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If you want to modernize an older vehicle, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. One way to upgrade your car and improve its entertainment capacity is by installing an Android auto head unit. These electronic devices have a variety of convenient features, including multiple music options, GPS, hands-free calling, and a plethora of apps.
Still, it can be challenging to choose the right Android auto head unit as there are so many options available. We are here to help. Our buying guide includes a list of the best products available, and you can compare all the features to find the one that suits your needs.
The Best Android Auto Head Units
First on our list is the Pioneer MVH1400NEX digital multimedia receiver. It’s compatible with Android devices as well as iOS devices. Once connected, you will be able to access some of your favorite apps and other tools using its high-quality Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and audio streaming. Pioneer’s NEX model features 800 x 400 resolution and a clear-resistive touchscreen.
CD and DVD support
Supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Simple and stylish design
- Weight2.93 pounds
Sony is one of the most celebrated and well-known brands in electronics, and this is a sleek and stylish double din Android car head unit. The 7-inch design is made to fit in nicely in your car’s center console, and the hardware keys are useful to make adjustments while you are on the road. The head unit includes components to support both Android and Apple devices, and there are all the USB and Bluetooth connectivity features that you would expect. Ultimately, this serves as a great mid-range choice that offers a wide range of features.
Simple and compact design
Supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Two USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity
Hardware keys for easy adjustment
- Weight2.65 pounds
Supports Apple and Android Auto
7-inch VGA display with built-in touchscreen
SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth ready
Good customer support
- Weight5.55 pounds
An Android-focused head unit, this product from Pumpkin features an octa-core and 4GB RAM. It permits Android Auto and screen mirroring and accommodates SD cards and USB drives. It features GPS and is preloaded with Google maps. It can also be wired to steering wheel control. You can enjoy hands-free calls and audio streaming with this unit as well as AM/FM radio. It features a 1024 x 600 HD touchscreen, a subwoofer audio output, and a built-in amplifier. Its universal fit means it’s compatible with most vehicles, and it comes with an 18-month warranty.
Specially made for Android devices
1024X 600 HD touchscreen
- ModelAndroid 10
- Weight4.84 pounds
The design of this head unit is stylish and simple, and it provides a major upgrade to most existing units. You can take advantage of voice-based commands to ensure that you can control your device without risking your safety. It is SiriusXM-Ready, which allows you to listen to over 140 channels and pick your favorite station. WiFi is built-in, as well as advanced Bluetooth. If you want to install a back-up camera, it is ready for this too.
Supports cable-free connection
24-bit true color LCD panel for high responsiveness
13-band graphic equalizer
Built-in HD radio
- BrandVolunteer Audio
- Weight5.3 pounds
Durable and sleek looking, this head unit from Boss features everything you need from such a device, including Bluetooth, USB, and aux connections, a responsive 6.75-inch LCD touchscreen, and an AM and FM receiver for radio reception. Simply say “OK, Google,” and Google Assistant will take care of whatever business you need.
Compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Numerous output ports
Easy to operate while in the car
- BrandBOSS Audio Systems
- Weight3.1 pounds
While the brand isn’t as well known as some of the other products on the market, the highly affordable price point draws many buyers in. It comes with a host of advantages, including dual Bluetooth, 16 GB of internal storage, back-up cameras, and a high-qualityamplifier that handles the volume control. The user interface is simple but easy to interact with. Plus, it features a continuous firmware update, which adds new features whenever they become available.
Extremely low price point
Smooth and simple operating system
Supports microSD cards of up to 256GB, up to 16GB of in-built storage
Features Bluetooth and internet tethering
- Weight3 pounds
Packed with a variety of features, this head unit is pricier than some of the other options, but many buyers believe that the excellent sound quality and audio control are worth paying for. Some of the core features include HD radio, Bluetooth, and WiFi. If you like listening to HD radio as well as your tried-and-tested music apps, this device is ready to play many stations. You can also use apps like Spotify, Waze, Google Maps, and more, making it a versatile and effective piece of audio equipment for your motor vehicle.
Top-of-the-line audio quality
HD radio, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi ready
Range of apps supported
Exceptional audio control
- Weight8 pounds
This multimedia player from Corehan is based on Android 10 and features built-in Bluetooth, GPS, a rear camera input, and AM/FM radio. You can download apps from the Google Play store for added versatility. It features a 7-inch touchscreen and supports headrest monitors, so all passengers can listen to music and watch videos together. It accommodates USB drives, micro SD cards, and Mirror Link.
Built-in Bluetooth and GPS
Installation manual and video tutorial included
Compatible with an OBDII scanner
Kenwood’s 6.95-Inch Digital Media Touchscreen Receiver uses both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It features built-in Bluetooth and a clear resistive-touch screen that’s designed to minimize glare. You can use up to five different Bluetooth devices at once and easily switch between devices. You can control the basic functions of the unit using an app on your smartphone.
