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Preferred Headunit solution


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Discussion Starter #1
I've read through all three threads, I think I have a good idea of the tradeoffs/benefits/etc.

But I'd love to hear anyone that's played with more than one of them and can truly understand the day to day or living with them compared with each other. Also, if anyone has seen this experience in other cars, would also be worth a read. Any and all feedback comparing these options would be very valuable to me.

I'm currently leaning towards the chinese android system as I think because it's android, it will be inherently the most flexible and based on the fact that at least rocketsled has managed to get a problemless install going. the new hardware seems quick/responsive enough, and the end price to me is reasonable.
 

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Personally the Navtool is the best option. It keeps stock look and hardware but gives it CarPlay and is easily reversible.

I hate the look of all of the aftermarket head units. Even if they are “better” than the stock screen they make the car look cheap and hacked together to me.
Like a 90s Honda it’s tacky.




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The problem with retaining the stock display with Navtool is that it's a 10+ year old display technology. I have a kit that pre-dates Navtool (forget the name, too lazy to go find it and see). Inserts between the display and the stock HU. Sends display from the phone and touch from the display. Basically remotes the phone display to the car's stock touch screen. I never installed because I wanted more display area and higher resolution.

I didn't consider Metra because I thought it didn't include support for Bose (which is controlled over OBD). I have since learned that it does. I don't like the look as much as the "Tesla style", but it has the advantage of being able to accommodate a wide range of aftermarket 2-Din Android (or other) radios.

And of course, the Tesla style. I think it's extremely well integrated. They basically fabricated a replacement center stack bezel that's 1:1 replacement for stock except where the 10" display goes. Couldn't look more factory original than it does. I started with the first generation which was Android 5 and while it worked OK, it did not work as reliably as I wanted. Most of the time it did what I wanted, but sometimes I was really slow and sometimes programs would force-stop for no apparent reason. I have since upgraded to the Android 8 version, which is a much faster CPU and has more memory. This one actually works pretty much perfectly. Haven't had any of the issues I had with the older version. Boots faster. Reads up the 90GB of music on the permanently attached USB stick faster. Starts and connects to WiFi faster. It'd be perfect if I could get a rooted version of the OS from Phoenix.
 

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The problem with retaining the stock display with Navtool is that it's a 10+ year old display technology. I have a kit that pre-dates Navtool (forget the name, too lazy to go find it and see). Inserts between the display and the stock HU. Sends display from the phone and touch from the display. Basically remotes the phone display to the car's stock touch screen. I never installed because I wanted more display area and higher resolution.

I didn't consider Metra because I thought it didn't include support for Bose (which is controlled over OBD). I have since learned that it does. I don't like the look as much as the "Tesla style", but it has the advantage of being able to accommodate a wide range of aftermarket 2-Din Android (or other) radios.

And of course, the Tesla style. I think it's extremely well integrated. They basically fabricated a replacement center stack bezel that's 1:1 replacement for stock except where the 10" display goes. Couldn't look more factory original than it does. I started with the first generation which was Android 5 and while it worked OK, it did not work as reliably as I wanted. Most of the time it did what I wanted, but sometimes I was really slow and sometimes programs would force-stop for no apparent reason. I have since upgraded to the Android 8 version, which is a much faster CPU and has more memory. This one actually works pretty much perfectly. Haven't had any of the issues I had with the older version. Boots faster. Reads up the 90GB of music on the permanently attached USB stick faster. Starts and connects to WiFi faster. It'd be perfect if I could get a rooted version of the OS from Phoenix.
It looks better integrated than most Aftermarket units I’ll admit. But you lose the volume/tuner knobs, important buttons (mag ride) etc, they don’t make the bezel one black so it’s silver or you need to wrap it.

Also, I have seen videos and even the “fast boot” ones take forever to boot...
and the HMI design/user interface design looks like Chinese knockoff crap.
The AA/CarPlay looks good obviously but I never understood why you need a bigger screen. Maybe if your eyes are bad you can’t see the navigation map but there is really nothing else cool you need the big screen for.
What are you watching movies while driving?

To each their own, I’m glad there are options at least.

The 10 year old built in screen is perfectly fine for me to see a navigation screen, navigate my music etc. IMO CarPlay is the best user interface for a car and everything can be done hands free voice command or with a simple quick tap so literally zero need for a huge multitouch display.
We are driving the car first and foremost! Lol

At least the Tesla has autopilot so I suppose you can get more use out of the huge screen and watch Fast and Furious while on a road trip, haha.





