Review: Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX receiver proves wireless CarPlay is the way to go

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in iPhone
The Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX is a phenomenal aftermarket car stereo head unit that bakes in wireless CarPlay and much more. AppleInsider takes you for a ride to check it out.

Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX
Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX


We've waited eagerly for wireless CarPlay to catch on amongst auto manufacturers, but they've continued to release new vehicles with a physical tether. This led us to pursue aftermarket solutions to this issue, of which there are now several.

The Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX was our first head unit of choice and we quickly had it installed in our Chevy Cruze. The installation didn't take long -- though easily outside our scope of car knowledge. Our vehicle wasn't particularly new, which means not all features of the unit were able to be taken advantage of, such as the dual camera inputs.




A great head unit

This receiver is a double-din unit with a 7-inch resistive touchscreen with a matte finish and a resolution of 800 by 400. It supports both wireless CarPlay and wireless Android Auto. There is a wealth of configurable options such as backgrounds, color schemes, and immense audio EQ adjustments.

Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX
Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX


There are a few physical controls along the bottom of the unit to navigate to the splash screen as well as to control volume and other minor controls. From the splash screen, you can jump into any number of different functions. The shortcut bar on the bottom can be customized with several of your favorite shortcuts such as for Sirius XM, USB audio, and others.

Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX with car guages
Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX with car guages


In our Chevy Cruze, much vehicle information was also readily available on this head unit. We could view our climate control, tire pressures, and which doors were open. Gauges also displayed our speed, RPM, fuel, and much more. Different vehicles will have different car stats available.

Some prefer capacitive displays rather than the resistive found here, but we had no qualms with its responsiveness. Each touch was always recognized and the matte finish reduces the glare from the sun while driving. We also didn't have to press the screen with any amount of notable force in order for it to register.

CarPlay

Our biggest reason for picking up the AVH-W4400NEX was for the wireless CarPlay abilities.

Our iPhone automatically found the receiver and paired on first setup. Once set up, each time we got in the vehicle it would connect and resume our audio where we left off previously. Occasionally, our iPhone did seem to be slightly confused when the vehicle shut off and we were on a phone call and took a few moments to correctly route the audio back to the earpiece -- a problem our wired CarPlay system hasn't encountered.

Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX swapping controlling devices
Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX swapping controlling devices


For us, we have two different iPhones we use with CarPlay and luckily it is easy to move between the two. From the main splash screen, our device can be tapped which opens the CarPlay menu. Here we can see both connected phones and choose which one is broadcasting to the unit. My phone was first on the list, so when both devices are in the car it is the one that connects by default.

Inside of the CarPlay interface, everything looks great. Which is, of course, the part designed by Apple. The rest of the UI though does feel a bit dated and clunky. You only have to rarely use it luckily, but when you do the experience is slightly jarring from the clean lines of Apple's design.

When using CarPlay, we saw next to no issues being wireless over wired. The CarPlay interface itself had no lag while navigating or responding to us opening/closing apps.

There was about a one second delay when controlling audio, however. When we would tap play/pause on our iPhone, the screen would recognize the change immediately and show it as such on the display, but the audio would be just a hair behind the visual change. It wasn't bothersome but it was noticable. That is the only "issue" we really experienced and find the wireless capabilities far outweigh that minor niggle.

Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX wireless CarPlay
Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX wireless CarPlay


By going with wireless CarPlay, we were finally able to go with a wireless car charger as well. We love using something like the iOttie iTap to charge our phone just by placing it down rather than having to hook up any cable. Going wireless does drain battery compared to being wired, but by coupling it with a Qi car charger you get the best of both worlds.

If you are picking up a new car, you may not have an option for wireless CarPlay. If you have an existing vehicle that can be outfitted with a new head unit, the convenience makes it an easy choice.

Rating: 4 out of 5

You can grab the Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX from Amazon for just under $500, though you will still need to have it installed on your vehicle. Be sure your vehicle can support it, and you have a trained mechanic available for the install or to give advice on any other wiring or dash kits you may need.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,419member
    Back in the day, when car radios in many cars were standard DIN sized, I used to always buy an aftermarket radio, usually an Alpine.   But today, in most cars, even older cars without bit-mapped screens, since the entertainment system and the HVAC system are integrated, I don't see how an aftermarket system can work, although it obviously worked in the Chevy.   

