• Jan 13th 2009 at 9:01AM
  • 14
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.

Alpine's press release...


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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Another car stereo that sports a closed, proprietary audio player interface? No thanks. I'd rather have a system that offers similar features yet supports the audio player or storage of my choice.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Can this or units like this use an existing Ipod adapter if your car is already wired for it (factory ipod connector)?

      I'd like to upgrade mine at some point and have GPS and BT.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have an iPod Touch, as well as a number of legacy Apple devices. We are not children who's parents caved to the "IPOD" marketing machine.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have the Pioneer Avic Z2 and the Ipod capabilities arent exactly great. I fact Id say they are poor to average. First the screen is huge so I expect it to display more info than 5 songs at a time before I have to push a button to change the song list. Lets be fair here, most people have TONS of music on their ipod. Most of it they never listen to. I actually cleaned out and reorganized my ipod because i had too many artists to slog through.

      My answer was actually pretty simple and its to use the genre colom as an aplphabatizer because you cant search alphabetically. Which Im confused about. My guess is that Alpine, pioneer and any other manufact is limited by the storage device itself. Ipods dont have a search by alphabet design in them so the manus cant capitalize on this.

      Eitherway, the best hook up ive found is to have a direct connection to your ipod to the radio that keeps the functionality of the ipod so you use the ipod like an ipod and it goes right to a line in.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That is not a bad plan.

        If someone could come up with truly good system of holding the iPod in a visible position, near line-of-sight, high on the console, or something, and using steering wheel or console control to manipulate the iPod.

        Something like the click-wheel, but more tactile, like a knob instead of a solid state touch-surface. The Apple controls are sufficiently simple. And the screen is only bright when you are manipulating the device, otherwise it dims. With some easy-reach, easily touch-specific controls that you can feel the controls of, rather than looking at the controls... that isn't so bad.

        I wonder what research is being done in ergonomics and interface design to really make cars more intuitive to control. More and more information systems are becoming available, and doing some interesting things (and even some things that raise suspicion), but are becoming more, and more, and more to manage while driving.

        Computer interface is coming along, and making things easier to manage, as prompts and pertinent information can come to the front as demanded, or as necessary. Apple's iPhone, and even Mac OSX are very good at that in the computer, and especially the cell phone market.

        The iPhone's software interface is amazingly intuitive, bringing things forward as they need to be, and managing a HUGE array of possible tasks in a very easy to manipulate way. And is very easy to control, IF you can look directly at it, and pay a bit of visual attention. However, in a car, that needs to shift slightly toward physically tactile buttons and controls, than touching a glass panel.

        If the display is near line of sight, it is out of reach. If it is in reach, you can't easily divert your eyes to look at what you are touching. Disassociating the controls to a set of physical buttons and knobs, with tactile differentiation, and placing the device display in line of sight, is what it needs.

        I wonder if that, and ergonomics and intuitive physical controls are coming along in making multi-system controls more intuitive for cars.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What will it cost to install this? I rather have this than pay dealer or a car company a penny more.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Depends on a couple of things:

        1) Does your dash have a double-DIN opening?
        2) Are you comfortable with a simple set of hand tools?

        Assuming you said yes to both it should be relatively trivial to install yourself. I've never paid to install an aftermarket head unit. The cost over and above the head unit itself amounts to a wiring harness adapter (no one should ever cut the factory connector off when these things are $8.00-15.00) and an installation bracket (~$30). One of the reasons I like to buy from Crutchfield is that they generally include the installation stuff for free. There may be others that do this as well.

        If your car has a double-DIN opening and you want to pay an installer it shouldn't be too expensive but, as I have never paid an installer, I couldn't give you a ball park.

        If your car doesn't have a double-DIN opening, you might be better off forgetting about this head unit. Modifications are always possible but the budget is going to depend on the extend to which your dash has to be modified.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yea, more APPLE this and APPLE that. Who's ever heard of Android anyway? I find it hard to believe how an entire industry (save Parrot) completely ignores the largest body of handsets for the sake of the one niche brand.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I own the Alpine X-100, a 2008 model. I would counter the comment that the interface is not user friendly, it is. I upgraded from the previously mentioned 9885 for larger screen real estate and a dedicated "back" button a la the ipods "menu" button.

      The 9885 is excellent, and the x100 only refines and adds a few features. My main problem with Alpine is the cost of the outboard accessories. I have the HD box, and it's waste. When the signal is pulled in it's great, but the stations (Wash, DC) are just not putting out the juice to connect without constant drop offs.

      I also agree with argument favoring less bling and more reasonably sized buttons for eyes on the road use.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I have the CDA-9885 (mostly because of the iPod) and this would be an awesome upgrade when I eventually move into the new Insight. like you said, the extras are crazy expensive but eBay can help tone down the price. I haven't tried HD radio though(hard to find but I have Bluetooth, highly recommended)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I've had a CDA-9885 Alpine deck in my car for about a year, and I use it almost exclusively with my iPod. By far the best investment I've made in car audio. The thing I don't like about this one though, is the touch interface. Tactile controls here are a must because they allow you to WATCH THE ROAD while you search for a song. I'd have to see this one in action, it seems most of the commands have a touchscreen button and a tactile button. We shall see.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is very nice device.this camera have great features. what will be the cost of this Alpine.i have iphone mobile.How about a bluetooth car stereo supporting A2DP and an universal charging mount? That solution cost me about 120 Swiss Francs and works extremely well..
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