In this video, I check out the AuroraLink AI Box Mini. You can buy this 3-in-1 CarPlay Android 11 OS Adapter from the AuroraLink store on AliExpress https://a.aliexpress.com/_EImFVzt.
This 3-in-1 Android 11 adapter features a closed Android operating system, with YouTube, Netflix, YouTube Music and Disney Plus preinstalled. It also offers both wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, free Live TV streaming, and video casting from a mobile device. It also has an HDMI output port for external displays in the car and there’s a separate TV theatre mode when it’s used on a TV or monitor display in the home.
In the box you get a paper instruction manual, there is the Aurora Box Mini adapter itself, a USB-A to USB-C power cable, a USB-C to C power cable for more modern vehicle CarPlay ports, and finally, there is a supplied HDMI cable too.
Features & Design
The adapter’s form factor is one of the smallest AI boxes I’ve seen. It is more square than the other closed adapters. On two sides and underneath the adapter there are lots of ventilation holes for passive cooling of the chipset inside. On one end of the dongle, there is a USB-C input port to power the dongle, and on the other side, there is a USB-A port for USB media playback and firmware updates. You can also use this port to trickle charge your phone, however, it won’t support passthrough wired CarPlay or Android Auto.
Alongside the USB port is an HDMI output port to connect to an external car display or you can use its TV Theatre mode which displays a TV-friendly menu display on your home TV or computer monitor and you’ll just use a Bluetooth remote to navigate its menus and play content from it.
Boot-Up & Main Menu
This adapter didn’t work on any standalone CarPlay displays, but it worked just fine when I plugged the adapter into my Pioneer 93DAB aftermarket system. There is also a long compatibility list on their website of the many stock CarPlay vehicles that this adapter will be compatible width.
During the adapter’s booting up, you’re presented with a boot animation sequence that lasts around 32 seconds before you can interact with the adapter’s main menu interface. This adapter has a great modern-looking landing screen, that is similar to a few other adapters selling today. There are a few main panels along the top row of the interface. On the top left, there are small panels for Wi-Fi status, date and time. Below this panel is a small media playback panel for Bluetooth and USB media playback from the home screen. In the middle are two quick-launch buttons for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and to the right are shortcuts to launch Media, Bluetooth and Settings.
Along the bottom are four large shortcuts to launch four of its pre-installed media Android apps. These are YouTube, Netflix, YouTube Music and Video Casting. Additional pre-installed apps are available by tapping on the bottom arrow button or by swiping up the screen to open its app drawer menu.
From here as there are a few additional apps including Disney Plus, Live TV, and there are a few system-based menu options for quickly accessing Bluetooth calling and media playback, USB media, super casting from a mobile phone, Settings and a shortcut to return to the car system screen. Being a closed Android platform you can’t add to these apps from the Google Play Store or side-load APK apps onto the adapter. Updating them is also a challenge too, so you are limited to the app versions that were pre-installed on the adapter or via updates of the adapter itself.
In the Settings menu, there are options to connect to a Wi-Fi network or mobile hotspot for all preinstalled video streaming apps. You can connect to a Bluetooth device and call from your phone or stream media over Bluetooth. You can also change the startup animation, change the main menu background, and there are additional options in the General Settings area to change language, auto launch CarPlay or Android Auto, and set DPI and display ratio output.
Wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
Pairing to my iPhone for wireless CarPlay took 16.46 seconds. Once in CarPlay, everything behaves as it would over a wired connection, with the usual expected 2-3 second Wi-Fi lag. Its Wi-Fi specs aren’t the best, and this can show at times when swiping and carrying out certain interactions. Otherwise, its audio sounds good and music resuming from calling was fine.
Pairing into wireless Android Auto took 13.6 seconds. Like CarPlay there were also a few Wi-Fi performance issues with transitions and overall interactions. I also noticed on Android Auto specifically that the quality and resolution of the video stream aren’t as sharp as some other AI adapters running Android Auto, which is a shame. Otherwise audio sounded good and the music resume from a call worked fine also. (sample)
Video Streaming Apps
Switching between video stream apps and either CarPlay or Android Auto wasn’t as smooth as a process as some other adapters. You have to manually switch the Wi-Fi back on and connect to your preferred Wi-Fi source before any of the video streaming apps come alive.
The YouTube app runs a full-screen tablet UI, which makes it a little harder to navigate than the newer version of the app. You can set the DPI to small and the UI improves a little but overall I prefer the two-column layout of the new version of the app. Audio sync is ok, it does drop a few frames now and then, likely due to its lower 4-core 1.5GHz processor, and multi-tasking between apps with its 2GB of RAM can see apps reloading when returning back to them.
Netflix and YouTube Music also suffer with some slight frame drops and slow scrolling due to the lower-end chipset inside this unit. But for casual viewing, it is certainly watchable, and like YouTube, there is no picture in picture mode here, whereas the video’s audio can be played in the background.
Live TV Streaming
The Box Mini has a Live TV streaming app, so you can stream several TV channels around the world to your CarPlay display. The experience isn’t as good as I had hoped, with many channels buffering or video playing out of sync with the audio. So I wouldn’t use this particular feature as the main reason to buy this adapter.
The adapters Super Cast app allows you to mirror your iPhone or Android to your CarPlay display. I found this feature to be the best out of many adapters I have tested. With a fast and reliable connecting experience to both my iPhone and Android device, without the need for additional casting apps to be installed. As long as both adapter and phone are on the same network, you can tap the cast button in YouTube or Plex and have the video cast onto the CarPlay display in a matter of seconds. There is some small audio sync lag at times and your experience will vary depending on the Wi-Fi connection between the device and adapter.
USB media playback from the USB port was easy, however with the lack of processing power, there were frequent frame drops and stuttering in videos and high compression artefacts in high-bitrate and fast-moving videos.
TV Theater Mode
The TV Theater mode is this adapter’s unique feature versus other 3-in-1 AI Boxes. Simply connecting the adapter to an HDMI display presents a TV-friendly menu system that can be navigated with an inserted USB Bluetooth transmitter and Bluetooth remote. Again though, this experience is limited by the horsepower inside the box. This means accessing its nicely presented menu system can be quite slow and clunky and not as smooth as you hope it would be.
This AuroraLink AI Box Mini 3-in-1 Adapter retails for $78.73, €77.74 and £68.65 directly from their store on AliExpress. You can check the direct link above to learn more about it and to buy yourself one.
The AuroraLink Box Mini adapter will appeal to anyone looking for a simple AI Box that does wireless CarPlay or Android Auto, device casting, YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ video playback, but doesn’t want any other app functionality This adapter ticks these boxes and at a great price. However, the compromise of its cheap ticket of entry is its general performance at doing each of these tasks, which might frustrate some people.
Anyone seeking additional apps or functionality will also need to look elsewhere. This closed system is good if you just want to use its pre-installed apps, but there’s no scope for adding or easily updating newer or different apps. If you’re looking for a budget AI Box and are happy to work with its performance limitations and apps, then with its sleek UI and presentation, and its easy video casting, the AuroraLink Box Mini might be an adapter for you.
0:00 – Brief overview
00:36 – Unboxing
00:51 – Features & design
1:49 – Boot-Up
2:15 – Menu interface & apps
3:36 – Settings
4:02 – Wireless CarPlay
4:42 – Wireless Android Auto
5:27 – YouTube
6:13 – Netflix & YouTube Music
6:38 – Live TV app
6:55 – Mobile phone mirroring
7:34 – USB media playback
7:49 – TV Theatre mode
8:18 – My Impressions