Unless you’re driving a brand-new, premium-grade vehicle in the most expensive trim, I bet the built-in stereo system is average at best. It might be capable of receiving calls and even establishing a connection with your Smartphone, but only through USB. Furthermore, it won’t be particularly fast or feature-packed. Now, if you’re somewhat tired of it and want more options and a bigger screen, that’ll be possible with the best Android Auto car stereo.
With it, you’ll get a sleek, trendy look, a fancy touchscreen, advanced navigation, gadget integration, and lots of room for customization. The following list includes five top-notch head units from different brands. They’re all very easy to install, establish a connection, and enjoy. So, let’s go ahead and take a closer look at what the biggest brands have to offer!
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Best Android Auto Car Stereo ()
|BOSS Audio Systems BCPA10RC
Best Android Auto Car Stereo Review
1. Alpine iLX-W650 – Best car stereo with Android Auto
One of the biggest downsides of factory stereo systems is the slow response times. This is especially true if you’re driving an older vehicle with outdated software. Well, that won’t be an issue with Alpine, because this unit is highly responsive and you won’t feel any delay, which is great news. On top of that, it is highly intuitive and user-friendly – even a kid will be able to make sense of how everything works.
This is a US-made product, by the way, and boasts fast, charge-free delivery across the country. So, if you need a new car stereo ASAP, this company might be a reasonable choice. On the downside, while iLX-W650 fully supports Android Auto, it’s not always a flawless experience. Sometimes, drivers get error messages. In other cases, it takes the system forever to establish a connection. This happens rarely, of course, but can still be a con.
- Intuitive, highly responsive controls
- Designed and built in the United States
- Fast delivery at no extra charge
- Minor issues with Android Auto
Responsive, easy to use, and sleek, iLX-W650 is a bargain for most modern-day drivers. As a US-based company, Alpine ensures fast delivery/shipment to every single state. Sadly, while it’s very easy to install/connect Android Auto, some users complain about connectivity issues.
2. Pioneer DMH-1500NEX – Best big screen Android Auto head unit
Pioneer’s stereo is one of those can’t-go-wrong-with devices that get almost everything right. First of all, it features premium-quality engineering. You might think that durability/sturdiness isn’t really important for a head unit, but it actually is. Besides, thanks to the clever design, it takes little time and effort to mount and connect it properly, which isn’t something that can be said about many similar devices.
Enhanced compatibility is also a part of the deal. DMH easily fits a long list of vehicles from different generations. What isn’t great about this otherwise great stereo is the GUI (graphical user interface). It’s a bit slow and not very well made. Navigation is simple, yet it’s not particularly intuitive: you hit a button and expect it to open a certain screen; instead, it jumps back to the main menu or a different window. You will get used to this over time, though.
- Premium engineering – durable construction
- Takes very little time to set everything up
- Compatible with a long list of vehicles
- The GUI needs some work
Despite the somewhat frustrating user interface, Pioneer will be an excellent replacement head unit if you put compatibility and hassle-free installation first. DMH-1500NEX is, indeed, very easy to connect and configure. Plus, it’s crafted from durable, long-lasting materials and can take a beating.
3. Sony XAV-AX5000 – The best overall Android Auto head unit
And what does Sony – an international mogul – have to offer? Should you pick it over the competition, or not? Let’s take a quick look at what makes it stand out. What I love about this head unit is the quick-access key panel. It’s incredibly useful and allows the driver to operate the infotainment system while keeping the focus on the road. Another big pro is the pair of USB ports. Usually, you only get one, and that can be a major downside.
On top of it all, Sony protects this stereo with a 30-day return guarantee. Now, while it’s not a lifetime warranty, statistically, most defects can be easily detected within the first week; so, a month is more than enough time. The one thing that sets XAV-AX5000 back is the lack of customization options. You can change some basic settings, of course, but I’d like to see more control over the background, the menus, and such.
- Quick-access key panel – very handy
- Dual USB ports for extra functionality
- Backed by a 30-day return guarantee
- Lacks screen customization options
Sony did an excellent job with this car stereo. It features two USB ports and an incredibly useful and handy quick-access key panel. Add a 30-day return guarantee, and you’ll see why it deserves your attention. Sadly, this isn’t the most customizable system out there, but that’s the only con.
4. Kenwood DMX4707S – Best for great design and OS
Are you a big fan of connecting your phone to the head unit and playing your favorite music? Or maybe you like the enhanced navigation capabilities of a Smartphone? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, Kenwood might be right up your alley. It’s capable of establishing one of the reliable connections with systems like Android Auto and CarPlay. Thanks to the advanced OS, you won’t experience any issues with that.
