Best CarPlay Head Unit 2019 : Reviews and Buying Guide

With more and smarter gadgets taking over your day to day lifestyle, the Apple Car play technology is a brilliant addition to the list of your existing smartphones and TVs. It is the latest way to take immense advantage of your iPhone while on the go.

With this technology, you can easily connect your iPhone to your car stereo with a Lightning connector and you can access your phone while driving without getting distracted much. You can make or receive calls, access your music library, access maps, and message applications. Large familiar iOS app icons appear on the stereo’s touch screen. You can easily use these applications at the touch of your fingertips and some of them can be even initiated with Siri. Most other apps except for a few selected audio apps like Spotify, Beats Music, iHeart Radio and Stitcher cannot be accessible.

Some of the newer vehicles come along with Apple Car play compatible receivers. But you need not to worry even if yours don’t have one. Just get hold of an Apple Carplay head unit and your car will be equipped to do the same. Some of these receivers are even compatible with Android Auto.

Best CarPlay Head Unit

ImageNameScreenWarrentyRating/Check Price
Sony XAV-AX100 6.4" Car Play/Android Auto Media Receiver6.4 Inch Touchscreen1 Year4.1 out of 5 Star

JVC KW-M730BT 6.8" in-Dash Car Bluetooth Receiver6.8 Inch---3.4 out of 5 Star

Kenwood Excelon DNX694S In-Dash6.8 Inch Touchscreen---4.5 out of 5 Star

Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX Navigation Receiver6.2 Inch Touchscreen1 Year4.0 out of 5 Star

Alpine ILX-107 7" Mech-Less in-Dash Receiver7 Inch Touchscreen---4.3 out of 5 Star

Clarion NX706 2-DIN DVD Multimedia Station7 Inch Touchscreen1 Year3.1 out of 5 Star

Here is a list of some of the best Apple Carplay stereo Head units available in the market.

Best CarPlay Head Unit 2019

Sony XAV-AX100 : Best Double Din CarPlay head Unit

Sony XAV-AX100

When it comes to electronics, Sony is a well-trusted brand in the industry. The Sony XAV-AX100 is a double din set up that easily fits into a standard 7 inch by 4-inch dashboard opening with a dynamic 4*55W Reality Amp 2 sound that you can boast of. The LCD screen size (6.4”) that this model has in the offer is a bit smaller compared to its competitors but that lets it fit into even the smallest dashboards. This is done to accommodate a large traditional Volume Knob, a Home Button and two smaller next and previous buttons on the left panel of the screen. These manual buttons are sometimes easy to use while you are driving.

The Volume Knob not only raises or lowers the volume but can also be used to control the sound menu options and to switch over to the voice command system. The Home button provides easy access to the various other functions like the AM/FM radio, your phone, your reverse assist camera, your Car Play or Android Auto while the two smaller buttons below the knob help you in changing the music tracks. It has a Sony built-in Voice command system and you can also use Siri Eyes free if you are an iPhone user. The Sony XAV AX-100 is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto and has seamless connectivity with your iPhone or Android smartphone.

To operate the Apple Car Play or Android Auto you have to connect your phone to the USB connector. While installing the unit you need to take care of the fact that the USB connector, which extends from the rear, is mounted in a convenient location. Sony offers one of the most responsive touch screen units in the market. Though the screen size is not as big as its counterparts, the responsive screen reacts even to the lightest taps. In addition, it gives you a reliable Bluetooth connectivity and around 30 preset stations so that you never run out of options, a 10band graphic equalizer, a preamp output to expand your audio system and video input to attach it to rearview cameras. By using an optional iDatalink Maestro you can integrate the car’s computer system with the Sony XAV AX-100. The Sony XAV AX-100 comes with a Sony remote that can be used by co-passengers even if they are sitting in the rear seat but is difficult for a person in the driver’s seat to use it while driving. This is due to the fact that it has small buttons that are difficult to concentrate on when you are driving. With the Sony support and an affordable price, this is a model worth investing in.

Fits into the smallest dashboards 6.4” screen
Best responsive touch screen Only 5 output channels instead of 6
Convenient manual controls 17W per channel
55w peak output Remote control buttons too small

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JVC KW-M730BT : Best Budget carplay stereo


JVC once again returns to automobile audio electronics with JVC KW-M730BT. This inexpensive model costs almost like the Sony XAV AX-100 but differs from it in the following aspects. It has a bigger screen size of 6.8” but the LCD screen is not as responsive as the Sony variant. The JVC lacks the 30 AM/FM preset of Sony. Also, the Volume knob is missing and is replaced by buttons that are a little difficult to use. Now once we have located the essential differences between the two models, let’s have a look at the features that this JVC model boasts of.