6.95-inch resistive-touch display
Also accommodates Apple CarPlay
- Weight4.08 pounds
Best Android Auto Head Units Buying Guide
In this section, we have our buying guide, which tells you more about some of the features to focus on when you are making your decision on which of the best Android head units to buy. Next, we will list some of the main advantages of using a system such as this one. Following this, we will look at installation in closer detail, before getting into our frequently asked questions section. Lastly, we have a recap of our number one product on the list.
Features to Look for in an Android Auto Head Unit
All Android auto head units offer something slightly different, so you need to decide which features are most important to you. Here is a list of some of the things that you should be on the lookout for, so you can create your own shopping list of qualities that you would like the most in a head unit.
The last thing that you'll want is to get your head unit home, only to find that it is not compatible with your phone and/or car. Some units are too large to fit in the consoles of certain vehicles. Others are only made for Apple devices or more modern Android devices which have been updated with the latest operating system. Double-check all the specifications before making a purchase, so you are not left with the time-consuming task of having to return a product and start all over again.
Ease of Use
Before settling on an Android auto head unit, it makes sense that you choose one which is easy to use from installation to operation. Look for an intuitive interface and tactile controls. While many devices are touchscreen, a lot of them still have physical buttons as these are easier to use while driving. Check what sort of instructions and installation guides are available to make your life easier. You should also look for clear menus and navigation. Another feature to check is how to connect your phone and/or other devices.
The screen should be large enough to comfortably fit inside your car without taking up too much space. The standard size is around seven inches or slightly less. The resolution should be crisp and sharp, allowing it to be seen just as easily during the day as at night. Everything needs to be positioned obviously, so you can make adjustments in the easiest possible manner. You don’t want to be left squinting at a screen as this is more likely to pull your attention away from the road.
Different head units are capable of varying operational capacities. Some are made for music and voice activation, while others are suitable for GPS, apps, HD radio, etc. Generally, the more advanced features are going to cost you more, so it is worth weighing up exactly what you need before settling on the right unit for your needs. For example, you may spend a lot of time in your car and built-in navigation is an essential feature for you. Perhaps you are looking to play your favorite tunes, and you want a range of options that allows you to do so. The choice is yours.
If one of the main features of the device that you are looking for is the option to play music, it is worth taking a closer look at what sort of audio equipment it features. A few of the things to look out for include equalizers, retrievers, and controllers. You should also look into your options of setting up separate speaker systems if this is something that you would like to do.
A head unit with more customizable features means that you can choose the best way of using it. Perhaps this means adjusting the display settings so you can access your favorite apps more easily, or it could be the option of saving favorite radio stations or particular GPS routes.
A decent warranty offers extra peace of mind, as you can guarantee that the product will be fixed if you encounter any serious issues along the way. Always make sure that you follow the terms set out by the manufacturer to guarantee that the warranty will remain valid.
Customer reviews are a useful tool if you know how to use them properly. Don’t just read a single bad review and automatically assume that the product is terrible. Similarly, you shouldn’t only go off a single glowing review either. The truth is likely to be found somewhere in the middle. Sites like Amazon are useful as they allow you to confirm that someone is a verified buyer, so you know you are getting the opinion of someone who has bought and used the product first-hand.
Advantages of Using Android Auto Head Units
Now, you may be wondering why you would want to delve into the world of Android Auto aftermarket products. Well, there are plenty of advantages that you can expect to enjoy by installing one. Here are just some of the main positives.
Easy to Read Display
A larger display makes it easier to read and operate. You can see your app icons, shift between songs, and make calls while still keeping your eyes on the road and not having to squint to get the information that you are looking for. At the same time, the number of apps that you see is limited, so you don’t get too distracted while you are driving.
Rear-View Camera for Safety
Some auto head units with a large screen size accommodate rear-view cameras. If you own a car that doesn’t already have this feature built-in, an auto head unit that comes with a camera may be a great option for you. They are great for safety and may even save the odd ding or two.
Bluetooth connectivity allows you to make hands-free calls, so you can still stay connected while you are on the road. You can see caller information instantly, so you can make the decision whether to answer the call or not. On some devices, you can also take advantage of other features such as audio streaming.
Unlike with other GPS navigation systems, with an Android Auto head unit, you get a good view of your map. If your receiver doesn’t include built-in navigation, you may be able to hook it up with an outboard unit. Many also feature access to apps such as Waze, allowing you to get real-time traffic updates, so you can adjust your route accordingly. Bear in mind that some apps will require internet compatibility.
Increased Radio Options
If you still like listening to the radio instead of streaming music, some of the head units give you access to HD radio. Not only does this improve the quality of the broadcasts, but you also get additional information including album art, station logos, and song tags if you would like to purchase the music in the future.
Even safer than fiddling around with the screen in front of you is taking advantage of voice commands. This way, you can make calls, adjust the music, compose text messages, and more by just speaking to your car. You can also make your random Google searches to find out useful information without ever having to take your eyes off the road. You will feel like you are David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider in no time!
