CarlinKit T-Box Plus CarPlay Android 11 AI Box Review

In this video, I check out the new CarlinKit T-Box Plus. You can buy this AI Box currently for $174.99 with a coupon from Amazon US 👉🏻 https://amzn.to/3WaHvtq, for £220 with a voucher from Amazon UK 👉🏻 https://amzn.to/3Whpk53, and for €250 with a coupon from Amazon DE 👉🏻 https://amzn.to/3uQgQ9n

Although it might look a little similar to CarlinKit’s earlier T-Box branded CarPlay AI Boxes, inside things are a little different. The Plus features an Android 11 operation system, 4GB RAM and 64GB ROM, a fast 8-core Qualcomm 6125 CPU and an Adreno 610 GPU. There is also the usual 4G LTE SIM and SD card slots for local internet and added storage of up to 128GB.

In the box you get a paper instruction manual, there is the T-Box Plus itself, a USB-A to USB-C power cable, and a USB-C to C cable for modern CarPlay ports in the car.

Looking over the T-Box Plus. The casing is identical to the earlier T-Box Mini AI Box I have also reviewed on this site. The only exception is its colour, where the Plus has a dark navy blue colour casing. Otherwise, everything is much the same here. There’s the USB-C port in the middle to power it, and SIM and SD card slots on either side of it.

Boot Up & Menu Interface

In my test, I fired up the T-Box Plus to my Pioneer 93DAB receiver in my demo pod. Bootup time took around 39-42 seconds before resting on its somewhat improved main menu interface, this time includes a bootup sequence that can’t be removed.

The updated software features two selectable layout styles. There is the original icon page style, and there is this newer more modern panel design, but compared to the interfaces from Ottocast and MMB, this one lacks some refinement. The usual left-side dock shows the time, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth status, the last four used apps, and a home navigation button. By default, this UI still has a floating menu button, but this can now be removed from inside the adapter’s main settings page – YAY!

The remaining home screen consists of one large app panel, which can be altered to display apps like maps, or media apps like YouTube. There is a Now Playing media control panel to the side of it, and below this is a panel consisting of four app shortcuts, which can be customised to launch any app that has been installed on the adapter.

You can’t swipe to access the other apps you have installed on the adapter, instead, you either have to either press the home button on the side dock or use an assigned button on the widget panel instead. Once selected you’re shown multiple screens of the pre-installed apps on the adapter, from the usual Google suite of apps to YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, Waze and VLC. Any other apps you need require you to get the T-Box online and download apps either from the Google Play Store or sideload the app from sites like APKmirror, as I have done here with the Hulu app.

Overall I found the Plus is an improvement over its older UI, but there were still areas that were less intuitive and could have been improved, especially when its competitors have leapt ahead with their own AI Box interface menus. It’s nice to be able to hide the floating button, but without a dedicated back button on the side dock, you can get stuck in some apps, so instead, you’re forced to go back to the homepage at times.

Online & Specs

Getting the adapter online requires either pairing it to a personal hotspot on your phone, connecting to a local Wi-Fi network in your car, or inserting a data SIM into the provided slot on the adapter. This last option is the only way you can simultaneously operate both internet-based Android apps and wireless CarPlay or Android Auto. Otherwise, you’ll have to toggle the Wi-Fi and Hotspot connections each time.

Once the T-Box Plus was online, I downloaded the Device Info app to dig a little deeper into the adapter’s specs. It runs a much faster chipset over the T-Box Mini, using the now commonly used Qualcomm 6125/665 chipset at 2GHz, and the same Adreno 610 GPU runs at 320MHz. This brings the T-Box level pegging with some other popular fast AI Boxes out there, such as the adapter from M.I.C. and the Ottocast Picasou 2 and Picasou 2 Pro AI Box. 

Diving into the Geekbench app its results matched these two mentioned dongles, ranking joint second place in the single-core test, third place in the multi-core test, and third place in the GPU test. But the difference in scores between them is very little.

