Sony has made an interesting move in announcing a new infotainment head unit that will not only be compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it will also undercut the competition.
Though Sony never really left the car audio business, it didn’t really advertise it as much in Canada the last few years. With Panasonic fully out and Clarion focusing on marine audio, Pioneer, Kenwood and Alpine were the three main aftermarket vendors left who brought CarPlay and Android Auto to consumers before major automakers did.
In the XAV-AX100, Sony has a mid-range head unit that offers a decent array of features, all punctuated by a 6.4-inch 800 x 480 pixel touchscreen. Touch will be the primary input method, while the volume dial and hard buttons for skipping tracks will add a tactile method as well.
The sound output is 55 watts x 4 Dynamic Reality Amp 2 and Sony’s own “Extra Bass” setting, a booster that amplifies the low end of the audio spectrum to offset engine noise. Adding to that is another Sony technology called the Dynamic Stage Organizer (DSO) that serves to also boost front-door-mounted speakers to make them ‘pop’ more with better acoustics. Given this is an aftermarket head unit, it’s unclear how much one vehicle might benefit over another, depending on how good the speakers are.
A 10-band equalizer adds some customization in case the sound profile needs some work. A 3-pre out connection is standard for system expansion, like an amplifier, extra speakers or a backup camera, making it well suited to drivers who are in older vehicles, too.
Little was mentioned about what type of software features Sony would offer on its own, separately from the other two projection platforms. A list of features provided by Sony doesn’t note navigation mapping, nor if it will include MirrorLink or another smarthphone connectivity protocol, like some of the other manufacturers have done, irrespective of support for Apple and Google’s car software.
CarPlay and Android Auto should run smoothly, since the phone does most of the work anyway. This does mark the first time Sony is supporting both platforms on any car stereo product, including the OEM factory ones it makes in tandem with certain automakers, like Ford.
Sony has priced the unit at $499.99 US, with Canadian pricing unconfirmed. Availability is slated for late November throughout North America. The timing should fit nicely with the latest updates for both iOS and Android, both of which are adding additional features and tweaks.