Hands-On With Alpine's iLX-007 In-Dash CarPlay Entertainment System

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Dec 19, 2014.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    While car manufacturers have been slower than anticipated to roll out support for Apple's in-vehicle CarPlay system, Pioneer and Alpine have delivered aftermarket options in the form of in-dash systems with CarPlay compatibility and large touch screens.

    MacRumors has had a chance to spend some time with Alpine's iLX-007, which carries a suggested retail price of $800 but commonly sells for $600 and offers a 7-inch capacitive touch screen that dominates the unit's front. The only other physical features come as a thin row of buttons along the bottom edge, including a pair for controlling volume, one for activating Siri, one for returning to the Alpine home screen, and another pair serving varying functions such as changing tracks, depending on the app currently in use.

    The basic Alpine home screen offers access to only a handful of functions including traditional radio, any peripheral devices connected to the system's auxiliary input including support for a rear back-up camera, and CarPlay devices. Upon connecting the unit's Lightning cable to an iPhone, the CarPlay interface automatically launches, allowing access to the standard Phone, Music, Apps, Messages, and Now Playing apps, as well as any CarPlay-compatible third-party apps the user has installed on his or her device and a Top Menu button to return to Alpine's main home screen.

    In order to provide support for Siri input, the iLX-007 comes with a microphone that can be mounted in an appropriate location such as the driver's sun visor in order to pick up voice commands. CarPlay-specifc app settings within the main iLX-007 interface include the ability to set microphone level and noise reduction, as well as which speakers Siri's output come through.

    With just a narrow row of physical buttons along the bottom of the head unit, Alpine has certainly maximized the available screen space on the iLX-007, squeezing in a 7-inch display that makes it easy to see content. The small physical buttons can, however, be a bit difficult to easily find by touch while keeping eyes on the road. The large icons and other interface elements inside the CarPlay interface itself are easy to hit, although the lack of tactile feedback means at least a glance is probably needed to ensure the correct area of the screen is being touched.

    As is to be expected, the CarPlay functionality on the iLX-007 is essentially the same as on other CarPlay systems, several of which have already been reviewed. The simple integration of having much of the phone experience appearing directly on the dashboard display in an easy-to-use format is a welcome addition, although certain aspects of the implementation leave something to be desired.

    One fairly significant drawback that appears to be due more to Apple than Alpine is the lack of full support for multi-touch or even fluid scrolling input. While Apple may prefer to limit multi-touch availability in order to potentially reduce driver distraction while pinching or making other gestures that require a more extended glance at the dashboard display, scrolling is a much-needed feature for areas such as lists of contacts, music, and podcasts.

    The iLX-007 clearly supports swiping input as seen in its own top-level settings (albeit with somewhat poor responsiveness), but within CarPlay users are essentially relegated to a more cumbersome method of paging through lists. A form of scroll swiping is supported on some lists such as in the Music and Messages apps, but swipes simply serve the same function as page up/down buttons and do not allow for smooth scrolling. Other apps entirely lack what would feel like natural swiping actions. Maps, for example, does not support swiping or pinching to pan or zoom maps.

    CarPlay certainly shows a lot of promise, and it will only become more useful as additional third-party apps become compatible with the feature over time. For now, however, a main obstacle is getting CarPlay into users' cars. Despite initial promises of a handful of car manufacturers shipping new vehicles equipped with CarPlay-compatible entertainment systems this year, only Ferrari appears to have met that goal as others have had to push their plans into 2015.

    Likely more important to the immediate potential success of CarPlay is the availability of aftermarket products that will allow users to retrofit their existing cars with CarPlay-enabled systems for a few hundred dollars. Alpine and Pioneer have indeed met their goals of launching CarPlay systems for their customers, and for now they are the means by which most consumers will be able to experience CarPlay in their vehicles. These aftermarket systems aren't particularly cheap, but with resellers offering lower-end models in the $450-$600 range, they are within reach of a decent number of consumers.

    Article Link: Hands-On With Alpine's iLX-007 In-Dash CarPlay Entertainment System
  2. mattopotamus macrumors G5


    Jun 12, 2012
    Is this the one that lacks bluetooth? If so, that is just crazy to me. It supports carplay but is lacking bluetooth...
  3. ThunderSkunk macrumors 68030


    Dec 31, 2007
    Milwaukee Area

    Apple Maps, integrated right into your car!
  4. Chrjy macrumors 6502a


    May 19, 2010
    Gotta say it doesn't look that great...aesthetically it could definitely look better, I appreciate it is supposed to be a simple layout for obvious reasons but even so...
  5. Chris Grande macrumors regular

    Chris Grande

    Jun 17, 2003
    From what I've seen CarPlay supports natural scrolling (multitouch) but it's up to the head unit to support it. Apple built in support for crappier non multitouch (use of pagination buttons instead of scroll for example) to support more equipment.
  6. rolsskk macrumors 6502

    Sep 1, 2008
    As much as I want to love it, Car Play seems to be another Apple TV - something that was a neat idea and has great potential, but is never taken seriously by Apple.
  7. newagemac, Dec 19, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014

    newagemac macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2010
    Yep, plus it has a true capacitive screen similar to modern smartphones. So the screen registers your touches much better than the others I've tested out. Really liking this unit. Hands down the best option if you own an iPhone. Actually touching the screen compared to the other units is what sold me on it.

