What is an Android car stereo? It’s basically a regular car head unit (single or double din) but runs on Android platform like a smartphone. This allows for an interaction that feels like a regular tablet use or for a direct interface between the stereo and a phone or tablet that also runs on Android.
All this compatibility is possible because Android is an open source platform, meaning anybody can incorporate it into their devices.
That being said, the term can also be used for car stereos that don’t run on Android but are compatible with such devices through Android Auto, but such devices won’t be the focus of this buying guide.
Android version: Android 6.0 Marshmallow Display: Full HD 7″ 1024*600, 5-Touch Capacitive Touchscreen USB, CD, SD: 2 USB interfaces, 1 SD card slot Bluetooth: Dual Bluetooth 4.0 Navigation: Built-in GPS receiver with an external antenna; Google maps as default App. Other features: Phone mirroring compatible with Android and iOS; 2 seconds Quick Boot feature; dash and rear cam compatible; Steering wheel controls support
This is a really great Android head unit, providing you with everything you could want except the CD player, but honestly, I think that’s more of an eccentric perk than an actual important or actually practical one since it only matters if you really want to carry your CDs with you – check out the full Atoto A6 review.
Both the bootup and the camera change are really fast, which is really useful when in a hurry or using reverse when parking.
In my opinion, this unit only has two minor problems. First, there’s a big difference between the radio volume and volume from other inputs. Music at a decent volume in a USB will change to concert loud in radio – just something to watch out for when changing source.
The second one is the slight disparity between the LCD screen and the touchscreen, that means you don’t always touch the targets you want to, especially small ones, but after a while, your brain will get used to it and correct it, still a small inconvenience.
Overall this unit has a perfect screen size, great interaction, amazing functionalities, and that’s why it’s our pick for best Android car stereo unit.
PUMPKIN Android 8.0 Double Din
Android version: Android 8.0 Display: 7″, 1024×600 px USB, CD, SD: USB slot, 1 SD card slot Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 Navigation: Supports online and offline navigation Apps, e.g. Waze, Sygic, Google (map card not included) Other features: Phone mirroring; steering wheel controls support (only resistance based inputs); Supports RCA type reverse cameras.
This double din head unit is pretty close to a top spot, but unfortunately has some issues and just doesn’t quite get there. Things like both included microphones having poor quality and the unit having a very slow bootup time are clear disadvantages.
The sound quality is good but could use a small amp to improve volume. Most of the problems aren’t major things, but all the small improvements you have to make here and there are what differentiates it from our pick, in the end.
The multiple input options are great though and make for an interesting experience. Plus, the wifi antenna has an incredible range and good quality build. All these features make it our Runner-up Android stereo.
Android version: Android 7.1 Nougat Display: 7”, 1024*600 Capacitive USB, CD, SD: USB input; SD card reader Bluetooth: BT 4.0 Navigation: Pre-loaded GPS maps with options for both online and offline navigation app, e.g. Waze, Synic, Google Other features: Mirroring; Back up camera compatible
This is a good one, if you overlook some minor issues, it can be a great fit for your car. One of the features I found most useful and unique is that the backup camera starts working before the system completely boots up, which is a nice touch in terms of time-saving.
The included GPS antenna is a huge plus, and it also has a good touchscreen quality. The included microphone is really low quality and it’s a shame that it doesn’t give you much on audio options and has very limited equalizer settings (which are the purpose of a stereo system) but it’s still a good unit.
Android version: Android 7.0.1 Display: 7 inch LCD Touch Screen(5-point touch), 1024×600 USB, CD, SD: 2 USB ports; 1 SD card slot Bluetooth: Bluetooth(A2DP) Navigation: Supports both online and offline navigation Other features: Mirroring features; steering wheel controls
This is a good one, despite some display issues, I believe this is one of the best ones in the “also great” category. The 16 GB internal memory is plenty for all the songs you could possibly want and even some videos.
It runs any App you might want it to and does its job, it’ s the entertainment brain of the car. Unfortunately, some problems with the display (like low resolution and image quality) don’t allow for a higher spot, since the screen is one of the most important features of an Android car stereo.
The wi-fi is also kind of uncertain in terms of strength and range. It makes you think that sometimes it’s not worth having all the features if some of them aren’t optimized.
Android version: Android 4.4.4 Display: 6.5” Touchscreen USB, CD, SD: 3 USB slot; CD player Bluetooth: Bluetooth 2.0+EDR Navigation: GPS card with included maps for USA/Canada and Mexico Other features: Android and iOS mirroring; backup camera support; 16 GB internal memory
This is a great unit if you’re on a budget and still want an Android based head unit. It doesn’t include all the features it would need to make it the best possible, like external antennas for GPS and wi-fi or physical buttons but if you’re on a budget and want a great head unit, this one could be the right for you.
It has all the important car stereo functions, a big internal memory to keep all your music and an excellent navigation interface, definitely making it a top three pick.
Android version: Android 4.4 Display: 6” high-resolution touchscreen USB, CD, SD: USB reader; CD player Bluetooth: Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR Navigation: GPS included with pre-loaded maps, integrated Google Maps Other features: Steering wheel controls support
This unit has a very responsive touchscreen, a great interface (that, unfortunately, doesn’t work well with iOS) and a cool video lockout while driving that makes for a great feature to add security.
It’s good for your typical car ride since you can experience the music and basic navigation, but might not be the best for long countryside road trips. The GPS will work better in highly populated areas but might lose signal rather frequently due to the lack of an external antenna when outside of urban areas.
