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by Bill Braun

Reviewer Extraordinaire

on August 19, 2014
The Alpine X009-FD1 makes a 9” screen look like a factory add on – but it certainly doesn’t perform like one.

The Alpine X009-FD1 is among a series of firsts in the industry. A massive 9” screen accompanies an assembly of much larger than normal icons. It also comes with some of the more formidable feature sets I’ve come across.  It’s also the first Navigation Receiver made for an extremely specific set of vehicles, so if you have a Ford Truck/SUV made after 2009 – this deck was made specifically with your ride in mind.

Given the uniqueness of the receiver, assessing the competition in this space is something you’d have to limit to a comparison of it’s functionality. None of the major manufacturers out there come anywhere near the 9” screen category, so that aside the closest competitors are the Kenwood DNN991HD and the Pioneer AVIC-8000NEX. Logically, the pricing for a screen 25% smaller results in a wide gap financially, with the 7” versions hovering at the $1,500 mark and the 9” X009-FD1 weighing in at $2,500.

The price may take some aback, but consider this:

  • The screen is not just larger…but MUCH larger than anyone else’s receiver.
  • It comes with every possible wiring harness you need to retain the factory audio system (even if it's an upgraded Audio system), steering wheel controls, Bluetooth integration, backup camera and Sync will all still operate. The extra parts to integrate all these possibilities individually would cost several hundred dollars plus the cost of a dash kit and wiring harness. Here – it comes in the box.
  • It comes with it's own custom dash kit that’s so well designed it could easily be mistaken for a high end factory upgrade.

The core of any receiver is it's functionality, and that means you have to examine it's software.  From that standpoint, the differences in their respective features are subtle, and rest in a combination of compatible apps (Pioneer offers dozens of them), navigation highlights like Points of Interest (Pioneer has about 8 million POI’s) and several other features like Text-to-Speech and Kenwood’s incorporated Wifi hub.


Alpine’s signature white logo appears up on the power-up. After a moment, the startup screen gives way to the source you were on last. A special language selection screen takes you through the first of a few basic steps to setup your radio if this is the first time you’ve turned it on.

From a style standpoint the OS (Operation System) is decidedly less fanciful than it's competition, but what it lacks in the “modern art” department it more than makes up for in raw functionality, and overall speed of operation. Being pretty takes a distant back seat to comprehension and practicality when I’m driving.

The black gloss frame of the radio is relatively minimal, as the screen takes up all but a very small percentage of the real estate. The surrounding dash kit features shiny black plastic that is easily cleaned, but there’s quite a lot of surface area here, so don’t be surprised if you have to break out the cleaning cloth every so often.

The physical buttons are large, effectively the largest I’ve seen to date. It’s safe to say the goal of the buttons was to be easily manipulated and identified while driving. People with long fingernails will have no trouble pushing these buttons, which is an undeniable advantage from an ergonomic standpoint.

It’s obvious that Alpine spent a significant amount of time (and money) to come out with a receiver that looks and feels like a factory deck – but much, much better. One new item to inspect was the factory dash kit, which is chrome and black.  Unlike most receivers, there’s nothing you could consider “small” about it.  Every button is large enough to be visible at a glance, and everything is well illuminated.  The theme here is access & understandability without having to think about additional steps.  Only the My Favorites button (the picture of the star) leaves any real room for interpretation without opening up the manual.

Build Quality

The material on the face of the Alpine X009-FD1 is nearly identical to the rest of their “X00” line in most respects – save for the differences in the GM and Ford versions, which boils down to the buttons being incorporated into one assembly just below the radio (as opposed to a distribution of them around the dash kit.) I hope for a satisfying click to confirm you’ve done what you're supposed to, and more padding in the buttons to give them a sense of solidity. Alpine touts a button press that is solid, and in this case they delivered.

When I opened the receiver face to load a CD, I applied some side stress to the face. This is done to see if there is any “give” to the face and hinges. It was completely solid, without even a hint of play. The body of the receiver is also using some seemingly thick metal to support it.

The touch screen’s solidity seems to have been unchanged from last year’s models to this, with no detectable issues that could spell trouble down the road. All told, the receiver seems to built for the long haul – something I have come to expect from any receiver at this price point, and from Alpine as a company.

