Enjoy my CarlinKit Android AI Box Review. You can buy this Android AI Box for $280 (with coupon) from Amazon US → https://amzn.to/3j5Cnpk or for £299 (with voucher) from Amazon UK → https://amzn.to/3FMYKJT.
So CarPlay Android AI boxes have become a desirable piece of technology over the last few months. I have covered a number of them already, from the first MMB Android 7 dongle to the latest ApplePie Mini Android 9 dongle. CarlinKit has decided to jump in on this bandwagon with the recent release of their own Full Android System dongle.
In the box you get the Android AI Box itself, there is a short USB-A to USB-C cable to connect and power it, there is also a USB-C to USB-C cable for any modern CarPlay system that uses USB-C, and finally, there is a small paper manual that tells you how to operate the basic functions of the Android System and how to connect to wireless Apple CarPlay or wireless Android Auto.
Installation is super simple, you just need a wired Apple CarPlay system. You first plug it into the same CarPlay USB port in your car. The CarlinKit dongle will then take over your existing CarPlay display and replace it with its standalone Android 9 operating system.
Once you have the Android interface running on your CarPlay display, you can either insert a SIM card with mobile data, or you can connect to your mobile hotspot on your iPhone or Android device and use any of the built-in Android apps, such as YouTube, Netflix and Google Maps, or you can head over to the Google Play Store and download any of your favourite apps and services and have then running on your CarPlay display.
In my testing most of the apps I tried worked fine on this dongle, including Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, and even Android Auto. The onboard 8-core Snapdragon processor and 4GB memory were capable of running the most common Android apps without encountering any issues. You also have the ability to close any running apps from its floating menu system, should you run into any of the usual performance issues when running too many Android apps at once.
The built-in GPS module inside the dongle allows you to run any native Android navigation apps directly from the dongle, however, unless you run any apps with offline maps, you will need either a data SIM or a tethered mobile to download any map tiles or traffic data.
Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto
This dongle also offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Using the built-in AutoKit application from the Android menu, you first connect to the Android dongle via Bluetooth. Once paired over Bluetooth your iPhone will ask if you wish to use it for CarPlay, and after enabling this request, you are taken into the CarPlay dashboard without the need to plug in any wires. The same process goes for Android Auto, however, you will need a compatible wireless Android Auto device – which I didn’t have, so I was unable to test this.
Without a USB input port on the dongle, just like the ApplePie Mini, you are limited to wirelessly Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Obviously, if you want to go back to wired CarPlay, you would have to disconnect this dongle and reconnect your iPhone via a Lightning cable to return back to wired CarPlay.
I was able to connect to Wireless CarPlay between 7 to 10 seconds. Once connected, all the CarPlay functions worked flawlessly, with the usual 2-second audio delay for music and calling. Its call quality felt just the same as my own wired CarPlay connection. Button controls from my steering wheel were carried over successfully in CarPlay and also in Android apps. Being Android-based, the call button linked to the Google Assistant, then Siri. So you have to tap on the CarPlay home button instead.
Local Media Playback
This dongle has 64GB of onboard storage. So you can download and store various media directly on the internal storage of the dongle. However, if you feel you need to expand on this, you can insert a TF card into the slot on the dongle to expand its storage up to 128GB. With media loaded locally or on an inserted TF card slot, you can access this media very easily via its own media player or more successfully in the VLC app. Playback is smooth and I didn’t encounter any major issues playing back a majority of popular media file formats through the VLC player.
This CarlinKit Full Android System dongle retails for under £300 with a voucher from Amazon UK or for $312 from Amazon US. This price is around $67 more than the ApplePie Mini, which is pretty much the same thing, just in a different casing and interface.
Comparing this against the many other Android OS dongles out there, the similarities are very few. All of these dongles are pretty much the same overall. With just internal processing specs, menu interfaces, and physical dimensions only really telling them apart. This Android 9 dongle from CarlinKit performs up there with the best of them.
Is it any better than the ApplePie Mini? Well, I would say it is pretty much on par, with the exception of its increased cost. However it can be purchased from Amazon, so should there be any compatibility concerns, you have easy returns with them.
The one area you have to be aware of with these Android OS dongles is that if you wish to use the majority of Android apps on this dongle, it is highly likely that you will need to give the app an internet connection. Which on the move will be either an inserted data SIM or a personal hotspot from your smartphone. Again, you won’t be able to run both wireless CarPlay and internet-driven Android apps without using a data SIM, so bear that in mind if you’re thinking of using both platforms simultaneously.
But if you’re on the lookout for an Android OS dongle, this Full Android System from CarlinKit sits alongside the ApplePie Mini for one of the better Android OS dongles out there for CarPlay systems.
0:00 – Intro
0:20 – Brief overview
0:42 – Unboxing
1:07 – Installation
1:22 – Interface & Android Apps
2:19 – Built-in GPS
2:35 – Wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
4:07 – Local media playback
4:44 – My Impressions