The touchscreen also deserves our praise. Crafted from premium materials, it’s a high-definition display that doesn’t make the eyes hurt no matter how long you stare at it. An advanced, 13-band EQ is even more reason to consider Kenwood as your new stereo unit. However, this isn’t a particularly cheap device: compared to the industry average, it’s slightly steep (yet worth it).
- Flawless CarPlay and Auto connectivity
- Premium-quality, high-res. touchscreen
- Features a 13-band equalizer
- The most expensive stereo on the list
While Kenwood isn’t a very affordable infotainment system, it is, most certainly, a top-notch device. Full CarPlay and Android Auto support, a state-of-the-art touchscreen, and a mighty equalizer – that’s what you’ll get with the DMX4707S head unit. If you’ve got the bucks, this will be a worthy purchase.
5. BOSS Audio Systems BCPA10RC – Bes Single Din Android Car Stereo
BOSS is another leader in the market of stereo systems. And with this unit, you’ll get the biggest touchscreen on the list. That’s right – it’s a 10.1-inch beauty that almost feels like a notebook (or, rather, a tablet). Plus, the package includes a decent-quality rear-view camera. So, you can set everything up and boost the safety of your vehicle. More good news: all these pros come at a very reasonable price.
In fact, BCPA10RC is the least expensive option on today’s list. But wait, doesn’t it have any downsides? Well, it does: while the operating system is pretty solid, sometimes, you’ll experience “memory loss”. The OS tends to jump back to factory settings on loudness, equalizer settings, the radio, and more. That can be quite confusing and frustrating. On the bright side, these issues were only reported by a small percentage of owners.
- Comes with a big, 10.1” touchscreen
- Available at a very affordable price
- Includes a rear-view camera
- Tends to revert to default settings
If not for the random troubles with the memory, this stereo could be the best option on the table for the average driver. It is cheap, yet features a big, 10.1-inch touchscreen and even a free rear-view camera. This is still a bargain, of course, but do keep the memory issues in mind.
And that concludes my list of the best Android Auto car stereos. We just checked out five outstanding head units that will greatly improve connectivity and infotainment, among other things. But why did I pick these units over the competition? What do they have that the rivals don’t? What sets them apart from similar products available on the market? You’ll find all the answers in this guide!
The Touchscreen: Size Matters
There’s nothing hard about this one – the bigger the screen, the better. Obviously, there are some limits to how big the touchscreen can be. As we learned today, you can expect it to be as large as 10.1” and that’s quite a lot. Many tablets are smaller than that! However, right now, the industry standard for stereo unit screens is 7. You’ll see that most brands follow this trend.
It’s like the golden middle between 5-6 and 10 inches. And the interesting thing is – the size of the touchscreen doesn’t affect the final price that much. So, if you’re a fan, go for it! Just remember that resolution slash high definition is also incredibly important. Trust me: you don’t want to buy a gigantic display only to find out it is not HD. Keep this in mind.
Is the Head Unit Quick to Respond?
A slow, non-responsive user interface gotta be one of the most frustrating things out there. When you’re used to Smartphones and tablets and their impeccable responsiveness, a slow stereo unit operating system will be a disappointment. The trick part is – it can be quite hard to figure out how good or bad the built-in OS is. Essentially, it all comes down to how powerful the unit’s processor is.
The operating system is, of course, also responsible. But, again, you won’t find much info about this in the specs. All you can do here is read user comments for unbiased feedback. Or, just read my thorough reviews!
How easy is it to Set Everything Up?
Mechanics charge quite a lot for head unit installation ($100-150, depending on where you live). And if the factory stereo is a bit old and has lots of wires, they’ll charge you even more. So, can the average driver pull this off on their own? Absolutely – just make sure you know your way around cables, wires, and basic tools like a screwdriver and maybe a soldering machine as well. Before making an order, learn as much as you can about the device.
Does it include a wire harness, or not? Will you need a harness in the first place, or maybe it’s gonna be a plug-and-play kind of a routine? Some car stereos require an antenna adapter and a dash kit for installation. Without that gear, you won’t be able to install and connect them properly.
How to Choose the Best Android Auto Head Unit
- Single- vs. Double-din. I bet you’ve seen these specifications more than once. Well, they’re not that hard to decipher. Single-din stereos are seven inches wide and two inches tall – this is a universal standard. Double-din head units, in turn, are, again, seven inches wide, but twice as tall (four inches). It’s important to remember this when ordering a new system for your car.
