High Tech Road Trip: Make Your Car A Mobile Media Center - InformationWeek

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High Tech Road Trip: Make Your Car A Mobile Media Center

Adding mobile Internet, HD TV, DVD, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and GPS to your ride can turn your car into a rolling entertainment center this summer.

Dash-Mount Entertainment System

JVC's new dash-mount entertainment system, elKameleon, is a beautiful combination of capabilities that can be mounted in your dash to replace that tired old cassette deck/receiver. It features a no-button, touch-sensitive, 3.5-inch color LCD control panel that can be removed when you leave the vehicle. When it's in place, it is also motion sensing, so that just passing your hand in front of the panel turns on the backlight. Connectivity options include HD radio, satellite radio, CD changer, and even a rear-view camera. And, you can connect your iPod via USB for sound and video playback.

Satellite Radio

XM Radio and Sirius are on course for a merger. While the Department of Justice has approved the combination, the Federal Communications Commission is still deliberating.

So, at least for now, you'll still have to make a decision. Your choices are likely to be driven by the content available on your chosen network, but indications are that, once the merger is completed, most content will become available on whichever service you've chosen. Since XM carries Major League Baseball, it may be the seasonal favorite, with the hope that the merger will be completed in time for National Football League season.




Delphi's Xpress RC XM receiver saves your personal top 10 playlist plus the most recent hour of XM audio.
(click for image gallery)

XM offers a lot of products, but the new XpressRC, made by Delphi, offers a color LCD with an easy-to-use dial control. In addition to the 10 favorite station buttons, you can save as many as 10 of your favorite songs in the device for replay later. The most recent 60 minutes worth of programming is saved in memory, similar to a DVR (but only audio), so you can back up to hear that last comment or song you missed while you stopped to pay that toll.

The "RC" in the name stands for the Replay and Color, highlighting the 60 minute buffer and color display. Of course, the remote control that comes with the unit, allows your back seat passengers to change stations for you, or for you to control the unit when you have it plugged into your home sound system.

When you eventually get to the beach (or the mountains, or the park), you can plug the XpressRC into the Belkin XM Audio System, a boombox that runs on battery or wall power, for some clear, loud entertainment.




TracVision's A7 lets you take satellite TV out on the road.
(click for image gallery)

Mobile TV, And DVD

Television in the car may sound like a frivolity, but it's the next logical step after DVD players to keep the kids entertained.

KVH's TracVision A7 is a slim bubble that mounts on the roof rack of your SUV or minivan to receive programming from a variety of satellite providers. If you already have a satellite service at home, you can add service for the mobile system at a nominal cost. The system feeds standard displays, but you're likely to have issues with space if you try using your 50" flat panel in the vehicle.

If you don't need the live TV and would rather watch movies, there are less expensive options like the Audiovox VOD102 widescreen flipdown with DVD player. This is a self-contained unit that mounts overhead and flips a 10.2" LCD down for viewing. It comes with two wireless headphones, game input, and a remote control. Just be sure to mount it behind the front seat... no watching while driving.

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