Most in-car infotainment systems are outdated and unattractive. Many people rejoiced when Apple unveiled CarPlay back in 2014. It was a functional and beautiful infotainment system. CarPlay pairs your car with your phone and offers in-car versions of your apps. For example, it features Siri, can send audio text messages, give you a preview of your day’s calendar, and offers cutting-edge navigation updated in real-time. Apple even gave the software to car companies for free. But, there was a problem. Many car companies were slow to adopt Apple CarPlay. Many companies made it an expensive option or only available top-trim vehicles. Lucky for you, if your vehicle does not have CarPlay, you can upgrade to a radio unit that does. Here are three of CNET’s favorite Apple CarPlay radios you can install in your vehicle.
Best overall Apple CarPlay radio: Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX
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In CNET’s recent review, Pioneer took several Apple CarPlay radio categories. Pioneer’s AVH-W4500NEX won the best overall car radio–also called head unit–with Apple CarPlay. This is because it connects wirelessly to your phone. Therefore, some car owners with Carplay actually upgrade just for wireless Apple Carplay.
This radio has a 6.9-inch touchscreen with Pioneer’s menu system. In addition, you can select CarPlay to use your apple apps. For example, you canuse your favorite navigation app. In addition to Apple CarPlay, the Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX even has a CD/DVD drive.
This CarPlay radio is $895. A cheaper option from the same company is the Pioneer DMH-1500NEX at just $440.
Widescreen single-DIN Apple CarPlay stereo: Pioneer DMH-WT8600NEX
Most of the CarPlay radios on this list are what’s called “double DIN” units. In other words, they will only fit into the dashboard of new cars which have enough room for two traditional radios stacked. On the other hand, older cars engineered for a single traditional radio, require “single DIN” units.
There are many single-DIN-sized radios to add Apple Carplay to an older car. Some have a tiny touchsreen, others have a flimsy fold-out screen. But the incredible Pioneer DMH-WT8600NEX has a huge floating touchscreen with a unique bracket system. The 8600 features a 10.1-inch 720p widescreen. It costs $1,199 and comes with a host of premium features. These include UBC-C and mini-HDMI connectivity. It also supports multiple cameras and steering wheel controls.
Depending on your dashboard size you might opt for the smaller Pioneer DMH-WT7600NEX. You can also get a cheaper floating-screen, single-DIN option: the $949 Alpine Halo9 iLX-F309.
Luxury-level Apple CarPlay radio head unit: Kenwood Excelon DNX997XR
If money is no object, treat yourself to the Kenwood Excelon DNX997XR. It costs $1,500, but comes with all the bells and whistles. For example, this CarPlay radio has an integrated Garmin GPS navigation system. Also, Kenwood throws in three years of Garmin subscription for free.
The Kenwood Excelon not only is an Apple CarPlay radio, but you can use your phone as a remote. Therefore, passengers in the back seat can control the audio apps, if they want. The premium screen is only a 6.75-inch in-dash unit, but offers 720p of resolution.