Two cameras – one input
This week in the shop we installed an Alpine iLX-F411 in a 2017 Toyota Tacoma. The client did have one concern about the installation. Their vehicle was fitted with a front and rear camera. Why the concern?
This $1100 radio with a big, beautiful 11-inch screen has only has ONE camera input. Unless of course you buy the Alpine KCX-C2600B universal camera switcher. But who wants to do that? The KCX-C2600B includes a separate dash mounted button to allow you to switch between camera views since the radio does not have any on screen control over the non-existent additional camera inputs.
Pre-existing front rear camera switch
Thankfully, we have seen this before so we had an idea of what we would be dealing with. We had previously installed the 9-inch Halo in a Tacoma a couple years ago and that truck had a switch very similar to this. In that particular Tacoma, there was not only a front and rear camera, but also a third camera we tied into. Again with a radio equipped with just one camera input. Alpine – come on – people want more than one camera input. Just give it to them.
For that particular vehicle we made up our relay system to switch between the three cameras. There was a switch to go between front and rear and an additional switch to go between the two different rear cameras. Fun times with relays! However, for this Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma install, we weren’t sure if we’d really have to make anything until we opened it up and saw how it was interfaced with the factory screen.
After opening it up, we saw how it was connected to the factory radio and it was actually a super simple in and out style T-harness with standard video connections. Thankfully we were able to simply re-use the existing switch with the single reverse camera input on the Alpine iLX-F411. It was one of the rare moments during an installers life where the wiring worked out to be much easier than anticipated.
For the Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma install, I recommend using the iDatalink Maestro. This interface will not only retain steering wheel controls and the OEM reverse camera, but it also retains access to vehicle settings. Some clients aren’t even aware of this menu because it’s on the second page of settings in their factory stereo, but check it out.
There are a whole bunch of personalization settings, door lock settings, lighting settings, park assist settings, etc. in this section of the factory radio. Unless you use an iDatalink Maestro module to retain those settings, they will be gone – no longer accessible once you replace the radio. Additionally, the Maestro module keeps data flowing through the factory radio so you don’t have to hear the dealer complain about any communication error codes stored in your computer because you installed an aftermarket radio. Use the right parts and keep all the features and data flowing.
Bigger is better
Isn’t there a saying, bigger isn’t always better? I think in this case, bigger is better. What do the readers think? Correct me if I’m wrong. In my opinion, the larger the screen is, the easier it is to see what you’re trying to do with it. Therefore the less distracted you might be as a driver. With a screen this big, you may even be able to see what podcast you’re trying to select using your peripheral vision while you stay focused on the road ahead.
In terms of features you do get quite a bit for your money with the Alpine iLX-F411.
- Wired Apple CarPlay
- Wired Android Auto
- SiriusXM Ready
- Front, Rear and Subwoofer pre-amp rated at 4 Volt
- AM/FM Radio (not HD)
- 11-inch WGVA screen (wide graphics video array 480 x 800)
- Single Din Chassis
- 5 Band EQ
- Built in crossovers HPF and LPF
- Digital Time Alignment
- 45 watts x 4 peak, 16 x 4 RMS per channel
- Single reverse camera input (compatible with KCX-C2600B switcher expansion module)
- Customizable icons and display
- HDMI input and output
- 3.5MM AUX input
- iDatalink Maestro Compatible
I am disappointed with the 5 band EQ vs typical Alpine 9 band, but that appears to be what Alpine is using with most of their newer touch screen operating systems. For the less tech savvy/audiophile consumers, they may find the 5 band EQ much easier to use. The other major bone of contention is the connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is wired, not wireless. In fact Alpine hasn’t had a wireless model since the iLX-107 a few years back. Perhaps when the chip shortage, cost of raw materials and global shipping headaches settle – which I don’t think will be until late 2022 – they may introduce a new model with the feature.
Still, overall, the Alpine iLX-F411 does have a lot going for it. It’s quite versatile in how it can be mounted allowing it to fit in a lot of vehicles that wouldn’t normally accommodate such a large screen. The fit and finish of the edges of the screen are quite nice with a satin metallic trim. From a screen resolution and overall value stand point? If you can get your hands on one and you’ve got the double din chassis to fit it, I am more inclined to go with a Kenwood DMX1037s which features:
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- High resolution display
- 13 Band EQ
- FOUR camera inputs
Although I’m a bit torn. I do love the volume knob on the Kenwood DMX1037s, but I think Alpine’s screen edges are softer and cleaner. The gloss black on the Kenwood DMX1037s can make it stick out a bit on certain dashes. Whereas the Alpine’s softer edges seem to blend in better on most vehicle dashes.
What features matter most?
Buying an aftermarket head unit always includes some kind of trade-off unfortunately. The trick is to consider what features are most important to you and base your decision off that. Is it sound quality? Screen quality? Ease of use? Audio control? Overall appearance? Camera inputs? What features are most important to you?