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You have touch controls on the screen as replacements for the knobs, and of course the steering wheel controls still work to change volume and skip ahead/back. And if you stab the upper left corner of the display, it mutes the sound.

The mag ride is retained. The button, unfortunately, is silkscreened as Traction Control, but I can assure you it works the same as the original button when you push it.

I start my car and give it 10 seconds or so before I actually kick it in to gear and get going. It takes another 10 seconds or to back down my driveway. By the time I've got the car in 1st gear the HU is booted up. It takes it another 20 seconds or so to find and connect to my WiFi hotspot and I can start streaming and/or navigating at that point. I have some offline maps of the area, and like I mentioned above, many 10s of GB of music. If I don't want to wait for a network connection, those things can be started as soon as the tablet's booted. Maybe 20 seconds. I can of course set the music player to auto resume as soon as it starts up.

I use my Slingbox every once in a while while I'm in the car, but typically only when stationary :). That's not the issue. The problem for me was that the factory display is a very low pixel count display for its size. Images looked pixelated. It bruised my Chi every time I looked at it. It wasn't that I needed a higher resolution display so I could watch movies, it's so the graphical elements can be displayed with enough resolution, color and contrast so it doesn't look like Windows 3.1 being displayed on a CRT. Which is IMO what it looks like if you stick with the factory display.

CarPlay runs on the Tesla unit and you can do all the same things if you want. "Hey, Google. Show me how to drive from here to hell and back" works just fine.
 

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Navtool is nice if you want to maintain a factory appearance. It's not without flaws, but overall is definitely worth it. IMO, this should be the default answer for anybody wanting CarPlay.

I've definitely considered the Metra kit more than once and almost bought it a handful of times. If replacing your entire stereo system and upgrading the amp, speakers, etc., then this is the only way to go. I've been very tempted to do this plus a Kenwood DDX996XR (or the non-nav version) or a Stinger Elev8. I'm not a big fan of the Stinger sticking out of the dash, but I am a big fan of a higher resolution screen, actual volume knobs, and digital audio output.

I really want to like the Tesla style units, but the lack of a black bezel, lack of digital output or decent RCA output, and overall user interface are not for me. I haven't ruled them out forever, but in their current iteration they wouldn't wind up in my dash.

Tim
 

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Navtool is nice if you want to maintain a factory appearance. It's not without flaws, but overall is definitely worth it. IMO, this should be the default answer for anybody wanting CarPlay.

I've definitely considered the Metra kit more than once and almost bought it a handful of times. If replacing your entire stereo system and upgrading the amp, speakers, etc., then this is the only way to go. I've been very tempted to do this plus a Kenwood DDX996XR (or the non-nav version) or a Stinger Elev8. I'm not a big fan of the Stinger sticking out of the dash, but I am a big fan of a higher resolution screen, actual volume knobs, and digital audio output.

I really want to like the Tesla style units, but the lack of a black bezel, lack of digital output or decent RCA output, and overall user interface are not for me. I haven't ruled them out forever, but in their current iteration they wouldn't wind up in my dash.

Tim
Yeah exactly, everyone has different priorities which is why options are good to have.

I would hate hate hate not having the volume knob and maybe I’m a snob about user interface but the Tesla style android interface looks soooo dated and clunky to me.
IMO Physical buttons are much better than a touch interface for a car but clearly people like the Tesla and these style units so obviously their priorities are high resolution and screen size.

The only thing Navtool needs is wireless CarPlay.
I have wireless CarPlay in the Porsche and it is amazing to just be able to leave my phone in my pocket and everything just works.


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I would already have a Tesla-style headunit but the 30+ second boot time would drive me nuts.

I want to turn the key, and pretty much start hearing music. Really could care less about the techie stuff... but it really looks cool. maybe that's why I still have the factory radio. :D
 

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I've definitely considered the Metra kit more than once and almost bought it a handful of times. If replacing your entire stereo system and upgrading the amp, speakers, etc., then this is the only way to go. I've been very tempted to do this plus a Kenwood DDX996XR (or the non-nav version) or a Stinger Elev8. I'm not a big fan of the Stinger sticking out of the dash, but I am a big fan of a higher resolution screen, actual volume knobs, and digital audio output.
Yeah, no, that was my recent revelation. The Metra kit comes with a dongle that hangs off the CANBus and allows control of the Bose amp. The Tesla style does the same thing. The way the Bose amp works, the Head Unit sends high-level audio from the selected source to the amp at the back of the car. All the volume and fading and tone control and "spatial effects" are handled by the amp. When you turn up the volume on the HU, the output to the amp doesn't change. But a command goes over the CANBus to the amp that tells the amp to turn itself up.

