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If you are looking to drive a more futuristic automobile, you don’t need to spend huge sums of money on a new vehicle. There are plenty of products to upgrade your car, and one of the best is an auto head unit. The improvement to your in-car entertainment will be significant. A few of the features that you can expect include hands-free calls, improved music and radio options, better GPS, and access to a wide range of apps.
All you need to do is choose the right Android auto head unit for your vehicle. If you aren’t really sure where to start, don’t worry. Below we provide details about some of the top products currently on the market. We also list their key features, so you can compare which is the best Android auto head unit.
The Best Android Auto Head Unit
First is this Pioneer Android Auto touchscreen DVD and CD receiver, which comes in a fold-out design. So, if you still have some discs lying around, you can play them using this device. Pioneer is a well-known brand, so you should be comfortable putting your trust in it as opposed to an unknown company.
At 7”, the screen is the ideal size to control your music. Plus, there are physical buttons, which makes adjusting the controls easy rather than having to scroll through endless menus. The internal AMP and DAC ensure that it produces good-quality sound.
Flexible and customizable interface
CD and DVD support
Supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Simple and stylish design
- Weight6 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” 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, it is a great mid-range choice which offer 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
Alpine is a brand that specializes in vehicle multimedia products, so you know that you are getting a product that is made with care and attention to detail. You can control the device via the 7-inch touchscreen or physical buttons.
It is designed to connect to your devices via Bluetooth, but there are also auxiliary and USB options if you wish. There is also a software spine for a Sirium XM radio tuner, which gives you an ad-free radio experience. The price is at the higher end of the scale, but many people decide that the brand is worth paying extra for.
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 CPU coupled with 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage, and 128 GB microSD support. The GPS Navigation system comes pre-loaded with Google Maps to help you find your way when you are going from place to place. The central point of the device is a 1024X 600 HD touchscreen, but there are also some external controls which make it easier to adjust as needed.
Built-in microphone for hands-free calls
Online and offline GPS support
Specially made for Android devices
1024X 600 HD touchscreen
- Weight6.37 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
Both durable and stylish, this head unit from Boss gives you the best of both worlds. It features everything that you would expect from a device such as this one, including Bluetooth, USB and aux connections, a responsive near 7-inch screen, and an AM and FM receiver for radio reception. The black background helps to ensure that the controls on the screen are easily visible. And if you are not entirely satisfied, it comes with a 3-year platinum online dealer warranty.
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 good amplifier 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.
Top-of-the-line audio quality
HD radio, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi ready
Range of apps supported
Exceptional audio control
- Weight8 pounds
This multipurpose media center supports CDs and DVDs and also has a pair of USB ports, Bluetooth, dual SD card slots, WiFi, and more. You can share your music instantly, and you also have the option of saving it on your device. There also is a mirror link that allows you to mirror your smartphone directly onto the screen. As for the GPS navigation system, it supports both online and offline options, depending on whether you are connected or not.
External microphone for clear communication
Supports WiFi connection
Installation manual and video tutorial included
Three USB ports
- Weight4 pounds
The final product on our list has a large amount of internal storage – 64GB to be precise. This is much higher than many comparable products currently on the market. The 7-inch screen features 1024*600 HD resolution and 1080P video. You can sync your phone up via a USB cable or use the built-in WiFi to surf the internet. Whether you want to access your maps online or offline, you have the option of doing either.
Built-in microphone for hands-free calls
Features Bluetooth 4.2 and built-in Wi-Fi
Supports online and offline maps
Universal unit shape
- Weight3.84 pounds
Best Android Auto Head Units Buying Guide
In the next section, we get into the buying guide, which tells you more about some of the features to focus on when you are making your decision 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 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 or other device.
The screen should be large enough to comfortably fit inside your car without taking up too much space. The standard size is around 7 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 which allows you to do so. The choice is yours.
- Sound Quality
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.
- Customizable Features
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.
The look of the car interior is important to a lot of people, so try to picture how the unit will appear in your vehicle. Remember, the design should blend in well with the dashboard and the surrounding features. Most of the time, it will be an upgrade on your old speaker system – no matter what variety you choose.
While it may be tempting to go for the cheapest product available, this is not always a smart choice as you are unlikely to get the best quality. After all, you want a product which is going to stand the test of time. However, if you are on a tight budget, you may need to choose a device which only has the basic features. Also, you should ask yourself whether you are planning on upgrading your vehicle in the near future. Many modern cars are being built to already be compatible with your phone, so you will not need a separate head unit.
The brand can give you something of an indication of the quality of the product. If it is a big-name brand, it is likely that you will already know a lot about it. If you have not heard of it before, it is worth doing a bit of research to get information such as how long it has been established for, what its customer service is like, what other customers have had to say about it etc. Alternatively, if the brand is unknown, you are taking a bigger risk on the level of quality that you can expect to receive.
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.
- Add a Rear-View Camera for Safety
It has long been acknowledged that reversing is a dangerous activity while you are behind the wheel. One of the best ways of combating this is with a rear-view camera, which allows you to get a fuller picture of what is behind you on your head unit. This means that you don’t have to rely on your mirrors or craning your neck into an uncomfortable position.
- Bluetooth Usability
We all know that speaking on your phone while driving is dangerous, but 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.
- GPS Navigation
Advancements in technology have meant that you no longer have to worry about direction-based arguments blighting your journey. With a head unit, you get a good view of your map, making it less likely that you are going to take a wrong turn. 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.
- Use Voice Controls
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 in Knight Rider in no time!
Will This Fit Your Car and Can You Install It?
Before you buy an Android car stereo, you should make sure that the head unit fits inside your car. Measure your vehicle yourself or check the owner’s manual for more information. It is possible to do yourself if you have the necessary car skills and tools. Some of the main pieces of equipment that you need include screwdrivers, a prying tool, and a soldering iron. Of course, the specific tools you need will vary from one vehicle to the next, so don’t take this as a hard and fast guide.
There are many guides available online which walk you through the different steps of installing the best Android car stereo. If you don’t feel entirely comfortable taking care of the job yourself, you may want to get someone else to do it for you to ensure that you don’t risk damage to the unit or your vehicle. It is likely to be especially tricky to install a newer head unit in an older vehicle.
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.
Our Top Pick
Going back to the number one product on our list, we have this one from Pioneer. While you have the modern option of hooking up your phone via Bluetooth, you also have the more old-school choice of playing your CDs or DVDs on it. The touchscreen interface is customizable to suit your preferences. Created by a recognized brand, you can feel more confident in the quality of the product and the after-purchase support. All-in-all, its range of positive features put it clearly at the top of our list.
- How to Install New Entertainment Electronics in Your Car – HowStuffWorks
- Radio Installation Guide - Popular Mechanics