Alpine, Pioneer and JVC all introduced new touchscreen car audio at CES. The over-riding themes this year are, ‘larger screens’, and Amazon’s Alexa for Pioneer.
Here’s the quick overview: Large screens don’t mean higher resolution for rearview backup cameras, or Apple CarPlay. Cameras tend to be analog NTSC video displaying at 480p, and CarPlay is 902 x 472 pixels, but most of these systems use 800 x 480 screens. The result is that the interface looks worse on a larger screen.
This isn’t CarPlay’s fault – it’s capable of four resolutions, 800 x 480, 960 x 540, 1280 x 720, and 1920 x 720. But no one that I know of ships car stereos in those higher resolutions.
- The iLX-F411 Halo, with an 11-inch screen system that fits in virtually any vehicle and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- The KTA-200M Mono 400-Watt Power Pack Amplifier utilizes Alpine’s exclusive Dynamic Peak Power (DPP) technology and award-winning PowerStack design for a hideaway bass solution that doubles in power
- Two new dash cameras, the DVR-C310R Dash Camera and DVR-C320R Stealth Dash Camera come with full HD picture quality and high dynamic range (HDR) with automatic exposure and white balance adjustment for clear video imaging in day or night driving conditions.
Alpine’s dash cameras are capable of working with iOS and Android apps to get video off the cameras. The DVR-C310R works with a secondary camera, so you can have one for windshield and one for the rear window of the car. This is pretty slick compared to many dash cameras that have a interior facing camera on a single front unit, and hope to capture the rear and sides of the car through the windows.
Alpine’s KTA-200M is a thin amp, that works well if you have a mechless radio. It’s designed to be able to stack on the back of the radio, with cables that plug directly into Alpine’s receiver. It’s a very useful way to have front and rear channels and add a subwoofer that doesn’t require complex amplifier wiring.
- DMH-WT8600NEX (10.1 inch) / DMH-WT7600NEX (9 inch): Pioner has redone how they mount the all-new floating display, allowing an the large display take up just a 1-DIN space in the dashboard. The floating screen offers horizontal, vertical and tilt adjustability to ensure the best fit and usability in the vehicle’s dash. The DMH-WT8600NEX has a suggested price of $1,200, and the DMH-WT7600NEX has a suggested price of $1,000.
- DMH-WC6600NEX (9 inch): This model joins Pioneer’s lineup of modular solutions in-dash receivers introduced at CES 2019 that feature a modular design combining a large touchscreen display with a hideaway control unit that installers can tuck into separate compartments of the automobile. The DMH-WC6600NEX has a suggested price of $900.
- DMH-W4660NEX / DMH-W4600NEX (6.8 inch): These are a traditional 2DIN chassis for universal application in most vehicles on the road in the U.S. Both units have a suggested price of $600.
What’s important to note here are two things: one, every model is a wireless CarPlay and wireless Android Auto model. This is excellent. Also, the flagship models come with Amazon Alexa enabled. You can use Hey Siri / Google to wake those when your phone is connected to it, and say ‘Alexa’ to get the Pioneer radio interface to respond.
The benefit of Alexa means that drivers can ask to play music, hear the news, check weather, control smart home devices set up with an Echo at home, among other things. Alexa does lack navigation capabilities, but you’ve got a phone that will work with one of the other two assistants.
- KW-V960BW: A Multimedia Receiver featuring 6.8″ Clear Resistive Touch Monitor / Wireless Apple CarPlay / Wireless Android Auto /4-Cam Input / High-Resolution Audio / iDatalink Maestro Ready / Bluetooth® / 13-Band EQ
- KW-V950BW: Multimedia Receiver featuring 6.8″ Clear Resistive Touch Monitor / Wireless Apple CarPlay / Wireless Android Auto / High-Resolution Audio / iDatalink Maestro Ready / Bluetooth® / 13-Band EQ – Details
- KW-M865BW: Digital Media Receiver featuring 6.8″ Clear Resistive Touch Monitor / Wireless Apple CarPlay / Wireless Android Auto / 4-Cam Input / High-Resolution Audio / iDatalink Maestro Ready / Bluetooth® / 13-Band EQ – Details
JVC’s entries stay in the safe, 2-DIN size that’s been compatible with a large number of cars going back easily 20 years. They’re all wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. Two out of the three have 4 camera input (rear, sides, front facing camera).
The real difference is in what JVC calls a “multimedia receiver” versus a “digital media receiver”. These are fancy terms for what some manufacturers call “mechless”. The multimedia receivers have USB/CD/DVD slots, and the digital media receivers are USB only. Mechless units tend to be shallower, and work if you have limited depth in the dash for a DVD player.
The good news is, you have choices. Whether you need DVD or can go mechless, need a large screen that uses a single DIN space, or want the more traditional 2DIN and a screen that fits in the dash, there’s plenty of wireless CarPlay and Android Auto to go around this year.