    Are there any common standards for these units like there used to be?    
    burnsidecornchip
  • Reply 2 of 51
    big kcbig kc Posts: 112member
    Resistive screen. BIG BIG bummer and a non-starter. You have to go up to the much more expensive model to get a proper capacitive screen. I'd stay 500 miles away from anything with a resistive screen.
    StrangeDaysfreediverxhmurchisonameldrum1
  • Reply 3 of 51
    HeliBumHeliBum Posts: 57member
    zoetmb said:
    Back in the day, when car radios in many cars were standard DIN sized, I used to always buy an aftermarket radio, usually an Alpine.   But today, in most cars, even older cars without bit-mapped screens, since the entertainment system and the HVAC system are integrated, I don't see how an aftermarket system can work, although it obviously worked in the Chevy.   

    Are there any common standards for these units like there used to be?    
    You can put a double-DIN radio in most any car. You just have to buy the appropriate dash kit, which replaces the factory radio panel with one designed for a DIN radio. It may not be very pretty, as was the case in my 2012 Highlander, whose factory radio had huge volume and tuner knobs; the dash kit was shaped to cover the semicircular holes left behind my the factory radio.

    I've been running this head unit for a few months and love it. As far as I'm concerned, wireless chargers in cars are worthless unless there a wireless way to get music into the sound system.

    edited April 12 cgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 51
    HeliBumHeliBum Posts: 57member
    big kc said:
    Resistive screen. BIG BIG bummer and a non-starter. You have to go up to the much more expensive model to get a proper capacitive screen. I'd stay 500 miles away from anything with a resistive screen.
    As resistive screens go, it's actually reasonably responsive.
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 51
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,204member
    For years now the audio systems of cars have been heavily integrated with the car systems - turn signal sounds play through the speakers, vehicle system controls and backup cameras use the same screen, etc.  I’m not that picky about my car’s sound system so getting an aftermarket system was never a concern for me but I’ve often wondered how it would work both aesthetically and functionally, and if you would end up losing functionality. 

    It’d be really nice to get car play in our odyssey, but not if we lose other functions. 
    bonobobwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 51
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,204member
    big kc said:
    Resistive screen. BIG BIG bummer and a non-starter. You have to go up to the much more expensive model to get a proper capacitive screen. I'd stay 500 miles away from anything with a resistive screen.
    The problem with capacitive screens in cars is they don’t work with gloves.
    dewmegregoriusmameldrum1cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 51
    karmadavekarmadave Posts: 303member
    I had one of these installed in my 2014 Honda Accord and really like it. Would have preferred a factory-installed CarPlay unit, but most manufacturers only started offering them in the last couple years. My only advice would be to make sure you have it installed by a qualified car audio shop. These can be extremely tricky to install on late model vehicles and my installation had a few hitches. Everything works great and I love the having CarPlay. It actually makes Siri useful ;-) 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 51
    big kc said:
    Resistive screen. BIG BIG bummer and a non-starter. You have to go up to the much more expensive model to get a proper capacitive screen. I'd stay 500 miles away from anything with a resistive screen.
    I was under the impression that CarPlay was supposed to require a touchscreen. At least, that’s something I seem to remember back when CarPlay was first announce, though I could be wrong. My wife’s car with CarPlay doesn’t have a touch screen at all, it’s all controlled through a dial on the console. I like using CarPlay but the dial being the only way to interface kinda sucks. A resistive touch screen would be much better than what we currently have.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 51
    big kcbig kc Posts: 112member
    As resistive screens go, it's actually reasonably responsive.
    Responsiveness isn't the only issue. The requirement for pressure to make it work is a durability problem, and in your car is not where you want a durability issue. Resistive screens are an inferior, cost-saving choice, that's the bottom line. I would never put one in my car.
    cgWerksameldrum1
  • Reply 10 of 51
    hodarhodar Posts: 260member
    MplsP said:
    For years now the audio systems of cars have been heavily integrated with the car systems - turn signal sounds play through the speakers, vehicle system controls and backup cameras use the same screen, etc.  I’m not that picky about my car’s sound system so getting an aftermarket system was never a concern for me but I’ve often wondered how it would work both aesthetically and functionally, and if you would end up losing functionality. 

