HDMI Magic and Lightning Speeds: Is The Exploter ApplePie Rocket the Ultimate CarPlay AI Box Upgrade?

The Exploter ApplePie Rocket AI Box its a beast when you compare it to the current generation of Android 13 AI Boxes for Apple CarPlay. You can buy this AI Box for $389.90 direct from the Exploter store 👉🏻 https://bit.ly/applepierocket.

I’ve covered a vast number of CarPlay AI Boxes over the last three years, each improving on various features and hardware, but none have truly revolutionised the platform. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way since my first CarPlay AI Box, but with every new product, they have only just gotten that little bit better, nothing truly groundbreaking. That’s until now, thanks to the ApplePie Rocket from Exploter.

The big difference over other ‘fast’ AI Boxes is its hardware. Inside we have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 6490 chipset running up to 2.7GHz, which makes this AI Box carry 3.5 times more single-core computing power than the more common QC6125 chipset found in current AI Boxes – a similar performance to more recent smartphones, such as the Samsung S21. Along with it comes a new and vastly more powerful GPU, the Adreno 643. Expect a performance boost of over 6.5 times that of the Adreno 610 found in earlier AI boxes with the QC6125/662.

Alongside this powerhouse of a chipset, we have the usual generous level of 8GB RAM, and there is up to 128GB of storage for downloaded apps and locally stored media. Both are more than enough for use in the car, running the usual suite of media apps and lightweight touchscreen games. This isn’t new in more recent AI Boxes, but the BIG difference is the QC6490 chip. It’s quite frankly game-changing!

The hardware also brings some new enhanced functionalities. There’s 5G SIM card support (for EU and Asia regions at least), and then there is WI-FI6E, which offers this AI Box a fast connection between WI-FI hotspots and mobiles that support up to 6E speeds (like the latest iPhones and Androids) – this is perfect for when tethering from your mobile – if inserting a spare SIM isn’t your ideal internet scenario.

You’ll find the common suite of apps on this AI Box, and sadly also the same kind of user interface as found on other ApplePie AI Boxes, which is such a huge disappointment for such a product that’s as revolutionary in its hardware. It stumbles and falls on this oversight of improving its software, and it will only take a brand to add the same QC6490 chipset along with a sleek and modern interface to allow me to tick that desirable box of mine. Luckily there are a few Android launchers on the Play Store (Nova launch and CarWebGuru would be a good starting point) that override their ancient stock interface with something slicker and more intuitive, and I’ll be bringing a video on the best way to do that in early 2024, so subscribe to my channel to be notified when that video goes live.

If you can work with such an interface you’re in for a real treat when it comes to using apps on this AI Box. Everything runs so well and smoothly, just as you would have expected on a new device that’s selling in 2023, which can’t be said for many AI Boxes released before it.

My test apps (Maps, Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix) all launched with record speeds. Opening Google Maps was so fast I had to get its timed result by freeze-framing a recorded video of it – it was 0.53s btw. Scrolling through lists of videos and movie tiles on YouTube and Netflix is now a joy, almost iPad-like, and a breath of fresh air for using this type of hardware in the car.

But it’s not all rosy with the ApplePie Rocket – we are never that lucky with AI Boxes, are we?! Using the Zlink5 app, Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto perform quite poorly, which is a surprise when this adapter can utilise WI-FI AC or AX to connect at up to 866.7mbps – a spec only seen on some dedicated wireless adapters. Connection, delay in touch and audio feedback aren’t the best performing on this adapter, and Android Auto suffers from poorer stream quality than some wireless adapters costing a quarter of its price, and there are some irregular connection issues too (common on these AI Boxes). If Android Auto is your only platform of choice, you can buy much better/cheaper elsewhere. Video casting from YouTube through the Zlink5 app can also be bettered elsewhere, with streaming quality and audio lag leaving much to be desired here – simply don’t bother.

Another unique feature of the ApplePie Rocket, is not only HDMI output, but it carries the addition of being able to select a specific app to display only on the external HDMI display. Reusing the same split-screen mode button, like it’s some kind of afterthought, you can have the likes of Google Maps running on your CarPlay display whilst streaming a video full screen to the external HDMI display on the back seat displays. It all sounds great, right? But in practice, it feels and performs like it’s very much a work-in-progress feature and isn’t fit for consumer use right now – its engineers really need to rethink how this feature works. You’ll also need a BT remote wand to get the best use out of it, but selecting the app and displaying how you want it to on the external display can really be hit and miss – mostly miss.

The Exploter ApplePie Rocket is one beast of a CarPlay AI Box when it comes to flexing its hardware muscle. Its heavyweight price reflects this too. But like most AI Boxes I have reviewed, there’s always a compromise that prevents me from ticking all my desirable boxes. The Rocket sadly comes with a few boxes unchecked, but depending on your own use case, these might not be significant enough to take the plunge and buy one. If that’s the case, picking up an ApplePie Rocket will truly feel like you’re using the next generation of CarPlay AI Boxes, albeit with an old and very tired user interface – more on that in a future video.

TIMESTAMPS:

0:00 – Brief overview
0:33 – Unboxing
1:10 – Features & Design
2:24 – Installation
3:56 – Menu interface
5:15 – Settings
6:34 – Installed Apps: Maps
7:15 – YouTube
8:15 – NetFlix
8:48 – Spotify
9:18 – VLC
11:01 – Wireless Apple CarPlay
13:28 – Wireless Android Auto
14:48 – Mirroring / AirPlay
15:47 – Gaming
17:33 – BT Remote & Controller Support
18:07 – HDMI Out & Dual Screen
19:03 – My Impressions

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