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Entertainment Evolves

    You’d have to look far and wide to find something that has changed as drastically as in-car electronics in just ten years. OK, any number of Hollywood has-beens might fit the bill, but limit the context to cars and it’s the myriad entertainment, navigation, comfort, climate, and luxury features that have evolved at an astonishing pace.
     Have you noticed that you can get a DVD-based navigation system in a Honda Civic nowadays? This used to be an economy car for crying out loud! And maybe you’ve noted that TV screens in your car can outnumber those in your house. The Cadillac Escalade ESV, Jaguar XJ, and the entire Hummer lineup can be outfitted with not one, but two screens for people in the backseat to pretend they’re at the drive-in (maybe it should be drive-on?) theater.
     I finally witnessed the current pinnacle of in-car entertainment when Buick dropped off a 2006 Terraza minivan equipped with a “mobile digital media player” dubbed PhatNoise. You’ll need to consult a teenager for the exact definition of “phat”, but I’ve been able to glean that, indeed, they are not referring to obese carolers.
     The system consists of a 40-gb cartridge (larger capacity cartridges can be purchased) that plugs into a drop down compartment in the vehicle’s overhead rail system. On that cartridge an owner can store up to 10,000 songs, 80 hours of video or scores of video games. Unfortunately, it won’t answer your emails or pay the bills. I didn’t have to try it because the press vehicle came pre-loaded with sample content, but PhatNoise says transferring your own media library to the cartridge is an easy affair. Just a few clicks of the mouse and the included USB docking station transfers the selected content from your home computer to the cartridge. Once you have the cartridge back in the van you use the wireless remote control to navigate the graphical menu displayed on the 7” rear screen. Content can be organized by title, artist or even album.
     PhatNoise is proud to note that all this entertainment nirvana isn’t just for rear seat passengers. The driver can navigate the audio portion of the system through the standard radio head unit and steering wheel controls. After reorganizing the files or making a selection the system gives a verbal confirmation so the driver doesn’t have to take his or her eyes off the road. Book on tape lovers will like the capability of downloading whole books and playing them through the system. We know exactly what you’re thinking and we’re sorry, but Automotive Trends reviews are not yet available for download.
     Admittedly, the lion’s share of the entertainment is to be had in the back. The system comes with a wireless game controller (more controllers can be purchased separately) to play classic video games. We have a feeling older kids hooked on Xbox and Playstation will be bored with the simplistic games, but younger kids should be suitably entertained. Certainly they will enjoy the downloadable episodes of certain popular Nickelodeon episodes, like Spongebob. Parents, however, can only be expected to tolerate so much under the sea pineapple and may start mandating the wireless headphones be used.
     It’s clear systems like PhatNoise are expanding in-car entertainment options for the better. For $695 you not only keep the kids quiet but entertained too. For plenty of parents, that’s worth a lot more than 700 bucks.
     For more information visit: http://www.phatnoise.com/

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