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Boss Audio and sister brands Planet Audio and Sound Storm Laboratories today are introducing new car stereo head units that include support for wireless CarPlay and Android Auto at a price of just $400. With a capacitive 6.75-inch screen and support vehicle features like a rear camera and steering wheel controls, the new systems offer a solid value for those with older vehicles looking to update to a more modern head unit.

planet_audio_carplay_main.jpg

I've had a chance to spend the past couple of weeks checking out the Planet Audio version of the head unit, model PCPA975W, and I've been pretty impressed with its performance and simplicity. While you won't get features like a CD/DVD player or built-in navigation, many users find those features unnecessary when much of that content can be driven straight from their phones.

Back in the early days of wireless CarPlay, I was skeptical of its utility, considering the potential for running down the phone's battery and the fact that the car is frequently a good place to plug in and get a bit of a recharge during the day. As I've been able to spend substantial time using the feature, however, I've come to love it. So many car trips are short commutes or errands, and having CarPlay automatically pop up on the dash without having to take my phone out of my pocket is just so convenient.

planet_audio_carplay_home.jpg

Between the short trip lengths and Apple's improvements in power management for wireless CarPlay, pretty much any battery concerns I had about it have been a non-issue. If I'm taking a longer road trip, I'll certainly plug my phone in, but that's such a small fraction of my trips that it's rarely something I end up doing.

I won't really spend time going over the details of CarPlay itself here, as it's a pretty standard experience that most are familiar with by now, and Apple has steadily improved the experience over the years with features like the Dashboard, revamped Apple Maps, better support for third-party apps, and EV routing.

The new systems from Boss Audio aren't super flashy, but they certainly get the job done, at least as far as I've seen in my testing. User interfaces on both original and aftermarket infotainment systems have long lagged behind those of smartphones in their visual appeal and utility, but they're starting to make some real headway on that front. You won't mistake Boss's interface for that of an iPhone, but it's much better than some other ones I've used, including a previous Boss Audio system I tested just last year.

planet_audio_home.jpg

There's a solid range of connectivity options and supported sources, including terrestrial radio, Bluetooth streaming, USB media, and an AUX input for older iPods and other devices. An external microphone can be routed to a convenient spot like the headliner at the edge of the windshield for optimal performance. SiriusXM is not supported.

planet_audio_illumination.jpg

The 6.75-inch capacitive display with a resolution of 480x800 takes up the vast majority of the unit's face, and the display is bright and responsive to touch. There's some Planet Audio and model number branding along the bottom of the face, and then a strip of touch controls along the left side. The touch-sensitive buttons support multicolor illumination configured through the head unit's settings, and they offer quick access to a number of functions with a dedicated power/home button to help with navigating the system, a microphone button for activating Siri, up and down volume buttons, and a mute button.

planet_audio_radio.jpg

The user interface is simple and easy to navigate, with the radio screen offering a clear view of the currently tuned station, song and other information for stations that broadcast info via RBDS, and a strip with three pages of station preset slots. Onscreen icons offer access to tuning, station scanning, and an EQ that offers various preset sound profiles and the ability to customize your own.

planet_audio_eq.jpg

Setup for wireless CarPlay was easy, and all I needed to do was plug my phone into the system over USB, walk through a couple of steps to configure wired CarPlay, and then toggle on the option for wireless CarPlay. From that point on, I had few difficulties with CarPlay. It does take 15 seconds or so for CarPlay to come up on the screen from the time you start the car, and I did have a couple of instances where it didn't automatically pop up, but it was easy enough to manually activate it from main screen on the head unit and the issue was likely related to brief hiccups between handing off between my home Wi-Fi network and the head unit as I departed my home.

planet_audio_bt_phone.jpg

For those who don't want to use CarPlay or Android Auto, you can still pair your phone via Bluetooth for phone calls and media, which can be controlled through the head unit.

planet_audio_bt_media.jpg

While $400 is a great value for a system that supports wireless CarPlay, it's important to note that that's just for the head unit itself and there will be other costs involved in getting the unit installed in your car. Items like wiring harnesses to interface with your specific car model, modules for integrating with steering wheel controls and the backup camera, and a trim plate to match your car's dashboard will increase the cost. And if you don't feel comfortable doing the installation yourself and need a professional to do it, those ancillary costs for parts and labor could add up to more than the price of the head unit, doubling your costs.

Still, the cost may be worth it for a big upgrade in your driving experience, particularly if you're willing to do a self-install. Recent models have so much functionality packed into their native infotainment systems that it's not really feasible or desirable to swap them out for aftermarket units, but there are still plenty of cars on the road, some even only a few years old, that can certainly benefit from the technology upgrades available in these head units.

Boss Audio is debuting four new models today under its various brands: BOSS Audio BVCP9850W, Planet Audio PCPA975W, Sound Storm Laboratories DD999ACP, and BOSS Elite BE950WCPA. All four models are priced at $400 and they are essentially identical with the exception of branding.

Note: Boss Audio provided MacRumors with the Planet Audio PCPA975W unit and installation services for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Article Link: Review: Boss Audio's New Head Units Deliver Wireless CarPlay for Just $400
 
Last edited:

Jemorama

macrumors newbie
May 10, 2019
8
3
I am curious on how well the tuner worked? Also, how was the sound compared to the orginal head unit? At this price point, I am not looking for audiophile grade, but from experience many aftermarket units you lose a little power and quality.
 

locovaca

macrumors 6502
May 14, 2002
349
830
Iowa
Last summer I bought a high end JVC (ddx9906xr) for just $100 more than this unit on closeout. It has Wireless Carplay as well but HD Radio, DVD, Sirius Support, and a higher res (1280x720) screen. The extra $100 was worth it for me as I need those features.
 
