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Tech Feature Friday: 2012 Honda Odyssey Big-Screen Rear Entertainment System Falls Short

The 16.2-inch screen displays 2 programs at once, but it doesn’t allow access to every entertainment source in the vehicle.

By Douglas Newcomb Sep 28, 2012 9:00AM

2012 Honda Odyssey Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System The Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System available in the 2012 Honda Odyssey has a 16.2-inch screen that can display two video programs at once, side-by-side, so passengers in the backseat don’t have to fight over what to watch. A DVD loaded into an in-dash player in the front of the van can be displayed on one side of the screen, while video programming from an external source such as a portable DVD player plugged into auxiliary A/V inputs in the rear of the van can be shown on the other side. The Odyssey is the only vehicle with an HDMI input for connecting a portable Blu-ray player or other high-definition source.2012 Honda Odyssey Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System

Like other rear-entertainment systems, it comes with two pairs of dual-channel wireless headphones that allow passengers to listen to two separate programs. Next to the aux A/V inputs are three jacks to plug in wired headphones. Using the system remote control and wireless headphones, back-seat passengers can also access and listen to other “front” audio sources in the vehicle such as the AM, FM or satellite radio, as well as music burned to an in-dash hard drive from CD.

2012 Honda Odyssey Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System

But unlike the most versatile rear-seat entertainment systems, the big-screen, HD-capable one in the Honda Odyssey allows users to access only one front audio source while viewing a video source, and cuts them off from the rest.

By contrast, Chrysler’s rear-entertainment system lets back-seat passengers access and control every audio source available in the vehicle, except the one the driver has chosen, via the remote and listen to it over wireless headphones. While Chrysler systems won’t show two video sources on one screen -- only the Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna can do that -- the Chrysler system does split a smaller screen into two sections.

You can show a video program on DVD or an external video source while the other allows full access to any other source in the vehicle: radio, CD, a hard drive or even a connected portable device. A two-screen system is also available in Chrysler vehicles, and in the rebadged Volkswagen Routan, as shown below.

VW RoutanWhile this may seem like overkill, if you’re a parent on a long drive and want to keep kids pacified in the back seat -- especially older ones who’ll want to pick their own entertainment, and if you definitely don’t want to listen to their music -- the more multi-featured Chrysler system wins hands-down since it lets them be self-sufficient. And it gives those in the front seats more peace and quiet.

The Honda Odyssey's system gets the big picture and its HDMI input is cutting-edge, but it also cuts off back-seat passengers from more than half of their entertainment options.

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