Alpine iLX-007 review: This is a car stereo for only the truest Apple enthusiasts

The Good The Alpine iLX-007's slick interface is focused on Apple CarPlay and nothing else. The learning curve is especially easy, and there are no conflicting or redundant features or audio sources.

The Bad The pure CarPlay experience is a double-edged sword, leaving the driver with just AM/FM radio if they forget their phone.

The Bottom Line Alpine's iLX-007 delivers everything you need to easily add Apple CarPlay functionality to any car, but its strong focus is also its biggest weakness for all but the most dedicated Apple fans.

8.7 Overall
  • Design 10
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9

Pioneer may have been the first to the market with Apple CarPlay compatibility, but it did so by adding the feature to its existing NEX series of multimedia and navigation receivers. Alpine's first Apple CarPlay receiver takes a different approach. Rather than adding to an existing model, the manufacturer started from scratch with the all-new iLX-007.

Built from the ground up with CarPlay at its center, the iLX-007 lacks many older, legacy audio sources (such as a CD player), but also features a more focused interface for the driver that only cares about Apple CarPlay. However, this "less is more" approach also makes justifying its high price a bit trickier.

Mech-less design

The unit is built around and behind a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen that displays an 800x480-pixel resolution. This essentially standard-definition resolution may sound low to users accustomed to Retina displays, but the imagery has a good level of sharpness when viewed from the driver's seat. Below the screen are a pair of central physical buttons for Home and Siri that are flanked by capacitive buttons for volume and skip. All of the buttons are illuminated in a noncustomizable white. The Home button doubles as a power button when held for five seconds.

The iLX-007 is what we call a "mech-less" receiver, which means that it has no moving or motorized parts. Alpine takes advantage of the lack of a motorized face or internal CD transport to give the iLX-007 a much shallower chassis (and a much shallower mounting depth) than the average DIN receiver.

Around back, an installer will find a port to receive the iLX-007's mostly standard wire harness with the regular connections for power, ground and speaker, as well as leads for a power antenna, a reverse-gear sensor (for rear camera), a remote amp turn-on connection and a parking-brake sensor. The built-in speaker connections are amplified at 18W x 4 channels RMS. System builders who'd prefer external amplification can hook into the iLX-007's three pairs of 2V stereo preamp outputs; one of those pairs is a dedicated subwoofer output.

There are also other rear-panel connections, but not many. There's a microphone input (mic included), a connection for remote steering-wheel controls (which are not included) and a standard car-stereo terrestrial radio antenna input. Finally there's a single video input for adding an optional rear camera.

The iLX doesn't feature any pre-amp audio inputs, not video inputs (aside from the camera feed), and is not upgradable for satellite radio. Its terrestrial radio receiver does not support HD radio. And the iLX-007 does not have its own dedicated GPS receiver like Pioneer's AVIC units do, which means that navigation relies on the connected phone's A-GPS receiver.

Works (only) with Apple CarPlay

The iLX-007 doesn't do much on its own. The receiver features an AM/FM tuner and can accept an auxiliary audio or video feed if you've got the right adapters. It doesn't have a Bluetooth connection for audio streaming or hands-free calling. Drivers can't even connect a USB drive full of MP3s; the iLX-007's software simply can't read or play the files. However, the receiver comes to life when connected to an iPhone.

Plug an iPhone 5 or better running iOS 8.1 or better into the iLX-007's USB port and the Apple CarPlay icon on the receiver's home screen lights up. Tap that icon to give phone full control of the iLX-007's interface.

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