    It’d be really nice to get car play in our odyssey, but not if we lose other functions. 
    Your points are very valid, with many higher end cars incorporating security not only into the audio system, but including the car's CANBUS communications into the audio system as well (blinkers through speakers, etc).  I haven't updated a "head unit" in years, and frankly I'm a bit intimidated about how much potential damage I may inflict in the goal to improve the audio experience -

    On the plus side, there are many cable harness adapters out there, that will plug directly into your car's harness and route the signals to the correct corresponding wire harness on your stereo.  Some are adapters that have naked wires and require soldering; some are end to end harness sets (depending upon popularity of your vehicle, and the brand of the stereo).  This is not for the faint hearted; I would suggest researching and buying the best cable adapters you can find - as sitting under the dash with a hot soldering iron is even less fun today, than it was in the late 1970's.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 11 of 51
    I have Apple Car Play in my 2019 RAV4 but only wired. My biggest complaint about it is that sometimes the car doesn’t even detect that the phone is connected (official Apple cable). I actually have to restart the car to make it read the phone. I don’t know how much better wireless connection will be. 
  • Reply 12 of 51
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,027member
    zoetmb said:
    Back in the day, when car radios in many cars were standard DIN sized, I used to always buy an aftermarket radio, usually an Alpine.   But today, in most cars, even older cars without bit-mapped screens, since the entertainment system and the HVAC system are integrated, I don't see how an aftermarket system can work, although it obviously worked in the Chevy.   

    Are there any common standards for these units like there used to be?    
    Yeah, that's my problem too, even if I decided this was the way to go. It would be an EXPENSIVE project, not even including the quite expensive price of the unit itself.

    You have to research your particular vehicle, and sometimes even variation or option-set (as stereos and dash layouts can vary). And, unless you really like to dig in, it is probably something you're going to have to spend yet more to have a professional shop do (and hopefully do well... that shouldn't be assumed, either).

    And, same here, I always had an aftermarket car stereo up until maybe somewhere in the mid-2000s.

    karmadave said:
    Everything works great and I love the having CarPlay. It actually makes Siri useful ;-) 
    That's one thing I was just thinking about. What do you mean by that? I guess Apple actually does better with audio routing and such with CarPlay, right?

    But, you still have to reach up and touch that screen to do things, right? I have my phone mounted in front of my stereo anyway, so I can reach up and touch it, too. It's just that reaching up to touch screens isn't nearly as safe as using knobs. It's quite distracting to try and look at a screen, decide where you need to touch, and then try to do so while driving. I think this trend is bad, actually.

    What I'd really like, is for Siri to be able to answer the friggin' phone! Can that be done with Siri Shortcuts somehow? The ONE feature, which would actually make driving with a phone safer, Apple decides to exclude.
  • Reply 13 of 51
    cgWerks said:

    But, you still have to reach up and touch that screen to do things, right? I have my phone mounted in front of my stereo anyway, so I can reach up and touch it, too. It's just that reaching up to touch screens isn't nearly as safe as using knobs. It's quite distracting to try and look at a screen, decide where you need to touch, and then try to do so while driving. I think this trend is bad, actually.
    I disagree. As I stated earlier my wife’s car doesn’t have a touch screen so everything in CarPlay is controlled by a knob on the console. It can be a real pain trying to switch between apps (although I should try having Siri do it).

    Using the knob is simple but it’s also very easy to overshoot the target I wanted to land on, correct and overshoot in the opposite direction and so forth.  To be clear, the on screen buttons are highlighted in blue if selected. Rotating the knob counter clockwise moves the selection to the left until it reaches the end of that “line” at which point it goes to the next line up and starts on the right side. So, if I’m on the Music screen and the Repeat button is highlighted I have to rotate counter clockwise a few clicks to get to the play button. Two more clicks gets me to the album name, one more gets me to Up Next, then Back and then to the apps listed on the left side. Turning clockwise moves the selection to the right.

