The car multimedia system has come a long way over the years. A decade ago a simple GPS was considered a luxury, but now they’re a standard feature on almost every vehicle and smartphone. Manufacturers of car multimedia systems have been under increasing pressure to adapt to the changes of the tech industry, and ironically, navigation is no longer considered a priority.
Without entertainment and a wide selection of audio and video playback options a multimedia system simply wouldn’t survive; with smartphones and tablets now containing far more functions, many are failing to compete in the industry.
But these systems are yet to lose the battle and over the past few years manufacturers have been stepping up their game and fighting to stay relevant. These five devices show just how far they can go, proving that the multimedia system is just as important today as it ever was.
The Kenwood DNX521DAB
The Kenwood DNX521DAB was designed specifically for Volkswagen vehicles and is one of the most technologically advanced multimedia devices on the market. It features a seven-inch high-definition touch screen and has impeccable sound quality. The screen layout is functional and provides a wealth of information such as directions, time, traffic alerts and road conditions.
From a multimedia perspective the Kenwood DNX521DAB is way ahead of its time. It provides video playback in a variety of formats and can handle even the most obscure of file types. In addition to having external connection ports for this playback – such as USB and SD card slots – it can be hooked up to smart phones, which allows users to access their contacts and make calls while on the move.
One of the most impressive features of the DNX521DAB is the voice activation. Unlike most other multimedia systems – which only provide hands-free calling – the device is fully functional through voice command.
Like everything Sony designs the 602BT multimedia system is certainly pleasing on the eyes. What’s best about the sleek design is that it’ll blend in with virtually any interior style without looking out of place.
Visuals aside, the Sony 602BT can integrate with smart phones using MirrorLink software, which allows users to access all of the external data using the multimedia screen instead. With 5.1 surround sound and a high-definition display, it has qualities that could compete with a small home cinema.
Like the Kenwood DNX521DAB, the Sony 602BT is fully hands-free. Users can make phone calls, locate specific audio tracks, change navigation destination and even write and send emails; all without pressing a single button. The device can even read out text messages if received on an Android smart phone.
The Pioneer AVIC-Z120BT is one of the most stunning navigation systems on the market. Users that are familiar with the brand will be pleasantly surprised with the new and improved interface, which has been designed from the ground up to increase the overall efficiency of use.
One of the best features is the integration with Pioneer’s MusicSphere technology, which creates mood-based playlists that are tailored to each user. In addition, the AVIC-Z120BT has pre-installed iTunes playback software, which allows the MusicSphere service to pick and choose tracks from external devices.
With regards to navigation the Pioneer AVIC-Z120BT has a comprehensive map database that is provided by TeleAtlas. This gives users access to over 12 million points of interest (POIs). Voice recognition software also allows drivers to input navigation settings and control a variety of other features without moving a muscle.
The JVC KW-AV61BT has a 6.1-inch WVGA monitor with touch screen capabilities. The device plays media in a wide range of formats, such as MP3, WMA and WMV. Video quality is definitely one of the highlights. With a complete array of inputs and outputs, it’s equipped for interconnectivity with smart phones, tablets and other external storage devices.
The JVC KW-AV61BT is completely wireless and comes with a Bluetooth adaptor, which can be used for hands-free calling and voice recognition dialling. A sensitive condenser microphone is built into the device, which is excellent at understanding speech when coupled with voice recognition software.
Unlike many other car multimedia systems the JVC KW-AV61BT is compatible with DVD-R/-RW, +R/+RW. This allows users to download music and video files specifically for playback on the device, even without an external USB storage system.
Flip down monitors look great, but their primary benefit doesn’t lie in the appearance. The Duel DVC104HD is designed to be hooked up to Android devices such as smart phones and tablets and has in-built DuelMirror technology for seamless integration. This allows users to access other HDMI devices through the screen.
In addition to using a USB connection port for media playback on external storage devices the Duel DVC104HD contains an SD card slot and CD/DVD player. The device supports a wide array of media formats ensuring it will withstand the test of time. Fundamentally, it’s the simplicity and functionality that gives the Duel DVC104HD a spot on this list.
The main difference with the Duel DVC104HD and the four other featured car multimedia devices is that it was designed first and foremost as an entertainment system; therefore, it doesn’t contain GPS navigation.
Choosing a new multimedia system is tricky business. With such significant advances in technology and the vast amount of applications and playback functions, the navigation system seems somewhat irrelevant when deciding which device to purchase.
All five of the featured multimedia devices offer something innovative and unique, making them difficult to compare with one another. While the Pioneer has the best music playback options, the screen quality is no match for the Kenwood.
Additionally, the Sony has in-built MirrorLink and by far the best looking design, yet the power of the JVCs microphone gives it a significant edge with regards to voice recognition. Choosing which device is best is simply a matter of taste and purpose.