Most new vehicles come with Android Auto or CarPlay included, or at least as an option on more expensive trims. However, older vehicles can get a more modern multimedia experience with the help of an aftermarket head unit. Most of these devices have stuck to a tried and true 7-inch form factor, but Sony’s new unit has a larger 9-inch screen. Plus, it’ll be compatible with more cards (and wallets).
CarPlay and Android Auto have gained popularity because most people are using one of those two operating systems, and everyone carries around their personal data on smartphones. These in-car systems pull data directly from the phone, so all your music, podcasts, and contacts are automatically available. The interfaces, while intentionally simplified for cars, are dramatically better than what carmakers offer. If you don’t even have a touchscreen in your car, Sony’s new XAV-AX8000 receiver could give you some bragging rights over friends with newer rides.
The XAV-AX8000 has a sizeable 8.95-inch touchscreen, which is larger than many new vehicles that ship with 7-inch displays. However, that display is only WVGA resolution (480 x 800). That’s probably much lower than your phone, but you won’t have your nose right up against the dashboard.
To ensure it’s compatible with as many vehicles as possible, Sony designed the XAV-AX8000 to use a single DIN slot — it’s on an adjustable arm that holds it away from the slot. So, even vehicles that have narrower entertainment decks (think: a compact CD player) can cram this gigantic screen into the dash.
Sony was able to make this head unit so compact be removing unnecessary components like the CD player and front-facing inputs. The hardware includes a 4-channel amplifier at 55 watts per channel and vehicle reverse cameras. If you don’t want to plug in your phone for media, the system also has Bluetooth streaming with SBC and AAC codecs.
Sony plans to launch the XAV-AX8000 in December for $600, which sounds like a lot. However, that’s comparatively cheap in the world of high-end automotive head units. Many of the latest receivers from Alpine, Pioneer, and others are well over $1,000. Keep in mind, professional installation of these systems will add at least a few hundred extra to the price.