Kenwood DNX-7120 Update

Kenwood DNX-7120 Update

We’ve been using our Kenwood DNX-7120 daily for over 9 months now, so we thought it was time for an update on our original January 2009 article.Kenwood 7120 topo maps screenshot

On the entertainment side of things, we still love the iPod (iPhone) integration that we added to the 7120. While the interface is not as nice (obviously) as the iPhone or an iPod, it is not difficult to use and gets the job done. Every once in a while (probably more often that we’d like), the 7120 drops the connection to the iPhone. The error is usually ‘Authorization Failed’, so I’m not sure if that’s an iPhone problem or a 7120 problem. When that does happen, I can still play music through the phone directly, but I have to reboot the 7120 for it to once again recognize the phone. The video integration is great too. There have been a couple of times when we were on the trail waiting for someone to finish a repair that watching Two Roads to Baja came in handy. There is always a movie or two on my iPhone, so it’s a great way to pass the time.

The MP3 playback has become a source of frustration for us. In the original article, we discussed how you really need to organize your music for it to work well. Unfortunately, if you over-organize your music, you’ll quickly become frustrated. I created a DVD with 4GB of music on it, organized by artist then album. When I hit the RND (random) button during playback, I quickly learned that only the songs in the current folder would be shuffled. That means that if there are only 4 songs from that album in the current directory, it will only shuffle those 4 songs. In order to switch to another folder, you have to manually navigate to that folder. This is not the best implementation of MP3 playback I’ve seen. Luckily I use the iPhone 99% of the time, so I rarely have to worry about this problem.

The built in Garmin navigation is the bread & butter of the Kenwood 7120. I can’t explain how great it is to have custom maps for any trail we want to hit. We found a great resource at that has hundreds of free Garmin maps for just about anywhere. For our recent trip to the 2009 Thrill on the Hill, I found a set of topo maps for the entire state of New Mexico. We were also able to load custom POI’s for the trailheads we wanted to check out near Cloudcroft, NM. One feature I really wanted was the ability to download the track data from the unit. Well, after a little ‘hacking’, I figured out that I could plug my laptop in to the 7120 and download the track data using Garmin’s MapSource software. This will help us update all of the trails that we run so we have more accurate GPS tracks.

The iPhone integration got a little better with the recent 3.0 software update, except for one minor annoyance. Since the iPhone 3G now supports audio over Bluetooth (BT), if BT is turned on and the phone is paired for phone calls, the 7120 automatically activates the audio over BT feature. This would be fine except that audio over BT with the 7120 & iPhone doesn’t work properly. This means that you have to go through several menus to disconnect the BT audio on the 7120. Again, this could be solved by either Kenwood or Apple, but they’re just not on the same page. Still, the BT audio for making phone calls is better with the latest firmware, and it’s very useful in keeping my hands on the wheel & eyes on the road.

Overall we’re still really happy with this unit, and fully recommend it to anyone wanting a great navigation & pretty good in-dash unit. We’ve also recently tested the new DNX-9140 from Kenwood at the local Car Toys, and found that it supports custom topo maps as well. As far as we can tell, it's the only new Kenwood model that has an SD card slot. This is great news for anyone looking to install a top of the line in-dash navigation system. We found this unit on Amazon for under $1,500.