When buying a car, one of the things you should consider is its entertainment or infotainment system. These usually come in the form of a head unit that may vary in size depending on the manufacturer. It serves as one of the main ways for you to keep yourself and your passengers entertained during long journeys, and can even assist you with navigation. That being said, we created a quick guide to help you understand what features you might need and what features to look out for when it comes to your vehicle’s infotainment system. This applies to those looking to buy an aftermarket head unit, or for those looking to get a new vehicle but can’t quite decide between certain variants.
As a bit of a backgrounder, there are two commonly used “sizes” when it comes to head units in the automotive market. These are the 1DIN and the 2DIN, the term “DIN” refers to a specific measurement of 2x8 inches. It also stands for Deutch Industry Normen which is the standardized radio size for European vehicles. This will help you understand what head unit will be able to fit in your vehicle. It is important to note that some manufacturers will use their own infotainment system designs for their vehicles, and as such, looking for an aftermarket option might be a difficult process.
Out of the two available sizes on the market, the 1DIN form factor is the most compact and can even be the most affordable option on the market. These are found on the entry-level models of certain vehicles and do the job of providing music, and not much else. However, it is important to note that there are 1-DIN head units that do come with touchscreens, but these can often be expensive and are a rare sight on vehicles being sold in the Philippines as standard.
What you will want to look out for, in terms of functionality, is if it comes with auxiliary input, a USB port, or even with Bluetooth if applicable. Some vehicles may have all three features available, while others may only have auxiliary input and not much else. It is best to look for a head unit that has all three, if there is an applicable variant or if the budget is permitting.
Another common size is the 2-DIN, as the name suggests it’s almost double the size of its 1-DIN counterpart and comes with the advantage of a larger form factor. With more space available, these head units often come with touchscreens allowing for a better and sometimes easier user interface. These head units also carry over the same capabilities as their 1-DIN counterparts coming with auxiliary input, USB ports, and Bluetooth. Thanks to their bigger size and screens, these head units may even come with reverse camera support and may even include screen mirroring applications such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These are often found in mid- to top-range versions of vehicles, and as such can prove to be an expensive upgrade if you choose to go with these variants.
While these sizes aren’t as common as the 1- and 2-DIN sizes on the market, some automakers have proprietary sizes for their infotainment systems. This was done so that they could accommodate certain features for their vehicles, such as a 360-degree camera or other specific applications that were designed for the car. Finding aftermarket options for these can be a daunting task, however, these head units already come fairly well equipped. Like their 2-DIN counterparts, these often already come standard with Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary inputs. While some may not come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, they do come with their own set of screen mirroring phone applications.
What are the basic features to look out for?
Depending on your budget, if you want to replace the existing unit in your vehicle, or with the head unit available with the vehicle you want to buy, these are the basic functions to look out for.
First is radio. As the primary source of entertainment in your vehicle, you will need the head unit to, at the very least, have radio functionality. This will let you listen to music and to the latest news and current events.
Next is auxiliary input. While only serving as a way to connect your phone to the sound system of the vehicle, it’s still a great feature to have, especially if you want to play your own music.
Another feature to look out for is a USB port. While not every infotainment system on the market comes with one, it’s still a great feature to have. This will not only, in some cases, connect your phone to the head unit, but will also let you charge your phone as well, all while being connected. This ensures that your phone can charge easily without you needing to buy an adapter for the 12volt socket in the vehicle.
While this only applies to 2DIN infotainment systems, look for head units that come with reverse camera integration available. This means that when you enter your reverse gear, you will be able to see what the camera at the back sees. There are also some aftermarket head units that also support this, making it an even more desirable feature to have.
Last but not the least, Bluetooth, is another key feature to look out for. This will let smartphones without audio jacks connect to the infotainment system, and can serve as a way of wireless transmitting audio to the sound system of the vehicle. In some cases, this works in tandem with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which we will talk about later.
New features definitely worth looking for
With newer vehicles on the market, smartphone integration has become the next big thing, as automakers are now putting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard for select models in the Philippines. These two screen mirroring applications let you display and use select phone apps, like navigation apps Google Maps and Waze, onto the screen of your infotainment system. . The user can then easily select their destination, via voice commands or by inputting the destination address using the head unit. This makes it easier to navigate without the need to mount your smartphone onto the dashboard.
Further still, other automakers also equip their head units with their own screen mirroring technology that uses their own proprietary applications. It still works like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but is now able to accommodate a wider range of applications. However, while the Apple and Android screen mirror applications are easier to use, these proprietary applications may take a little more time to set up before you can use them.
As a bonus, and if you want a family-oriented vehicle, look for a model that comes with a DVD player or a second screen for your passengers. This works especially well with kids, as they can watch something while on long road trips. These features are still fairly rare in the Philippine market, as only select models offer them, but they’re still features you should definitely look out for and get, if you can.