Since Alpine includes the entire dash kit in the box, I checked out the fit and finish as well.  Over the decades dash kits have improved qualitatively.  Tolerances have tightened, and seams have smoothed, with the ultimate goal being a factory look with aftermarket performance.


Selecting a source involves touching an icon in the upper part of the touch screen. Alpine calls it the “band display” – which is basically the list of sources you can choose from. This year the choices are customizable, so altering the order you see them in is an option. You can’t delete them. You can’t rename them.  But at least you can move the unused sources to the end of the list.

The way Alpine labeled the available sources has also improved. None of the descriptions I read seemed confusing, and the iconography is crystal clear. Like most competitors, these source lists include items like USB and AUX, which are greyed out when no source is available to activate. I’m more a fan of not offering choices that don’t exist.

The My Favorites feature is unique to Alpine – and is beyond cool - but let me preface that statement with something I find as a common thread in many products: having 80 of anything presents the user with the potential for too many choices. The point of having quick accessibility is based around user convenience, so having 80 choices may require that you take some time to make it convenient for you.

My suggestion is to segment the personalized icons by pages. Since Alpine took the time to add specific colors and pictures for each kind of shortcut (like a picture of a CD for a shortcut to the disc player), quick identification shouldn’t pose a challenge even to uninitiated. Add the fact that you can personalize the order and titles of every icon, and it becomes that much easier to manage while driving.

There’s also a little yellow “star with a plus next to it” you’ll see on the left side of the screen. Meant to quickly add new items to the My Favorites list, the overall ability to quickly access what a user cares about becomes downright impressive.

Alpine systems can sense 2 Bluetooth signals and associate profiles to them. This means that the X009-FD1’s personalization has evolved to the next level, allowing each user to make several personalized acoustic changes in addition to the My Favorites settings. If both signals are present simultaneously, the system prompts you to select one or the other.  In a nutshell, you have 2 sets of contacts, My Favorites and audio settings to choose from. I’m a fan of any convenience that works so effortlessly.

Another source made easily available is the use of a camera on the front and back of the vehicle. Most receivers of this caliber have a backup camera function - the screen automatically appearing when the vehicle is in reverse. Few have taken advantage of the obvious upsides of a front facing camera, and those that have done so have made little effort to highlight it as an option. The consequence is that it goes largely unnoticed by most consumers.

The simple truth is that unless you drive a bus, you can’t see your front bumper. Having a front-facing camera solves that glaring lack of visibility, especially when parking “head in” or when you have to turn into a corner with limited visibility.  Alpine got this one really, really right in my estimation.  The only issue I have is akin the to band display quirk:  I don’t want to see an option I cant utilize, and Alpine has merely greyed out the icon when a camera isn’t detected.

Choosing different music on the Alpine X009-FD1 can be done by hitting the musical note button, or selecting a source from the band display. Choosing sources is quite easy, and graphic selections are universally quick to use. You can also choose to use the My Favorites functionality to put the most common sources and channels on to one screen…labeled as you wish. This works very well, especially for radio presets.

Playing most media was an absolute no-brainer. Once my phone was configured to the receiver, the Pandora, Bluetooth Pandora, and iPod icons lit up like a Christmas tree. One touch of the “soft” source buttons got me wherever I needed to go.

Switching sources is equally easy, and one button press got me to Pandora from the radio. Connecting the receiver to your phone via a cable allows album artwork when detected. The graphics are good, and on this 9” screen the larger icons are a welcomed sight.

Selecting the iPod icon started my playlists running, which can be done either via Bluetooth or hardwire. The X009-FD1 defaults to the last item played, so in this case my 90’s playlist came on. Actively searching for a different song or playlist is the same as when you search on Pandora, where a magnifying glass was an obvious icon to use. For iPod searching  (and iPhone of course) you can also use the three bullet points to get to the same screen. It’s a little bigger of an icon so it may be easier to find.

The i-Personalize function is also present in the mix, and is geared towards crafting the sound to the speaker system your vehicle has. Everything from the types of speakers to the shape of the vehicle – even the seat composition (cloth, leather, etc…) is taken into account.  The choices are in a well thought out order that leaves little to chance, and made a significant difference in performance when I tried it.

