. Hidden behind the screen, you'll find the single-CD slot and two SD card slots, one of which is blocked by a plastic cover and is home to the flash memory card containing the map data for the navigation system.
The KW-NX7000's interface features proximity-based controls similar to those on the JVC El Kameleon, except instead of illuminating a touch pad, the controls appear on the LCD touch screen and the buttons illuminate when a hand approaches the screen. This keeps the viewport clear of buttons and clutter for displaying map data or movies.
Installation of the KW-NX7000 is slightly more involved than installing a standard CD/DVD receiver. You'll need to locate the external GPS receiver to a location with a clear view of the sky; we chose the top of the windshield in front of the rearview mirror. Between the standard power wires, speaker cable, and various audio inputs, there are a ton of wires to tuck behind the unit and into the dash. Fortunately, the pigtail that contains the line-in connections is removable, which can save a lot of space behind the unit if you're not using an external amplifier. More space behind the unit means a cooler running, and more reliably operating, receiver.
Once snugly installed in our test vehicle's dashboard, we found the KW-NX7000's interface to be intuitive and easy to navigate. Text and touch areas were clearly defined and easy to read.
With a 7-inch screen and a DVD drive, it's only fairly obvious that the KW-NX7000 supports video playback of Region 1 DVD movies. Interestingly, the KW-NX7000 also supports playback of DivX videos encoded onto DVD discs. However, the unit does not play back videos from the SD card reader.
While big, bright, and easy to read in direct sunlight, the displays rendering of the movies we tested wasn't of the best quality. The image had a grainy quality with colors lacking vibrancy and washed out blacks. Menus screens and the navigation interface look fantastic, so we're inclined to believe that this is more of an issue with the DVD decoder software than one of screen quality. Interestingly, DVD playback on the El Kameleon looked better than that of the KW-NX7000, despite having less than half of the screen real estate.
Audio sources for the KW-NX7000 include AM/FM radio, audio CDs, and digital audio in MP3, WMA, AAC, and WAV formats. Digital audio can be read from CD, DVD, USB drive, or SD card. Connecting an iPod to the USB pigtail allows for audio playback, but video playback requires an optional add-on module. Navigating songs on an iPod is slow and tedious, particularly with hard-drive-based models such as the iPod Classic. This is particularly annoying from a device with a "Made for iPod" badge on the box. Folder navigation from the SD card reader, on the other hand, is quick and painless.
Add-on modules are available to add Bluetooth wireless technology, satellite radio, or HD radio.
Text-to-speech capabilities mean that the navigation's voice guidance is able to read aloud street and highway names, but also means that you can program the device to speak custom messages upon start-up and shutdown. We found it quite amusing to be greeted with "Hello there, handsome" when the car is started and "Peace out, dude" when we stopped. It's a novel feature, but still an amusing one. We'd have liked to be able to customize the device further, for example loading custom backgrounds, but we saw no option for such a thing.
Once we were done playing with silly custom messages, we programmed a destination and took a ride. The system announced each turn and did a great job of pronouncing the varied street names we encountered. Upon approaching a turn, the map display switches to a split screen to display detailed information about the intersection, and adds a distance meter to let you know how close you are to the turn.
The GPS system includes a 90-day free trial of Navteq Traffic RDS, which downloads real-time traffic data, including accidents, construction, and plain old congestion. Users can view traffic data with a combination of color coding of roads and icons overlaid onto the map. Browsing the map, we noticed an icon indicating surface street construction in Oakland, Calif., so we decided to check and see how accurate the data was.
Crossing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, we were surprised when the system chimed in and advised us to be aware of the speed limit. Along with basic map data, the system is also aware of speed limits of major streets and highways and will warn you if you exceed that limit by a preset amount. Speed demons can elect to disable the warnings or adjust the warning limit with a simple menu option.
Arriving at construction icon on the map, we didn't see any orange cones or gentlemen in hard hats. We were about to declare the test a failure, when we noticed that there was, in fact, street construction occurring a block over. Apparently, the system was correct, but slightly inaccurate in this case.
Points of interest selection are loaded quickly, thanks to the flash-memory-based database, but the touch keypad for entering text to search the POI database is a bit sluggish. Fortunately, the system offers a great autocomplete feature that usually guessed what we were getting at within two or three letters. For those who find themselves regularly searching for a particular bank or favorite restaurant, the KW-NX7000's destination entry allows three quick search buttons to be programmed that can quickly find the nearest points of interest by of a certain category or name.
Audio is played back through a 50-watt max by four channel internal amplifier with high and low power output modes, the latter being good for preventing stock paper cone speakers from vaporizing. Pulling up to a drive-through restaurant, we were grateful for an attenuate button. However, we aren't fans of the volume control rocker buttons. Interestingly, we found that volume could also be controlled by circling your finger around the screen, like one would with the iPod's clickwheel. However, this little Easter egg doesn't work while in navigation mode. An actual volume knob would still be best for quick and accurate volume control.
The KW-NX7000 is a charming device. The proximity-based controls keep the interface uncluttered and pleasant to view. The huge touch screen is very easy to read at a glance when navigating and--thanks to text-to-speech--you won't really need to take your eyes off of the road, which is paramount to safety when driving. To the exception of fast iPod music browsing, everything the KW-NX7000 does, it does well.
The JVC KW-NX7000 costs about $1,299.95, but we've found it online for as low as $899.99. Adding the Bluetooth module tacks an additional $129.99 onto the bottom line. For slightly more money, you could have the Pioneer AVIC-F90BT, which includes Bluetooth, albeit with a slightly smaller screen and a nondetachable faceplate. Still, the KW-NX7000 is a good value for the money, if Bluetooth hands-free isn't at the top of your feature wish list.