The JVC KW-M730BT is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto and can be synced to two devices simultaneously via Bluetooth but you can use only one device at a time. Though calls to either of the devices can be received by the simple push of a key in the head unit. The 6.8” clear resistive touch panel features El Kameleon concept wherein the face of the unit turns black and meshes with the interiors when the ignition is turned off. On turning it on the WVGA high visibility display reappears. This high transparency and high luminance visibility of the display ensures optimal usage. There is a viewing angle adjustment facility of up to 20 degrees. When you are using maps the screen splits to manage both your navigation and audio interface. The simple buttons may be a little difficult to use when compared to the large knob but can provide a wide array of functions once you are used to them. The audio system has a 13 band graphic equalizer so that you can customize the sound according to your preference. The High-resolution audio playback enables you to enjoy 96kHz/24 bit audio which is 3 times compared to the musical information in audio CDs.

The K2 technology of JVCKENWOOD reproduces the original master sound by expanding the bit rate and frequency rate and gives you a better audio experience. The head unit is equipped with time alignment so that it can adjust the sound output from each speaker and you will be able to receive the sound from each speaker at exactly the same time. The sound response, the space enhancement, the sound lift and the volume link EQ adds to the audio experience. It has a maximum power output of 50W with a preamp of 22W per channel. The unit can be connected to Pandora and Spotify in your smartphone and with SiriusXM ready, you can enjoy over 100 channels of music sports and entertainment. This unit can be integrated with your car computer via an iDataLink maestro. The remote control is optionally available with this unit. And your unit can be connected to rear assist cameras.

High sound quality Lacks a knob type manual control
22W preamp per channel Fewer inputs than other models
6.8” WVGA El Kameleon Display Doesn’t play video files
Syncs to two devices simultaneously

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Kenwood eXcelon DNX694S

Kenwood eXcelon DNX694S

A Premium product in terms of the price and its features, the Kenwood eXcelon DNX694S boasts of a large 6.95” screen and of exceptional features. Most of these features may not be of regular use but if fully utilized you can well understand why this is one of the best models in our list and hence justify the price tag behind it. The Kenwood eXcelon DNX694S has a built-in Garmin Navigation System, a CD/DVD player, HD Radio, satellite radio compatibility, variable color adjustments for customizing the controls’ backlighting to match your car’s controls, and dual video inputs for connecting multiple cameras. The dual video inputs allow you to connect both rear and front view cameras to the head unit. With the built-in navigation system, you do not have to solely rely on your smartphone for navigation. It has a responsive guiding and truck routing if you are towing a trailer but may not be as accurate as your Google map. Like the JVC unit, the Kenwood eXcelon DNX694S also offers a split-screen view to accommodate the map view and audio controls at the same time. The touchscreen though is not as responsive as the Sony or the JVC models. The user-friendly easily reachable buttons are on the left side panel of the bezel. The unit is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto and can be easily connected via Bluetooth. It gives you an audio experience similar to the JVC model as both of them have the same audio features that come from the same manufacturer. The maximum audio output is 50W with a preamp of 22W per channel. The 13 bands graphic equalizer mode has, in addition, a Drive EQ mode that automatically boosts some frequencies in accordance with the speed of the vehicle to compensate for the road sound. The Kenwood eXcelon DNX694S has extra inputs and outputs for expanding the audio and video experience. The Kenwood eXcelon DNX694S can be integrated with the iDataLink maestro. Overall though it may sound a bit pricey it is worth owning if you are in the lookout for a model that has to offer a bit more than the regular features.

