The Best Apple CarPlay AI Box Yet! | Ottocast PICASOU 2 CarPlay AI Box Review

In this video, I check out the Ottocast PICASOU 2 CarPlay AI Box, which turns out to be one of the best AI Boxes you can buy right now. But it comes at a price, which isn’t that far off the more high-end AI Boxes that are selling today with fewer specs and poorer menu interfaces.

You can buy this high-end AI Box for $294.99 directly from Ottocast (using coupon code CARPLAYLIFE) with local warehouse delivery and returns 👉🏻, or for $300 from Amazon US 👉🏻 https://amzn.to/3AQMMOb or from Amazon UK 👉🏻 https://amzn.to/3OPbBQI.

This is an Android 10 AI Box for factory Apple CarPlay and aftermarket systems. It features 4GB RAM and 64GB ROM, a fast Qualcomm 665 CPU and an Adreno 610 GPU. There is a dual card tray for expandable SD card storage of up to 128GB, and a 4G SIM card to provide internal internet to the dongle without the need to rely on a mobile hotspot or local Wi-Fi.

In the box you get a how-to-install card, a paper instructions manual, there is the PICASOU 2 AI Box itself, a SIM card tray removal tool, a USB-A to USB-C power cable, a USB-C to C cable for modern CarPlay ports in the car, and there is a bypass power cable should your CarPlay port not support sufficient power to the adapter – I guess.

Features & Design

Looking over the AI Box. Its round puck-like look is certainly different. On top, there is a clear plastic dome, which covers a round metal disc underneath with Ottocast branding on top. On the other side, there is a recessed area and a USB C input port to power the adapter.

There is also a physical reset hole here and tiny labels indicating the mini-HDMI port that is on the side of the adapter. Alongside this HDMI display output port is a SIM card tray, which once opened has the ability to store both a nano-SIM and an SD card in the tray. Once powered up the adapter’s logo and around the edges of the inner metal disc illuminates blue in colour.

Boot Up & Menu Interface

In my test, I connected the PICASOU 2 to my Pioneer 93DAB receiver in my demo pod. Bootup time took around 26 seconds before resting on its sleek-looking main menu interface.

Its home screen interface consists of a side dock and a series of widget panels. The side dock shows the time, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth status, the last two used apps, and shortcuts to launch the Google voice assistant. Below this are back and home navigation buttons – I can happily report there’s no floating button on this interface – YAY! 

The largest panel on the home screen is a shortcut to launch a chosen maps app, or you can choose to run a navigation version of a chosen maps app in this panel instead. Below this is a media player widget panel that will control any local or Bluetooth media file playback.

To the right of these panels, there are three additional panels. The first is a local weather, date and time widget. Below is a contacts widget, to access up to three of your favourite contacts. And below this panel, there is an app shortcut panel to access three of your favourite or most used apps. These can be configured to launch any app that’s installed on the AI Box.

Pre-Installed Apps

Swiping the home screen will reveal all the pre-installed apps on the adapter. Here you’ll find the usual suite of Google apps, Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and Waze, amongst other system and media apps. One, in particular, is an LED settings app that you can use to customise the adapter’s LED lights to any colour you choose. Any additional apps can be downloaded via the Google Play store, and there’s an APK installer for installing any unofficial or unsupported apps onto the adapter.

Overall I found its menu system to be fairly intuitive and responsive and it does a good job of keeping downloaded apps consistent with the stock UI elements. The adapter does require an internet connection to make full use of its home screen widgets though.

Hardware Specs

Once I had the adapter online, I downloaded the Device Info app to find out that the adapter is running the Qualcomm 665 chipset at 2GHz, and its GPU runs at 320MHz. In short, this adapter has the same specs as one of my favourite AI Box adapters from M.I.C.

So I fired up the Geekbench app to see if it performed just the same. After running its single core, multicore and GPU benchmark tests, it came out just a little ahead as the fastest AI Box I have tested, but there is very little between them, so I would say it has the same identical hardware inside as the M.I.C. adapter, which is a good thing for viewers in the US or Canada, as the M.I.C. is hard to source outside of Europe.

