Pros:full featured, real physical buttons and knobs, removable faceplate
Cons:iPod must be plugged into the front of the stereo
The Bottom Line: Not cheap, but you get a lot for your dollar.
I purchased the JVC KW-NT50HDT after researching available double-DIN car stereos with integrated GPS systems. My goal was finding the all-around best possible unit with a price tag of under $900 or so.
JVC appears to have made several similar models in this product line over the last couple years, with models ending in HD practically identical to their HDT counterparts except lacking ability to download free traffic information.
As the NT50HDT is a now-discontinued "last years' model", I was readily able to find it for just under $800, making it my top choice out of their lineup.
On the plus side, this unit offers pretty much all of the functionality I could ask for. HD radio is built-in (not just an optional module to buy separately and plug in), and really makes regular FM radio listening much more enjoyable. The artist, song name and album name are displayed as songs play and a number of local radio stations in my area offer a couple of alternate stations, only available on HD radio, in addition to a "near CD quality" HD version of their primary station. Bluetooth support is built-in too, and works well. The radio automatically downloaded a copy of my iPhone 4s's phone directory and made it available on the screen for one-touch dialing, as soon as I paired my phone up and went to the phone menu on the stereo. I also tried holding down the iPhone's center button to invoke Siri, and the stereo immediately grabbed onto it and let me talk with Siri hands-free. The GPS system works as well as most dedicated units I've used, with quick response and some nice extras, such as a button to press to immediately locate the nearest gas stations. Updated maps, however, aren't provided directly through JVC. It appears you can buy them online from Navteq, but no subscriptions are available to receive updates for one flat price. Bluetooth audio streaming is supported, as well as the ability to play MP3 music from USB memory sticks or a CD-R disc. Another nice touch is support for internet streaming IHeartRadio radio stations around the country. They accomplish this by having you download a free application for your Android or iPhone, and then tethering it to the stereo via USB cable. As long as the phone has internet access, the stereo presents you with a list of all 700 or so stations in their network to chose from, and accesses them through your cellphone.
The KW-NT50HDT is designed thoughtfully too, with a removable face-plate (quite a rare thing for double-DIN stereos!). A padded carrying case is included to store the faceplate in when you remove it. I also appreciate the real volume knob and easy to press buttons to cycle through the inputs or toggle the GPS map screen on/off. Many touch-screen stereos do away with the physical controls completely, which makes them harder to use while driving.
A number of customizations are provided too, including a true 7-band equalizer with a number of factory presets and 2 user assignable ones. (This can really make your stereo sound better if you take the time to play around with it, vs. only having bass, mid, and treble adjustments!) The backlit color of the knobs can be selected in a menu option as well, so you can set it whichever color matches your particular vehicle's dash backlighting - or even make it constantly cycle through all of the colors.
I have a reverse camera mounted on my Jeep's rear license plate frame, so I was hoping it would use it without any hassles. It did, and gives a really good picture too. The only oddity I had was that when I shut off the engine, but before I open one of the car doors, the stereo switches to the reverse camera view, as well as switching like you'd expect whenever I shift into reverse. This may have to do with the adapter box I needed to make the stereo communicate with my Jeep's CANBUS system though.
Another set of video/audio inputs and outputs are included, for things like adding an external display for kids in the back seat of a van to watch DVD movies, or to attach something like a game system, so it plays through the stereo speakers and displays on its touchscreen.
On the downside? A really odd omission on JVC's part is a lack of a dedicated iPod interface cable. I would have assumed they'd include one that would plug into the back of the stereo, which you'd then route to your glove-box or center console. They don't... An iPod or iPhone must be plugged into the USB port in the front of the radio, with a cable you supply (or buy separately from JVC). On a head-unit this nice, I can't imagine why this was left out? It might have also been nice if they provided an SD or MicroSD card slot on the front, along with the USB port.
And though it's more of a side note than a negative, Sirius or XM satellite radio is not built-in. Either of these requires buying a companion module from JVC.
All in all though? At the discounted $800 price or thereabouts, you can't go wrong with this radio! The sound quality is just fine with it powering my coaxial 6x9 speakers right now, but it does have RCA outputs for easy hookup to an aftermarket power amp, as well as a separate audio output for a bass subwoofer. Not all vehicles have room for a double-DIN head-unit like this, and not everyone wants all of the features in a stereo like this one. But I can assure you, you can spend hundreds more for one from several competitors out there and wind up with a more sluggish GPS and no integrated HD radio.
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