Alpine has had iPod compatibility for years, but the user interface has been decidedly un-Apple. Alpine hopes to rectify matter with its new touch-screen iXA-W404 unit works, which boasts a new interface, new features and all the connected goodies audiophiles on the move require.

iPod and iPhone owners will notice that the Alpine's 4.3-inch, touch-screen face displays album art of the current song, and the names of the next two and most recent songs played. Song selection can be made from an alphabetical list just as on the iPod Touch and iPhone or by flipping through the album art in an animation similar to Apple's Cover Flow. Alpine's newest unit also supports video playback from an iPhone or any 30-pin iPod. W404 owners can choose to display three of five "widgets" included with the unit, which include a clock, calendar and photo viewer. The unit can be upgraded by adding components from Alpine's lineup, ranging from GPS, HD Radio, rear-view camera and Bluetooth connectivity. The W404 head unit can even control video display on rear-seat monitors.

The 2DIN iXA-W404 will be available in April for a suggested retail of $550. Alpine's HD radio tuner is a $230 add-on, the rear-view camera system is $220, the Bluetooth module is $180, navigation capability is $350 and a dual seven-inch headrest monitor package is $750.

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Alpine's press release...

ALPINE DEBUTS iPOD DIGITAL MEDIA STATION WITH TOUCH-SCREEN CONTROLS

Unique iXA-W404 Control Knob and Touch-Screen Interface Mark Automotive First; Provides Improved User Experience


TORRANCE, Calif., Jan. 8, 2009 – Three years ago, Alpine Electronics of America, Inc., unveiled the industry's first aftermarket head unit designed to deliver a fully integrated iPod® experience in the vehicle. Building on its leadership experience and expertise in the category, the industry-leading manufacturer of automotive mobile media solutions today breaks new ground with the introduction of the iXA-W404, its first 2-DIN touch-screen Digital Media Station.

The iXA-W404 features a brand-new touch-screen graphical user interface (GUI) that works similar to the iPhone® and iPod Touch, so that consumers can have a familiar user experience when controlling their car audio system. The iXA-W404 meets the specifications for the "Made for iPod" and "Works with iPhone" compatibility. As a dedicated iPod receiver, it does not have a CD/DVD disc drive; instead, it has an AM/FM tuner and a high-speed USB input for optimal iPod/iPhone connection and pure digital sound from the iPod. Users also can connect USB memory devices and MTP-based MP3 players via the USB input. Any iPod with a 30-PIN dock connector is compatible with the iXA-W404.

"Consumer demand has evolved from simply being able to play digital music in the car to having a complete iPod user experience. With this new iXA-W404 touch-screen and knob control system, consumers can have intuitive control over their iPod or iPhone music," said Stephen Witt, vice president, marketing, Alpine Electronics.

The iXA-W404 gives users a new way to navigate and access their iPod/iPhone music and video content via their in-dash head unit. The iXA-W404 can be controlled by the double-action encoder knob or through the vibrant 4.3-inch QVGA color touch-screen monitor. The ultra-responsive touch-screen lets users quickly browse through their file collection by lightly dragging the on-screen album covers with their finger. The current album is shown in the center of the screen, with the previous two albums/songs and next two album/songs on either side of the current selection. Users also can navigate through files alphabetically. With this option, an alphabet bar is shown on the right side of the screen that corresponds to the listed files, similar to the iPhone/iPod Touch. Users can lightly tap the desired letter on the alphabet bar to view the files that begin with that letter. iPod and iPhone video playback also is fully supported by the iXA-W404. Additionally, consumers can customize the iXA-W404 by selecting one of five included display widgets, including a clock, a photo-viewer and a calendar. Up to three widgets can be viewed on the screen at once.

The iXA-W404 can serve as the base for a complete digital entertainment and navigation system. Entertainment options that can be added to the iXA-W404 include satellite radio and static-free HD Radio™ content with multicasting and iTunes® Tagging support. (Separate tuners, adapters and subscriptions required.) iTunes Tagging makes it easy for consumers to discover new music. Whenever they hear a song they like playing on HD Radio, they can "Tag" the song by pressing and holding the "Enter" button on the iXA-W404. Information about the "Tagged" songs are stored on the iPod/iPhone and presented in a "Tagged" playlist the next time the iPod/iPhone is connected to iTunes. The user can then preview and purchase the songs from iTunes, if desired.

The iXA-W404 is also ready for Bluetooth® (Alpine KCE-400BT Bluetooth Interface Module required, sold separately). With this feature, hands-free phone conversations can be conducted through the car's sound system, and all phone functions controlled via the iXA-W404. Users can also wirelessly stream audio from AVRCP and A2DP-enabled Bluetooth devices.

Consumers can make the iXA-W404 a touch-screen navigation system by adding the Alpine NVE-P1 Navigation Drive and PMD-DOK2 Docking Station (both sold separately). The NVE-P1 provides preloaded NAVTEQ® map data of the U.S. and Canada, text-to-speech driving instructions and Bluetooth hands-free functionality, among other features. Driver enhancement can also be added by the HCE-C105 back-up camera system (sold separately). To keep the rear-seat passengers entertained, the iXA-W404 can control rear-seat entertainment options such as the PKG-RSE2 DVD Rear Seat Entertainment Package and the PKG-M780 Dual 7-inch Headrest Monitor Package (both sold separately).

The iXA-W404 features three pairs of 2V pre-outs and a built-in 18W RMS x 4 amplifier (at CEA-2006 power ratings) for flexible system-building opportunities. For audiophiles who want to upgrade their system's sound quality, state-of-the-art Alpine IMPRINT™ audio processing can be had by installing the Alpine PXA-H100 IMPRINT Audio Processor (sold separately). The PXA-H100 automatically tunes and corrects the car's inherent acoustical problems so that listeners can enjoy better sound, faster, from all of their digital media sources. For an easy power upgrade, the KTP-445 Head Unit Power Pack (sold separately) can be added to the iXA-W404, enhancing the musical experience and providing 45 watts of clean RMS power to each channel.