- Full integration, relatively simple wiring layout.
- Clear display, responsive user interface with well-thought-out menus and options.
- Rapid and complete iPod integration including video.
- Good audio specifications, flexible range of options.
- Exceptional value, especially for bundles with KCA-BT100 and iP300V cable.
- Still an expensive system in terms of outright outlay.
- Satnav UI is not the best available.
- Inevitable worries about vehicle security.
- Will not fit all cars (though single-DIN alternatives are available for similar costs).
While it is not the intention of Geextreme to focus on in-car entertainment, it IS an appealing area of the market to look at, both for the sort of products you get to play with and the lack of competition! Ever since I got my first Japanese import car with a Double-DIN aperture, I’ve wanted a decent multimedia setup in my car.
With the new Kenwood DNX-8120 pointing to an EU-market 8200 in a few months (sales of the DNX-8220BT are now beginning, with prices around £1,050), the existing “fully featured” DNX-7200 is a compelling purchase with heavy discounting from the original RRP.
Kenwood assisted me in obtaining this system for review, however it is being covered at my own expense – without Kenwood I simply would not be covering the latest bluetooth module or the GTM-10 traffic module. As is usual, I installed this myself, in my 1997 Toyota MR-2 T-Bar this time.
The hardware featured here is the Kenwood DNX-7200 head unit, which features dual-zone, 4 x 50w, front, rear and subwoofer pre-outs, camera and AV inputs, two AV outputs, direct iPod or USB connectivity (with iPod video support), and integrated satellite navigation from Garmin. Firmware is 1.0.9 for the headunit, and 2.6 for the Satnav – instructions for upgrading this can be found on Kenwood’s website.
In addition to the head unit, Kenwood provided the new KCA-BT200 bluetooth interface (this is not yet officially on sale in the UK, and you will find many bundles featuring the KCA-BT100. As the DNX-7200 is an older unit overall, this is not going to really affect things), the Garmin-produced GTM-10 TMC receiver, and the obligatory iPod Video connection cable.
Installation in most Japanese import cars will be easy – just remove the dashboard trims or housings and bolt it all in (potential thieves – don’t waste your time. These things are seriously VERY attached to the car, it’s not going to slide out like a typical DIN stereo!). You’re provided with a GPS antenna on a significant length of cable; the proposed location being attached to the dashboard on a magnetic sticky pad, the cable is actually long enough that you could fit it in the rear window of most saloon cars. This is where I chose to fit it to mine, concealed below the factory trim, and it works exceptionally well.
An ISO connector makes hooking up power and speakers easy; CANBUS adaptors are also available which provide the reverse, parking sensors. A speed sensor is not provided on the ISO loom, so I’m not sure if the CANBUS adaptor adds this feature.
The GTM-10 merely attaches to a dedicated Mini-USB port and the car antenna. It can be concealed, or if you wish to fit in the boot extension USB cables can be fitted; however it’s useful to be able to see the module, it provides feedback about TMC signal reception via an LED.
Due to the complexity of this system, the somewhat “progressive” nature of parts arriving, and the inevitability of discovering new features, this review is not yet 100% complete. When this paragraph has been removed, then it will be ;) With that in mind, keep reading to find out more about Kenwood’s current flagship headunit.
Unlike many “ICE”-targeted satellite navigation systems, the DNX-7200 is fully integrated, with the Garmin-produced satnav being contained within the chassis. For upgrades, the SD card slot of the Garmin can be accessed with the screen fully lowered, making it a touch easier than it would be with many hideaway units.
Kenwood’s user interface is very comprehensive, making full use of the 7″ display on this current chassis. A selection of skins is available with a choice of “technical” looking blue, a subtle but rather bright overall grey variation, and a pastel blue/yellow theme that reminds me of overenthusiastic AIM smiley substitutes. You may also add one of three images uploaded to memory via USB stick – these cannot be loaded via the SD card slot – which will be used as background wallpaper. With rapid access to sources, media, audio controls and setup it demonstrates clearly how to make a user-friendly interface work, although some of the options contained within are quite limiting. Pleasingly there are no arcane options, this is a proper, plain-English (or chosen language) interface that anyone can understand.
Graphics are used to good effect when considering the audio placement/balance and controlling advanced audio network functions, and every source has a clear “transport control” screen or the “Easy Control Panel” – a slightly cruder looking minimalist set of controls that can appear over any current source (for example, if you were using satellite navigation and wished to change radio station). Of particular note is the radio display, which uses the display area very effectively with lines of Radio Text or similar embedded RDS information where available, and tuning controls. The CD transport is logical enough, though invariably very few CDs contain the text information it could be displaying. It is possible to have video or image data playing behind another source such as radio or CD, and Kenwood have facilitated what is a very complex group of inputs very well.
One of the primary reasons for purchasing a touch-screen based system for me is “easy iPod control” – I’m quite happy for my radio and CD players to be small, single-line display affairs (though I appreciate a good, lowercase aware layout with a nice font, it’s easier to overlook on a budget system than it is on high-end kit), but when it comes to iPod control, large buttons, lots of information, and rapid access are essential features. Given the tendency of manufacturers to make their head units take control of the iPod, their replacement UI is possibly the most critical part of the system, and Kenwood have managed to deliver a truly impressive effort for the DNX 7200 – which may also be shared with the non-navigation equipped DDX-7029 or 8029 which both offer direct iPod connection (in the case of the 8029, with two USB ports – one dedicated for iPod, one for USB storage, and 5v pre-outs whereas the 7029 and 7200 have 2v).