6 Best Apple CarPlay Head Units Under $500
Mar 08, 2023
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are excellent interfaces to have when driving. They prevent distractions while allowing you to use features like navigation and music. If you have an iPhone, you can hook it up to your car's stereo system to enjoy CarPlay. That being said, if you have an older car, chances are that it doesn't have support for CarPlay. In such a case, the best thing to do is to get an Apple CarPlay head unit.
An Apple CarPlay stereo unit might let you use both wired and wireless CarPlay. You’ll no longer have to mount your phone onto a holder in your car and gaze at the small screen. Third-party head units are affordable and will ensure you won't have to buy a new car just for CarPlay support. Speaking of affordable, here's a list of the best CarPlay-compatible stereo head units for under $500. But before that, you might want to check out the following:
Let's get to the best Apple CArplay radio units now.
If you’re looking for a basic CarPlay head unit at an affordable price, you cannot go wrong with the SJOYBRING stereo. Make no mistake, the inexpensive price doesn't mean you miss out on functionality. The SJOYBRING head unit has many features, including a backup camera in the package.
The 7-inch screen on the SJOYBRING car stereo is accompanied by physical controls on the left. This is a nice addition since media controls are better with buttons and knobs. To fire up CarPlay, all you have to do is connect your iPhone to the stereo using a USB-A to lightning cable and you’re good to go.
When you don't want to use CarPlay, there's an SD card slot and a USB port as well to play offline media. SJOYBRING also includes a rear-view or backup camera that you can link to the display which is a bonus. As per reviews, the UI runs smoothly for the most part. There are occasional lags but considering the price, that should be okay.
This audio system from BOSS also has an SD card slot just like the one from SJOYBRING. So when you don't want to connect your phone, you always have the option to play your offline playlist. If you want to use CarPlay, you just have to connect your phone to the USB port onboard.
Connecting your phone to the USB port gives you the ability to control media, use navigation, and make/take calls — all via the screen in your car. There's FM Radio built-in too so if you want to listen to your local stations, you can do so.
While the CarPlay functionality remains largely similar on all head units, what differs is the small features and refinements. For example, users say the BOSS audio system is easy to install which is always nice. Then, there's the software support. BOSS apparently rolls out frequent updates to fix issues so if plan on using your car for a long time, this is a boon.
JVC's audio products have been around for a while. So for those of you who have previously had the brand's music system, you will feel right at home. What stands out about the KW-M560BT is the audio quality. It's superior compared to the previous options.
The audio output from the JVC KW-M560BT is quite rich thanks to expert tweaking by JVC. There's also a 13-band Equalizer to further fine-tune the music as per your tastes. While you get to groove to excellent music, you also have to make certain compromises with the JVC CarPlay head unit.
For starters, you miss out on an SD card slot so you’ll have to resort to a USB drive to play offline media. But that would take up the sole USB port and can't charge your phone. Users have also reported that you have to wire the stereo system to your car's parking brake if you wish to use the Settings app onboard. This is how CarPlay would determine that you’re parked and it's safe to use.
Now that's something you would require a mechanic for. If you’re willing to put in the effort for better audio, you can consider the JVC KW-M560BT.
Similar to the JVC Head unit mentioned above, the Sony XAV-AX3200 focuses primarily on audio quality. The unit comes with 2V front and rear pre-amp outputs for excellent sound. However, it misses out on some handy features like wireless Apple CarPlay despite being priced generously.
If you have a good set of speakers and a sub-woofer in your car, the Sony XAV-AX3200's true capabilities come to life. Going by the reviews, the sound output is crystal clear and rather loud. Even if you take a lot of calls, the onboard mic helps with transmitting clear audio to the other party.
However, it's important to note that Sony has made some compromises to accommodate better audio drivers. The main area where Sony has cut corners is in terms of the display. It houses a resistive touch screen instead of a capacitive one which is a bummer. Resistive displays have poor touch sensitivity so you might have to perform a few extra swipes or touches to select an option. Although user reviews are still positive, so your mileage may vary.