If you're a Facebook user, want to improve your in-car sound on the fly and don’t mind a new app – try Alpines TuneIt. When connected to the receiver, the app allows the user to set equalizer curves, time delay and crossover settings. It was fun, and more importantly it allowed me to change some basic settings without getting hip-deep into the radios functions while driving. It’s a bit on the basic side functionality-wise, meant for a quick, unintimidating fix – which is exactly what it does.

Typing in a search for music has not changed significantly for a few years, and Alpine is using the “if it aint broke…” mantra to not mess with something that makes sense already. Case in point - when typing in search mode, I found the alphabet search the most useful. Similar to the iPhone’s own search functionality, you can choose to search by artist, song, genre, etc… When I tried to search for videos I have stored on the phone I did run into a bit of an issue, as I couldn’t find the any videos except for the ones stored in my iTunes folders. This was not a problem when I searched on a USB stick, but my advice is to use a USB for video anyway given the massive storage capabilities a thumb drive can offer.

Access speed could be marginally faster when looking for a song, but given the integration of Siri and Siri Eyes Free, using voice commands makes a lot more sense now for audio and address book info alike. For searching within my playlist, Siri was not 100% as accurate at times. Bands like “inxs” are simply too far away from proper english for Siri to get right out of the gate. While I’ve heard that the phone’s software “learns” your linguistic tendencies & accentuations, I have yet to see proof of that.

Making a call with the receiver occurs without a hitch, but having a soft phone button that allowed me to make a voice call would have been preferable. If you have an iPhone 4s or above, you’ll find Siri shines here, and even when I didn’t use it, I went straight to the alpha search and found who I wanted to call in about 3 seconds. Whether or not you have an iPhone, making a call from an address book is a universally easy process.

If you want to save yourself some effort, you can pre-program callers in the My Favorites section, plus there’s a separate set of 4 shortcuts on the phone screen itself. Between those 84 possible shortcuts, most people would be hard pressed to find fault with the system.

Calling while I was driving, the microphone quality was a little noisy, having a slight echo to it according to the person I called. Alpine suggests the microphone placement to be directly facing the driver, on the sun visor. Taking their advice, the call was acceptably clean. You can also adjust the mic volume as well as the caller volume from 1 to 11. Kudos for what I am assuming is a Spinal Tap homage. Everything should go to 11 as far as I’m concerned.

As has been the theme, Alpine integrated Siri Eyes Free for all of their higher end navigation units. Functions like hearing a text and dictating one back from Facebook, voice dialing, and quite a bit more now simply involves holding the phone button down for a moment on the radio or on your factory steering wheel (if it’s been linked to the receiver).

The picture is bright, legible and detailed, and truly shines while using navigation and during normal functions like Pandora and CD playback.

In playing a DVD, I find animation and action are the toughest tasks, so I played a Disney film to see how well the X009-FD1 performed. The test translated into good video quality, but not in the category of “incredible.” I noted a lack of smoothness in fine detail, and the receiver had some issues with subtle color differences.

If you're getting a receiver strictly for it’s video playback quality, there are better units out there. The Pioneer AppRadio 3’s video quality for example is superb, but the Pioneer suffers glare issues in direct sunlight – a price they are apparently willing to pay for the high gloss screen they use.

When choosing the proper icons on the DVD’s top menu, it required I touch small areas which in the past resulted in a few mistakes on my part while driving. The “key” button, is available but it's a bit cryptic as to it's exact use unless you read the manual – so using the keypad is something I try to avoid. Plus, for the life of me I don’t know a single person who actually knows the chapter number of any DVD. 

Media Expander does a surprisingly good job in improving the quality of compressed audio (MP3’s, Internet radio and iTunes are all examples). It restores some of the lost data according to Alpine, and now I’ve heard evidence to support that contention first hand. I distinctly heard additional clarity, especially to the vocals. Level 2 (of 3) was my favorite, and Alpine makes setting recommendations based on media type.

If you are one of the billion or so Facebook users, you can opt to have notifications dictated (called “text-to-speech”) to you while driving. You can also select a thumbs up to a given text on the fly. Another Facebook advantage is Alpine’s Tune-It 2.0 app. Download it to your phone and you get a free, easy to use graphic equalizer, time alignment and audio presets available on Android, Blackberry and Apple phones.  Playing with it is both fun and easy to do while in the car, plus you can explore several sound options (including using the bass optimization software) for specific kinds of music.

