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Getting Apple CarPlay in your car can be a daunting task to think about. Where do you even begin? You could be super lucky and have an Apple CarPlay enabled vehicle, but not everyone can stroll into a local car dealer and put down a lot of money for a new CarPlay enabled vehicle that works with your favourite Apple iPhone.
There are alternative ways to get Apple CarPlay in your car. The most common way is to upgrade your car stereo system with an Apple CarPlay enabled aftermarket receiver, but that can set you back an easy $1000, when you factor in the professional installer labour costs, the receiver itself and all the correct modules and cables that you need to buy in order to have all the components work in harmony with your modern car.
Other than buying a new car with an Apple CarPlay option or fitting a CarPlay enabled aftermarket receiver, these expensive ways of getting Apple CarPlay in your car were your only decent options. That is until now. A new third option has arrived in the form of a new portable display device – the Coral Vision Apple CarPlay Dashboard Console.
This device is so simple that it’s amazing it has taken this long for it to materialise, I even loosely mentioned the concept in one of my videos on YouTube last year. The Coral Vision CarPlay Dashboard Console is for anyone who doesn’t (or cannot) have CarPlay in their vehicle and who wants a fairly cheap, easy to install, portable CarPlay solution that simply allows you to place the Console to the top of your car dashboard and have it display Apple CarPlay from your iPhone. The audio from the Console can either pass through its 3W internal speaker, or you can have audio sent to your car stereo through either a wired 3.5mm AUX input cable or wirelessly over its built-in FM radio transmitter.
What’s in the box?
In the box, you get the 7-inch Dashboard Console display itself, a mounting arm for attaching the Dashboard Console onto your windscreen, a glass disc with an adhesive backing is also supplied to alternatively attach the mounting arm to your car dashboard surface instead. There is also a thin anti-slip strip of rubber that you place between the Dashboard Console and your car dashboard surface. To power it, a 3-meter long 12V / 12W cable is supplied, and there is also an English manual and warranty card.
There are two different models of this Dashboard Console – Wired and Wireless. Each of them come priced to suit different budgets and they both carry a few different accessories and features within them also. Both models support wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink for Android. Both also support Bluetooth audio streaming and feature USB-A and Micro-SD ports that both support media playback for music, video and photos files. They both carry a high-resolution 1024×600 display, but each model features different display technologies. There is a single microphone located on the front bezel of the Console, for mobile calling and to invoke Siri on iPhone or Google Assistant on Android. They both also feature FM transmission and AUX output as a method of sending audio from the Dashboard Console to your car stereo.
Wired & wireless CarPlay models
The entry-level Wired CarPlay Dashboard Console retails for just $225, whilst the Wireless CarPlay Console retails for $100 extra, at $325. You do get a lot more features and functionality for your extra $100. This includes wireless Apple CarPlay support (as well as wired), a better IPS display panel technology (over the TFT display panel of the base Wired Console) and there is also an additional 3.5mm AV input port for use with the reverse parking camera that also comes bundled with the Wireless Console.
The Dashboard Console’s design has been loosely modelled on an Audi display, with its silver-effect trim that wraps around the outside of the bezel. Its maker hasn’t scrimped on its display technology inside either. The Wireless Console I received for review has a rich 7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1024×600 – a resolution that spans both models. The Console displays a much higher resolution than most aftermarket displays, which means you’ll get a much sharper CarPlay display than most $1000 receivers. Its display uses a similar high-quality display technology that is found in Audi, BMW and Mercedes vehicles, and compared to my 9″ Alpine screen, it shows. You get a sharp, colourful display with a wide field-of-view that doesn’t degrade when viewed from extreme angles.
Ports to power & expand your media
There are a number of input and output ports located along the left side of the display. The first is the 12V DC-in port to power the unit. Personally, I would have liked to have seen it positioned at the back of the display instead of at the side, but I am told this would have made the console even thicker.
Speaking of dimensions; the Dashboard Console measures 17.7cm wide by 11.3cm tall, and its tapered profile is 3cm deep. Its surrounding bezel is only 1.2cm thick, and in reality, it seems much less, thanks to the slim, silver metal-effect trim that circles the outer edges of the display.
