Last year, we took a look at the Alpine iXA-W404 and found that though the double-DIN receiver showed promise with its swipe-based interface, the OS just wasn't ready for prime time, so we decided to wait for the next iteration. Well, the next iteration is here and it's called the iXA-W407.
Compared with the iXA-W404, the Alpine iXA-W407 is a good example of a "less is more" approach. For starters, the physical controls have largely been removed. There's no double-action encoder knob--only a row of buttons along the bottom edge of the touch screen for volume control, slide left and right (which we'll discuss in a moment), source selection, and two setup buttons, labeled visual and setup.
Having fewer physical controls frees up real estate on the double-DIN-sized face for a bigger color touch screen. The iXA-W407's big 7-inch QVGA screen dwarfs the 4.3-inch display in the previous unit, which makes the W407 an ideal receiver for in-dash video playback. Alpine also seems to have increased the touch screen's (or GUI's) responsiveness, as touch inputs and screen swipes are registered almost immediately with none of the stutter that plagued the previous generation iXA.
In addition to ditching the physical controls, the iXA-W407 continues Alpine's trend of dropping physical media from the in-car audio equation. This media station lacks an optical CD/DVD drive, so you will have to transport your audio on an iPod, digital media player, or USB storage device. Many people already carry most of their music in this fashion, so we don't see the lack of a disk drive as a con.
Because it has no optical drive hiding out behind its screen, the iXA-W407 has no need for a motorized faceplate. As a result it, the screen isn't adjustable for viewing angle. We're grateful for one less moving part to break, but if your vehicle's mounting location is low in the cabin, this may create a visibility issue.
The iXA-W407's user interface carries over the card metaphor of the previous iXA model. Tapping the Source button brings up the card-select screen, from which the user can swipe a finger left or right across the touch screen (or tap the Left or Right buttons) to select either Multi Info screen, Telephone, or, if so equipped, Navigation and Rearview Camera. There's also an Audio/Visual source select card, from which users can swipe up and down to choose radio, iPod/USB, Bluetooth Audio, and the two AV inputs. As optional modules are added--for example, an HD radio tuner--new cards will appear in the source select list.
Bluetooth wireless connectivity is included in this member of the iXA family out of the box, so there's no need for an add-on module. After pairing a phone using a four-digit PIN, you are able to make calls using the iXA's microphone and your vehicle's speakers. If your paired phone (or other Bluetooth device) supports A2DP, then you'll also be able to wirelessly stream stereo audio. The Alpine's Bluetooth system is powered by Parrot.
Once paired, the system will attempt to download your phone's address book and call history for easy retrieval using the touch-screen interface. A voice command option is available, but it depends on your phone's voice engine to operate.
Other audio sources include USB playback of AAC, MP3, and WMA file types. When connected to an iPod or iPhone via the included dock connector, the iXA is able to play back any media that the device is capable of rendering, including video content. Of course, the vehicle must be parked in order to play back videos. You can also listen to AM/FM radio and pipe in audio and video through the W407's two auxiliary inputs.