The high sound quality of JVCKENWOOD Too many manual buttons
22W preamp per channel Complicated installation process
6.95” WVGA Display Expensive unit
Built-in Garmin Navigation
CD/DVD player
Multiple inputs and outputs

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Pioneer AVIC 8200NEX

Pioneer AVIC 8200NEX

Pioneer has a lot of models in the Apple Car Play Head Unit Category but the AVIC 8200NEX is one of the best that it has in store. Some reviewed this model as an audio receiver that can almost do everything. It is not only compatible with Apple Car Play and Android Auto and other Bluetooth devices but has a CD/DVD player, SD slots, HD radio and a built-in navigation system to add to its features.  The Pioneer AVIC 8200NEX has a 7” wide display that fits in easily in a standard dashboard opening. The Pioneer model features an AppRadio Mode so that you can enjoy compatible apps on your unit screen. If you connect your Apple iPhone or Android phone to the device with the proper interface cable that is sold separately and loads your phone with Pioneer’s free AppRadio application, you can enjoy full on-screen access and control of your contacts, calendar, maps and more. You can also enjoy full control of Pandora with this device. The NEX unit’s external microphone enable the use of SIRI Eyes free. The built-in navigation system offers a comprehensive map of the UNITED STATES, CANADA, and PUERTO RICO. The built-in traffic tuner partners with the Clear Channel Broadcasting Inc to provide real-time traffic data. You can also access the Sirius XM satellite radio. With dual zone entertainment rear seat travelers can enjoy audio or video content on their monitors and headphones. The unit is equipped with Mixtrax which is an innovative Pioneer technology that creates a non-stop mix of your music library with a wide range of DJ inspired effects. The NEX features a highly customizable and user-friendly interface. The audio output features built-in Auto EQ, Time alignment, 13 bands graphic equalizer and you can also enjoy your FLAC files without converting. You can also connect it to an iDataLink Maestro.

7” screen Expensive
AppRadio Mode Database limitations of the navigator
FLAC files playable
Built-in Navigation
CD/DVD player
Multiple inputs and outputs

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Alpine iLX-107 : Best Wireless CarPlay Head UnitAlpine iLX-107

The Alpine XL107 is one of its kind Apple Car play head units. it scores above it’s competitors in the fact that it is the first wireless device and connects your iPhone to the device vide wireless connectivity. You can connect your device to the unit with a lightning connector the first time you pair your iPhone with the device or via wireless and once you are done with the initial set up procedure, you do not have to connect your device every time you get into the car. Your iPhone will be accessible even when it is in your pocket and you can access your messages, maps, calls, and music through the touch screen. The Alpine XL107 is a dedicated Apple Car play unit and is not compatible with Android devices. The unit is compatible with Apple iPhone 5 and above. The unit features a 7″ VGA display with a capacitive touch screen compatible with Alpine TuneIt App for iPhones.In addition to the responsive screen, it has volume, track, home and Siri hard keys that are easily accessible. You can control up to 8 external accessories with an optional KAC 001 External Accessory Controller or integrate it with an iDataLink Maestro to view car computer controls and connect it to your rear assist cameras to view the space behind while in reverse gear. With the Alpine TuneIn App, you can adjust the sound settings like Time Correction, Parametric EQ, Crossover, and Media Xpander. You can make and save up to 100 different sound settings in your account and also share your sound tunings on Facebook. You can easily upload numerous preset vehicle choices for easier sound system tuning and adjust the BassEngine SQ bass characteristics for different types of music with this application. The audio output has a peak performance of 50W and can be controlled by a 9band parametric EQ. The Siri voice command system can make accessing easier and hassle-free. The unit supports the accessibility of third-party apps like iHeart, Spotify, Pandora, Sirius XM, podcasts and more through your iPhone. Apple Maps are also simpler to use and will guide you through turn-by-turn spoke directions, interactive 3-D views, traffic conditions and estimated travel time all from your dashboard. Thus if you own an iPhone then the Alpine XL107 is the most simple and easy to use Car play unit you can think of.

7” screen Expensive
Compatible with Alpine TuneIn App Not Compatible with Android Auto or other bluetooth devices
Wireless Connection Only compatible with Iphone 5 and above
Siri Voice Command
Can be synced to steering wheels control

