In this video, I compare and bring you my top 5 wireless CarPlay adapters that you can buy in 2022. Links to buy each dongle mentioned, and view my reviews, are all below.
I’ve covered many wireless Apple Carplay Dongles on this channel, and a popular question I always get is, what is the best wireless CarPlay dongle?
Wireless Carplay dongles have slowly progressed over the years and we are now seeing makers switch their focus towards 2-in-1 CarPlay adapters, which offer the ability to also pair with Android Auto devices too – but that’s for another video. In this video, I will focus on wireless Apple CarPlay-only adapters, so let’s find out which adapters make my top five.
15 Wireless Apple CarPlay Adapters Tested
In this new wireless dongle round-up, I have gathered all of the 15 wireless CarPlay dongles that I have reviewed on this channel. I then updated them to their latest firmware to ensure I ran the most compatible and bug-less updates on them. Dongles were removed from the list if they failed to update to the latest firmware, or the update bricked them.
I then ran each dongle on my Pioneer 93DAB, which is a wired and wireless CarPlay aftermarket receiver, and if any didn’t work with it, they were also eliminated from the list. This is because it will show that the dongle is more versatile and compatible than any other that simply will not work on this receiver.
I also eliminated dongles that I couldn’t buy anymore. This involved checking the original links in my reviews and searching for them online. If the sale pages were no longer loading or the item had been discontinued or out of stock for a long period of time on their selling page, they were removed too. After these first three tests, I managed to narrow 15 dongles down to just 8.
The Final 8 Wireless CarPlay Adapters
So I next checked their boot-up, pairing and connection time into Apple CarPlay. All 8 dongles took between 12 and 15 seconds to boot up into their main menu, and 12 to 24 seconds to pair with my iPhone 13 Pro and launch Apple CarPlay. I added both of these times together to get an overall total boot time into CarPlay and compared them to their actual total boot time. The shortest time is better because you also have to factor in the boot time of the car system too. So ideally you don’t want it longer than 30 seconds, because you’ll likely be already on the road and diving by then.
I then looked at touch input and audio lag playing back video recordings of my interactions, swipes and navigating tracks to get an idea of which dongle handled it better and rated each out of 5, with 5 being the most responsive. All dongles ran at their default configuration settings, and whilst there were very few differences between them, some didn’t stutter or be as smooth as others.
I also ran each dongle for an hour with music streaming from Spotify, and I also ran Apple maps navigation in the background, all whilst my iPhone was also charging from a distance, to see if any crashed and also how the dongle handled with the iPhone being used over a distance of 5metres, to mimic if you had to temporarily leave the car with your iPhone still in your pocket. Again, some dongles handled distance better than others, whilst neither crashed on me during their continued use for an hour.
Configuration and multi-user support is also a factor, so I rated each dongle if they offered multiple device menus and how well their IP configuration options could be configured for compatibility or to tweak the dongle’s operation to support all the different vehicles that are out there.
Between the eight dongles, there were three levels of configuration menus, some basic, some offered some further options and some had a lot to tweak and customise the performance and experience of the dongle. This is mostly tied to the type of software they were running, between what I like to call Full Screen OS, to the older U2W OS and the newer Autokit software.
And finally, in my tests, I looked at their current price. Whilst checking their availability, I was able to get their latest prices, including any promotional coupons or vouchers. Averaging out their cost I compared each dongle’s cost to how they performed in each previous test to score how much value they bring.
My Top 5 Wireless Apple CarPlay Adapters
At the end of all this, I had my top five finalists. Any one of these five dongles are worth picking up, however, some dongles do things better than others, and after totalling up my test scores, my number one wireless dongle was a big surprise to me.
5. Ottocast U2-Air Wireless CarPlay Adapter
So in fifth place is the Ottocast U2-Air. In my tests, the U2-Now actually scored better than the U2-Air, but the U2-Now is becoming much harder to purchase online, with all Amazon links pointing towards the U2-Air.
This dongle doesn’t support multiple users, it has a very basic boot menu and a very simple config menu, but it does make up for these omissions with its boot speed into CarPlay, being the fasted dongle out of the final 8 dongles to boot into wireless Apple CarPlay.
4. BROxiongdi Wireless CarPlay Adapter
In fourth place is the BROxiongdi CarPlay Adapter. This dongle was a bit of an unexpected finalist, rubbing shoulders with bigger-named brands.
This dongle scored average throughout all the tests. It also doesn’t have multi-user support and its boot speed was pretty average too, but it has good Wi-Fi signal strength and specs, it has USB-A power passthrough, a great config menu, and it ranks third cheapest in my top 5 finalists.
3. CPLAY2air 2.1 Wireless CarPlay Adapter
The third place goes to the CPLAY2air 2.1 dongle. This dongle shares a lot with the fourth place dongle, and as a result, it also averaged throughout my tests, but it overtook 4th place due to its multi-user support, it also has USB-A power passthrough, and it has the same great config menu as the BROxiongdi dongle.
One thing it does have going against it is its value – being the most expensive out of the five finalists. Also being the most marketed dongle online, you’ll likely see more negativity against its compatibility and questionable warranty and return support.
2. CarlinKit 3.0 Wireless CarPlay Adapter
In second place we have the Carlinkit 3.0 dongle. This dongle has been a very popular and highly visible brand online, and in my test, it scored high in its Wi-Fi specs, it also has multi-user support, and it was joint top in launching into its boot menu. However, due to its slower Bluetooth pairing speed, it was one of the slower finalists to boot up into CarPlay.
It shares the same great config menu as the previous two finalists, and because CarlinKit’s focus has moved to its newer 4.0 2-in-1 dongle, the CarlinKit 3.0 dongle is the second cheapest out of our five finalists.
1. CarlinKit 3.0 Mini Wireless CarPlay Adapter
And finally, the number one wireless CarPlay dongle is the CarlinKit 3.0 Mini dongle. This result was a surprise to me, but the scores nudged it ahead of its bigger brother. It carries the same config menu as the last three finalists, there is no USB-A power passthrough, it has the same AutoKit menu as its older brother, and although it was 16 seconds slower into CarPlay, it has as few things going for it. Other than its tiny size, it shares the same fastest boot in to its main menu with its bigger brother, so if you share multiple devices in the car, you’ll be selecting your device sooner than the other finalists.
Its Bluetooth pairing into CarPlay was faster, and as a result, it is quicker than our second-place finalist. With great Wi-Fi specs, this dongle performed the best out of all the finalists for use over a 5m distance. But overall, is its price. Again, with the shift going to the CarlinKit 4.0, the CarlinKit 3.0 Mini can be had at the cheapest price out of our finalists. At $58.99 on Amazon, you get easy returns if it doesn’t work with your vehicle, and with these features and general performance, if you’re on a budget, this dongle is still performing just as well as the other finalists that cost almost twice the price.
So there we have it, these are my top 5 tested wireless Apple CarPlay finalists. The three dongles that didn’t make it were the DAYO wireless adapter, the TNVTEC AutoBox v1, and ATOTO AD3 Adapter. All three don’t have the best config menus, but the DAYO and the TNVTEC join the U2-Air as one of the fastest booting dongles that made it into the final eight.
0:00 – Brief overview
0:47 – Testing Process
4:27 – Top 5 Finalists
4:42 – Ottocast U2-Air
5:18 – Broxiongdi Wireless Adapter
5:45 – CPLAY2air 2.1 Wireless Adapter
6:21 – CarlinKit 3.0 Wireless Adapter
6:57 – CarlinKit 3.0 Mini Wireless Adapter
8:33 – Honourable mentions