Not too long ago, in-car navigation systems were limited to expensive luxury cars, but now they're available in just about any car including affordable entry-level models straight from the factory. For customers looking at new cars or used cars without such systems, Jensen has introduced its VM9424 multimedia head unit which is available in any car with a double DIN stereo system and allows car owners to add the convenience of navigation and infotainment with a clean, factory appearance.
The price of the Jensen VM9424 head unit alone is $499 at most retail outlets with installation adding more costs, but do-it-yourselfers will also need to spend about $30 to $40 in extra equipment such as the wiring and installation kits. At this price, Jensen offers car owners a reasonable alternative to portable systems that sit on top of the dash.
We installed this head unit in a 2003 Toyota Corolla which made installation even easier since the stereo comes with pre-threaded holes that match up with factory brackets and hardware. For cars that don't match up or don't have brackets like the Corolla, the VM9424 also comes with a universal mounting bracket. Using the factory brackets not only makes it easier to install the head unit, it also improves security since it isn't able to slide out of the dash. In this car, the installation process (including the wiring) took less than two hours, but times will obviously vary based on the make and model of the specific vehicle - if you're using the head unit for navigation only and not for the multimedia functions, installation is even easier as there are less cables and wires to tuck into the dash.
Once installed, the Jensen VM9424 can do the same functions as systems found on some new cars in packages that exceed $2,000. As is the case with any navigation systems, the controls and functions take some time to learn, but Jensen has designed its system to be as intuitive as possible with easy-to-use buttons on the 6.2-inch touch screen display and four buttons along the side of the unit. The generous screen size means that touch-screen buttons are all large, and the map graphics are better than most handheld systems but are lacking compared to some factory systems available in new cars and even offers some upscale features such as 2D, 3D or split-screen views. The only non-touch controls are for volume, ejecting CDs and then redundant controls to get to the navigation screen and switch between the various audio sources.
Using the navigation, the VM9424 is a fairly quick in delivering directions whether they are from addresses, points of interest and simply just a spot on the map. Directions, distance to turns and even estimated time of arrival are all easily accessible or displayed on the screen. One of the biggest issues I found with the VM9424 is that rerouting took a surprisingly long time. If you deviate from the planned route, it would sometimes take almost 20 seconds to update the route. Another issue is that, on couple occasions, the unit was unable to show some smaller side streets on the map even though it was able to provide directions the street but not to the address.
Despite these relatively minor downfalls, the true highlight of the Jensen VM9424 is its multimedia capabilities. Straight out of the box, the system is able to connect with an iPod, play DVD movies or play music files through the CD slot (including MP3 and WMA), USB port, aux jack or SD card. Optional features include an iPod connector, XM and Bluetooth wiring and a back-up camera that is displayed on the monitor. Even though the system is XM ready, to utilize the satellite radio function, you're still required to purchase an XM receiver and a cable which cost an additional $140 at most big box retailers. On cars equipped with steering wheel mounted radio controls, the head unit can still be controlled through the factory buttons or the supplied remote control. Finally, there are plenty of RCA jacks to add in external inputs. About the only thing that the VM9424 doesn't offer is voice-command guidance.
For the money, it is hard to ignore the value of the Jensen VM9424 head unit. New car shoppers can avoid costly option packages, while those looking at used cars can get a stylish, in-dash multimedia system that performs the same tasks as just about any factory unit on the market.