Types of Android Auto Head Units
There are two different types of Android head units, here’s what you can expect when choosing between the two.
A single-DIN stereo is probably the most common type of head unit and is the typical head unit you'd see in older cars. Single-Din units usually measure seven by two inches and will fit in most cars, particularly older cars, relatively easily. This type of head unit is popular as they are relatively affordable and easy to use.
The only real difference between a single-DIN and double-DIN head unit is its size. A double-Din unit is typically double the size of a single-DIN unit, hence its name. This typically means the display screen is larger and some of the features, settings, and controls may be a touch more advanced and sophisticated. For example, a double-Din unit may have a capacitive touchscreen, HDMI input, and smartphone connectivity.
Best Budget Android Auto Head Unit
Android auto head units come in a number of different price points, for your convenience we’ve categorized the best of them here for you.
Up to $200
From $200 to $400
There are a ton of great Android auto head unit brands currently on the market, here are the ones we know and trust.
Pioneer is a multinational operating out of Tokyo, Japan. They make a massive range of specialized digital entertainment products, including quality car stereos and head units. If you are chasing a well-designed double-DIN stereo head unit, then check out their Pioneer AVH w4500NEX.
Kenwood is a Japanese-based company operating out of Yokohama. If you are after a quality aftermarket head unit, car stereo, or speaker system, Kenwood is your go-to manufacturer. The car stereo head units have a range of great features including multi-language operating systems, touchscreen display, smartphone connectivity, an integrated navigation system, and some models even still have a CD/DVD drive.
Just about everybody knows the household name, Sony. Hailing out of Tokyo, Japan, Sony designs — and manufacturers — a massive range of different electronic goods, car stereos being one of them. Sony’s different car stereo unit features include steering wheel controls, auto and Apple car play, voice control, capacitive touchscreen, and GPS navigation.
Alpine is another excellent car stereo manufacturer based out of Tokyo, Japan. They make single-din or double-din Android auto head units as well as an extensive range of satellite radio units. Alpines head units feature anything from climate controls to touchscreen display, and, of course, smartphone connectivity.
BOSS Audio hails out of Oxnard, California. They manufacture anything from marine audio electronics, car audio, and a whole heap of different sound systems for your smartphone. Boss Audio’s car stereos feature anything from steering wheel controls, large display screens, smartphone connectivity, and, of course, satellite radio.
Best Android Auto Head Units FAQ:
Q: What devices are supported with Android Auto multimedia decks?
A: If your phone is running Android 5.0 Lollipop or above, Android Auto should work on your device. But it is better if you have Android 6.0 Marshmallow or better. If you want to double-check your phone’s compatibility, try downloading the Android Auto app onto your phone. It makes sense that you make sure that you have a compatible device before going shopping for head units!
Q: Can I use my Apple devices with Android auto head units?
A: Some head units support both Android and Apple devices, whereas others are specific to one or the other. While some are suitable for both, they are better geared towards one or the other. Again, double-check the specifications to ensure that you have selected the right one. The ones which we have selected are all suitable for Android head units, so if you have a compatible Android device, they will all be fine.
Q: How do I pair my device?
A: You will first need to download the Android Auto app onto your device. You will then be asked to give the necessary permissions to run the app. You then have a couple of alternatives. The first time you connect it, you should attach your device to the unit via a USB connection. You will get a series of requests that you need to accept, and you may have to download other apps. Your phone’s Bluetooth will be automatically activated, and you need to accept Android Auto on your car display. You should then be able to hook it up wirelessly in the future.
Q: Do I need Android Auto if I have Bluetooth?
A: No, you don’t need Android Auto if your device has BlueTooth. Although, an Android device that is connected through Android Auto will deliver better sound quality. This is because the audio sent through Android Auto is at a higher bandwidth, creating a higher-quality of sound than BlueTooth.
Q: Can you connect Android Auto without USB?
A: Although Android Auto previously required a connection from the device to your car stereo via a USB cable, this is no longer necessary. Instead, an Android device can be connected to Android Auto by activating the wireless mode found in the Android Auto app.
Q: Does Android Auto use a lot of data?
A: No, in comparison to streaming music from a music app or using a GPS navigation app, Android doesn’t use much data at all. In fact, the only data Android Auto uses is to pull information like temperature and relatively small navigational data.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick is the Pioneer MVH1400NEX digital multimedia receiver, which works with both Android and iOS devices, making it a versatile option. You can stream music and make hands-free calls using Bluetooth. It has a resistive touchscreen and can accommodate DVDs, CDs, and more. This head unit also has a USB port and aux input and is shipped with a wiring harness, USB extension cable, Bluetooth microphone, and instruction manual.
- How to Install New Entertainment Electronics in Your Car – HowStuffWorks
- Radio Installation Guide - Popular Mechanics