The Nifty Box CarPlay Android 10 AI Box Review

In this video, I check out The Nifty Box CarPlay Android 10 AI Box.

You can buy this AI Box adapter currently for $329 US / £329 UK / €314 EU on sale direct from NiftyCity Store 👉🏻 https://bit.ly/niftybox.

This is yet another, rather familiar looking AI box for Carplay systems that offers a medium-level processor, a modern UI with lots of additional functionality and visuals, and there is the usual 4G SIM and SD card support, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto support, video casting and video streaming from some pre-installed apps including YouTube, Hulu, Disney+ and Netflix on your CarPlay display.

In the box, you get The Nifty Box itself, and it comes with a short USB-A to C cable to power the adapter, and there is also a similar sized USB-C to C cable for more modern Carplay vehicles. An up-to-date manual is downloadable after purchasing the adapter or via the QR code that’s on the back of the box.

Features & Design

Its external shape and design near identical to an adapter that I also reviewed recently from MMB, so I am expecting similar or the same results here. At one end there is a USB-C port to power it, and on the opposite end, there are SIM card and TF card slots underneath a plastic protective flap, to give the adapter a dedicated internet connection for the installed Android apps, and additional storage for media playback and downloading more apps.

On top, there is a large Nifty Box logo and there is a status indicator light which glows whilst the adapter is powered. Underneath there are lots of passive cooling holes and in the middle, there’s a silver-coloured metal heatsink plate to help keep the main SOC cool.

I couldn’t get The Nifty Box working on any portable CarPlay display, however, it worked fine on my Alpine and the Pioneer CarPlay receivers. Once powered, The Nifty Box displayed the same initial boot animation sequence as the MMB Max before ending on the same main home screen menu. The total boot-up time took 28 seconds, which makes it the second fastest AI Box to the Picassou 2 Pro from Ottocast and 3 seconds faster than the MMB Max.

Main Menu Interface

This menu system is one of the better-looking interfaces on an AI Box right now with a choice of three main layouts, with the ability to customise and move the main top row of panels to your liking, and along the bottom, there are two buttons on the left to go to the home screen and invoke the Google assistant, followed by four favourite apps of your choosing, and on the right-hand side there is the time, date, and small status bar icons, that when tapped act as a shortcut to go into the adapter’s preference pane.

From this preference pane, you can view the time and date and be able to toggle things like mobile data connection, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it’s also here where you can select from the three layouts and return to Android Auto or Carplay as well as return back to the original car system.

Swiping left from the home screen will take you to a few screens of pre-installed Android apps. Whilst wiping to the right from the home screen brings up an overview screen that shows the CPU temperature, current RAM and ROM use, and GPS satellite connections.

Apps

All the usual apps come preinstalled on the adapter, including the usual Google suite of apps, along with common functionality such as CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth music, APK manager, and many more popular streaming apps such as Disney+, Netflix, YouTube and HULU apps. There are also some additional bespoke apps dedicated to this launcher software that allows you to change the background wallpaper, enhance the audio in the EQ app, upload a custom start-up animation, and toggle a background animation as a cleaner alternative to the main home screen. 

Whilst in any app, a small floating button displays for a few seconds on top of the running Android app. Luckily this button doesn’t overlay itself over CarPlay and Android Auto, so you get a full-screen experience there. Selecting this button lets you go back, return home, cancel any running applications, switch and close any running apps, and invoke the Google Assistant.

Like all AI boxes, you need to give this AI Box an internet connection, via either a Wi-Fi hotspot, tethering to your mobile phone Wi-Fi hotspot, or by using the internal data SIM card slot to give its own internet connection. I tried calling from this adapter and although there is a phone app, it can’t call from an inserted SIM card, instead, it will call from your connected device over Bluetooth.

YouTube & Netflix

Once online you can go to the Google Play store to download any of your favourite apps. Any apps not present on the store will require downloading from APK mirror sites and side-loading them onto the adapter instead.

YouTube and Netflix apps ran fine and smoothly with no significant or obvious drops in frames or audio being out of sync. The picture in picture mode is also present here like most other AI Boxes.

I downloaded the Device Info and Geekbench apps onto the AI box and this confirmed that The Nifty Box shared the same hardware as the MMB Max adapter, which sadly doesn’t benchmark as well as its competitors in the same price range. Its Wi-Fi specs are on the high end of AI Boxes, offering Wi-Fi5 and 433mbps bandwidth which is good for video casting and wireless CarPlay and Android Auto.

Video Casting

Unlike the MMB Max, I couldn’t get video casting to work with either my iPhone or Android, device, and after a good 30 minutes of trying, I soon gave up. Video casting on these adapters can be hit and miss at the best of times, so I find for the best experience, it’s best to play video directly from an installed Android app instead.

You can drop an SD card full of media into The Nifty Box to playback audio and videos onto your CarPlay display via apps like VLC. In my high bitrate tests, there were some frame drops, but not too many, whilst much lighter video files seemed to playback smoother.

The Nifty Box is the second adapter I’ve tested that does true 60fps in its UI and apps. Yet even then, the graphics in some test games struggled to keep up with a decent framerate. So I wouldn’t let this 60fps support dominate your buying decision. Simple 3D games like Crossy Road had some frame drops and slight input lag, whilst its Vulkan GPU bench test came up very low against other AI Boxes running alternative chipsets.

Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto

Using its connecting app for wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, I tested boot-up times of 18.45 for Apple CarPlay and 12.83 for the newly released Android Auto update, which is 2-3 faster into CarPlay than the MMB Max running the same hardware and a second slower into Android Auto. 

Connecting to Android Auto was more reliable on the Nifty Box, but once in Android Auto, it had the same lower resolution on the high-definition display of the Pioneer compared to how it can display on other capable AI Box adapters. So in light of this, I would not recommend this adapter for Android Auto use unless your system resolution is also low. CarPlay on the other hand performed fine, and like the MMB Max, you can configure the AI Box to auto-launch into CarPlay after its initial boot sequence. I tested recording an audio message via Siri, which sounded good enough as any AI Box, and it didn’t distort or increase the volume in any way.

I tried a number of Bluetooth devices and peripherals, but I couldn’t connect to an ODBII device, and I was only able to get my alternative Bluetooth remote to work with it successfully, which the MMB Max could not. NiftyCity also sells a similar Bluetooth remote with an integrated keyboard, which makes it easier for browsing and text input. 

My Impressions

The Nifty Box CarPlay adapter retails for $329 or £276 directly from the NiftyCity Shop and its Bluetooth remote and keyboard retails for $30. And I’ll leave links to learn more about this adapter down below to learn more and to buy yourself one.

Just like the MMB Max, this AI Box has one the best user interfaces out there, but underneath all this shiny exterior, its hardware limits its full potential with some below-average performance in particular app launching and low CPU and GPU benchmarking. So when compared to other AI Boxes in its price range, this adapter takes 5th place out of my Top 5 AI Boxes. So if you’re looking to do more than just watch videos, I believe you can do better by looking elsewhere.

TIMESTAMPS:

0:00 – Brief overview
0:35 – Unboxing
0:52 – Features & Design
1:36 – Boot-up & main menu interface
4:07 – Internet connections
4:35 – Apps YouTube & Netflix
5:07 – Specs & performance
5:33 – Video casting & video playback
6:15 – 60fps and gaming
6:45 – Wireless CarPlay & Android Auto
7:59 – BT device connections
8:23 – My Impressions

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