By David Ponce
Alpine makes high-end in-car electronic stuff. That’s their thing and they’re darn good at it. But someone must have noticed the gadget revolution taking place and decided it was time for Alpine to enter that market. Their offering? The Blackbird portable navigation device/MP3 player.
The unit is primarily a GPS navigation system. It has a 4GB hard drive that comes pre-loaded with detailed maps of the US and Canada, as well as 6 million POIs (points-of-interest). It has, however, a slot for an SD/MMC card, which you can load up with MP3 or WMA files. It will then play these back through your car stereo via an FM tuner located in the included cradle, with 12 selectable frequencies. It even automatically reduces the volume of your music while it is giving you spoken driving instructions.
When you reach your destination, detach the unit from its cradle… and keep listening to your tracks via headphones. Though it’s a little bulky to be used as a standalone MP3 player (it’s 145mm by 74mm by 29mm), this type of functionality is great.
Additionally, there is a built-in radio data system (RDS) traffic tuner. This is a subscription service that is slated to be offered in selected markets in late spring 2006 which would enable you to get traffic reports, as well a weather information, directly to the device.
Of course, they don’t give them away, but at about $750, it’s more than reasonable for a navigation system. And, we’re on the waiting list for a review unit, so stay tuned for first-hand impressions.
Expect them in stores late February.