Is Infotainment the Same as Audio?

What comes to mind when hearing the term infotainment? Inside a vehicle, an infotainment system refers to several different things. The question is, is it the all-encompassing term for every feature and piece of technology inside a car? What is infotainment, and is it the same as audio?

Are infotainment and audio the same thing?

Mercedes-Benz EQS dashboard. Is infotainment the same as audio? Best infotainment systems.
Mercedes-Benz EQS interior and infotainment display | Matthias Balk via Getty Images

Firstly, Consumer Reports calls infotainment the interface and software on your car’s screen. It’s one of the most important factors when buying a modern vehicle. These infotainment systems can be the difference between easy-to-use controls for things you use every day or outdated, hassle-filled versions. Additionally, every automaker uses a different infotainment system. The only way to know if you’ll like a particular brand’s software and its interface is to try it yourself.

Contrarily, audio is not the same thing as infotainment. One thing infotainment can usually control is the audio system inside the vehicle. However, the audio is not a part of the infotainment itself. When reading about a specific make or model, audio systems will usually refer to speakers and sometimes a brand if the car has a premium audio system. For example, many Ford and Toyota models use JBL speakers and premium audio systems.

What is an infotainment system?

2022 Volkswagen ID.4 all-electric compact SUV interior dashboard and infotainment touchscreen setup, is it the same as audio?
2022 Volkswagen ID.4 interior | Volkswagen of America, Inc. Newspress Limited

More importantly, what kind of value does an infotainment system provide? Should potential buyers be worried about which one they’re purchasing, or is it the same in every car? Truthfully, infotainment systems vary significantly from one automaker to the next. Some brands have slow, unintuitive systems that are very difficult to use and best avoided. Others have newly designed software and interfaces, which usually operate faster and provide more precision for selecting functions on a touchscreen.

Moreover, there are some features provided by infotainment systems other versions won’t have. For example, the Stellantis Uconnect system (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, etc.) allows users to view a Performance Page. This is specifically for performance models like the Dodge Challenger. It shows real-time vehicle performance information, like G-force, 0 to 60 time, gauges, and engine performance.

Which automakers have the best infotainment systems?

Infotainment is one thing automakers are developing at a rapid pace. Since Tesla started the industry trend of gigantic infotainment touch screens, other automakers are doing the same and creating software to go along with it. In 2022, plenty of brands will have infotainment systems worthy of being at the top. As with most things in technology, the newest ones will work the best and therefore be the best.

For example, Ford Sync 4 is only a few years old and hasn’t been implemented on every Ford yet. However, Ford’s new infotainment system is already one of the best, with smooth and easy-to-use controls and features. Mercedes’ MBUX system is a premier infotainment system for its luxury models. It uses two screens that cascade across the dashboard, making it seem like you’ve stepped into a spaceship. Finally, the aforementioned Stellantis Uconnect system is one of the best available. It includes some features other automakers don’t and is notably smooth, responsive, and simple to use.

Infotainment and audio are not the same thing

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In conclusion, if an automaker says it has a premium infotainment system, that does not equal premium audio. Usually, premium audio systems cost a little extra. Infotainment systems are primarily used to control everything in the car. When volume and tuning knobs are unavailable, the infotainment system is used to control those functions. Overall, the two are entirely different entities but sometimes work together. That’s why infotainment is not the same as audio.

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