ApplePie Ultra / UX999Ultra QC662 Android 12 AI Box Review

In this video, I check out the new ApplePie Ultra / UX999Ultra Qualcomm662 Android 12 AI Box with 8GB+128GB.

You can buy this AI Box for $229.90 Direct from Exploter online store 👉🏻 https://bit.ly/applepieultra. Use coupon code ‘Applepie07-Ultra‘ for an extra 10%-OFF your order.

This new AI Box from Exploter is an Android 12 AI Box for factory Apple CarPlay and aftermarket systems. It features 8GB RAM and 128GB ROM, a fast Qualcomm 662 CPU and an Adreno 610 GPU. There is an SD card slot for expandable storage, and a SIM card slot to provide internal internet to the dongle without the need to connect to a mobile hotspot or local Wi-Fi.

In the box you get the AI Box itself, there’s a USB-A to USB-C cable to power the AI Box and USB-A to C adapter for more modern CarPlay ports in the car.

Looking over the AI Box. It uses the same casing as their ApplePie Max AI Box, so that makes it difficult to differentiate between both of these models. It has a blue-tinted chrome outer rim, on top, there is a shiny black casing with a car logo on top, and underneath there is a round metal disc to help cool the chipset inside, along with lots of perforated holes to passively cool it too. Just like the Max, all of its SIM and SD card slots are hidden behind a removable panel that you can remove by using a small switch underneath the AI Box. In the middle, there’s a USB-C port to connect to your CarPlay USB port to power the dongle.

Boot up & Menu UI

In my test I connected the ApplePie Ultra to my portable CarPlay display from Carpuride, however, I also tested this successfully on the Pioneer 93DAB receiver in my demo pod. Bootup time took 41 seconds to get into the main menu. The launcher menu is similar to the Max AI Box, with its familiar floating button and its menu interface. This launcher also has the option to show a widget-like panel on the home screen or this can be removed in the system settings menu. On the left side, there is a side dock that shows the time, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth status, the last 3 running apps, and a home or apps overview button. Swiping from the left of the screen will also slide this dock in if it is being hidden. Overall though, you wouldn’t know this system is running Android 12 until you view either its Settings screen or pull-down menu, which are a lot cleaner and modern than earlier Android operating systems.

The ApplePie Ultra comes with the usual suite of pre-installed apps, including Google Maps, Chrome and the Play Store, through to common apps like YouTube, Waze, Disney+, HBO Max, Spotify, Netflix and VLC. Amongst the usual preinstalled apps, there’s a new option to toggle system-wide dark and light modes from the app menu screen. 

QC662 vs QC665 – Fight!

Like all AI Boxes, the adapter is pretty basic without an internet connection, so I connected the adapter to my local Wi-Fi hotspot and downloaded a few apps from the Google Play store. I first downloaded the Device Info app to see what was inside this AI Box. The app reported its 8-core Qualcomm 662 CPU runs at up to 2GHz, and the Adreno 610 GPU runs at 320MHz – the same GPU as on the Qualcomm 665 chip. The difference between the 655 and 662 chips is that the 662 is a newer 11nanometre CPU which offers slightly faster benchmarks in memory and GPU performance and slightly less performance in CPU, but overall it is slightly faster on paper than the Qualcomm 665 chip we are seeing in newer AI Boxes. Benchmarking the box showed a better single-core result, but a slightly less score in multi-core and GPU results. So in short, there is very little performance boost between the 665 and 662 chipsets.

Data provided by nanoreview.net

With a total of 128GB storage on this Ultra, this is more than enough for the types of apps you might want to run in the car, and you can still continue to expand on this by inserting an SD card up to 128GB. 

Apps

Google Maps and Spotify Android apps seem to fire up and work just fine, and you can also split-screen apps just like the rest of them. The power of the 662 chip and 8GB of RAM offers smoother app switching and multitasking than most other AI Boxes. With less waiting time for app loading, or jerky transitions.

Running Youtube and Netflix on your CarPlay display has its advantages, such as watching videos whilst waiting for your EV to charge, or if you’re waiting for long periods of time in your car. Youtube and Netflix ran just fine though, with playback audio in sync with the video on the screen. 

Gaming & Controller Support

The Adreno 610 GPU is not too bad either at some middle-weight gaming. It handled my test apps Crossy Road, Subway Surfer and Real Racing 3 just fine, and with dual Bluetooth supported on this AI Box, I was able to connect my Xbox Bluetooth controller and control the menu UI and some games that support it. You can also buy this AI Box with a wireless Bluetooth remote, which is handy to navigate the AI Box from a distance from your screen or if your CarPlay system only has dial control input it can make navigation and input a little faster.

Woeful Wi-Fi – CarPlay & Android Auto

For wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, this AI Box uses the newer Zlink5 Android app. Its settings go a little deeper than most other AI Boxes, with the ability to also mirror cast content from your phone to the display or connect wirelessly to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. There are also options to set the driver position and enhance HD streaming for a sharper display. Bootup into wireless Apple Carplay took much longer, at around 25 seconds and a whopping 54 seconds for wireless Android Auto.

Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto through this dongle were surprisingly disappointing. The usual 2-second audio lag was expected, but its general input lag was a little worse than some other lower-spec AI Boxes that I had tested, with some noticeable stuttering between screen transitions and some interference on audio at times on CarPlay, and Spotify music fading out and stopping after a few seconds on Android Auto. Checking the dongle’s Wi-Fi specs showed that it was running at a much slower 40MHz channel width, but more importantly, it was running at a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band and a max data rate of just 180mbps. So this was a big disappointment, and this is something you should bear in mind if you want to use wireless CarPlay or Android Auto with this dongle. 

My Impressions

This ApplePie Ultra CarPlay AI Box from Exploter currently retails for $229.90 directly from Exploter’s online store, and you can check out my links below to learn more about this AI Box and to buy one.

Looking at the specs I had high hopes for the Ultra, but sadly I am left a little deflated after spending some time with it. It all depends on how you want to use this dongle. There is certainly more grunt under the hood than the Mini and Max dongles, but sadly the same can’t be said for its Wi-Fi hardware, and after playing with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, it shows. Even trying out the mirror casting option, leaves you with poor or missing audio at times, and when the audio does work, it is terribly out of sync and not really that much of a usable feature.

Even with its newer Android 12 foundation, this AI Box hasn’t had any major improvements made to its launcher and its menu UI design hasn’t improved either, with the same frustrating floating button that you can’t turn off in the settings menu. An even more confusing home button can show an app overview screen, and there is a persistent hidden dock prompt that looks totally different to the one you return to on the home screen.

If you can look over this confusing mishmash of its launcher software and you have no use for wireless CarPlay or Android Auto, the ApplePie Ultra is a very capable AI Box, thanks to its much faster chipset and larger system memory. But as a full package, I would personally wait and see how the Plus branded AI Boxes perform, and how other brands utilise the same Qualcomm 662 chipset over the next coming months.

TIMESTAMPS:

0:00 – Brief overview
0:37 – Unboxing
0:48 – Features & design
1:30 – Boot up & main menu
2:30 – Apps
3:40 – QC662 vs QC665 comparison
4:23 – YouTube & Netflix playback
4:53 – Gaming & controller support
5:26 – Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto
6:44 – My impressions

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