Pioneer is another brand that specializes in audio equipment. So naturally, the audio output from the MVH-AV251BT is excellent. While at it, you won't even have to compromise on the screen or other features since the reviews say it's a well-rounded CarPlay head unit.
The bottom of the Pioneer head unit has physical controls on the bottom bezel. You can control media volume, skip tracks, or even launch various menus without interacting with the display. Speaking of the display, the MVH-AV251BT has a matte texture on the screen. It's the only head unit with this feature on this list. In case you’re wondering how that helps, matte displays offer better visibility under direct sunlight.
As far as customer feedback is concerned, most reviews for the Pioneer MVH-AV251BT are excellent. Users say that the head unit is easy to install and the CarPlay interface runs smoothly. If you’re an audio enthusiast and are looking for a reliable CarPlay head unit, we recommend getting the Pioneer stereo system in spite of the slightly higher price.
The biggest USP of the ATOTO S8 Ultra is the convenience that it offers. It's one of the few head units at this price point that supports wireless Apple CarPlay. Thanks to this, you don't have to plug your iPhone into your car every time while driving.
Wireless CarPlay is not only easier to use but it also prevents your iPhone's battery health from deteriorating. Apart from this, there are several features unique to the S8 Ultra. For starters, it runs on a native Android OS. So even if you don't want to use Apple CarPlay, features like navigation and media playback will still be available.
If you’re not impressed yet, the ATOTO S8 Ultra has a QLED display, hand gesture controls, dual Bluetooth device support — and to top it all, a built-in LTE modem. This means you can get a separate data line for the CarPlay head unit to access the internet without connecting your iPhone.
While the price is rather steep, the feature set more or less justifies the asking price. And that's what most users in the reviews section also believe. Lest we forget, you can even mirror your phone screen onto the S8 Ultra's display. However, we recommend using this feature with caution, only when you’re parked or when it's safe to do so.
It depends on the head unit installed in your car. For instance, all the above-mentioned head units also support Android Auto alongside Apple CarPlay. That being said, there are other products in the market that support Apple CarPlay only.
Both wired and wireless CarPlay have their own pros and cons. While wireless CarPlay is more convenient, it drains your phone's battery quicker. Wired CarPlay on the other hand requires you to plug your iPhone in all the time. This is stabler but it can also end up damaging your iPhone's battery health in the long run.
Natively, Apple CarPlay doesn't allow you to stream content or mirror your iPhone's display onto your car's head unit. However, if you pick up an infotainment system like the ATOTO S8 Ultra which supports screen mirroring, you will be able to watch videos on your car stereo.
If the existing entertainment system in your car isn't smart, the best alternative is to get an Apple CarPlay head unit. From the intuitive touchscreen displays to the impressive audio performance, these head units deliver an immersive driving experience. Add to that features like voice control, navigation assistance, and access to a variety of music and entertainment apps, and you’ll be able to stay connected and entertained. All while keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
Last updated on 06 June, 2023
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Sumukh has been simplifying tech for the masses and helping consumers pick the right gadgets with his in-depth insights and reviews. He decided to hide his B.Tech degree in the closet to pursue his passion for writing. Over the past 5 years, he has contributed with guides, reviews, and detailed opinions to notable publications like TechPP and XDA-Developers. When not jamming his fingers on thoccy mechanical keyboards, Sumukh is busy convincing people how VR Gaming is the next best thing after sliced bread.Size: Display: Wireless CarPlay: Size: Display: Wireless CarPlay: Size: Display: Wireless CarPlay: Size: Display: Wireless CarPlay: Size: Display: Wireless CarPlay: Size: Display: Wireless CarPlay: 1. Can I also use Android Auto on head units with CarPlay? 2. Is wired CarPlay better or wireless? 3. Can I watch videos on my car's stereo via CarPlay?