Sony Xplod MEX-1GP Giga Panel CD Receiver

In the days before MP3, I installed a 100-disc CD changer in the trunk of my 1996 Impala SS for a cross-country trip - and I still didn't listen to all the discs by the time I reached the opposite shore. Nowadays, I can load about half of the tuneage that used to fit in that clunky changer on a finger-size USB drive, plug it into one of the new car stereos with a USB port, and cruise for days before needing a refill.

Sony's Xplod MEX-1GP Giga Panel CD receiver ($350; takes a slightly different approach to achieve the same result: 1 gigabyte of flash memory and a USB port are built into the radio's removable faceplate. Connect the faceplate to any Windows-based PC via a supplied USB cable, transfer around 500 MP3 and WMA files, and you're good to go.

The MEX-1GP will also play MP3 and WMA files burned onto a CD, and its 13-segment LCD front panel displays the album, artist, and track name of music files. You can use the controls on the front panel or on a supplied remote control to shuffle tracks, albums, or groups of songs. Onboard is a 200-watt amplifier that pumps up your MP3s, while a three-band EQ lets you tweak them to your liking. As for that CD changer in your trunk, hey - there's always eBay.

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