Tech

Best Android Auto head unit car stereos for 2021

Chief among the many good reasons to upgrade your vehicle’s stereo head unit is smartphone integration — you don’t need a new car to experience it, either. Android Auto adds voice commands, which makes it easier to send texts, navigatetake calls and more. Since Android Auto’s debut in 2015, aftermarket car stereo system manufacturers have been designing head units with Google’s automotive OS to fit a variety of cars. 

Besides Android Auto, you can find head units from the likes of JVC, Pioneer, Sony and others that include satellite radio, HD Radio, USB port inputs, CD and DVD players, pre-amps, built-in GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and wireless Android Auto connectivity. Upgrading to a new Android Auto head unit also opens the potential for a bigger display screen. Some new stereo system units may even add features your factory stereo didn’t have before, including gauges for engine performance or the option to add a backup camera. 

With so many choices, trying to figure out what the best Android head unit is for your vehicle can be tricky. That’s why we spoke with the folks at Crutchfield to help us pick the best Android car stereo head units. Crutchfield has helped over 6 million customers upgrade their car audio experience since 1974.

There are no shortage of options if you want to add Android Auto to an older car.


Kenwood

How we chose the best Android Auto head unit

We’ve assembled our list from head units that fit the most common car radio sizes: single DIN car stereo and double DIN car stereo slots. These picks are based on Crutchfield’s expert recommendations, user reviews and ratings at popular shopping sites. 

Before you dig in, check which stereo will fit your vehicle by using Crutchfield’s Find What Fits tool. Enter your vehicle make, model and year, and you’ll see speakers, Android Auto head units and more that will fit your ride. 

3 things to look for in a new Android Auto head unit

  • Double DIN or single DIN: The two most common head sizes are double DIN and single DIN units. Single DIN stereo openings measure 2 by 8 inches while double DIN openings are 4 by 8 inches. If you’re replacing a double DIN unit, you’ll have more options to add smarts to your stereo. A single DIN doesn’t automatically mean you won’t be able to pair your Android phone to your car for Android Auto, but you will have fewer choices with this Android Auto unit.
  • Types of receivers: There are a few different head unit categories, each offering a different feature set depending on your needs. Can’t let go of discs? You’re in luck, as you can have physical and digital in one package with a DVD receiver. Digital multimedia receivers don’t have an optical drive, but they can play back audio and video and many have touchscreens.
  • Features: Android phone integration isn’t all you’ll get for your dollar. If you want to feel like you’re using your phone, look for a capacitive touchscreen rather than a resistive one. Many models also include pre-outs for adding external amps and subwoofers, in addition to HD and satellite radio tuners. For the most convenience, look for a model with Bluetooth and wireless Android Auto app connectivity.

Pioneer

Using Google Assistant in a car is great. Plugging and unplugging your iPhone or Android smartphone when you’re running errands isn’t. The Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX is our best overall Android car stereo head unit because the double DIN head unit has the option for a wired or wireless Android Auto connection, HDMI input and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. For music lovers, its CD and DVD drive, HD Radio, FLAC support and satellite radio have you covered regardless of digital format. Coolest of all? With an accessory (sold separately), you can view engine performance info on the 6.9-inch touchscreen.

Best overall Android Auto head unit details

Make Pioneer
Model AVH-W4500NEX
Head unit size Double DIN auto head unit
Screen size 6.9-inches
Screen resolution 2520×480
Screen type Resistive touchscreen
Smartphone integration Wired and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Inputs HDMI, 2 USBs, 2 RCAs, 2 camera, Bluetooth
HD radio Yes
Satellite radio Yes with tuner
Optical drive CD and DVD
Price $695

Alpine

A single DIN car stereo opening in your vehicle doesn’t mean you can’t have a huge touchscreen anymore. With the Alpine Halo9 iLX-F309 car head unit, a 9-inch floating display attaches to a 2-inch head unit. This Android unit offers plenty of height and angle adjustment, too, in addition to a rear USB input, aux input, HDMI input and Bluetooth. This single DIN head unit has built-in Android Auto means Google Maps, text messages, phone calls and weather are only a voice command away.

Best single DIN Android Auto head unit details

Make Alpine
Model Halo9 iLX-F309
Head unit size Single DIN auto head unit
Screen size 9-inches
Screen resolution 800×480
Screen type Capacitive touchscreen
Smartphone integration Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Inputs HDMI, USB, mini aux, mini A/V, 2 camera, Bluetooth
HD radio Yes
Satellite radio Yes with tuner
Optical drive None
Price $1,000

Pioneer

On the aftermarket, Android Auto head unit stereos don’t get much bigger than the Pioneer DMH-WT8600NEX. This digital multimedia player ditches optical discs in favor of a 10.1-inch 720p capacitive touchscreen that floats over a single DIN dash unit. For $1,155, you also get wireless Android Auto, HD Radio, Bluetooth and compatibility with a variety of digital music formats including AAC, FLAC, MP3 and WMA.

Best big screen Android Auto head unit details

Make Pioneer
Model DMH-WT8600NEX
Head unit size Single DIN auto head unit
Screen size 10.1-inches
Screen resolution 1280×720
Screen type Capacitive touchscreen
Smartphone integration Wired and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Inputs Micro HDMI, USB, aux, 2 camera, Bluetooth
HD radio Yes
Satellite radio Yes with tuner
Optical drive None
Price $1,155

Alpine

Who needs discs and a CD player? Not the Alpine iLX-W650 Android head unit. Forgoing an optical drive frees up space and makes this unit an easy choice if space inside your dashboard is at a premium. In addition to the usual Android car stereo integration, the iLX-W650 boasts front and rear camera inputs and six-channel preamp outputs. Speaking of expandability, you can easily add Alpine’s power pack amplifier for an additional 50 watts RMS by four channels for even more sound.

