Think you can't afford an Android Auto or CarPlay stereo for your car? Think again.
Quick backstory: Two years ago I bought a midlife-crisis 2008 Mustang convertible. It came with a decent aftermarket stereo, though the screen was kind of scratched up and it didn't play particularly well with my iPhone.
I really wanted to swap it out for a CarPlay stereo, but I wasn't about to spend $400 or more for the privilege. Then I found this Kmoon K5980 7-inch double-DIN car stereo with Android Auto and CarPlay for $136.99 shipped. Way, way, way too good to be true, right? I decided to roll the dice.
Needless to say, this will work only in vehicles that have room for it. Luckily for me, it was a perfect fit in the Mustang. I worked with a local car-audio guy who charged me $125 for installation (painful given the cost of the stereo itself, but to be expected). It's possible you could do this yourself if you know your way around cars, but I needed a pro.
I must admit I was a little nervous about it, because it's not the kind of thing you can easily undo if it's a poor product -- not without spending another $125.
Good news: I'm happy with the stereo, though I definitely have a few caveats. This was my first exposure to CarPlay (I haven't really messed with the Android Auto functions), and I like it a lot. All in-dash infotainment systems should be this sleek and smart. Large, friendly icons make it easy to access Maps, Spotify and my preferred podcast player, Overcast.
One thing I didn't realize, though, is that CarPlay works only if you plug in your phone. So now there's that extra step, plus a Lightning cable running down my dash. Some newer, pricier models can do this via Bluetooth, but not this Kmoon.
The stereo itself works well enough, but I have one key complaint: The screen is on the dim side, even with the brightness cranked to maximum. (You get what you pay for, in this case.) And when the top is down, forget about it: I can barely make out the screen at all. Granted, that was an issue with the previous stereo as well, but this one's worse.
The dim screen bugs me the most when I'm in reverse, because it's harder to see what the backup camera (also aftermarket) sees. And I don't know if a wire got crossed or what, but the colors are a bit off: Green grass now looks purple on screen.
So, would I recommend the Kmoon K5980? Yes, but with reservations. It's literally hundreds of dollars less than most Android Auto and CarPlay units, and it delivers more or less the same infotainment experience as those pricier models. The screen isn't very bright, though, something to consider if you have a convertible. And installers may balk at working with a product they don't sell and service.
Bonus deal: Sphero's app-enabled R2-D2 droid is widely regarded to be awesome, but what if your tendencies lean a little more toward the Dark Side? There's a droid for that.
For a limited time, Best Buy has the Sphero R2-Q5 for $49.99 shipped (plus tax). Wait: R2-Q5? He's basically a jet-black, gold-accented R2-D2, or R2's "evil cousin," if you prefer. Regular price: $200!
I think the cute factor is a little lower, here, if only because Q5 doesn't make the same happy chirps and burbles. Instead, his sound effects are more muted. More... Empire-ish.
But he still does all the same cool tricks as R2, including watching (and reacting to) the Star Wars movies. I'm not enough of a die-hard fan to pay $200 for this, but $50? Soooooo tempting.
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