    Last month we were on vacation. Our rental was a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee that had CarPlay and a touch screen. It was the first chance I’ve had to use CarPlay with a touch screen and I found much nicer and less distracting to use than the knob in the car.


    coolfactorStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 51
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,128member
    I don't know if they offer this unit, but a few years back I bought a DIY upgrade for my Accord from Crutchfield.   Knowing that my talent does not lie in this area I was a bit nervous.   But, Crutchfield walked me through the process with a unit that did what I wanted (at a reasonable price), fit my car perfectly using the dash kit they supplied and, connected to my car's wiring smoothly with their wiring kit.   It took a couple hours mostly because I was working so slowly and carefully (especially around the dash clips), but their instructions were clear and very detailed -- all the way down to where every single clip was located!

    With all the help I got from Crutchfield, I highly recommend them for anybody doing a DIY install.


    StrangeDays
  • Reply 15 of 51
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,027member
    ihatescreennames said:
    I disagree. As I stated earlier my wife’s car doesn’t have a touch screen so everything in CarPlay is controlled by a knob on the console. It can be a real pain trying to switch between apps (although I should try having Siri do it).  ... Last month we were on vacation. Our rental was a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee that had CarPlay and a touch screen. It was the first chance I’ve had to use CarPlay with a touch screen and I found much nicer and less distracting to use than the knob in the car.
    I think we're talking - a bit - about two different things here, though. Yes, many of the 'knob' interfaces to try and control overly-complex stuff are pretty horrible. But, I'm more talking about the what is required in terms of distraction/focus to operate either type of interface.

    For example, turning a physical knob to increase the volume is much less distracting than identifying where some slider is on a screen, then getting ones finger on that precise point and doing something with it..... while driving.

    And... I'd argue that doing more complex lookup or selection of stuff is something you shouldn't be doing while driving, with either type of system! Yes, it's easier and less frustrating with a touch-screen, but both are going to take too much attention off the road.

    I find it silly that they are implementing laws about holding a phone up to your ear, or holding it at all while driving, yet this kind of stuff is allowed. A bit of common sense is necessary, but it seems that is utterly lost on the masses these days. So, they try to make rules to compensate and end up with an inconsistent mess.

    Maybe a better way of putting it, is that complex interfaces for anything, done in any manner, in cars (meant for the driver) are a bad thing if they are using them while driving.
    BTW... I should try to find it again, but there was an actual study done on this a year or two back, and if I remember the results were really, really bad.... like worse than drunk-driving bad, if I recall.
  • Reply 16 of 51
    cgWerks said:
    ihatescreennames said:
    I disagree. As I stated earlier my wife’s car doesn’t have a touch screen so everything in CarPlay is controlled by a knob on the console. It can be a real pain trying to switch between apps (although I should try having Siri do it).  ... Last month we were on vacation. Our rental was a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee that had CarPlay and a touch screen. It was the first chance I’ve had to use CarPlay with a touch screen and I found much nicer and less distracting to use than the knob in the car.
    I think we're talking - a bit - about two different things here, though. Yes, many of the 'knob' interfaces to try and control overly-complex stuff are pretty horrible. But, I'm more talking about the what is required in terms of distraction/focus to operate either type of interface.

    For example, turning a physical knob to increase the volume is much less distracting than identifying where some slider is on a screen, then getting ones finger on that precise point and doing something with it..... while driving.

    And... I'd argue that doing more complex lookup or selection of stuff is something you shouldn't be doing while driving, with either type of system! Yes, it's easier and less frustrating with a touch-screen, but both are going to take too much attention off the road.

    I find it silly that they are implementing laws about holding a phone up to your ear, or holding it at all while driving, yet this kind of stuff is allowed. A bit of common sense is necessary, but it seems that is utterly lost on the masses these days. So, they try to make rules to compensate and end up with an inconsistent mess.

