UPDATE: #3 Wireless CarPlay Dongle in my new 2022 round-up – View this here!
Enjoy my review for the updated CPLAY2air Wireless Adapter for factory CarPlay systems and aftermarket stereos that features a faster Wi-Fi chipset.
You can buy this updated CPLAY2air dongle for $99.95 from CarPlay2Air directly here → https://amzn.to/3sg3ntG
So the original CPLAY2air wireless Apple CarPlay dongle was the first wireless CarPlay adapter I reviewed, over a year and a half ago now, and it still manages to sell well today. Over the last few weeks CarPlay2Air reached out to me to tell me about their new updated wireless adapter that has been released, so let’s jump in and see what’s new.
First things first, the box has changed to packaging that is more in keeping with their own brand – the original white box was quite generic looking. Inside the box, things are more unchanged. The dongle sits proudly in the recessed packaging along with a small paper manual that oddly shows the AUTOKIT red UI in its imagery (whereas this dongle still came with the older green UI).
Looking at the dongle itself, it’s pretty much identical to the original dongle, with the most obvious exception of its new shinier case design, which has replaced the rough textured look on the original dongle. Personally, I find the shinier plastic cheapens the look of the dongle for me.
The permanently attached USB cable is still here on this dongle, whereas other wireless dongle brands have chosen a removable USB-C cable. This means if you have a modern vehicle with a USB-C CarPlay input port, you will have to use an additional converter with this dongle, which they don’t offer to supply. The cable length is the same, yet the thickness is slightly thinner on the newer dongle.
The newer case design is slightly less rounded, and on top of the case it has a smaller logo, and there is an etched model number in the bottom corner of the dongle.
Install and Performance
In my video, we saw that, unfortunately, the boot menu is still the older and slower green UI. After seeing the faster AUTOKIT red UI of the Ottocast wireless adapter in my previous video, I was hoping that, after seeing it mentioned in the manual, they might have updated the new dongle with this new faster UI, but sadly that wasn’t the case. Maybe they will in a future firmware update…
With the same interface as the original dongle, it means that boot-up times were pretty much the same as other green UI dongles that I have reviewed, which is a shame. Your own boot-up time will vary based on your own system. But for me, I was getting around 27-39 seconds on my Alpine CarPlay receiver. This could be improved by flashing the dongle with the AUTOKIT firmware, so lookout for a future video where I will walk you through the process of flashing this dongle with the red UI.
So on the surface, you would think there isn’t much difference between both versions of the dongle. However, one main difference and advantage of this dongle, over any other dongle I have reviewed, was when I checked out the Wi-Fi signal rate of this dongle.
Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac Confirmed!
Using a Wi-Fi network monitor app on my Mac, I was able to test all the Wireless CarPlay Dongles and Android AI boxes for their Wi-Fi standard, their maximum data speeds, and Wi-Fi signal quality.
My findings showed that this CarPlay dongle was the only wireless adapter to feature Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), with 2 antennas inside, and a max data rate of 866.7 Megabits per second. Its signal quality was around -63 dBm which is in the ideal range for Wi-Fi. It has the best signal performance out of all the wireless adapters I tested, with the older CPLAY2air measuring a little lower at -69 dBm. In comparison, the MMB Plus and Android AI Boxes were also Wi-Fi 5 but they all have only one antenna with a max data rate of half the new CPLAY2air dongle at 433.3 Megabits per second.
So what does this mean exactly? Well, with this new internal hardware, this new dongle should offer an improved and more stable signal for wireless CarPlay between your iPhone and the dongle. With its double antennas, max data rate, and ideal signal rate, voice calling should be improved as well as general video and audio latency, but in practice, I didn’t see any noticeable differences. In general, audio latency still will never match the speed of using CarPlay with a Lighting cable.
The newly updated CarPlay2Air wireless CarPlay adapter retails for $130 or £95 directly from CPLAY2air and its model replaces the current model that sold before it.
It’s a shame to see these newer dongles are so sensitive to charging or powering devices from the USB port. The dongles that are good at that are the Android AI boxes from JoyeAuto and Ottocast. But in general, the new Wi-Fi chipset is worth buying this dongle for its improved latency in calling and music audio, and if I can flash this dongle with AUTOKIT UI successfully, then on paper, and in my experience, we may have a very good performing dongle on our hands – unfortunately, having tried numerous times to flash it to AUTOKIT, I was unsuccessful in getting past the solid red light on the dongle.
If you’re interested in buying this dongle for your CarPlay supported stereo and you want to check if it is compatible. Click on my link in the description below and scroll down the page to view their full compatibility list and see if your vehicle or aftermarket receiver is mentioned, if it isn’t you can reach out to their support team for clarification.
0:00 – Intro
0:23 – Brief overview
0:47 – Physical comparisons
2:13 – Install and pairing
3:48 – Full boot-up into wireless CarPlay tests
5:12 – Wireless dongle settings and firmware version
5:57 – Spotify audio test and latency
6:52 – iPhone and dock charging test
8:34 – Original CPLAY2air dongle boot-up test
9:23 – Differences summary
9:54 – My Impressions
10:44 – New Wi-Fi chipset test
13:28 – Vehicle compatibility