Exploter ApplePie Max Android 10 AI Box for Apple CarPlay Review

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In this video, I check out the Exploter ApplePie Max Android 10 AI Box for factory Apple CarPlay and aftermarket systems. You can buy this AI Box for $194.90 directly from Exploter’s own online store → https://bit.ly/applepiemax

Overview

This AI Box is the ApplePie Max. It’s the brand’s 4th version of its ApplePie series. It is a plug-and-play Android 10 Adapter for existing factory CarPlay systems and aftermarket stereos, that enable you to run Android apps such as video streaming apps like Netflix and Youtube on your CarPlay display.

In the box, you get a paper instruction manual, there is the dongle itself, and there is a rather generous 50cm long USB-C to USB-A power cable and USB-A to C adapter for modern CarPlay USB-C ports.

Looking over the dongle, it uses the same casing as the KyeBriq AI Box that I reviewed in an earlier video on this channel. At first glance, this model looks to feature only one USB-C port on its casing, but underneath there is a button that you slide out to open the side casing on the dongle that reveals the TF or SIM card slots for local storage or internet. Media can also be downloaded to the dongle’s internal storage and the internet can also be provided by local WI-FI or a personal hotspot from your iPhone or Android device.

Its casing size and shape are like a modified ApplePie Mini case, with a new chrome outer casing and a glossy black top with a white car logo positioned in the centre. Underneath you have the same round metal heatsink plate and cooling plastic swirl design to keep the Qualcomm 450 chipset inside cool.

Boot-up

From a cold boot on the Coral Vision CarPlay display, I timed 47 seconds before the Android 10 OS home screen icons would display. From a hot boot, I timed around 28 seconds to get to the same home screen.

The home screen and general user interface mirrored most Android AI Box interfaces with the same floating home button that I am personally not a fan of. On this updated version of the ApplePie menu UI, its floating home button snaps to various areas of the screen and it can’t be placed anywhere, which I found to be a little frustrating. 

Pre-Loaded Apps

The usual suite of default apps comes pre-installed on the dongle, including the streaming apps YouTube, NetFlix, Disney+ and HBO Max, and there are other key pre-installed apps such as Spotify, Waze and YouTube Music. The usual Google suite of Maps, Chrome and the Google Play Store is also present, ready to be used once you’ve logged into your own Google Account.

Over in the settings app, you can customise your experience further and set up your Bluetooth and Internet connection. Unless you have a SIM card installed, both are required to get the best out of this Android AI Box. Your options are to connect the dongle to a mobile personal hotspot or connect it to a local Wi-Fi or Mi-Fi hotspot.

Internet Connection

Connecting via an inserted SIM, a personal hotspot from my phone and connecting to my home Wi-Fi were all easy to connect to the first time. Once connected, as long as you have the ‘Turn Wi-Fi on automatically’ option enabled, the dongle will reconnect when it next boots up. If you wish to use this AI Box simultaneously alongside wireless Android Auto or wireless Apple CarPlay, you will need to install a SIM card into the AI Box, otherwise, the Wi-Fi connection to your Wi-Fi or personal hotspot will disconnect to allow your mobile phone to wireless connect to CarPlay or Android Auto wirelessly.

Performance

With the dongle online, I tried all the usual apps for their functionality and performance. With the same QualComm450 processor as the ApplePie Mini, you can expect the usual lack of grunt and performance from this AI Box. There’s enough power to slowly navigate and stream video, but not enough power to do all this quickly, or have the ability to multi-task smoothly or run more intensive apps.

Its software has been optimised to eke out some improvements on this dongle’s 1.8Ghz 8-core processor, and when compared to older dongles running the same hardware, it shows. Google Maps doesn’t seem to stutter as much as it does on other AI Boxes, and general navigation between screens feels smoother. However, once you get into more demanding apps and games the QC450 CPU does still struggle and leaves you longing for much faster and more capable hardware. But if streaming video content is what you most want to do here, then the ApplePie Max achieves this in a fairly tolerable way.

Apps like NetFlix and YouTube perform ok on this AI Box, and the Android 10 UI allows for picture-in-picture modes on the home screen and over other running applications, as well as in split-screen mode beside other running apps. Disney+ and HBO Max apps also come pre-installed, should you have an active subscription. Although the HBO Max app doesn’t work within the UK and Disney and Netflix apps can’t be upgraded from the Google Play store, other streaming apps like Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and SkyGO apps can all be installed on the AI Box without any issue.

The AI Box features built-in GPS, should you wish to use it for Android based navigation apps, and deep in the dongle’s settings menu, you can choose to use the vehicle’s own OEM GPS too. You will need a decent internet connection though to get the most out of these Android apps on this dongle.

Gaming

If you’re looking to play games on this AI Box, then the QC450 CPU, 4GB of RAM and Adreno 506 GPU will limit what games you can play smoothly on this platform. Popular games like Crossy Road and Subway Surfer just barely perform well enough on this AI Box, so I found it’s best to stick with less demanding 2D games than complex or fast moving 3D games.

Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto

If you wish to use this AI Box for wireless CarPlay or Android Auto, the pre-installed Zlink app allows you to connect your mobile wirelessly to the AI Box. This version 5 of Zlink brings a few options to improve the sharpness of the wireless stream and also float a Zlink option button over other running applications for fast switching, whilst background connection and driver position toggles round up the app’s more standard settings.

After the initial Bluetooth pairing, the connection to wireless CarPlay took around 13 seconds, whilst Android Auto took around 12 seconds to connect. So for a bigger picture, add these times to both the initial bootup of the system and the dongle startup time and you’ll end up with around 60 seconds from a cold boot into Wireless CarPlay and Wireless Android Auto.

Once in either car platform, the experience is much the same as you would expect with any wireless adapter, however, on my Coral Vision display the Android Auto interface was very small and practically not that useable due to the size of the icons and their hit zones when pressing them. But with that said, everything functioned as intended on both platforms, with the usual wireless audio delay traits and experiences.

My Impressions

Overall, my time with the ApplePie Max has been good, but when considering the faster and more capable alternatives that are out there, it isn’t the best AI Box for your money. It does tick many boxes as most current and popular AI Boxes do, but with its now average level of technology inside its sleek looking case, just don’t expect a new faster experience over their earlier Mini model. There’s a great level of optimisation added to the newer Android 10 platform over the ApplePie Mini’s Android 9 OS

This update makes this AI Box good enough for video streaming and low-level tasks, however, it’s let down by its lack of upgraded/faster hardware and I just can’t get along with its floating button user interface. Like the KyeBriq AI Box, I also lost audio at times in the media player and in games, and although the ApplePie Max managed to display my high bitrate local video file better than the KyeBriq did on the same hardware, it still left me wanting an AI Box that generally performs a little faster and better overall.

TIMESTAMPS:

0:00 – Brief overview
0:28 – Unboxing
0:41 – Hardware
1:33 – Boot-up
1:47 – Menu UI & Apps
2:29 – Internet Connection
3:26 – Performance
5:15 – Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto
6:25 – My Impressions

You can view this video and many more on my YouTube channel. If you like what you see, please do Like and Subscribe to our channel so you can be alerted when our next video goes live.

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