The touchscreen itself is quite accurate. It could be my imagination but the screen seems to be more sensitive than in the past. This is a double-edged sword, requiring what I consider to be a less than reasonable amount of pressure to activate certain functions on the screen. A light touch is great when you're at a dead stop, but the majority of the time you're in motion. It's an admittedly subjective standard, as everyone’s going to use the screen with a slightly different amount of pressure.

The setup and menu system is often the weakest link in the chain. Too many controls and option upon option can feel intimidating, which is only slightly worse than having settings that are oddly described and less useful.

With new receivers I find most often I have to have the instruction book nearby – something I feel should almost never be necessary. As much as I usually hate to read the literature, it’s warranted in this case. The instruction book is easy for anyone from a novice to an experienced operator to grasp.

Let me be clear: I am one to shout from the rooftops that a well built OS shouldn’t require you to delve into the literature to operate any receiver on a day to day basis. The entire X00 series of Alpine receivers does an excellent job of maximizing functionality with nearly zero opportunity for confusion of misinterpretation. Most every function was so well laid out that it was obvious what it's purpose was.  But the receiver’s potential doesn’t stop there….

Considering the metric ton of features and 2 separate sets of instructions (for audio and navigation) these decks have, it’s easy to simply use a minimalist’s approach and not really explore the literature. Avoid that thought. Read a bit and you’ll find features you never knew existed – especially with the advent of idatalink being added to the mix. You’ll be glad you did.


The navigation built into the Alpine X009-FD1 is powered by NAVTEQ, and now also comes with real time traffic updating, which and is an absolute godsend. I have to recount an experience for you to appreciate the importance of this feature….

Traveling here in So Cal, traffic is a forgone conclusion. It’s just a question of where it is and how bad it happens to be on any given day. One of my coworkers already has this receiver installed in his car. Bound for work on his daily commute, his journey is about 15 miles from end to end. On his way to the office the INE-W957HD (same software as the X009-FD1) recognized traffic, caused in this case by unannounced construction on a bridge that overpasses the highway on his route. This would have delayed him (putting this kindly) 20 minutes bare minimum.

Instead of suffering that inconvenience, a large orange traffic icon appeared on the screen - now showing his route in red. This happened when the actual road in front of him was completely clear, which for me usually plants a seed of doubt. Do I trust the receiver or my eyes? Let me tell you – the receiver can see a heck of a lot farther down the road than I can.

Wisely, he decided to trust the receiver. After allowing the system to temporarily reroute him on surface streets, he was able to completely avoid the traffic that everyone else had to “patiently” wait for. Alpine 1, traffic 0. Point proven.

Creating a route from scratch is an easy process. With more than half a dozen ways of identifying the exact same place, defining where you want to go is basically just a matter of starting a new route in the menu. Where is gets potentially more complicated is defining waypoints (places along your route you want to go, but not the last place you want to go on the route), or mildly harder, creating a different starting point. This makes sense, as you rarely want to start somewhere other than where you are eat the moment.

With 80 potential memory locations, the “My Favorites” screen will probably be used to some extent to remember places you go to consistently. For example, I added a shortcut to my house to make the system evaluate the traffic. Now I instantly know the best route home at the end of the day.

Another factor in determining the mettle of a navigation unit is how difficult it is to find places on a map. Ask yourself:  What if I’m hungry while on my trip? What if I have to get gas? What if I need to fix a flat?

Addressing this, Alpine has about 7 million Points of Interest (called “POI”) available to reference, including gas stations, hospitals, food, hotels and entertainment just to name a few. All these POI’s are searchable by:

  • Location
  • Proximity to you
  • Preset category
  • Latitude/Longitude
  • Touching a spot on the map
  • Just by name

Short of psychic powers, I simply can’t imagine another way to call up possible destinations. They covered every conceivable base here.