HDMI Display Output

Like the M.I.C. the PICASOU 2 also supports HDMI output to a second display, whether it be an HDMI monitor in the car, a TV or a projector. I tested this out on a portable HDMI monitor, my Samsung Ultrawide monitor, and my Samsung 64” TV, with audio successfully passing through to the connected display. As long as the adapter is powered via USB, it will boot up and display on the HDMI display, so this adapter is also good for taking to hotels or to the office to run Android apps onto a TV or monitor. Sadly its output doesn’t adjust to the ratio of the display it’s connected to, so content can look stretched or distorted on widescreen monitors.

Unfortunately, like the M.I.C., this AI Box doesn’t have dual Bluetooth either, so it wouldn’t connect to my Bluetooth Xbox controller. It will, however, pair with my wireless Bluetooth remote. So, overall, this may limit its use for gaming, apart from touch screen, one button or d-pad games that can be done from the remote. Using the remote, you can control the AI Box from a distance for things like browsing and watching Netflix or YouTube without a touchscreen monitor.

Android Gaming

Thanks to its fast processor, the PICASOU 2 is capable of playing some decent Android games on your CarPlay display. My test apps Crossy Road, Subway Surfer and Real Racing 3 had no problem running ok on the AI Box, however, without controller support, the variety of games you can download from the Google Play store will be a little limited.

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, and if you ever run out of space you can still continue to expand on this by inserting an SD card up to 128GB.

Getting Online

If you prefer to stream your video content you’ll need to get this adapter online. Without it, the adapter is pretty useless for running widgets and Android apps. You can choose to connect to a local Wi-Fi hotspot if your car has one, or a mobile data hotspot from your mobile phone, but using either of these methods will stop you from using wireless CarPlay or Android Auto on the AI Box. To get around this you will need to insert a SIM card with a mobile data plan into the adapter instead. That way the SIM is used for Android apps on the adapter, whilst the Wi-Fi can be used to operate wireless CarPlay and Android Auto.

Once online you can download any apps you desire from the Google Play Store and run video streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube. Audio playback in either of these apps was in sync, and navigation in each of the app’s menus is smooth when compared to lower-spec’d AI Boxes.

Being able to play Youtube and Netflix, or play Android games on the CarPlay display can have its advantages whilst waiting for your EV to charge, or if you’re waiting in your car for long periods of time.

Wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto

Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto use the basic MultiPlay Android app. This app has limited settings, and if you want to swap the dock location you can set this in the adapter’s own settings menu.

The PICASOU 2 has the same great Wi-Fi specs as the M.I.C. so I expected the same great wireless performance here too. Wireless Apple Carplay took 11 seconds and Android Auto took longer at 23 seconds to pair and connect to the AI Box, which matches the M.I.C.

From here, both car platforms behaved responsively to touch input, with the usual common Wi-Fi traits of a slight 1-2 second delay in music and navigation audio, whilst Android Auto continues to use the older full-screen mode on this AI Box. 

My Impressions

This PICASOU 2 CarPlay AI Box from Ottocast currently retails for using the coupon CARPLAYLIFE, or for $300 with a coupon from Amazon US. If compatibility is a concern I recommend you buy it from Amazon, so you have easy returns, and you can check out my links in this article to learn more about this AI Box and to buy one.

I recently read some Amazon reviews that state there are some issues with larger high-resolution car screens. Unfortunately, I don’t have one, so I can’t report if this is a widespread issue. But all I can say is that I tried this adapter on my 1024×600 display and my Pioneer 1280×720 display and I didn’t encounter any display cut-off issues on this adapter. If you want to be cautious, just buy it from Amazon. That way you get easy returns if it doesn’t work out for you.

Other than its lack of Bluetooth controller support, and a few choice decisions in its main menu interface, my overall impression of the PICASOU 2 was very good. So if you’re looking for a top-of-the-range AI Box for your CarPlay display, then the PICASOU 2 sets the benchmark as an AI Box to beat.

With its solid performing chipset, a more modern menu interface and sleek external looks. This CarPlay AI Box feels like Ottocast has made much more of an effort with this AI Box than most have ever done – yet all those boxes didn’t quite get ticked off due to its lack of dual Bluetooth controller support.

Maybe next time, Ottocast.

TIMESTAMPS:

0:00 – Brief overview
0:38 – Unboxing
1:03 – Features & design
1:43 – Boot up & menu interface
3:12 – Apps
3:53 – Online & specs
4:44 – HDMI TV output
6:02 – Gaming
6:39 – YouTube & Netflix apps
7:47 – Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto
8:39 – My Impressions

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