Dual Bluetooth & Gaming

Unlike the two competing adapters, the T-Box Plus does support dual Bluetooth. So you can connect to wireless remotes and Bluetooth game controllers for navigating apps, browsing menus and controller-based gaming. Unlike the Picasou 2 and M.I.C. adapters, the T-Box Plus doesn’t have HDMI output, so this adapter can’t be used with an external monitor, TV or projector.

Thanks to its faster processor, the T-Box Plus is a little more capable than the Mini for playing some Android games on your CarPlay display. My test apps Crossy Road, Subway Surfer and Real Racing 3 ran ok, but due to the adapter’s 30fps limit, games ran surprisingly noticeably less smoothly than on other Adreneo 610 AI Boxes. But if you download games that are less intensive, the T-Box Plus will handle them just fine and plays well if you pair up a Bluetooth controller.

Video Playback and Streaming

You have just under 50GB of storage for game and app downloads, or you can use this space to store local movie or music files. If you ever run out of space you can still continue to expand on this by inserting an SD card up to 128GB. However, after inserting an SD card I had a little trouble removing it from the slot.

If you would like to stream or watch your video content on your CarPlay display, you have the choice of pre-installed apps such as YouTube, Netflix, and VLC for local-based video files. Both YouTube and Netflix ran fine, with audio in sync and there were not too many noticeable lag or performance issues during video playback, given its 30fps display restriction.

Its YouTube app runs in full-screen tablet mode, which isn’t as nice as the same app on some other AI Boxes. The T-Box Plus also has the same issue where it can’t update to the latest version of Netflix, so you’ll have to look at sideloading any updates to access any new app features instead.

Wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto

Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto uses its pre-installed AutoKit Android app. Like the Multiplay app, AutoKit has some limited options in its settings menu. The T-Box Plus carries similar Wi-Fi specs as the PlayAIBox Plus, with a low channel width and one of the lowest max data rates in my tests. Wireless Apple Carplay took 14 seconds and a little longer at 18 seconds for Android Auto to connect.

From here, both car platforms reflected the T-Box Plus’ low Wi-Fi specs, showing a slight 1-2 second increase in music and calling audio delay. This also affected its response to button presses in media playback on CarPlay too. It doesn’t pass through the same high-resolution display feed as the Picasou 2 for high-resolution displays, and I also encountered some intermittent skipping in Spotify playback at times. On Android Auto, it continues to use the same full-screen mode on this AI Box and the response was also a little laggy than some of the faster Wi-Fi spec’d AI Boxes that are out there.

My Impressions

This T-Box Plus CarPlay AI Box from CarlinKit currently retails for $220.14 from Amazon US, £220 with a voucher from Amazon UK, and €250 with a coupon from Amazon DE. And you can check out my links in this article to learn more about this AI Box and buy one.

The T-Box Plus is priced quite competitively against similar spec’d AI Boxes, so factoring in its availability, performance and price, the T-Box Plus stands out quite well. Its user experience is better than the T-Box Mini, but I personally feel there is still room for improvement when you compare it to the extra visual quality of its competition. 

Currently retailing just under $80 extra than the much lower spec’d T-Box Mini, if you’re on a budget and looking for speed, the T-Box Plus might be the best bang for your buck right now. It also has the added advantage of dual Bluetooth support, so if using a controller is important to you, this adapter might be the one for you. But before you reach for the buy button, you must factor in its wireless performance with CarPlay and Android Auto, when there are AI Boxes that do this better, and its 30fps limit does hinder its performance during some fast-paced video playback and gaming. So if these don’t affect what you want out of this AI Box, then the T-Box Plus is the best AI Box for anyone on a budget who is looking for speed and some extra longevity from the latest 665 chipset AI Boxes.

TIMESTAMPS:

0:00 – Brief overview
0:41 – Unboxing
0:53 – Features & design
1:15 – Boot up & main menu
2:35 – Pre-installed apps & side loading
3:22 – Online connection
3:46- Device specs
4:20 – Benchmarks
4:38 – Bluetooth remoter & controller support
5:02 – Gaming on the T-Box Plus
5:33 – Video streaming, YouTube & Netflix
6:34 – Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto
7:38 – My Impressions

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