CES 2013: Kenwood DNN990HD

When you think of car audio, do you think of AM/FM radios and CD players? Think again. Today’s best head units are as connected and function-heavy as your phone or tablet. The big difference is that the head units offer dynamite A/V quality. Case in point, Kenwood’s new DNN990HD head unit marries Android with DVD playback.

This two-DIN unit does more stuff than a maxed-out Swiss Army knife. Built-in WiFi enables navigation, cloud-based search and content sharing with compatible servers, and hands-free control of social media. The secret is communication with a dedicated Kenwood server that runs all the moving-vehicle optimized features; (the first two years are free, and $30/year after that). A 6.95-inch touchscreen provides the GUI.

When connected to a WiFi-enabled phone or hotspot, you get enhanced navigation, access to various media sources, Facebook, Twitter, hands-free email, etc. Of course, you’ll find HD Radio, Pandora, iHeartRadio for Auto, Bluetooth, Garmin navigation with INRIX real-time traffic and weather, and the unit is Sirius/XM ready (optional tuner and subscription required). Conveniently, the unit can recognize four different users, and configure itself appropriately.

Advanced speech recognition, text-to-speech, and speech-to-text make driving safe (I hope). The head unit can search across platforms for audio/video content on phones or mass storage devices, as well as network searches on streaming content. Of course, there is full fledged DVD and CD playback. You’ll also find DSP with time alignment, 13-band EQ, three sets of 5-volt preamp outputs, and lots of other good audio stuff. Among a long list of other features are dual USB ports, and dual camera inputs that allow the option of front and rear view cameras.

MSRP is $1700. If that is a little spendy for you, a milder version of the unit, the DNN770HD, lists for $1300. Motor on, Garth.