One of the first things I noticed was how poor the POI database was. Its coverage of petrol stations seems okay, but tap in something more humdrum such as Waitrose, Tesco or Sainsbury's and the results are pretty unpredictable. There's no Bluetooth either, so you can't use it as a hands-free communications centre while driving, something that would seem to be a perfect fit with Alpine's ICE approach. I suppose it's not an issue if, like Michael Knight, you can simply make calls on your digital watch.
Other shortcomings are more serious, however. Map browsing is sluggish. There's no option to fit your route to the screen and get a quick overview. And the options you can use to optimise routes is limited - you get just quickest route and shortest route options, with no preset choices of whether you're travelling by car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle.
Finally, the roadblock avoidance isn't the most flexible - you get the choice to automatically reroute based on traffic conditions, or avoid a particular street. But you can't just tell it to take you around a blockage for a certain distance and then rejoin the main route.
The Alpine Blackbird is an unusual device: its potential to be integrated with other Alpine equipment makes it an enticing proposition for owners of serious ICE systems and the turn-based navigation view may well appeal to a niche section of the sat-nav market. It's also pretty easy to use and control, plus the TMC implementation is the best I've seen.
But as a stand alone sat-nav device it isn't perfect. It's missing some core features, the 3D map view isn't clear and map browsing is sluggish to say the least. These factors, and the high price tag, ensure that it will have limited appeal. Now, if only it had a swooshy red light...