Moving upwards to the next port is a USB-A port. This is used for a wired CarPlay or Android Auto connection on both models of the Dashboard Console. By simply plugging in a USB cable that’s attached to your iPhone or Android device, the Console will fire up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto/MirrorLink in just a few seconds. You can also plug in a USB stick into this port, that’s loaded with music, video and images to playback on the Console’s media player too.
Alongside the USB port is a micro-SD card slot. Just like the USB port below it, you can load it with files to playback on the Console’s display, using its built-in media player. With the right supported files formats loaded onto it, you can listen to music, view photos and play videos on this display. You get a free 16GB micro-SD Card in the box to get you started, and it supports up to 32GB if you wish to really pack the Console with media content, and yes you can play video from its built-in media player whilst driving – but please don’t!
The next port that’s also found on both models is the AUX output port. This port is used for any stereo receivers or vehicles that have a 3.5mm AUX audio input socket. This port allows the Dashboard Console to pass its audio on to your car stereo, or alternatively, you could plug in a portable speaker or even a pair of headphones into this display instead. I found this audio method carried better quality than FM transmission, it was far more stable and it was a hassle-free way to get audio into the car, but it does add another cable around your vehicle.
Finally, on the Wireless Console model only, there is an AV input port for the bundled rearview camera. It uses a 3.5mm jack that’s attached to a rather long reverse camera cable with a bracketed 640×480 VGA camera attached to the other end of it. By attaching the camera’s cable to the positive reverse light cable of your car, when you next enter into reverse gear the Console will detect the reverse light is on and enable the camera view on the display. It’s VGA camera quality is an acceptable resolution and it matches the quality level found in most vehicles.
The Coral Vision Dashboard Console‘s unique selling point is how quick and simple it is to set up and have CarPlay operating in your vehicle. Using the supplied mounting arm, with its adjustment clamps, dials and screws, you can easily find the best position and angle for the Console on top of your dashboard. Due to its 392g weight, it has been designed to be placed directly on top of your car dashboard with the mounting arm simply helping to secure it firmly in place. The mount is strong enough to move it further up the screen and have it hover above your dashboard, but due to the overall height of the Dashboard Console, you might find it impedes your vision whilst driving on the road a little – a little like an old sat nav display use to do.
Once the Console has been mounted securely, you then route the DC power cable either directly down to your centre console or you can utilise its 3-meter long cable to route it away from the Console towards the windscreen, along the back of your dashboard, down the side, and then into the centre compartment of your vehicle, where your 12V port will likely be.
With the Dashboard Console display connected to the 12V power socket, you can turn the ignition on in your car to power the display. Once powered you will be shown the Console’s main menu interface on its striking high-resolution display. From here, you can decide to either connect to CarPlay or Android Auto over USB or pair with the Console’s Bluetooth to stream audio wirelessly from your smartphone. If you have the Wireless model you can initiate wireless Apple CarPlay by selecting CarPlay after pairing both devices together over Bluetooth.
Sending audio to your car stereo
Unless you like the sound of the very tinny 3W speaker that’s inside the Dashboard Console, your next task is to connect the audio from the Console to your car stereo. All modern cars come with an FM stereo, so I first headed over to the FM Transmitter menu option and selected one of the preset FM frequencies to transmit the Console’s audio over. As soon as I fired up my car’s FM radio and set it to the same FM frequency I could hear the audio nice and clear. There was very little interference or distortion, but if the preset frequencies are all too busy around your location, you can manually dial into a frequency that’s less busy, and you can long-press on any preset button to store it.
If you do find the FM transmission a little too busy in your area, using the AUX output audio is a solid alternative. If your stereo or vehicle has a 3.5mm AUX input port, then this would be my recommended way to receive audio from the Dashboard Console, although the FM transmission is a great fallback for anyone without such an audio input port. You can also choose to plug in an AUX output cable into a portable speaker as another means to get audio in your vehicle, should you find yourself stuck with a busy FM range and you’re without an AUX port in your car. It is worth pointing out that you do not get a 3.5mm AUX cable, you will have to buy your own cable with enough length to reach your AUX socket or speaker.