As you have to make a turn, most navigation systems make this important data plainly visible. Alpine makes it available in two well thought out places: first is on the top of the screen, where the name of the next road is printed. Next is a box in the upper left hand corner. The box tells you the direction the next turn will be, and the distance you have to the turn. Traffic and ETA is below that in two separate boxes. On the bottom of the screen you see the street or highway you are currently on. As you get closer to a turning point (or your destination) the system zooms in gradually, which was both cool and completely necessary.

For map views, you have a choice of 2D, 2D flat and 3D options. The 3D function is available in certain markets, and while high on the coolness factor, it’s usefulness is limited in my opinion.

Another cool feature is the dual screen function. Pressing the icon on the lower right of the screen allows you to switch between a split screen (navigation and audio source playing) or a full navigation screen. When in split screen mode, swiping from one side or the other will swap the screen positions. I liked the navigation a little closer to me, so moving the half screen navigation to the left was a great little feature to have. Unless I’m turning (or doing something other than just driving in a straight line), I don’t really need to see every detail of the navigation screen anyway.

Overall I have to say I was elated with the entire navigation system.

Playback & Expandability

Alpine’s newest navigation receivers all allow audio, video, Pandora, Aha, playlists and now Apple’s Siri – Alpine has now added an HDMI plug to get HD video from your iPhone 5. You’ll still need an adapter that Alpine doesn’t provide (or sell for that matter), a breakout box that splits the lightning cable into USB and HDMI cables. You need to hook up both to allow video transmission and data/charging capabilities. 

Blackberry and Android functionality is also supported, albeit less so. Video isn’t supported via the USB cable (for charging, metadata and cover art purposes) and Bluetooth compatibility is pretty much audio only.

In addition to AM/FM, HD Radio and SiriusXM (using the SiriusXM SXV200 tuner), the Alpine X009-FD1 will play back audio and video from CD, DVD, or USB. Pandora is supported via Bluetooth with an Android, Blackberry or iOS devices, but you wont get cover art or be able to charge the phone unless you're connected via USB.

With the provided USB cable, the receiver will play audio or video directly from a device like a thumb drive.

Supported Disc Types:

  • CD
  • CD-R/CD-RW
  • DVD

Supported Audio Formats:

  • MP3
  • Windows Media (WMA)
  • WAV (AIFF)
  • AAC  

Supported Video Formats:

  • DivX
  • DVD

Adding a Sirius SXV200 will allow you to add satellite radio to the receiver. This opens up nation wide reception to nearly 200 channels of music, sports, comedy and more. Cover art, artist, album and song info. There’s a monthly or yearly fee with SiriusXM.

The X009-FD1 also has 2 camera inputs, along with four Alpine cameras to choose from. The prices range from $150 to $600 MSRP, but more importantly the functions of the camera can save you from hitting something or someone. They have varying levels of night vision, and some come with multiple views built in, allowing you to see mere inches from the bumper as you get closer to objects behind you.

Any camera built to fit on a car will work, from the $49 models all the way up to the top end, motorized units – whether they are Alpine or not. What you're really paying for is video quality, camera size and features like multiple views and levels of night vision.

In addition to the camera inputs, the X009-FD1 has a video input and output. This means you can add another video source to the system, and route it to an alternate screen(s). A good example is using a video game system that can be routed to an overhead screen or headrest monitors.

General Features

The Alpine X009-FD1 has an 800x400 (WVGA) screen with about 1.1 million pixels, and a 16:9 aspect ratio.

The X009-FD1 Supports several Bluetooth Profiles:

  • Hands Free Profile (HFP) v1.5 - Lets you make or receive calls without touching the phone.
  • Audio Streaming (A2DP) – the receiver plays audio from your phone
  • Audio/Video Remote Control (AVRCP) – lets you control audio and video playback
  • Object Push (OPP) – allows pictures to be sent to the receiver.
  • Phone Book Access (PBAP) – caller ID displays on the receiver and allows the receiver to download the phone book

Bluetooth pairs with most smartphones and MP3 players, and can support streaming audio from a music library, Internet radio, or a phone call. Where available, the information you get from the audio stream includes the traditional song and artist info plus cover art. Syncing your phone with the receiver will allow it to memorize as many as one thousand contacts per user (there are 2 users the system can memorize), including their main number and as many as 4 additional phone numbers (i.e. work, mobile, home or pager).

When you place or receive a call you get a screen with caller name, number, and call duration. The screen allows you to change the volume of the caller or your microphone.

