Alpine ex-10

Roberto Baldwin's picture

Alpine ex-10

So close to being great.

 

In the last few years, the center console of a vehicle has become command central for climate control, navigation, and enormous stock stereos. The amalgamation of these items is great until you try to add an iPod or hands-free Bluetooth system to the mix, or you want to upgrade the audio system.

 

The Alpine eX-10 iPod integration and Bluetooth hands-free calling system hopes to alleviate your lack-of-an-iPod-kit-in-your-new-car blues. The eX-10’s LCD allows drivers to navigate their iPods and Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones. Users have the option of using an FM transmitter or auxiliary minijack audio output to bring the tunes to their stereo system. The FM transmitter pushed a better-than-normal audio signal to the stereo. But if it can be utilized, the auxiliary output is the way to go for cleaner sound, without the issues inherent in FM transmitters.

 

Alpine has been at the forefront of aftermarket iPod car stereos, which the navigation system on the eX-10 reflects. The device does its best to mimic your iPod’s menu system. Users should feel at home as artist, album, repeat, and other choices available on the iPod are found within the eX-10 menu. The eX-10 suffers from the usual latency problems of fast-forwarding to the next song, and you do get a small delay while the device communicates with the iPod.

 

The Bluetooth pairing was simple and mutes your music while you take a call. The option of having the device auto-answer was helpful during intense traffic situations. The external mic picked up an echo for callers when we used the eX-10’s external speaker, but the echo was eliminated when we switched to the car’s speakers. We had no audio issues while on the phone, but those on the other end heard background noise and noted that we sounded like we were yelling into the phone from down the hall. The onscreen phone directory is pulled directly from your mobile phone, and it makes navigating to a contact a chore if you have an extensive list. This is further hampered by the device’s insistence on displaying each phone number as its own contact; if someone has separate numbers for mobile, home, work, and fax, you have to sort through four entries in the directory. There is no favorites system, but there is a SIM-card directory. If your mobile phone supports copying contacts to the SIM, that’s a quick workaround, but in the end, we just picked up the phone to initiate calls.

 

The entire system is controlled by a remote control—a remote that we lost for a few hours while on a long trip through the mountains. Without the remote, the eX-10 becomes useless, though we were fortunate enough to have had placed the device in Shuffle All Songs mode before losing it. Still, the selection of the Cure and Elliott Smith to get us pumped up for snowboarding initiated a frantic search for the missing remote.

 

While Alpine calls the eX-10 a mobile device, when you actually move the device from vehicle to vehicle, the tangle of wires becomes unruly. You need a professional to install the system—which ships with an LCD display, a control unit that must be plugged into your cigarette lighter, and a gaggle of cables—in order to get the full effect without being trapped in a web of cables and input devices.

 

While the iPhone isn’t officially supported, our tests with one yielded nice results. We were able to navigate our contacts, place calls, and use the iPod features. We did have one issue re-pairing the device when we reentered the vehicle while on a call and tried to transfer the audio from the iPhone to the eX-10.

 

The bottom line. The eX-10 is a nice iPod integration system for drivers looking for more than an FM transmitter on a cable. But its reliance on the remote to control every aspect of the device is dangerous, especially for drivers with vehicles that haven’t been cleaned since their last oil change. The hands-free Bluetooth system is a welcome feature, but won’t replace a Bluetooth headset for superior audio.

 

COMPANY: Alpine

CONTACT: www.alpine-usa.com

PRICE: $230

REQUIREMENTS: iPod with dock connector, and/or Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone

Intuitive navigation, good sound quality from FM transmitter. Unofficially works with iPhone.

Easy-to-lose remote that controls entire device. Contacts difficult to find. Unless installed professionally, your car becomes a rat’s nest of wires

 

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