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Clarion NX706

Clarion NX706

The Clarion NX706 is a 2 DIN DVD multimedia station with Built-in navigation system. It has a large 7” monitor screen with intuitive touch panel operation designed to provide you with controls which require minimum effort. A panel of manual buttons is present for Quick Access. You can easily swap through the menu options in your touch screen panel by simply running your finger side to side. You can also drag an icon and create your own layout. A customizable short cut menu provides easy access. Your iPhone can be easily connected via Bluetooth. Once you have paired the devices you can easily launch Siri Eyes Free and access various features from your phone using voice command. Once you connect your phone to the device with an HDMI cable or using a USB connector, you can also access your phone apps on the monitor. It has two USB terminals towards the rear of the source unit. You can access a variety of entertainment sources through these terminals. The built-in Navigation system covers all the 50 states of the US along with Canada and Puerto Rico. You can choose your navigation voice guidance from English, Spanish and French. You can also connect to Sirius XM or to Pandora. In addition to the CD/DVD you can play audio and video file from your iPod, iPhone, micro SD card and USB flash drive. Even FLAC files can be easily played. As far as the audio features are concerned, it has a 15 band graphic equalizer. The multi-zone entertainment allows the rear seat passengers to listen or see one thing while the front seat passengers are enjoying to some other thing. It has 3 sets of RCA outputs and you can add external amplifiers to enhance the system. It also has High Pass and Low Pass filters that allow your music to be played at the precise levels that they were meant to be heard. It is compatible with both Apple Car play as well as android auto.

7” screen Does not support Apple Car Play and Android Auto
20W output per channel 45W peak output
Supports HDMI cable connection
In Built Navigation

Now once we have reviewed the best Apple Car Play Head Units, let’s look at the factors that make them better than the rest and what are the factors that we need to look in to before getting our hands on any particular one.

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Best Apple CarPlay Stereo Compression Table 

ModelSony XAV-AX100JVC KW-M730BTKenwood eXcelon DNX694SPioneer AVIC 8200NEXAlpine iLX-107Clarion NX706
Screen Size6.4”6.8”6.95”7”7”7”
Output per channel17W22W22W20W
Peak Output55W50W50W45W
Android AutoYesYesYesYesNoNo
Apple Car PlayYesYesYesYesYesNo
In-Built NavigationNoNoYesYesNoYes
CD/DVD PlayerNoNoYesYesNoYes

Best Apple CarPlay Stereo Buying Guide

  • Operating System Integration: The main two operating systems come from Apple and Google. Some Car play head units are compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto. With these units, you can connect both your iPhones as well as your Android smartphones. The connection is brought about generally by a USB connector and in some cases via bluetooth.
  • Third Party Integration: Apple is known for its restriction in terms of users and third party products. The Apple Car Play is no exception to this rule and it restricts the use of third party users and thereby maintains optimum security. But this security is of concern when you are using a self-driven car. But for those who are not using one, the third party app integration is of immense use since multiple applications can be accessed through this feature.
  • Display: The size of the display screen and the resolution are definitely the areas of concern. When it comes to size, it’s bigger the better. Most of the units mentioned above have either 7” or a close to 7” screen. The resolution should not be less than 480. Another place of concern is touch responsiveness. While some are so sensitive that they respond to simple tapping while there may be others which can jam your fingers. The Sony XAV AX-100 excels in the sensitivity of the screen to touch. The screens either have a resistive or a capacitive display. While the resistive display can react only to a single touch the capacitive display responds to multiple touches at a time.
  • Volume Knobs and Press Buttons: The manual Volume Knobs and press buttons enable quick access of the functions but may sometimes be difficult to reach and hence difficult to operate. So you need to choose one that best suits your driving comfort and you would not have to get your eyes off the road while accessing them. The size of the buttons also matters so it’s better to select a model that has large responsive buttons compared to tiny ones.
  • Preamp per channel and peak output: The preamp per channel and peak output are definitely of primary concern when you are investing in such a system. Anything above 50W in peak output and 20W or more in preamp per channel is considered to be able to give you an audio experience of exceptional quality.
  • Amplifier: If you are adding the car play system to your existing car speakers that came with the car, you need to buy a unit that has an embedded amplifier. The amplifier should be able to provide power to at least 4 channels if not six and the output per channel should not be less than 15W. Though I would personally prefer the per channel output to be 20W and above.
  • Additional Features: You can opt for units with additional features according to your requirement. These include integrated CD/DVD players, Built-in navigators, other integrated app suites like Pandora, Sirius XM, iHeart, AppRadio, Spotify etc.

So as we can see buying the best Apple CarPlay head unit is not that easy and simply buying the most expensive one may not suffice and prove handy to you. With this article, you may have a fairly good idea into what all to look for to while buying one for your car. We have also provided you with a list of the best can play head units available in the market. You can choose one from them or use our buying guide to guide you through one that best suits your needs.

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