CarPlay and Android Auto can only really be described as what you’d call a “slow burn.” They both debuted quite a few years ago, but getting access to them via first-party infotainment systems didn’t happen with the pace early adopters might be accustomed to. Luckily, a variety of third-party aftermarket in-car audio and infotainment decks offer an option for those who don’t want to buy a new car or wait for their automaker of choice to catch up with the times.
Pioneer’s new AVH-2330NEX, which the company officially revealed in May this year and started shipping just recently, offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in a single package, which is very convenient if you happen to spend time on both platforms. It also offers a CD/DVD slot, accessible via the sliding front faceplate, and a 7-inch resistive touchscreen with 800×480 screen resolution. Physical buttons are included below the display, as is Bluetooth for hands-free and stereo streaming.
The whole thing comes in a double-DIN package that will work with a wide range of vehicles, with or without trim kits depending on your car. It also can plug into factory steering wheel controls, as well as first-party and aftermarket backup cameras. The AVH-2330NEX also ships with its own microphone, which is great because, in my experience, it offered far better voice recognition for things like Google Assistant and Siri, as well as for calls, when compared with factory-installed microphones shipping on vehicles.
At $500, the AVH-2330NEX (and the AVH-2300NEX,which is the same minus the inclusion of HD radio support, a second camera input and remote control) is far cheaper than either buying a new car, or even in many cases paying for the infotainment upgrade package that will get you access to CarPlay and Android Auto in stock vehicles. It’s also a big boost for even factory sound systems, as it greatly improved the audio quality of both Bluetooth and wired music and podcast playback in my 2013 Nissan Rogue thanks to its built-in DAC.
But the real benefit here is access to your mobile OS of choice, right in your dash, front and center where you want it when driving. Plus, thanks to a standard USB adapter, you can switch between both using various cables, including micro-USB, USB-C and Lightning depending on your device’s requirements.
I found that both CarPlay and Android Auto ran well on the Pioneer 2330NEX, and I encountered no issues with either during many hours of extensive testing. Text was large and legible on the 7-inch display, as were icons and other interface elements. Animations and transitions were smooth, too, and I never encountered any kind of lag, which can happen on underpowered infotainment systems running these in-car mobile software systems.
The other thing I was a bit wary of going into testing the AVH-2330NEX was the lack of a capacitive touchscreen. It uses a resistive unit instead, which historically hasn’t been as good for touch interfaces on electronic devices: That was one of the iPhone’s chief strengths, in fact — it brought capacitive touchscreens to mass-market mobile devices, offering a much better overall user experience.
Surprisingly, the resistive screen made very little difference versus capacitive in-car units I’ve tried in the past. I never encountered errors with missed touch input, and the screen felt responsive enough. I suspect that’s a combination of the tech having advanced over the years and an infotainment deck not requiring the same high level of responsiveness as a smartphone in order to feel like it’s working properly.
Either way, the resistive display works perfectly fine and keeps the cost down. It does, however, mean that the AVH-2330NEX has a plastic-covered display that does not do well in direct sunlight. In fact, that’s my single major complaint with the unit: The screen doesn’t look terrific in bright light. It’s still perfectly usable, but it’s not ideal.
Aside from CarPlay and Android Auto, the Pioneer AVH-2330NEX offers a lot of great features, including support for a backup camera. That also worked flawlessly in my testing, kicking in whenever I put my car in reverse. The steering wheel controls are also great (though that’ll depend a bit on your car make and model). One small caveat there, too: It’s unlikely you’ll be able to map your call button to Siri or Android Assistant, but the Pioneer deck itself has a dedicated hardware button with a mic label that lets you activate those at any time with relative ease and a minimum of distraction.
The Pioneer AVH-2330NEX offers what few products can: A new lease on life for older vehicles, especially for tech-focused users who want to experience the latest in infotainment convenience features but don’t want to have to buy a whole new car to do it.