    Macworld goes into further depth on how much better this touch screen is compared to others:


    I think part of it has to do with how focused this unit is. Instead of including a whole bunch of extra crap, they focused on making the best Carplay unit they could. And in my opinion they nailed it.
  8. Jzo macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2011
    I'll wait until the jailbreak that turns your iOS device into a Carplay monitor. It's looking awesome. I have a couple old iPhone 4's that would work great for that, and keep my 6 Plus nice.
  9. newagemac macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2010
    What's the point of Bluetooth if you're using CarPlay? Bluetooth has much poorer audio quality, introduces interference in phone calls, can have connection issues, and using it means you are running the battery down instead of charging it. If you're sitting in a car you might as well have your phone charging through the same cable that's sending the audio and video since CarPlay requires it.

    I really can't think of any need for Bluetooth on a device that's specifically made for and requires CarPlay.
  10. Two macrumors newbie

    May 21, 2010
    I put one of these in my work truck on December 2nd. So, I've only had a couple of weeks to use it. I work for an oil company and do a fair amount of driving to conduct maintenance activities and needed something besides the plain AM/FM radio that came with the company truck. One other item to note: I am not allowed to use "mobile internet connected devices" while driving. Meaning, no talking or texting. I have also taken that to mean no SIRI.


    This article hit upon the two niggles that I'd like to see changed: Lack of mulit-touch and paging instead of scrolling. Though, neither of these is a deal breaker for me.

    No bluetooth? I don't have an issue with that as I like having my phone charging while i drive.

    While parked, I've used SIRI for texting, getting directions and playing music. It all works very well. I only wish that I could do these things while driving as I feel that I'm not distracted because of the implementation of SIRI for those functions.

    I could have opted for a much cheaper head unit (without carplay), but have one in my personal truck and feel the ipod interface for playing music is cumbersome and awkward. I wanted something simple, easy to use and see. For me, the Alpine does it well.

    I could list more of my opinions, but don't want to write a book ;-) In the end, I would do this again and wish that my personal truck had room for a double din head unit because I want one there.
  11. bacaramac macrumors 65816


    Dec 29, 2007
    Agreed, however it would be nice to have bluetooth streaming if a buddy is riding in the car and has an Android phone or older iPhone without lightning connector.
  12. newagemac macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2010
    This article's main issue with Carplay being that traditional swipe scrolling isn't supported illustrates a lack of understand of UX principles. Sure scrolling through lists instead of paging works great on a phone. But that's because you have the luxury of staring at the screen the whole time it's scrolling so you can stop it at a certain point.

    You don't have that luxury in a car as it is very unsafe to focus on the screen too long so paging works much better. Especially since there are physical buttons allowing you to page through the lists. This means you can navigate the lists without even looking at the screen. Swipe scrolling requires the type of focused viewing that just doesn't work well in a car.

    Again, whoever wrote this review just doesn't seem to understand UX very well.
  13. robertcoogan macrumors 6502


    Apr 5, 2008
    Joshua Tree, California

    I'm staying away from these, especially the Pioneer. I had an AppRadio2 that never worked correctly and the capacitor utterly failed when it got cold. Plus Pioneer's customer service was the worst I've ever encountered.
  14. Tankmaze macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2012
    For 600 dollars I rather use ipad air 2 and put it on the dash connect it with the 3.5 mm jack. But thats just me :D
  15. NightFox macrumors 68020


    May 10, 2005
    Shropshire, UK
    I don't think it's at all surprising that "car manufacturers have been slower than anticipated to roll out support for Apple's in-vehicle CarPlay system" - In-car entertainment and navigation is probably the area in which car manufacturers make their biggest mark-up, so it's hardly surprising that they're slow to give up this cash-cow.
  16. newagemac macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2010
    There is an auxiliary input on the back of the unit so Android or devices without the lightning connector can work.
  17. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    It would actually be much less distracting if I could just give the list a good flick and have it scroll a long way rather than having to repeatedly flick or press a page button over and over while still having to glance at the screen to see where I'm at.
  18. mattopotamus macrumors G5


    Jun 12, 2012
    for phone calls....not music. It sounds much better than speaker phone.
  19. trigf, Dec 19, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014

    trigf macrumors regular

    Jun 16, 2009
    Manufacturers have not been slow to incorporate CarPlay. They're waiting for mid-cycle refreshes and new model introductions to do it. Plus Google came along with Andoid Auto, and threw a wrench in everyone's plans. Now they're rethinking partnerships and what systems they'll support.

