Boss Audio and sister brands Planet Audio and Sound Storm Laboratories today are introducing new car stereo head units that include support for wireless CarPlay and Android Auto at a price of just $400. With a capacitive 6.75-inch screen and support vehicle features like a rear camera and steering wheel controls, the new systems offer a solid value for those with older vehicles looking to update to a more modern head unit.

planet audio carplay main
I've had a chance to spend the past couple of weeks checking out the Planet Audio version of the head unit, model PCPA975W, and I've been pretty impressed with its performance and simplicity. While you won't get features like a CD/DVD player or built-in navigation, many users find those features unnecessary when much of that content can be driven straight from their phones.

Back in the early days of wireless ‌CarPlay‌, I was skeptical of its utility, considering the potential for running down the phone's battery and the fact that the car is frequently a good place to plug in and get a bit of a recharge during the day. As I've been able to spend substantial time using the feature, however, I've come to love it. So many car trips are short commutes or errands, and having ‌CarPlay‌ automatically pop up on the dash without having to take my phone out of my pocket is just so convenient.

planet audio carplay home
Between the short trip lengths and Apple's improvements in power management for wireless ‌CarPlay‌, pretty much any battery concerns I had about it have been a non-issue. If I'm taking a longer road trip, I'll certainly plug my phone in, but that's such a small fraction of my trips that it's rarely something I end up doing.

I won't really spend time going over the details of ‌CarPlay‌ itself here, as it's a pretty standard experience that most are familiar with by now, and Apple has steadily improved the experience over the years with features like the Dashboard, revamped Apple Maps, better support for third-party apps, and EV routing.

The new systems from Boss Audio aren't super flashy, but they certainly get the job done, at least as far as I've seen in my testing. User interfaces on both original and aftermarket infotainment systems have long lagged behind those of smartphones in their visual appeal and utility, but they're starting to make some real headway on that front. You won't mistake Boss's interface for that of an iPhone, but it's much better than some other ones I've used, including a previous Boss Audio system I tested just last year.

planet audio home
There's a solid range of connectivity options and supported sources, including terrestrial radio, Bluetooth streaming, USB media, and an AUX input for older iPods and other devices. An external microphone can be routed to a convenient spot like the headliner at the edge of the windshield for optimal performance. SiriusXM is not supported.

planet audio illumination
The 6.75-inch capacitive display with a resolution of 480x800 takes up the vast majority of the unit's face, and the display is bright and responsive to touch. There's some Planet Audio and model number branding along the bottom of the face, and then a strip of touch controls along the left side. The touch-sensitive buttons support multicolor illumination configured through the head unit's settings, and they offer quick access to a number of functions with a dedicated power/home button to help with navigating the system, a microphone button for activating Siri, up and down volume buttons, and a mute button.

planet audio radio
The user interface is simple and easy to navigate, with the radio screen offering a clear view of the currently tuned station, song and other information for stations that broadcast info via RBDS, and a strip with three pages of station preset slots. Onscreen icons offer access to tuning, station scanning, and an EQ that offers various preset sound profiles and the ability to customize your own.

planet audio eq
Setup for wireless ‌CarPlay‌ was easy, and all I needed to do was plug my phone into the system over USB, walk through a couple of steps to configure wired ‌CarPlay‌, and then toggle on the option for wireless ‌CarPlay‌. From that point on, I had few difficulties with ‌CarPlay‌. It does take 15 seconds or so for ‌CarPlay‌ to come up on the screen from the time you start the car, and I did have a couple of instances where it didn't automatically pop up, but it was easy enough to manually activate it from main screen on the head unit and the issue was likely related to brief hiccups between handing off between my home Wi-Fi network and the head unit as I departed my home.

planet audio bt phone
For those who don't want to use ‌CarPlay‌ or Android Auto, you can still pair your phone via Bluetooth for phone calls and media, which can be controlled through the head unit.

planet audio bt media
While $400 is a great value for a system that supports wireless ‌CarPlay‌, it's important to note that that's just for the head unit itself and there will be other costs involved in getting the unit installed in your car. Items like wiring harnesses to interface with your specific car model, modules for integrating with steering wheel controls and the backup camera, and a trim plate to match your car's dashboard will increase the cost. And if you don't feel comfortable doing the installation yourself and need a professional to do it, those ancillary costs for parts and labor could add up to more than the price of the head unit, doubling your costs.

Still, the cost may be worth it for a big upgrade in your driving experience, particularly if you're willing to do a self-install. Recent models have so much functionality packed into their native infotainment systems that it's not really feasible or desirable to swap them out for aftermarket units, but there are still plenty of cars on the road, some even only a few years old, that can certainly benefit from the technology upgrades available in these head units.

Boss Audio is debuting four new models today under its various brands: BOSS Audio BVCP9850W, Planet Audio PCPA975W, Sound Storm Laboratories DD999ACP, and BOSS Elite BE950WCPA. All four models are priced at $400 and they are essentially identical with the exception of branding.

Note: Boss Audio provided MacRumors with the Planet Audio PCPA975W unit and installation services for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Top Rated Comments

hortod1 Avatar
8 months ago
Something to consider if your car doesn’t have steering wheel controls: consider getting a unit that has a physical volume knob, especially if the head unit is mounted lower on your console. I put a Pioneer unit in my 98 4Runner years ago and didn’t realize until after using it for a few days, just how small the volume and mute buttons are - small enough that you have to take your eyes off the road to find them. A physical knob offers the tactile feedback that you don’t need to look down at the unit.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
McKodiak Avatar
8 months ago

Mass anger like when people complained about no audio jack?
that worked out well for all the complainers out there, I think they thought if they kept crying apple would bring back the audio jack.
can’t wait to hear them cry when iPhones are portless it’s going to be hysterical
Not being able to use your cheap wired headphones is different than not being able to use CarPlay with your $20k+ car. Yes Mass anger would be justified. Apple provided lightning headphones in the box.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Pipper99 Avatar
8 months ago

Are there any high res aftermarket Carplay head units out there?
I have a Kenwood DDX9905 hi res head unit in my Wrangler with wired CarPlay. I bought the Carlinkit 2 from Amazon for wireless CarPlay, and it’s worked surprisingly well (it does drain the battery quicker than I’d like, though).
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
locovaca Avatar
8 months ago
Last summer I bought a high end JVC (ddx9906xr) for just $100 more than this unit on closeout. It has Wireless Carplay as well but HD Radio, DVD, Sirius Support, and a higher res (1280x720) screen. The extra $100 was worth it for me as I need those features.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Freeangel1 Avatar
8 months ago
$400. what a steal.
Get an Alpine or Kenwood. someone that knows how to make head units.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SVTmaniac Avatar
8 months ago
Boss used to be a brand I’d laugh at, but I admit they have stepped their game up recently.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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