What to look for when buying an Android Headunit

You want to buy an android head unit, there are so many to choose from, but which one to buy?

Cost

There are some very cheap MP5 Players that pretend to be android head units that often catch the attention of the potential buyer. This low price tag looks tempting and sets the expectation for further searches and suddenly the recommended head units look expensive.

Decisions

One of the most important decisions is to work out what you want to use the android headunit for. Different people have different uses in mind. Knowing what you will want it for can help build a check list of specifications that will narrow down the potential choices.

We have come up with a list of potential uses and the recommended features that will best support these uses. You can use it as a sort of check list. This will ensure you can get the right Android car stereo for your needs and nothing less.

Features

In car phone calls.

I can calls can be an important use for the android headunit. It can replace a bluetooth device or the need for a dedicated hard wired in car calling system. The android headunits can do in car calls, make and receive calls but. Its a big BUT, some only have internal microphones and these suffer from poor quality and volume for the person calling you.

The solution is to fit an external microphone that will be of better quality than the inbuilt microphone and with it positioned up, near your mouth, the caller will hear you better as speak. Not all android head units have an external microphone socket on the back, so if calls are an important feature, ensure there is an external microphone option available.

OBD

Torque App and an OBD2 adaptor connected to your car OBD port can open up the data channels from the car and feed them directly to the android headunit. This is a useful feature for monitoring all of the engine functions, in real time, as you drive. It can also measure 1/4mile, 0-60 times, fuel economy, engine faults, log tracks for Google Earth KML and even help repair your engine.

The OBD adaptor communicates with the android headunit, typically over bluetooth. The initial pairing link of the two can sometime be impossible, rendering the OBD2 adaptor useless.

The solution to OBD pairing is to select an android headunit that has the OBD adaptor an an optional extra. Order it at the same time, from the same vendor, in the same transaction as your android headunit. This will ensure that the vendor can send the correct OBD2 adaptor that will BT pair to your headunit. If it still doesn’t pair then contact the vendor for help.

Android Apps

Obviously you want android apps. Anything from Google Maps to Youtube. The cheap MP5 Players can’t run android apps and neither can the android auto head units.

The simple solution to ensuring you can actually run android apps on the headunit to to select one that is actually running android. Avoid WinCE as this is not android and avoid the Japanese android auto stereos that only mirror a phone.

As quick as your phone

A good check on how responsive you want the head unit to be, how quickly it responds to screen taps and the loading of apps is compare it with your phone. If you have a very old 2014 phone that runs android and you are happy with that then an 8227L_Demo junk headunit may be what you want.
If you have a reasonably modern, middle of the road phone that run android then any of the 8 core or 6 cores with the same amount of RAM as your phone will not disappoint. If you have a top end phone and want to mirror that responsiveness then you need to look to the very latest UIS7862 6Gb and 8Gb models.

The android headunits are similar to a modern phone in the cores of the processor to the Gb of the RAM and the version of android. You can use your current phone and its performance as a guide to what t expect with the similar cores and RAM quantity.

Music from a USB or thumbdrive

If you want to play music from a USB drive or an SDcard then you should look to see there are enough USB ports fitted. Ensure that they are accessible enough to make it easy to change the USB stick when you update your library. If all the USB ports are at the rear you maybe be stuck.

But there is a solution. Use a basic USB extension lead to extend the port from the rear to an accessible position, like the glove box. You can’t hub or split the USB so you still need enough USB ports for your intended uses, but the USB extension lead makes it all easier.

Digital Radio

You like the idea of Digital Radio – DAB+ for your android head unit. This is a very popular choice and every android headunit can run an DAB+ adaptor. The USB DAB+ adaptor is a generic upgrade and needs no bluetooth pairing. What it does need is a free USB port. Ensure you the prospective android headuits have enough, if not more USB ports than you need.

Google Maps

All of the android head units will run Google Maps. The ones with at least 4Gb RAM run google maps like a modern phone does. Responsive and fluid, enjoyable to use. Slower headunits, the ones with 1Gb or 2Gb are not as fluid or responsive with the big apps like google maps.

Google Maps works better with data. Be prepared to hot spot your phone to supply google maps with some data on the drive. Other solutions are a dedicated SIM card either fitted in the android headunit or an external USB wifi dongle. This can remove the need to hot spot.

Solution is to either pick an android headunit with SIM card compatibility or ensure you have the extra USB wifi dongle or mifi adaptor to supply data to the maps if you don’t want to or can’t hot spot.

Car Play

Casting your iphone screen to the android headunit is something that people try to do. It sort of works ok and there are a few cases that is can be advantageous to car play the phone. It can be hit and miss getting it connected but isn’t really necessary for most uses. But if you need car play then…


The solution is to ensure you pick an android head unit with either built in car play or an option extra of car play is selected at check out. The trick is to buy the android headunit with the car play option at the same time, from the same vendor in the same transaction. This will help ensure the vendor install the correct app and the car play adaptor supplied is compatible with the headunit they supplied. You will get much better support with issues of the one vendor supplied all the parts, in the same order.

Reversing Camera

A backing up camera is a universal feature of the android head units. Every Android car stereo will work an reversing camera. It may not connect to the factory camera system so this will need to be confirmed or a secondary camera fitted. Not all reversing camera are equal. Some are very poorly made and are not waterproof, others feature night/low light vision, high definition, high quality images and some even are ale to produce a 360 degree view. Think about the need for factory camera integration, low light performance, or 360 degree view options.

Solution is to pick the headunit compatible with the reversing camera system you want. Read the reviews of the durability and quality of universal backup cameras to find the ones to avoid.

More Features

There are many more features available to android head unit. The Android car stereo is usually expanded with USB devices so look for head units that have enough USB ports for future upgrades.

Marshmallow
Marshmallow
An android-headunits.com staff blogger. I am a multi-skilled dogs-body and I also make the coffee ☕

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