    Maybe a better way of putting it, is that complex interfaces for anything, done in any manner, in cars (meant for the driver) are a bad thing if they are using them while driving.
    BTW... I should try to find it again, but there was an actual study done on this a year or two back, and if I remember the results were really, really bad.... like worse than drunk-driving bad, if I recall.
    Ah, yes. I'm with you. For the more complex stuff, like looking up a song, I use Siri. We actually use Siri quite a bit in the car for sending/reading texts, playing music, getting directions, arming and disarming our home security system, etc. I actually don't mind using the knob when I'm a passenger, but that's pretty rare.

    I remember when Myth Busters did a segment where they did a comparison to drunk driving and driving on a cell phone. I believe drunk driving won, but the test was really stupid. For instance, when the driver was on the cell phone they weren't just having a normal conversation. Instead they were required to do math problems in their head and were being timed on how quickly they could get through the course at the same time. Come on. The other thing that bugs me is that any test I've seen like that doesn't take into account something I do all the time when I'm talking and driving: when something happens in front of me that requires more attention I stop having the conversation immediately, whether I'm on the phone or talking to someone in the car.
  • Reply 17 of 51
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 210member
    zoetmb said:
    Back in the day, when car radios in many cars were standard DIN sized, I used to always buy an aftermarket radio, usually an Alpine.   But today, in most cars, even older cars without bit-mapped screens, since the entertainment system and the HVAC system are integrated, I don't see how an aftermarket system can work, although it obviously worked in the Chevy.   

    Are there any common standards for these units like there used to be?    
    There are integration computers which act like various manufacturers' factory head units to the car, then talk a consistent interface to the aftermarket head unit. The one I've used in the past is the iDatalink Maestro. You load it with firmware describing the protocol the car uses, then plug it in. It comes with a bunch of pigtails you can use to permanently wire it in, or you can get wiring harnesses which connect almost everything with plugs (generally you still need to solder or crimp the parking brake sensor wire).
    gregoriusmStrangeDaysescargot
  • Reply 18 of 51
    ebernetebernet Posts: 21member
    I understand but am still hard pressed to see why I would want a wireless car play solution. I have a CarPlay solution in my car (aftermarket) and find that I cannot use navigation without power (as Apple has indicated). Having used Wireless charging at home and in other cars, I find it unreliable and unable to keep up with real power demands. To use Wireless CarPlay I would need to have my phone plugged in to charge unless I am driving for just a few moments and am willing to put up with gradual power loss (maybe slower, but still power loss - Wireless Charging simply cannot keep power draw neutral when using navigation). Given that limitation, and the higher speed and quality I can achieve with a wire that both charges AND connects to my Head Unit, why would I spend a few hundred more and put up with the lag? ESPECIALLY after market where I would most likely ALSO have to install the Wireless Charger?
    StrangeDaysdesignr
  • Reply 19 of 51
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,141member
    I got the one with wireless iPhone connection and a better touch screen but very similar otherwise.  Love it.
    edited April 12 watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 51
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,141member
    ebernet said:
    I understand but am still hard pressed to see why I would want a wireless car play solution. I have a CarPlay solution in my car (aftermarket) and find that I cannot use navigation without power (as Apple has indicated). Having used Wireless charging at home and in other cars, I find it unreliable and unable to keep up with real power demands. To use Wireless CarPlay I would need to have my phone plugged in to charge unless I am driving for just a few moments and am willing to put up with gradual power loss (maybe slower, but still power loss - Wireless Charging simply cannot keep power draw neutral when using navigation). Given that limitation, and the higher speed and quality I can achieve with a wire that both charges AND connects to my Head Unit, why would I spend a few hundred more and put up with the lag? ESPECIALLY after market where I would most likely ALSO have to install the Wireless Charger?
    Not sure I follow much of that. I've had a Pioneer wireless Car Play for a few months and love it.  It is totally seamless, you just get in the car with your iPhone ion your pocket and it works all just works.  The only time I need to plug the phone into the USB charger is on a very long journey.
    escargotwatto_cobra
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