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Seeing is believing
The biggest improvement of all, however, is one that isn't immediately obvious unless one looks at the ports on the back of the unit. There's a subtle but important addition: video ports.


Ports and more ports; video is the big addition.

Speaking of the ports, let's take a look at the back of this thing. Going from left to right, you can see a power connector and the connector for the remote control, which we'll look at shortly. Next up are dual audio and video connectors; the existence of dual connectors obviously gives you additional flexibility, in case you want to route the video or audio to more than one location. The blue wire coming out the back is a remote wire like those found on many aftermarket head units; it allows separate amplifiers to have their power controlled by the MPire.

The video feature allows for two important functions. First, the video port will act as an expanded version of the remote control's display, for navigating the files and folders on the hard drive. Second, it will allow the user to play back MPEG files as well as the DAT files from VideoCD's.

I'm not terribly familiar with VideoCDs, but my understanding is that the format approximates VHS quality, but in a disc format. It is a completely different format than DVD. Unfortunately, VideoCDs are virtually unheard of here, so I was unable to obtain one for testing. The VideoCD feature will probably be much more popular in Asia, as I understand that VideoCDs have enjoyed much more success there.

Installation
Installation of the MPire is very similar to the Shuttle. Obviously, you'll need some sort of video display if you want to take advantage of the MPire's video capabilities, but this isn't required. The MPire will work just fine as a Shuttle II-style MP3 player, with the display in the remote being used to navigate the files and folders.

Like the Shuttle II, the MPire comes with two foam rubber strips with adhesive on both sides. One side is secured to the bottom of the MPire, and the other is secured to the floor of the trunk. The foam rubber strips act as shock absorbers to keep the unit from bouncing around too violently.

Once the MPire is secured, it's just a matter of running the necessary cables to it and hooking them up. As you might expect, the complexity of the process depends on your individual vehicle and how clean you want your install to be.

Of course, the MPire's manual points out that the MPire can also be used in the home, and Xeenon informs me they are working on a wireless remote control to help facilitate home use. Since I'm not fortunate enough to be able to afford a video display for my vehicle, I tested the MPire in my living room, using the TV as the display. I should note that the MPire doesn't come with a power adapter for home use; one must be purchased separately. If you do decide to purchase such an adapter, make sure it is capable of handling the power requirements of the MPire (around 3-4A).

You'll also have to install the hard drive bay into your computer, so you can put MP3s and MPEG's onto the hard drive. The process is identical to that of the Shuttle II, so it includes the Shuttle II's caveats. If you're not familiar with what those are, I'd suggest looking at this page of my Shuttle II review.