The Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX is one of the few car stereos that let you connect your phone to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto either wirelessly or through a USB cord, which provides a lot more versatility. In addition, its display is more attractive and customizable than those of other models we tested. It offers intuitive physical controls and a suite of extra features, including multiple input/output connections and a CD/DVD drive. And it’s available at a reasonable price. If you want a built-in navigation system (instead of needing to use your phone) or a capacitive multitouch display, though, we recommend our upgrade pick instead.
If you just want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and don’t mind having to use a wired USB connection to use them, the Sony XAV-AX100 is a good choice. Unlike most double-DIN stereos, this Sony has a handy knob that makes volume adjustments easier. Its 6.4-inch display is clear and responsive, although it’s smaller than most other models’. Compared with our top pick, the XAV-AX100 also lacks a CD/DVD player, satellite-radio capability, and the ability to customize the buttons’ illumination to complement your vehicle’s interior. It also isn’t designed to connect to an iDatalink adapter to work with your car’s steering-wheel controls and other features.
The Pioneer AVIC-W8500NEX is nearly the same stereo as our top pick, with the addition of a built-in navigation system and a capacitive screen that allows multitouch, pinch-to-zoom-type control. As with our top pick, you can connect to both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto either wirelessly or with a USB cord. The built-in navigation can be a good alternative to using your phone for directions because it lets you stay on track in areas where poor reception makes phone-based mapping unreliable or inconvenient, or if you want to keep your phone free for other uses or minimize its battery and data consumption. The additional features tack a couple hundred dollars onto the price, so we recommend this model only if you need them.
If your car has only a single-DIN (7-by-2-inch) dash opening for the stereo, the Pioneer AVH-3500NEX, with a clever slide-out touchscreen, is your best option for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s easy to use, with a handy volume knob and big buttons on the front for common functions. The motorized 7-inch screen slides out and up for use, effectively giving you the same interface as a double-DIN stereo. And it retracts back into the head unit when you turn off the radio or simply want to hide it while listening to audio. But using CarPlay or Android Auto with the unit requires a wired USB connection, and depending on your car’s dash, the screen might block climate controls or vents (it extends about 4 inches above the stereo).