Best Android Auto digital multimedia head unit details

Make Alpine
Model iLX-W650
Head unit size Double DIN auto head unit
Screen size 7-inches
Screen resolution 800×480
Screen type Capacitive touchscreen
Smartphone integration Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Inputs USB, two camera, Bluetooth
HD radio No
Satellite radio Yes with tuner
Optical drive None
Price $300

Pioneer

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get Android Auto into your vehicle. If money is tight, look no further than the DMH-1500NEX car stereo head unit from Pioneer. Use this Android stereo head unit to control your phone’s music library from the 7-inch touchscreen and use Google Assistant to answer questions like “Has anyone ever found a marmoset in Topeka?” before you cross into the city limits. This Alpine stereo receiver isn’t lacking for expandability either, featuring six-channel preamp outputs, compatibility with most digital audio formats and dual-camera inputs.

Best cheap Android Auto head unit details

Make Pioneer
Model DMH-1500NEX
Head unit size Double DIN auto head unit
Screen size 7-inches
Screen resolution 2520×480
Screen type Resistive touchscreen
Smartphone integration Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Inputs USB, mini aux, mini A/V, RCA, two camera, Bluetooth
HD radio No
Satellite radio Yes with tuner
Optical drive None
Price $300

Kenwood

What does a $1,300 Android car stereo head unit look like? The Kenwood Excelon DNX997XR. All those ducats get you a raft of features, the headliner being a built-in Garmin GPS navigation system with three years of free updates included. In addition to wireless Android Auto, wired and wireless screen mirroring, passengers can wirelessly control Pandora from an Android device. This double DIN head unit model also has a motorized 720p 6.75-inch capacitive touchscreen display, Bluetooth and a built-in HD Radio tuner.

Best wireless Android Auto head unit if money is no object details

Make Kenwood
Model Excelon DNX997XR
Head unit size Double DIN auto head unit
Screen size 6.7-inches
Screen resolution 1280×720
Screen type Capacitive touchscreen
Smartphone integration Wired and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Inputs Two USBs, mini aux, RCA, two camera, memory card slot, Bluetooth
HD radio Yes
Satellite radio Yes with tuner
Optical drive CD and DVD
Price $1,300

Pioneer

The Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX is our pick for best overall Android car stereo above, but it’s also our pick for the best wireless Android Auto DVD head unit because it brings the right combination of expected features to the mix along with surprises like the aforementioned ability to display engine performance read-outs. And if you’re a die-hard CD enthusiast this Double DIN head unit is the best way to play them for most people. You can use the CD and DVD drive and still have all the features of Android Auto at the same time.

Best wireless Android Auto DVD head unit details

Make Pioneer
Model AVH-W4500NEX
Head unit size Double DIN auto head unit
Screen size 6.9-inches
Screen resolution 2520×480
Screen type Resistive touchscreen
Smartphone integration Wired and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Inputs HDMI, 2 USBs, 2 RCAs, 2 camera, Bluetooth
HD radio Yes
Satellite radio Yes with tuner
Optical drive CD and DVD
Price $695

Before you buy

Depending on where you buy your Android car stereo, it may come with free installation. If it doesn’t, Best Buy charges $100 for installation and promises a factory-installed look without a loss of factory functionality. You’ll have to pay for any additional parts beyond the flat labor fee.

If you’d rather install your own head unit, you have a few options, but both involve premade wiring harness adapters. Scosche and Amazon sell a variety of connectors that eliminate the need for cutting and soldering into the factory wiring harness. You can also pick up adapters so you don’t lose features such as OnStar, steering wheel controls or door chimes. These range in price from a few dollars to over a few hundred dollars, depending on the complexity. You can buy trim pieces and mounting kits as well, and finding a YouTube how-to video for your Android head unit stereo model and vehicle probably won’t be too difficult.

Installing an Android Auto head unit yourself can be made easier with available mounting kits.


Kenwood

If you don’t have the time or energy to track everything down yourself, consider buying your Android Auto stereo from Crutchfield. Crutchfield’s trademark is making installation dead simple. By including premade wiring harnesses, connectors, trim pieces and vehicle-specific installation instructions with every head unit and speaker, Crutchfield takes the intimidation out of upgrading your stereo.

Taking a DIY approach to your Android head unit means you won’t lose steering wheel audio controls, backup camera or other factory creature comforts, either. It comes at a price, though. When you’re drafting your upgrade budget, expect to set aside between $300 to $500 in addition to the cost of your head unit for the necessary harnesses and data controllers. Older vehicles make for cheaper installations: The Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX’s install kit for a 2008 Ford Ranger lists for $56, for example, but it’s currently discounted by $50. 

“You can 100% get a very modern [smartphone-connected] radio experience in your car,” even if it’s over a decade old, according to Adam “J.R.” Stoffel, a training manager who’s been with Crutchfield since 1996.

More for auto enthusiasts

Written for Roadshow by Timothy Seppala and originally published earlier.

Best Android Auto head unit car stereos for 2021 Source link Best Android Auto head unit car stereos for 2021

Related Articles

Back to top button