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imola.zhp

macrumors 65816
Jun 1, 2010
1,127
801
Mud Island (Memphis), TN
Thanks for sharing, I'm on the fence about canceling my Tesla Model Y order (or delaying for a year rather) and buying a beater. Said beater would need to have a double DIN space for an aftermarket headunit with carplay. Not that the Tesla would have carplay, but still...
 

WildCowboy

Administrator/Editor
Staff member
Jan 20, 2005
17,751
1,862
I am curious on how well the tuner worked? Also, how was the sound compared to the orginal head unit? At this price point, I am not looking for audiophile grade, but from experience many aftermarket units you lose a little power and quality.
Haven't had any issues with the tuner and sound, although I don't generally pump things up too loud. Everything sounds clear, and the EQ makes it easy to try out some different sound profiles.

But yeah, while I'm sure audiophiles might not be happy with it, this is really intended as a value option to replace a dumb OEM unit that probably wasn't all that great to begin with.
 
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McKodiak

macrumors regular
Oct 20, 2014
231
684
I'm hoping any car that has WiFi will be able to upgrade to wireless CarPlay. There will be mass anger if Apple releases a portless iPhone without a solution for all the existing CarPlay users.
 
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roland.g

macrumors 604
Apr 11, 2005
6,928
2,309
I have a Kenwood unit in my second car that has wireless CarPlay (you can also plug in) but my SUV which came with CarPlay is wired. I would love a (reliable) solution that plugged in to the CarPlay USB port and made it wireless.
 

apparatchik

macrumors 6502a
Mar 6, 2008
544
1,678
I'm hoping any car that has WiFi will be able to upgrade to wireless CarPlay. There will be mass anger if Apple releases a portless iPhone without a solution for all the existing CarPlay users.

I think the iPhone will never be exactly portless as, at least my prediction is, they may switch the lightning port to a smart connector like the one on some ipads, so diagnostics and data can still be run “wired” when needed.

Of course this doesnt change what you say about carplay possibly going wireless only within 2 years.
 

powaking

macrumors 6502
Jul 3, 2008
450
168
I installed a Carlinkit in my wifes Audi Q7 (2014). Was plug-n-play with the rest of the system (can switch between Carplay and MMI). It was certainly an improvement. I did try the wireless carplay and I do find the simplicity of just jumping in the car and go very welcoming, I do however find the delay in song skipping to be irritating. I'm not sure if this is common across the board or if its just with the system I got. I'm also not certain how well hotspotting works (if it does at all) as my daughter will usually want to use her iPad in the car.

As for my Tesla I do wish Apple Music was an option but to be honest having Spotify, being able to respond to text messages easily and a 17" navigation screen I don't really miss (or desperately want) carplay. It does the majority of what I need and for that its good enough (for me).
 

mattopotamus

macrumors G5
Jun 12, 2012
14,070
4,786
For all Tesla owners that “need” CarPlay.

Tesla owner who frequently uses CarPlay. I would take Tesla's interface any day of the week. CarPlay looks childlike by comparison. Obviously there are features of CarPlay that work much better, but from a visual standpoint, no thanks.
 

hortod1

macrumors 6502
Jan 26, 2009
361
784
Something to consider if your car doesn’t have steering wheel controls: consider getting a unit that has a physical volume knob, especially if the head unit is mounted lower on your console. I put a Pioneer unit in my 98 4Runner years ago and didn’t realize until after using it for a few days, just how small the volume and mute buttons are - small enough that you have to take your eyes off the road to find them. A physical knob offers the tactile feedback that you don’t need to look down at the unit.
 

jljue

macrumors 6502
Feb 4, 2011
277
54
Brandon, MS
I’ve been eyeing a Pioneer head unit with wireless CarPlay seeing that I might be buying my parents’ low mileage Nissan Quest for my wife soon when we turn in her Pathfinder lease, but I’d probably consider this Boss head unit, too. The Quest didn’t come with Navi (came with 4.3” display audio), so anything with CarPlay will be an upgrade to see the rear camera better.
 

hortod1

macrumors 6502
Jan 26, 2009
361
784
I have a Kenwood unit in my second car that has wireless CarPlay (you can also plug in) but my SUV which came with CarPlay is wired. I would love a (reliable) solution that plugged in to the CarPlay USB port and made it wireless.
Cplay2air.com is what you’re looking for
 

McKodiak

macrumors regular
Oct 20, 2014
231
684
My car has in cabin WiFi. Am I wrong in assuming a software update could leverage the in cabin WiFi to gain access to CarPlay? I'd prefer not to buy a third party solution to this problem.
 

Smearbrick

macrumors 6502
Jan 12, 2013
310
610
Central PA
Last summer I bought a high end JVC (ddx9906xr) for just $100 more than this unit on closeout. It has Wireless Carplay as well but HD Radio, DVD, Sirius Support, and a higher res (1280x720) screen. The extra $100 was worth it for me as I need those features.
Need? Really? Want, maybe?
 
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