Its rarely that I have ever written about car stereos under this blog, but now I have reason enough to do so. I recently had the need to upgrade my car stereo in my Old new honda Civic 2010. The last two times I went in for a Pioneer and a Blaupunkt head unit for two of my cars. For those days that was enough but then came the craze of Android Auto and Apple Car play. Besides this there were systems of an alternative kind – Screen mirroring type. Personally I prefer the former for a solid reason – Android Auto or Apple car play gives you only the essential apps (Phone, Music, Maps, and Messages including Whatsapp to be read out) so that you can focus on your driving more than fiddling with your phone.
But then in India buying gadgets such as head units for cars could turn out pretty expensive and only few can afford it. Personally I believe if you can afford a good smartphone, you can afford a good head unit for your car as well. Having said that, lets get straight down to the product review of the SONY XAV-AX100 AV Receiver
Sony XAV AX-100 head unit
The Sony XAV-AX100 is a 6.4 inch media receiver which supports Android Auto, Apple Car Play and Bluetooth to pair your phones with. One of the things I liked the most in this product is its touch screen. From a long time I was suffering with products with bad touch screens and you know how irritating it can get if your touch does not activate the right option on the screen especially while you are driving. In that respect this product is really good and very very accruate. The distraction free touch enables you to focus on driving and at the same time use the options the player provides.
On the main screen you can connect to bluetooth audio, and start playing your tracks and skip tracks or entire folders depending on how your media is organized. Before I proceed further I would like you to know that it supports USB as well so you can connect your pen drive (through a cable) and the player will pick up your tracks and play the same. At the time of this writing I have not checked whether it plays video as well. One another good thing about this unit is that for a volume controls they have given a dial which is easy to use. Sometimes the volume + and – if implemented via a software button is difficult to use in a touch screen. Unfortunately my civic does not have audio controls on steering so I am unable to use them for volume control. I was so used to this in the sunny and its definitely a dampner for me. The hardware also has three other buttons to advance or rewind tracks and a home button that provides you with the main menu.
As you can see from the picture, it supports Tuner, USB, Bluetooth, Phone and Rear Camera. I must say the Phone option is rather rudimentary on the unit itself and it just allows you to dial a number and disconnect the call, or answer an incoming call. If you need to mute the call, you need to reach out to your phone. But the good part – if you are a careful driver like me, you never need to do that since you would use Android Auto or Apple Car Play for handling these tasks. When you are on android auto, you cannot use the phone in a normal way since its connected to the head unit. But the best part is the voice commands using google work like a charm assuming you have good internet connectivity and you can pretty much ask google anything you want that is relevant to driving mode. Like driving directions, distance, other questions, and music searches. Its pretty accurate too. I have tried searching for music in languages other than english and it worked pretty well. Sometimes you must however learn to use vocabulary properly. For instance I asked google what are the meetings I have for today, which it did not catch. Rather I must have asked “What are my appointments on the calendar” and it would have answered properly.
The android auto is pretty simple. It shows Navigation, Phone, Music and your history other than the main menu. You can scroll through easily or switch between these activities. For calls, you can simply use voice to dial, rather than search but if you are the latter type, the favourites are listed for you instantly so you do not have to fumble around. I really loved the navigation as I usually put it on silent mode barring alerts, and its sufficient to display to me the map, with traffic data – heads up most of the time and distraction free driving. Your phone also charges during this process and I observed using navigation this way does not use up your battery unlike on standalone phone mode navigation. It does not heat up the phone either – so google – brownie points to you for this. Next is my favourite – Apple Car Play
Apple car play has much bigger icons and is more friendly to the touch. It also has Siri mode, but then we all know where this thing fails miserably – searching indian music tracks, and navigation. Sorry Apple but I am not going to change my opinion until your maps division in Hyderabad actually does something tangible. I guess this mode will make more sense in USA and other countries where it works much better for their style of English and the data available including maps part. However for all things Apple, I still love the implementation including the rather large icons which are friendly to use. Here also the apps are limited although some custom apps are avaialable too such as whatsapp. The reason I had to go for this unit is simple. I needed something that will drive component speakers and further a woofer through a separate amplifier. And for getting both Android Auto and Apple Car play support in this unit – that’s all I ever needed since I have both phones ! So bonus for me. My primary driver these days has been Google with its more accurate knowledge base.
The burning question: Price ? – its 26,999 everywhere – in store, online wherever. Is the asking price worth it ? Remember the device also features night mode, day mode display, and a firmware update possibility via pen drive. But the real question is how long sony will support this as such !! I would pay for this unit anyday just for two features it offers – Android Auto and the brilliant touch screen. It does have niggles like not updating song information sometimes, but then hey – these are silly things I can excuse as it happens only when you use both android auto and bluetooth. Soemtimes I use apple music on android phone, in that case the song info via bluetooth sometimes does not update. I still need to do a firmware upgrade. So these issues can be fixed via software.
If you are wanting a good head unit that supports Android and Apple driving modes, keeps you less distracted and makes you more disciplined – look no further purchase the SONY XAV-AX100 AV Receiver now.