The Bluetooth sync and connection isn’t the best and the steering wheel interface has a several seconds delay but other than that it’s a great unit, even admitting it could use some improvements.
Panlelo PA012 Android 6.0
Android version: Android 6.0 Display: 7” Touchscreen USB, CD, SD: USB input; SD card input Bluetooth: Bluetooth 2.0 Navigation: Build-in GPS receiver compatible with Google Maps and others Other features: Back Camera Input; 16Gb memory; Steering Wheel controls supported
Again, this is a great unit and losses mainly on technicalities since things like sound quality are amazing. The most important Apps come installed already so you can start enjoying right away and the volume knob is really handy if you don’t have steering wheel controls, or just like to adjust the volume that way, in order to you can keep both eyes on the road.
Some extra accessories would place this unit on a top three spot but unfortunately, it still has a little bit to go before getting there. But not everything is according to expectations.
The processing speed is a little slower than expected but gets the job done. The brightness range could be improved in order to improve visibility, especially during the day as well. Plus, I should mention that installation can be a real headache if you’ve never done anything like it before.
Although there are no weird cables or anything, the instructions are quite messy and the customer support isn’t very helpful. I would have liked if the unit was easier to install and if the features were better implemented.
The big thing to pay attention to when choosing your new Android car stereo system is your requirements. The ATOTO unit checks all the boxes on our checklist and that’s why I think it would best suit you.
I do believe our top pick will be the best solution for most people, however, if it’s lacking something you really want your system to have, there’s no way around it, it’s best to choose a unit that incorporates everything you want.
This is a long run purchase and should be given a good thought since it will stay with you and your car for a very long time.
What Should I Look For When Choosing My Android Car Stereo?
These stereos may or may not come with multiple different features and it’s important you know how having certain ones or not might impact your user experience.
You should first know what your needs are, and as soon as you know that, you’ll know what features need to be included in order for the stereo to do right for you. These are the main features and specs you should pay attention to.
What Apps Are Supported By This Type Of Stereo?
The kind of supported Apps depends on the specific model of android stereo you buy, some support any app compatible with Android, while some might only be compatible with certain Apps. Supported Apps include communication, navigation, music and search Apps. This includes Skype, Google Maps, Google Play Music and Spotify, Google Search, among others.
The screen is the main interacting feature in an Android stereo. It’s what you look at when operating the stereo, where all your information is at, and an important thing to investigate when choosing your stereo.
Most screens on these devices are touchscreens – don’t miss out our review of best touch screen car stereos, but sometimes that might not be the case so you should look out for that. The size of the screen also plays a big part.
A small screen might make it hard for you to read or see displayed information, and that can even make it dangerous to use since it will require you to take your attention off the road for longer periods of time. Larger screens usually have larger fonts that allow for a quicker and easier reading.
The recommended screen size is about 6-7 inches.
The interface is the next most important thing to be careful about. Some devices have a very complicated or slow interface, which results in poor user experience and frustration while keeping you from enjoying the full capabilities of your stereo.
You want a fluid interface, as similar as possible to regular optimized tablets, that offers an intuitive and/or easy to learn the use of the product.
USB, CD/DVD-player and SD cards
If you are a music lover, this is definitely something really important to you. A CD or in-dash DVD player is a must for anybody who likes to travel with their disc library, and if that’s you, pay attention to stereos that offer this capability.
USBs can be used to play music from the flash drive directly but might also work to connect your phone directly to the unit and use it to stream from your phone or even mirror it if it’s capable of doing so.
SD card slots are useful for extra internal storage of things like music or videos in the stereo. Most high-end Android stereos have internal memory included, but most still offer additional storage space through this method.
Besides the previously mentioned USB connection, some stereos give you the option to connect your smartphone via Bluetooth, and this is usually the best option since some phones will need adaptors to connect via USB to the stereo. Bluetooth also gives your stereo the option to make calls if your car as a microphone or if you had one.
AM/FM Radio and Satellite Radio
Every car stereo you may buy today includes an AM/FM radio that allows you to listen to your local stations, but that’s just the basic package. Some stereos will have built-in options to improve your experience such as HD radio decoders that would improve the audio quality of your local stations.
If you’re someone who takes preference on the radio instead of CDs, you might want to pay attention to this detail.
On the other hand, if you are a long distance traveler, and like always having your favorite stations with you, or a sports fan that always wants to listen to the game on the go, a satellite radio option might be the way to go, but be careful, because most times this feature is only something the stereo is compatible with, meaning you would have to buy additional equipment in order to actually make it work.
One of the biggest advantages of having a big screen on your Android head unit is no longer needing to have your phone stuck on the windshield for GPS.
Most units will come with some sort of map-based navigation system, that you can update via SD cards, or, if the unit has internet access, via the internet. But some might argue that the Google Maps App they have on their phone is superior and more up to date, and that wouldn’t be wrong. If you prefer to navigate with it, you can always go with a unit that supports mirroring of your phone.
The previously mentioned are the biggest features to look out for, but if there’s something in particular you want, you can always give that feature priority.
For example, if your car has steering wheel controls you probably want a stereo that is compatible with those controls in order for you to control things such as volume but beware, do your research because this adaptor may vary from car to car, so make sure it will work with yours before buying.
If you’re someone who appreciates touch screen but would feel more comfortable with physical buttons while on the road, some units offer just that.
Now that you know what you should pay attention to, check out our top picks for Android-based car stereos.
Last update on 2021-03-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API