In this video, I check out the new CarlinKit 5.0 wireless dongle for wired CarPlay and Android Auto car systems.
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This is CarlinKit’s latest wireless adapter which takes a leaf out of its previous wireless adapters and improves on its hardware and software. CarlinKit are also calling this adapter 5.0, however this adapter connects a little differently to their 3.0 and 4.0 wireless adapters and it doesn’t allow conversion from CarPlay to Android Auto in exactly the same way as the previous models.
In the box you get a small paper manual, there is the wireless adapter itself, and you also get 2 longer USB cables, one USB A to C cable and one USB C to C cable for more modern vehicles.
Features & Design
Its form factor is very similar to previous adapters from CarlinKit. There is a USB C port to connect the adapter to your CarPlay or Android Auto port in the car, and there’s a powered USB port to apply updates to the dongle and this port also allows power passthrough – but there is no wired pass through with this adapter.
On the top of the casing, there is a CarlinKit logo, which also acts as a status light for the adapter. This light glows red when powered and green when you make a successful connection to the adapter. For CarPlay users, there is also a fun feature of this status light, in that it will display a colour hue from the album art that’s currently playing on apps like Spotify or Apple Music. I tried this feature also on Android Auto but the light just stayed on its active green state.
Boot-Up & Interface
I tested the adapter in my VW Golf7 running my newly retrofitted VW MIB2.5 system with 9.2” display, and unlike their previous adapters, once this adapter is plugged in, you will not see anything appear on the display. Instead, you have to search for and connect to the adapter’s Bluetooth connection on either your iPhone or Android device, and once paired to the adapter, you will then begin to see the appropriate AutoKit menu interface before the adapter connects and displays either wireless CarPlay or wireless Android Auto.
Personally I find this a little bit backwards, when compared to the previous 3.0 and 4.0 adapters. At first boot, my initial reaction was that this adapter didn’t work with my VW system, until I remembered that there were some adapters out there that also didn’t display any interface on screen until you connected to it over Bluetooth first.
Wireless Apple CarPlay
Once paired with my iPhone, the familiar looking AutoKit firmware first fires up, before connecting to my iPhone over Wi-Fi and resting on the CarPlay interface. Boot up time took 23.69-27.39 seconds (compared to 30.40 on the CarlinKit 4.0 adapter with same new firmware, and 37.87s on the Quadlock also with the same firmware). My experience in CarPlay was very good, with good speeds in swiping and interactions. I’ve driven with this dongle connected for a number of hours now and I didn’t experience any dropouts, or black screens as I have done recently on some of my earlier recommended wireless adapters on this VW system.
Audio also sounded good to me, wheel controls worked just fine, its GPS passthrough kept up with my car’s location, and calling and audio recording sounded good enough to me with calling delay being significantly reduced.
Updates can be applied over the air, and on checking this I noticed that the 2Air adapter runs a more modern firmware with similar configuration settings as their previous adapters. However, it’s all presented in a much more aesthetically pleasing way. Just like the 3.0 and 4.0 adapters from CarlinKit, it has plenty of options to customise your experience and work around any issues that owners face with specific car systems, such as adding start up delays to altering audio quality and Wi-Fi band.This latter feature is a new setting that can help improve black screens and dropouts when using this adapter’s Wi-Fi.
Wireless Android Auto
Over an Android Auto, it’s a very similar story, you simply connect your android to the Bluetooth profile of the adapter and then the adapter will load up Android Auto wirelessly with your display. Boot up time took around 22.43. And considerably less if your USB port and system boots up when unlocking the car, so once you’ve entered the car CarPlay or Android Auto will have already loaded up.
From here, Google’s car platform runs great, very snappy and it displays at a more native resolution, which is an improvement over many other adapters. Like CarPlay, music resumes just fine after calling, using the voice assistant or navigation commands as well as on start up.
For those with multiple phones including iPhone and Android, this adapter can be set to detect the connecting phone automatically or you can jump into the config menu to set startup connections to only boot into either CarPlay or Android Auto devices only. It’s a little tricky to undo this setting on the ignored platform, but a reconnection to its Bluetooth ID and accessing the IP config menum you can change this setting back to Auto or the other platform.
This CarlinKit 2Air adapter currently retails for $84.99 with coupon from Amazon US, £128.99 from Amazon UK, €95 with coupon from Amazon DE, and $134.99 from Amazon AU.
My time with this adapter has been mostly positive. There were times where I did eventually get a black screen at times or the iPhone failed to display. But these instances were rare and not as frequent as some other adapters, including CarlinKit’s own 3.0 and 4.0 dongles. Over on Android things were a little more hit and miss, just like on other devices. This is usually when its Bluetooth connection is being used by a second device in the car and needs to be free’d up, but sometimes tapping connect doesn’t always connect when swapping between devices. If you’re using this adapter exclusively to one device, your experience will be smoother and reconnections are more reliable.
The IP config menu updates have some great new features, although I am sure we will also see this update rollout on other existing AutoKit adapters. The Wi-Fi channel selection is a nice feature to avoid dropouts, although for me, when choosing the less used higher Wi-Fi band, it made it more unstable for me.
With its improved overall speed and stability, improved Android Auto resolution and performance, the CarlinKit 2Air adapter is a recommended adapter for either wireless CarPlay or wireless Android Auto. Just remember it will not convert CarPlay only systems into running Android Auto and vice versa, for that you’re better off sticking with an older generation of adapter instead.
0:00 – Brief overview
0:37 – Unboxing
0:49 – Features & design
1:36 – Wireless Apple CarPlay
4:30 – Wireless Android Auto
5:44 – My Impressions