The physical buttons on the receiver have 5 different options for color, and is installed separately just below the radio.  Unlike other brands, the button assembly isn’t directly attached to the receiver. Rather, it fits snugly in the dash kit.

Since the X009-FD1 comes with an idatalink steering wheel control, you don’t have to concern yourself with buying one. Functions like volume, band, calling (sending and receiving), and track up/down are some of the most common uses. I find voice dialing and Siri functionality immensely useful, and not having to do anything more than pressing a button on a steering wheel to do so is that much more attractive to me.  Equally as important are the voice command functions to Android users, and the receiver is able to utilize many of the same functions as the Apple phones.

With the advent of idatalink, the features you can monitor have grown drastically. Depending on the vehicle, the X009-FD1 displays a separate status screen with 5 gauges on it. The cool part is that you can choose from as many as 26 available gauge options. This is on top of actively monitoring head and tail lamp status, door open/closed status, tire pressure and engine warning codes (whatever data your vehicle is able to provide). This takes the place of steering wheel controllers that often cost twice as much money, yet perform nowhere near the same number of functions.

The idatalink can also add radio functions you wouldn’t normally have access to. By making any steering wheel button perform two tasks (hold a button down for about 1.5 seconds for the second command), you can effectively double the usefulness of the controls without taking your eyes off the road.

With the advent of idatalink, the landscape of available information on-screen has evolved dramatically. It was only a short time ago we were limited to entertainment and navigation. No longer. Critical vehicle functions are visible in an array as futuristic as it is logical, evolving the usefulness of the receiver into the something much more than a showpiece with a DVD player and an electronic map.

The X009-FD1 has three sets of 4-volt preamp outputs, which is in line with most receivers in the category. This means that the power going to an aftermarket amplifier is strong, and strong means clean. Nearly every amp on the market can take this amount of power (if not more), so this is a great first step in upgrading the overall sound of the system.

New for 2014 is an optional (and moderately expensive) optical output. The Alpine KWE-610A is a purist’s method of getting signal to a separate processor with an optical input, the main benefit being a true Dolby Digital (5.1 surround) environment with an appropriate decoder like the Alpine PXA-H800.

Most notably, the optical signal cannot pickup line noise, so running the cable right on top of the power wire is completely acceptable. You will also sidestep additional, unnecessary digital to analog conversion along the way, which will increase the sound quality markedly.

The receiver has a one year parts and labor warranty against manufacturer’s defect in parts or workmanship, which is easily the most common in the industry.

The warranty extends exclusively to the original owner of the receiver. Only Canadian bought and installed Alpine products have a warranty in Canada.


The Alpine X009-FD1 is an outstanding deck, and quite frankly it represents the future of aftermarket receivers as a whole. As the first offering any manufacturer has made to truly take the confusion out of the decision making process, they skimped on exceedingly little. The graphics are good (but not incredible as I had hoped they would be), the navigation is very easy to use while driving, and the convenience factor of including a kit and all the needed adapters is simply off the charts awesome. 

There are some features to improve upon:

  • Add audio ducking for the navigation voice.
  • Making the Mute an actual absence of music, instead simply of lowering the volume.
  • Adding a security code for power-up (fewer and fewer manufacturers are adding security to their decks) as an anti-theft measure.
  • Upgrade the pixel count and video engine to increase the display quality.

That said, this is arguably the best package you could ask for on the market today. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better navigation receiver, especially given the My Favorites upgrades, which I love. The fact that it has Siri Eyes Free and is highly Android friendly is icing on an already immensely attractive cake.

To be clear, the Alpine INE-W957HD, X008U, X009-U and X009-GM are exactly the same internally. Their menu system, on-screen look and feel, screen resolution – all identical. The true differences are external ones: the screen size goes from 7” with the INE-W957HD up to 8” for the X008U as we said before, and jumps to the monstrous 9” we reviewed in this article. As several vehicle manufacturers are offering similar screen sizes as a factory option, an aftermarket receiver with a 9” screen size starts to make more and more sense.  I promise you…it wont stop there.

In the very near future, Alpine is releasing versions of this deck for Toyota, Jeep and Dodge Trucks/SUV’s as well. Enjoy!

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