    These refreshes and introductions have been in the works for years. CarPlay and Android Auto came too late in the game for them to change their plans. The author clearly knows little about automobile manufacturing.
  20. Xenomorph macrumors 65816


    Aug 6, 2008
    St. Louis
    I want to rip out the sh**ty, DRM-crippled Microsoft system from my Ford and replace it with something that is less buggy and actually works with an Apple or Android solution.

    Are there after-market systems that can fully replace the terrible MyFord Touch junk? I've seen an add-on Navigation system, but it was kinda ugly and worked very much like a hack (instead of filling in the gaping navigation void in the existing system, it simply blanked the screen and overlayed its own image with a non-integrated navigation system).

    The 8" screen I have is OK, but the lag is annoying, the bugs are stupid, and the DRM-blocked Navigation is like a kick in the ribs. I'd pay up to $1000 for a functional/complete experience. Ford only charges $700 for Navigation, but will NOT enable it on a car that has left the factory without it being ordered first. That's right, they don't need to install anything, just activate what my car already has built into it. It's some DRM policy or some other stupid thing.
  21. gpspad macrumors 6502a

    Feb 4, 2014
    I was originally all over this, but after working a part time job in delivery recently, I have come to see the problems of a simple car interface for my iPhone.

    After only a few full days of deliveries I found that the phones battery died quickly when you use it for directions. I also found that when you absolutely need directions, you can suddenly loose your signal. That happened a few times when I really needed to know where I was.

    Conclusion, a carplay head unit would be great, but make sure you have a backup. Either an old fashion gps or a head unit with gps unit built in. I don't see getting a head unit unless I can switch between carpal and built in GPS if needed.

    I'd never go on a long trip without some type of back up that doesn't need a cellular signal.
  22. norrismantooth macrumors regular

    Nov 29, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    I agree. It should look and feel like iOS (carry over iPhone backgrounds, user preferences). Apple needs to come out with a car stereo/media center. This 3rd party stuff doesn't cut it for me.


    A simple car charger will solve your problems.
  23. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    When CarPlay was unveiled, Apple announced five manufacturers that would be launching support in 2014. The car makers were on board with their own press releases touting 2014 launches.

    Several months later, Apple quietly updated its CarPlay page to remove promises of 2014 launches, and it appears that only Ferrari will meet the originally announced timeline.

    That's what I mean by slower than anticipated.
  24. duffman9000 macrumors 68000


    Sep 7, 2003
    Deep in the Depths of CA
    An aftermarket unit may not be fully compatible with all of your cars sensors/cameras. That's the sticking point for me.
  25. Runespeaker macrumors newbie


    Dec 19, 2014
    I had one of these installed in my car by a local car stereo shop last weekend. They did a great job, but by the time I had them add a backup camera and the necessary controller to make the steering wheel buttons work, it got pretty pricey! :eek:

    That's okay, as it was my Christmas present to myself. :) And so far I'm really enjoying it. I picked the Alpine over the Pioneer 4000-NEX because that one was junked up with a zillion awfully designed features and interface elements I would never use, and had a worse touch screen and no dedicated Siri button. (It did have HD radio, though, which would have been nice.) The Alpine is better for me because it is a radio plus CarPlay plus a nice screen, and that's it. Much more elegant and Apple-like. Plus, the dedicated Siri button is great to have, as it's very easy to find and press while driving.

    Overall, CarPlay works great and is easy and fun to use. Siri generally figures out what I want. I've been using maps, sending texts, making calls, and listening to music on my iPhone 5s. Oh, and radio, too. :p I would love to see CarPlay continue to expand and get more features and third party apps, so I hope Apple will remain committed to it. We'll see how my gamble pays off.

    A few more notes for anyone considering one of these:
    • Lack of Bluetooth is a non-issue. It's super easy to plug in your phone when you get in the car, and that gives you a great connection and charges the phone as well.
    • You can listen to radio and use maps at the same time. I wasn't sure of this so checked before I bought the unit. It's not HD radio, though.
    • The microphone is an external unit that needs to be mounted somewhere in your car, like by the rear view mirror.
    • Adding a backup camera and integrating with your steering wheel controls will dramatically increase the cost, but it makes the unit feel much more integrated with your car.
    • Lack of scrolling and panning is a little odd, but does seem like a conscious decision. It doesn't really harm usability. It's easier to ask Siri to play a certain song or artist rather than scroll through a list.

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