So all three solutions being discussed here retain the factory amp.

I would add that the Tesla implementation is buggy. The front/rear fader doesn't work correctly. Push it to the back and both the front and rear speaker volumes decrease. It's center-point or forward of center only. And while I haven't had any issues with hissing, a few others Tesla unit owners have reported the problem. I don't know if the Metra dongle does it any better. The Navtool kit however will unquestionably work correctly because it's not replacing any of the OEM functionality with something that's been reverse engineered (because neither GM or Bose publish specs for the amp). You actually have to give the Tesla and Metra guys some credit for going the extra mile to implement support for the stock Bose amp.

  • For Tesla you get a big screen built in to a replacement center stack bezel that looks like it came out of a GM factory. The new version boots quick enough I doubt many will complain. Its performance is much better, too. But there are still a few things that don't work quite right. Retains Bose amp.
  • For Metra you have a smaller screen and a bezel that some may not think looks as good, but it comes with the advantage of being able to source the 2-Din head unit of your dreams. Retains Bose amp.
  • For Navtool you retain all factory components and it lets you display and operate your cell phone from the stock display, but you're stuck with the stock display.
 

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Yeah, no, that was my recent revelation.
;) Understood. That wasn't the point I was trying to make. The point I was trying to make is that if you want to bypass all of the stock amps, speakers, etc., then your best bet is the Metra kit and running the RCAs or digital output from the headhunt directly to an aftermarket amp or processor.

Tim
 

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...I don't know if the Metra dongle does it any better...
It's exactly the same. No hissing, however, fade to rear loses all sound, center/forward as you said.

I can't speak for the Navtool or the Testla style HU but I will throw in my 2 cents on the Metra kit. It takes care of the majority of the shortcomings of the antiquated stock HU. I really like the Kenwood hi-def screen. I don't plan on watching movies on it but I like how crisp it is. Touch capacitance is a major plus. And the back up camera feed looks way better even with the stock camera. Definitely going to take advantage of adding a front camera.

I am not a fan of the actual Metra trim piece and how the head unit sticks out and hate the now non-functional radio stack buttons in the center console but I like basically everything else.

I am tempted to try out a Pioneer AppRadio due to the abundance of supported apps compared to what's available in Android Auto only. My main gripe with the stock HU was the lack of wireless AA or at least the ability to get music off your phone and control it with the stereo/steering wheel controls and display on the HU (other than iPhone/iPod). And I still hate the Bose factor. Eventually I'd love to bypass the amp and go to a fully dedicated system.

I was also tempted with the Navtool but issues brought up in the discussion thread turned me away. The Tesla style HU really got me interested but again the issues steered me away. If it is ever perfected I may try that route. But when it comes to driving and using the stereo I really prefer physical buttons I can feel vs concentrating on a 2D surface instead of the road. Just me, I'm a simple guy.

Lots of info in the discussion threads and a lot of it comes down to personal preference/opinion. Figure out what you want and what you can live without and those threads should steer you in the right direction.
 

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Do any of these options offer wireless CarPlay? I noticed that was a ding for NavTool, but I’m not aware of any alternative that brings that functionality. Maybe Metra + Pioneer HU and $$$?
 

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Do any of these options offer wireless CarPlay? I noticed that was a ding for NavTool, but I’m not aware of any alternative that brings that functionality. Maybe Metra + Pioneer HU and $$$?
I have the Metra kit and a Kenwood Excelon DMX906S and it has wireless CarPlay. I love it, it works great and is super convenient. It’s the main reason I went with the Metra and the Kenwood. Plus, by using the Kenwoods sub-out RCA’s, I am adding a subwoofer that is independent of the Bose system, but still using the Bose system for the rest of the speakers, thus retaining chimes, OnStar, etc.

I even added a custom Qi wireless charger in the top shelf of my center console, so I can keep my phone charged on longer trips.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I appreciate the discussion. I don't think there is a perfect solution, but obviously just different sets of compromises. Here is how I see it and I'd love to hear if you guys agree/disagree.