Easy Apple CarPlay install
Using Apple CarPlay on the Coral Vision CarPlay Dashboard Console is simply great, and for anyone without a CarPlay enabled vehicle or stereo this is a perfect, easy to install, and a relatively cheap way to bring the CarPlay experience into any car. Wired CarPlay is super fast to connect to over a wired USB connection – you can be browsing your CarPlay apps on the Console display in less than 3 seconds of connecting a Lighting cable to your iPhone.
Using wireless Apple CarPlay on the Wireless Console model does carry the same quirks that are also found on most wireless Apple CarPlay devices, such as the 1-3 second audio lag and the slight UI navigation delay. Setting up CarPlay with your iPhone for the first time can also sometimes be a little hit and miss. This is mostly due to the Console prioritising Bluetooth audio over the initial CarPlay Bluetooth handshake, which can sometimes mean you have to manually switch over to Apple CarPlay. However, once connected successfully, the next time you boot into CarPlay over a wireless connection, it should be automatic and it will take around 26 seconds, compared to the 38 seconds boot-up time on the wireless Apple CarPlay dongles I have tested on my Alpine system.
You can set your driving position in the Console’s system menu, and by doing so, CarPlay on the Console will use this setting to position the side dock orientation correctly to your position. You can also enable and set a ‘Night mode’ setting. This will tell the Dashboard Console when to enter into its night mode. When enabled, the screen will dim during the set time period, which works well with CarPlay’s dark mode for a less glaring display whilst driving at night.
Android Auto & MirrorLink
Having the ability to use the Dashboard Console with Google’s Android Auto platform is an added bonus, should you swap (to the dark side) or have someone in the car with an Android device. Connection to Android Auto is only done wired via the USB port on both Dashboard Console models. Bootup took around 14 seconds on my Realme 6 Android device before I saw the Android Auto interface.
Android users also have the ability to swap the Android Auto option for MirrorLink – a functionality that mirrors the Android display on the display. Most Androids require to be in Developer Mode in order to work with MirrorLink, so this feature might be overlooked by a majority of Android users, but it’s a nice feature to have. Sadly, there is no AirPlay mode for Apple users, maybe that’s something to offer in a future update to the Console.
Bluetooth & media playback
Bluetooth audio streaming and music, video and photo media playback round-up the remaining functions on both models of the Dashboard Console. These are the types of functionalities that you come to expect on most modern stereos, and the Dashboard Console’s built-in media player has no problem in streaming audio over Bluetooth or playing back the most common file types.
I found a USB stick to be far more reliable than using the micro-SD card, which sometimes failed to display any media I had on the SD card. Video file playback supports MOV, MP4, AVI, MPEG, MKV and FLV formats, yet its player can be a little strict on the playback of some of the file codecs I had tried. Some MOVs had a black screen but there was audio, whereas other test files had no problem playing, with videos appearing sharp and in good colour.
CarPlay, for everyone
There is a lot to like with this Dashboard Console. If you find yourself stuck with how to replace your factory system in your vehicle or you are out of pocket for installing a top of the line aftermarket CarPlay receiver, the Coral Vision CarPlay Dashboard Console comes in as another perfect CarPlay solution that, not only works with your existing car system setup, it is also portable.
Being a portable device, it opens many use cases for the Dashboard Console. Travelling, for example, you could bring it with you for use in a hired car, for familiar in-car navigation. You could use it in a friend’s vehicle or even let them borrow it to try out Apple CarPlay in their own vehicle. You could swap it between multiple family vehicles. You can even bring the Console over to your next new vehicle without the need to buy a more costly vehicle with a CarPlay system option. The ways you can use this portable Dashboard Console are endless, and that just helps bolster how great this device is for all car owners.
Thanks to Coral Vision’s CarPlay Dashboard Console, there is no longer a reason why you cannot have Apple CarPlay in your vehicle anymore.