And, don’t forget to measure the dimensions of your stock unit/dashboard; otherwise, you’ll probably end up ordering the wrong size. Now, are there any benefits to double-din stereos? Yes, there are: thanks to the larger size, the touchscreen can be bigger. Plus, double-din infotainment systems usually have more extra features.
- Pricing. Alright, so, what about the price – what’s the average price tag on a decent-quality head unit? Can you get a solid stereo for 100 bucks? Sadly, the answer is no. Unless you want the device to cause more harm than do good, don’t buy anything that costs less than $250-300. And if you want lots of knobs, fast navigation, and extended audio/video features, it’s gonna cost you $400-500.
In the long run, that’s not a very steep price. More expensive units ($600-700), in contrast, aren’t really worth the investment, as you won’t get any significant pros over the cheaper units. Summing up, it’s very well possible to get an excellent car stereo for 300-400 US dollars – that’s the “sweet spot” for these devices.
5 Things to Look for in a New Android Auto Head Unit
Enhanced Connectivity. Bluetooth, Android Auto, and CarPlay are the most popular interfaces/connectivity technologies. With their help, you can access every single feature from a phone or even tablet through the vehicle’s head unit. And let’s not forget about services like Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM. They’ll make life a lot more enjoyable on long, boring rides. Oh, and see that the stereo supports Google’s Assistant for hands-free control.
A Pair of USB ports. Did you know that most American drivers wish they had an extra USB on their head units? That’s right, and this should be a factor when ordering a new stereo. That auxiliary USB is usually used to connect an external storage unit, like, say, a flash drive. This way, you can have your Smartphone connected all the time plus have a spare port for any additional devices.
A Powerful EQ. Let’s admit it: we all like to play around with the equalizer, even though we don’t have a degree in sound engineering. EQs come with built-in presets that are fun to try out. You can set it to play rock music, rap, pop, or whatever you’re into. A decent-quality equalizer should have at least ten bands.
A Backup Camera. In terms of safety, a backup cam is a must-have, especially if you’re a novice driver trying to navigate through dense traffic and cramped-up parking lots. And the camera doesn’t have to be of the highest quality or have any extras. It’s just a matter of having a set of “eyes” in the back of the car and being in more control.
Warranty Deals. This one’s self-explanatory: look for a car stereo that is backed by a warranty. Some brands cover their products with a limited lifetime warranty; others offer refund policies or charge-free replacement guarantees. Remember, though, that the better the deal, the more expensive the unit is gonna be.
How do I Update Android Auto on my Car Stereo?
The best thing about apps like Android Auto – they update automatically whenever there’s an Internet connection. The driver gets a notification slash permission request for installation. However, this feature might be turned off; in other cases, the application refuses to autonomously download the upgrades. That’s when you gotta take matters into your own hands.
Now, upgrading any program on a Smartphone is a walk in the park: you just hit that big Update button, and it does the rest. On a car stereo, this goes a bit differently. So, if you’re got an infotainment system with a built-in Android Auto, here is what you can do:
- Method #1: Update the app on your Smartphone and then connect it to the head unit through USB. If you’re lucky, the car stereo will initiate an update. Just give it a minute or two to complete.
- Method #2: Some stereos still require an Internet connection even if you have the updates on the phone. Again, connect the two devices through USB but enable Wi-Fi in the phone’s settings.
- Method #3: If nothing works, go straight to your vehicle’s dealer. For a relatively small fee, they’ll download the latest updates and install them on the head unit.
- Method #4: Download a firmware update from the Internet and record it onto a flash drive. Then, connect that drive to the head unit and install the updates. However, I recommend against this, as you need to be 100% sure the updates “fit”. Otherwise, you might end up damaging the stereo.
Even if you’re driving an outdated, “boring” car with very few techy features, a decent-quality stereo unit can make a dramatic difference in the cabin. Easy navigation, voice commands, instant calls, and, above all, heavy integration with a Smartphone are all good reasons to consider buying an aftermarket head unit. If you figure out exactly what you need before making an order, you’ll be able to get a sweet deal at an affordable price.
That’s why I want you to read the Buyer’s Guide and FAQ thoroughly: there, we’ll talk about how to differentiate between low-quality and market-leading infotainment systems. Or, just go ahead and pick one of the five gadgets from the list. They’ve all been carefully tested and have proven to be worth the while. The choice, as always, is yours!