These days, the Android operating system runs on practically every type of tech, from phones to TVs. Recently, the operating system has made it’s way into the vehicle market, allowing famous apps like Waze and Spotify to be used seamlessly in car, thanks to new head units running the software. These head units integrate the standard car entertainment like AM/FM radio along with a familiar user interface with the ability to run practically any app on the market. Here is a review on a new unit by Atoto.
This Android based head unit by Atoto came packaged with many accessories, which included two USB cable adapters, a car harness which is used to connect the unit to the car, a GPS antenna , a WiFi antenna, and some brackets and screws. Overall, the unit was packed well and arrived undamaged.
Installing the head unit took several hours, and due to the fact that I was installing a backup camera along with it made it take longer than expected, though the work wasn’t hard rather time consuming. Since I was replacing a Bose system, which uses a different voltage level, I required line out adapters so I purchased two PAC SNI-35 units. I was also experiencing noise due to a ground loop, which is very common when replacing Bose units as they have an amplifier by each speaker, so I also had to install a ground loop isolator on one of the channels and it helped the problem immensely.
Wiring up the unit wasn’t too hard as all the wires were color coded and were labeled, and I found this very convenient as not all head unit manufacturers label all the wires. I soldered and taped all the connections and it was pretty much straight forward. The only tricky part of the wiring process was wiring the steering wheel buttons. In order to properly wire it up, I had to buy the PAC SWI-RC which is a steering wheel interface, and I basically followed the directions on their website to get it working. All that was left to do was plug all the cables in and mount the unit to my cars dash frame.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to purchase a new dash kit as the unit fit in perfectly after filing away a drop of corners of the existing dash. After doing this, the unit fit in perfectly and sits flush with the rest of the dash. I mounted the GPS antenna behind the rear view mirror on the window, and ran the wire down the A pillar through the dash to the unit. I did the same with the WiFi antenna. After everything was properly connected and in place, I replaced everything back into the dash.
The build quality of the unit is very good, and the metal cage that the unit is resting in is solid. The screen is 7 inches and gives me enough real estate to run my favorite apps without having to lean in and squint at the screen. The screen quality is like that of a mid end phone, and at this price range I was even impressed at it. At the right of the screen are several touch sensitive buttons, such as a Power button which can either mute the sound when tapped or turn off the screen when held down. Other buttons include a Home button, Back button, and Volume buttons. The button can be lit up in one of seven different colors to help match the cars current light color scheme. Below the buttons is a Micro SD card slot. Instead of filling up the internal 16GB memory, I attached a solid state hard drive to one of the available USB ports on the unit, and I store all of my music and data there. I would suggest a solid state drive just because cars tend to go over lots of bumps, and a regular drive can deteriorate fast in these conditions.
As for features, this thing is loaded with ’em! I mean for heavens sake it’s running on Android! This head unit introduced so much functionality to my car. I have to say that one of the main things that drew me to buy this particular unit was it’s fast loading times. Most other Android head units have to load for around 30 seconds every time the car is turned on. With this unit though, it is almost instantaneous, and it makes it feel more stock. Thanks to the abundance of apps in the Google Play store, I was running plenty of apps on the device in a matter of minutes. Some of the apps I downloaded to the unit are Waze, Spotify, Torque (An OBD code reading app), Fuelly (Keeps track of my cars mileage and expenses) and more. Thanks to the quad core processor and 1GB memory, the apps run smoothly. Thanks to “OK Google”, I can load up one of these apps or start playing a song hands free while driving.
The unit has a built in AF/FM tuner and provides clear sound, which is nice to see because some of the other units Iv’e seen on the market were only equipped with an FM tuner. Connecting to the unit with my phone over Bluetooth is as easy as it is any other device, and my phone always detects and connects to the unit. I use my phone as a WiFi hotspot to give the unit data, and all the data reliant apps work well with it. I am even considering getting a FreedomPop router just for the car so I don’t have to always tether my phone.
My car didn’t come equipped with a backup camera, and in my neighborhood it is really needed. Backup cameras have become so important that the NHTSA is to require backup cameras on all vehicles by 2018. I purchased a backup camera with built in guidelines and mounted it above my licence plate. I connected the cameras RCA cable to the video input on the back of the head unit, and connected the units reverse wire on the head unit harness to the cars reverse wire. Needless to say, the camera works flawlessly. When the car goes into reverse, the screen on the unit automatically turns on the camera and mutes any music that is playing, and when taken out of reverse the video feed goes away and the audio unmutes.
I am extremely satisfied with the unit, to the extent that I will be buying another for a friend that really likes it. To me, this was the best sub $200 investment I put into my car. Hopefully Atoto will put out a firmware update in the near future to make the unit even better.
This head unit can be found over here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fPHeMA