Enjoy my Carlinkit 3.0 or Carlinkit U2W-Plus (With U2W-AUTOKIT UI) Review. You can buy this Carlinkit 3.0 U2W-AUTOKIT wireless dongle for $96 (with coupon) from Amazon US → https://amzn.to/3kVuIdi or for £120.99 (with voucher) from Amazon UK → https://amzn.to/2YlcdqP.
So this Carlinkit U2W Plus dongle comes under a few various disguises. On AliExpress you will see this dongle come under the identity of version 3.0, and it is also branded as the Plus version of this dongle on both Amazon and AliExpress CarLinkit Official Store. However on close inspection, my original 2.0 dongle also says Plus on the casing.
The main difference between these two dongles, though, is the firmware software being used by the chipset inside. The original 2.0 dongle uses the standard U2W firmware, which is very similar to other branded dongles such as the CarPlay2air. It’s mostly noticeable by the green UI when you first boot up the dongle.
This Carlinkit 3.0, or U2W Plus dongle, uses the newer optimised U2W-AUTOKIT UI, which is visually noticeable by its red UI, a slightly different menu screen, and the addition of some customisable launch settings from the boot menu.
The Advantages of U2W-AUTOKIT
The advantage of using a wireless dongle that uses AUTOKIT UI is that it can boot up much faster. This is because the images for the boot-up menu screen are pre-rendered and it does not need to be generated every time it boots up, which saves a bunch of time and this optimisation gets you into the dongle’s boot menu much faster.
The Ottocast is basically a rebadged Carlinkit 3.0 dongle inside its slightly different casing. So having seen what the Ottocast can do, I thought it would be a good idea to see if the CarLinkit 3.0 will be any different from the original I have. So I took this dongle for a spin in the car to see how much faster it is against this CarLinkit 2.0 dongle.
Firmware Updates & Tests
First of all, I checked each dongle was running on the latest firmware available, and if it wasn’t I updated it so that it was. Unfortunately, I ran into an issue with the 2021.07.05 firmware on the 2.0 dongle, where I couldn’t boot into CarPlay, so I had to roll it back to 2021.07.04.
Next, I paired each dongle and timed how long it took to connect directly to my iPhone 12 Pro before displaying the CarPlay screen. The speed here is between your iPhone and the dongle, and that can vary each time you connect to it. I was expecting the time between them to be fairly similar, and in my test, it was just that, with the 2.0 dongle just beating the 3.0 dongle by just a fraction, but in general, there is very little between them to notice the difference.
With the CarPlay profiles added to both dongles, it was time for the real start-up test, from the ignition of the car, through pairing with the iPhone, and onto the initial CarPlay screen. This will give you a general idea of how long each dongle will take to boot up into CarPlay once you start up the car. In this test, the 3.0 dongle managed to beat the 2.0 dongle by over 4 seconds. The initial boot-up saving of AUTOKIT that we saw earlier, generally helps with the overall speed of bootup into CarPlay.
Finally, I decided to remove the system startup delay, and whilst my system was powered, I just removed and reinserted the dongle in the USB port to see how quickly it booted without the system initializing at the start. In this test, the CarLinkit 3.0 dongle was over 5 seconds faster than the 2.0 dongle.
So out of all of the tests, the results were in favour of the 3.0 dongle. It is a much faster dongle overall, where boot-up times are reduced by around 5 seconds overall. This in turn results in a faster bootup time overall. Sometimes the 2.0 dongle can get close, so if you already have a 2.0 dongle there may not be such a significant reduction to warrant upgrading to the 3.0 or equivalent dongle.
However, the U2W-AUTOKIT on the Carlinkit 3.0 dongle firmware does bring some advantages, such as the boot menu and the basic level of opinions it offers. Without having to go through the dongle’s own browser-based settings menu, this makes this dongle better for anyone less technical, who wishes to change settings such as autoboot amongst other basic settings without going through the IP web browser settings menu.
The time saved by the optimised boot-up time should be universal in any CarPlay enabled vehicle. The only variable is your own system bootup time, and the time it takes to connect to your iPhone’s Bluetooth signal and displaying CarPlay over Wi-Fi.
I also took a look at both dongles using some Wi-Fi testing software, and I found out that the 2.0 dongle ran at Wi-Fi 4 standard, at a maximum output of 300 megabits per second. Whereas the newer CarLinkit 3.0 dongle ran at the much faster Wi-Fi 5 standard, at a maximum output of 866.7 megabits per second – similar to the updated CarPlay2Air dongle and the Ottocast U2-Now dongle.
So in short, I would highly recommend these AUTOKIT-based wireless dongles over the older firmware-based dongles. The speed and faster WiFi5 should make for a faster and more reliable CarPlay connection, with improved calling performance. But with that said, I still encountered irregular crashes after around 1-2 hour of use on all of these dongles, and I personally don’t have much experience with calling with these dongles to really test their audio lag and whether it is any better with Wi-Fi 5 or not.
0:00 – Intro
0:24 – Brief overview
2:13 – Firmware updates
2:39 – Ignition into boot menu test
3:03 – BT pair into Apple CarPlay test
3:32 – Ignition into Apple CarPlay test
4:02 – USB connect into Apple CarPlay test
4:33 – Results and My Impressions