For me personally - all I really care about is seamless carplay. I have no desire for satellite radio, or really anything other than backup camera (and possibly a birdseye parking option) from a functionality standpoint, although I could imagine adding a subwoofer at a later date maybe. The other part that is valuable to me is how the user interface is and the overall aesthetic of the solution.

As the type of person I am, I built a spreadsheet. Feel free to add comments directly to the spreadsheet, but I figured I should share it if it might help anyone else. I'm still dealing with some other issues so this has been deprioritized.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19h1ALVPwIu6T5yVB8zuNjcows0WWGNG4TgoTQHpAqms/edit?usp=sharing
 

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I have the Metra kit and a Kenwood Excelon DMX906S and it has wireless CarPlay. I love it, it works great and is super convenient. It’s the main reason I went with the Metra and the Kenwood. Plus, by using the Kenwoods sub-out RCA’s, I am adding a subwoofer that is independent of the Bose system, but still using the Bose system for the rest of the speakers, thus retaining chimes, OnStar, etc.

I even added a custom Qi wireless charger in the top shelf of my center console, so I can keep my phone charged on longer trips.
You use the Metra even though Crutchfield says it doesn't fit? Still exploring options for early next year.

I'll have to have ammunition to convince a shop, who won't want to install because of warnings.
 

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You use the Metra even though Crutchfield says it doesn't fit?
Yes, I used the Metra kit with the DMX906S, even though Crutchfield said it didn't fit. I really liked that radio a lot, it has wireless CarPlay, it has a capacitive touchscreen, it has all the other features that I wanted, and it didn't have a CD/DVD player or built in Navigation, which I didn't want or need. And I have done car audio installation for decades, so even if there had been a small clearance problem, I was pretty sure I could work around it. Based on looking at the notes on their website about what would fit, Crutchfield was saying that it was about 1/4" too deep.

But when I did a test fit, it seemed to fit fine. The fan on the back was not blocked. There are a ton of wires that need to be placed, but with the original Bose radio module removed, there is a decent amount of space under the new head unit for all of the wiring and small module boxes to fit. I did cut an access opening in part of the dash plastic to help the wires run better, because I thought I would need it originally, but once I actually put it all in there, I don't think I really needed it.

So although I give Crutchfield a lot of respect for the advice they offer, in this case, I can't really understand why they said the DMX906S would not fit. Now if you got one of the deeper double DIN units, like say one with a CD/DVD player, I could see that not fitting. But the DMX906S is one of the shallower units out there, and it fit fine. In fact, I have it mounted about 1/8" too far back, and will fix that soon. So there will be even more clearance than there already is.
 

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I appreciate the discussion. I don't think there is a perfect solution, but obviously just different sets of compromises. Here is how I see it and I'd love to hear if you guys agree/disagree.
I think that your spreadsheet captures the three options pro's and con's pretty well. The only thing I might add is that with the Metra kit, you can use a head unit from a major car audio company of your choosing, and that they are likely to provide support for that product for a while. So if if in 2 years Apple does something to iOS that changes how CarPay and wireless CarPlay work, you are likely to get a software update from the company that will maintain compatibility.

I don't know how long the NavTool company and the China Tesla style companies will continue to support software updates for these particular modules, especially since unlike an off the shelf double DIN head unit, they have to be configured uniquely to our cars. In the case of the Metra kit, it is the Metra kit's electronics that deals with our cars unique audio bus architecture. Like it or not, our cars are a declining market for their products, and thus they may, or may not continue to provide software updates that work with our cars.
 

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[…]I don't know how long the NavTool company and the China Tesla style companies will continue to support software updates for these particular modules, especially since unlike an off the shelf double DIN head unit, they have to be configured uniquely to our cars.
NavTool appears to regularly update their software, even for older products. Recently I pulled my NavTool box to apply an update which activates the backup camera. Once I launched their updater, I noticed a few prior updates available for my earlier generation box. I was impressed that they reached back to give earlier user this functionality. There other updates also, but the backup cam was the only feature I wanted.
 

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That’s really good to hear.


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Anyone ever heard of Naviks? Looks like a Navitool competitor.
Not many options for 09-13:
"Naviks is proud to offer our backup camera interfaces to add backup camera, front camera or both. If you don’t find your vehicle here please check our video interface section it just means we have a more sophisticated solution for your car"

Also, the Navitool website shows a 3.0 version and a 4.0 version, but doesn't state the differences. Can anyone verify?
 
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