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By Larry Edsall

Alpine Alpine "touches" those frustrated by so many buttons and knobs

Frustrated by the fact that your car has 14 buttons to control its audio system? And that only counts those mounted on the steering wheel!

So were we, and thus read with increased interest news in 2006 that Alpine Electronics of America, Inc. was introducing a new audio-system head unit that could be manipulated not by mastering the location of more than a dozen levers and knobs but with simple touch-screen controls.

Officially, it was the IVA-W200 and it's a DVD/CD/MP3/WMA (that's Windows Media Audio) audio-visual head unit with a 6.5-inch PulseTouch touch-screen monitor. It also served as a double-DIN control center designed to fit into the increasingly plentiful double-DIN openings in the center console of modern vehicles. (DIN being the size of the standard or traditional opening, double-DIN being the new standard for installing so much electronic gear.)

Alpine promised its IVA-W200 could deal with an iPod, Bluetooth, satellite radio (XM or Sirius), HD radio and seemingly any other consumer electronics device you might have in a vehicle, and that includes either installed or plugged-in navigation systems as well as multi-channel sound systems.

Not all of the IVA-W200's controls are on the touch-screen, but a few buttons along the unit's lower face manipulated those that were not. Alpine's announcement noted that with "third-generation" PulseTouch technology, even the touch-screen controls provide "tactile feedback confirmation" when the on-screen buttons or slider controls are used.

The entire unit pivoted down at the touch of a button to reveal the CD slot. This SwingFace design also allowed the screen to be manipulated for different viewing angles and to reduce glare.

The unit was designed with iPod use in mind. Alpine offered a "Full Speed Connection" cable to link the IVA-W200 with your iPod and can use the touch screen to select from the iPod menu and also to see the display of artist, album, song, etc. Alpine said its "Percentage Search" technology was designed to make iPod track selection quicker and easier.

Alpine also designed the unit to work with its NVE-N872A navigation system as well as with its new Blackbird portable nav device.

The IVA-W200 had a suggested retail price of $1,100.

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