Cassette players and even CD players are old news now when it comes to in-car entertainment, with the future clearly aimed at offering easy access to a collection of tunes on an MP3 player. Alpine’s EX-10 is designed to help you integrate your iPod and mobile phone into your car while offering a visual display to help you browse, and offers additional features such as Bluetooth for hands-free calling.
Supplied as a package, you’ll find a visual terminal offering a 2.4-inch colour display, cigarette lighter charger/adapter, a microphone to facilitate hands-free calling and all the pads and stickers needed to connect all this to the dash. All the cables you need are in the box and initial setup, in the basic sense of the word, is easy. Once you’ve plugged the relevant cables into the relevant ports, including attaching your iPod to the main display and connecting power via the cigarette lighter, you’re ready to go.
Unfortunately, if you don’t want reams of rather heavy cables strung around your car, you might have to get a bit creative and consider running them underneath or behind the dash. This is obviously more difficult to do, and while the cables supplied are long enough to offer a bit of flexibility we weren’t too impressed by the obtrusive nature of the setup.
A supplied remote control allows you to operate the device from a distance, which includes browsing your iPod using category searches and receiving and ending calls. The display on the terminal is colourful and clear and capable of showing off album art where relevant, but there’s no facility here for video or photo playback. We were quite impressed by the clarity of the FM tuner, which is easy to set up to work with your existing car stereo, but less so with the Bluetooth calling.
Performance here depends very much on where you mount the microphone, which we found most effective around twelve inches away from our face. This isn’t particularly practical, though, and even in this optimum environment we noticed (and were told about) significant delays during a call that makes conversations rather awkward. There were also issues with usability as the remote control seemed particularly unresponsive at times, which made it difficult to browse menus to adjust settings.
With no built-in battery you’ll need to keep the EX-10 plugged to use it, which also renders the auxiliary output port – capable of sending tunes to external speakers – rather obsolete.
We were left rather disappointed with the Alpine controller, which is really an over-engineered solution to the problem of listening to an iPod in your car. You could, for example, pick up an iPod compatible head unit for around the same price (Alpine itself has a good range) and keep everything neatly tucked away.
Alternatively you can make do with a budget GPS that has an FM transmitter and auxiliary port, or, since the supplied remote for the EX-10 is about the same size as a 2nd generation iPod Nano (and bigger than the latest model), you could buy a standalone FM transmitter or a cassette adapter for far less money.
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