By Gideon V. – Sonic Electronix Editor

Many vehicle owners with a single din dash opening face a dilemma when shopping for a car radio. What if you want to add a DVD player with GPS navigation but your vehicle only has a single din dash opening? In the past you had to bite the bullet and buy a lesser known brand’s single din, DVD and navigation head unit. Now you can choose between two name brands, as the Eclipse AVN7000 and the Pioneer AVIC-N5 provide all-in-one single din DVD and navigation units. In fact, these two models are the only brand name, single din, all-in-one head units on the market.

In terms of expandability, both units offer a plethora of options. Both of these receivers are satellite radio ready. Both units are iPod compatible through the use of an external adapter (sold separately). Both receivers have plenty of audio/video inputs, great for adding video game systems. Steering wheel controls are compatible with each unit with the purchase an additional accessory. If you want to add a backup camera, both of these head units will support a backup camera. All told, these units offer very similar features. Even the designs are similar on these head units. So what is the biggest difference between these two head units?

The biggest difference between the AVIC-N5 and the AVN7000 is the navigation functionality. The AVIC-N5 uses map DVDs, which must be loaded into the head unit prior to using the navigation. After the DVD is loaded on the head unit, the receiver will store the maps. After the maps are stored, eject the map DVD and the navigation will still guide you as you play other CDs or DVDs.

In comparison, the Eclipse AVN7000 has a built-in internal hard drive that stores all of the navigation maps. This is much more convenient because you don’t have to fumble around with discs. The AVN7000 is much more user friendly in terms of navigation. However, both units use vocal prompts to direct you on your route. Also, both offer touchscreen controls for entering addresses and selecting points of interest.

Certainly the AVN7000 has the convenience factor, given that you don’t have to load a map DVD every time you want to use the navigation. With that said, the AVN7000 is not compatible with a traffic tuner, whereas the AVIC-N5 is compatible with XM NavTraffic. This useful software keeps you updated with the latest traffic info. It will alert you of traffic accidents, road construction delays, and the average speed of traffic. You can use this info to navigate around traffic jams.

Besides navigation usability, these stereos also differ in a few other ways. Unlike the AVN7000, the AVIC-N5 is compatible with Bluetooth (adapter sold separately). With integrated Bluetooth technology, you can make hands-free calls with the AVIC-N5 and converse over your car speakers. Unfortunately the AVN7000 cannot be integrated with Bluetooth, so if you plan to integrate with Bluetooth, you should choose the AVIC-N5.

There are a few other differences as well. The AVIC-N5 also allows you to add an optional USB input, which is a great tool for connecting digital media players. With that said, in defense of the AVN7000, the AVIC-N5 does not have a memory card slot while the AVN7000 includes a front memory card slot. If you plan on using a memory card, the AVN7000 is the better choice.

Altogether, both units make excellent car radio entertainment systems. Both the AVIC-N5 and AVN7000 feature motorized, flip out monitors that enable you to fit a head unit with a 7” monitor into your single din dash. You can use these navigation receivers to play CDs, MP3s, and DVDs. With these units you can show movies to your passengers on long trips. Playback control is made easy with the 7” touchscreen. You will have excellent sound quality with either unit, and you really can’t go wrong either way. You should make your selection based upon what features you value most.

To summarize the differences, here’s a quick guide on which unit you should select given your needs. If navigation ease of use is the most important feature to you, then the AVN7000 is a better option with its internal hard drive. If integrated Bluetooth is important to you, the AVIC-N5 is the better option as the Pioneer CD-BTB200 Bluetooth adapter is available for this unit. If you want a USB input, the AVIC-N5 is the right choice since the AVN7000 does not have an option for adding USB. If you want a memory card slot, the AVN7000 is the right choice since the AVIC-N5 does not have one. If you want to add a traffic tuner, you should go with the AVIC-N5 and add XM NavTraffic software. If you want to add HD radio, go with the AVN7000 and add an Eclipse HDR105 HD radio tuner.