Sony XAV-AX100 Review – Best Value for CarPlay and Android Auto

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Meet the value packed Sony XAV-AX100

I’m so happy Sony finally made an Apple CarPlay and Android Compatible head unit. For at least the last couple of years, Sony has definitely had an edge over its competitors in terms of sound quality and value and this model is no different in that regard. Retailing at only $499, this is the lowest priced Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible head unit that I’ve carried and based on the features and ease of use, I think it’s a phenomenal value.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - Home screen.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review – Home screen.

So what do you get for the money?

Ease of use – One thing I love about this unit is how simplistic it is. Because this unit lacks a lot of bells and whistles, the Sony XAV-AX100 is relatively easy to use and has an easy to understand layout. What you see is what you get. Other than Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, this unit features:

  • AM/FM Radio
  • Bluetooth audio streaming and handsfree functionality
  • Reverse camera input
  • Front, rear and subwoofer preamp outputs (Sony says rated at 2 volt, but it sounds slightly higher, I have not measured it)
  • 10 Band EQ, built in crossovers, sub level control
  • 5 wallpaper options, plus option for custom display (uploaded via USB drive)
  • Remote steering wheel control input*
Sony XAV-AX100 Review - backside of the head unit

Sony XAV-AX100 Review – backside of the head unit has a single din chassis

*Sony typically does not support phone functionality through their steering wheel control inputs, however when test flashing either the iDatalink Maestro RR or Maestro SW module I found that this model will support some phone functionality although it’s kind of weird because it gets all lumped in under one button. Phone related flashing options (listed as function per button) look like:

  • Start Voice (Android Auto & Apple CarPlay) & Answer/Hang up call
  • Source & Hang up or Reject Call & Power On
  • Source off & Hang up & Power Off

Perhaps they configure it this way in case you don’t have voice control or phone buttons on your steering wheel.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter

I’ve had quite a few customers comment on the volume knob. They like it, they find it easy to use. If you appreciate volume knobs you will appreciate the nice rotary volume knob on this head unit. It has a stiffer and more rigid feel to it compared to the volume knobs on other head units and it’s backlit.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - Display panel options.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review – Display panel options.

Sony XAV-AX100 review – sound quality counts

Aside from the basic features of this model, the sound quality of Sony receivers is something I need to talk about in this Sony XAV-AX100 review. Sony head units, in general just sound great. My customers are always surprised when I play a basic Sony receiver like the MEX-GS610BT or MEX-XB100BT and let them hear that compared to an Alpine CDE-164BT or Pioneer DEH-X6900BT. It is a noticeable difference even for a car audio novice.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - EQ screen.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review – EQ screen.

Right off the bat, the Sony units just sound smoother, richer and more natural in tone. Once you hear it, it’s hard to buy anything else. Except maybe Kenwood, they’re pretty close. And even though this unit is only rated at 2 volts on the preamp output, I have a feeling if I measured it, I’d find it was slightly higher. It’s definitely punchier than the other 2 volt preamp output models I have on display.

Sony also provides plenty of audio control tools such as a 10 band EQ, built in crossovers and sub level control. Internal amplification on this bad boy is rated at 20 watts x 4 RMS which is slightly higher than your average head unit (most are 18 watts x 4 RMS).

Sony XAV-AX100 review – radio reception

Radio reception in general is a tricky thing because it’s so susceptible to interference coming from every angle – power lines on the road and even power lines in the car itself can cause static and interference. With evolving technology and many consumers turning to streaming services from their mobile devices, most car stereo manufacturers are not dumping a ton of money into their tuners.

Despite that, I have been impressed with the reception of Sony head units, this model included. We recently installed this in an older Subaru with one of those terrible amplified windshield antennas and this thing was definitely pulling in more stations than the customer’s previous Pioneer double din head unit (which was equipped with the Pioneer supertuner).

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - FM radio screen.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review – FM radio screen.

What’s missing from the Sony XAV-AX100?

Although Sony packs a lot of popular features into the XAV-AX100, it is missing a few items some consumers may still be interested in.

Buyer beware, the Sony XAV-AX100 lacks the following popular features:

  • CD Player
  • HDMI input
  • AUX input
  • SiriusXM Capability
  • HD Radio
  • Mounting sleeve and trim ring*

*For most vehicles you will not need a mounting sleeve and trim ring as most installation kits these days support iso mount, however, if you have happened to have a vehicle that does not support iso mount and requires a mounting sleeve and trim ring you can use Pioneer’s ADT-VA133 – that is what I used to mount this in my display board.

Remember the old saying you get what you pay for? Well, if these features are truly important to you, you’ll have to fork over a bit more money and go for something like either the Kenwood DDX9703s or the Pioneer AVH-4200NEX (soon to be replaced by the 2017 model AVH-4201NEX which I believe is the same as AVH-4200NEX, but is bundled with a reverse camera).

Sony XAV-AX100 review conclusion

Although the Sony XAV-AX100 lacks a couple features, I find for most customers it ticks off all the key boxes. If you are looking for an easy to use, great sounding Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatible head unit, you should seriously consider the Sony XAV-AX100. This model has that whole less is more approach and won’t overwhelm you with bells and whistles -aka features you don’t need or won’t use.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - CarPlay display

Sony XAV-AX100 Review – CarPlay display

In conclusion, Sony did a great job with the XAV-AX100 focusing on the key features consumers are interested in:

  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Ease of use
  • Bluetooth
  • Reverse camera input
  • Steering wheel control input

Do you really need anything more?

 

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8 comments for “Sony XAV-AX100 Review – Best Value for CarPlay and Android Auto

  1. ilGaspa
    January 17, 2017 at 9:31 am

    May I ask one thing..? o:)
    Does the XAV-AX100 automatically display Android Auto or Carplay when the phone is connected, without having to touch the icon (like Pioneer does) or it only displays the shortcut (like kenwood) and you have to press it each time to launch carplay ?

    • January 19, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Hello ilGaspa – Good question. It does automatically switch over and display the Android or Apple screen, but so do most Android Auto/Apple CarPlay units including ones like the Pioneer AVH-4200NEX. I’m curious, which Pioneer are you using? Maybe you just need to do a software update on the unit?

  2. Edward
    January 17, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Great review!!! I installed this unit in my older Jeep a few weeks ago. As additional advantage its good to note that you can change the camera settings from reverse to normal which is important when you need to watch live video eg from tv broadcasting. This also helps if you have a reverse camera feed eg from a standard camera which is normal as you can reverse the image with the unit. Great.

    My two biggest complaints with this unit is that it does not have AUX In as well as lack of wi-fi support. I have seen that Apple has implemented CarPlay to use wi-fi instead of BT thus meaning that the unit will not be able to support Wireless car play. Aux is just good to have and i would rather they had substituted the wired remote jack with AUX in. It would have been perfect too if they had included HDMI In/Out as you have rightly mentioned.

    Thanks for the impartial and reasoned review. Ed.

    • January 19, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Hi Ed, thanks for the comment! Yes, I agree, I was very surprised it did not have an AUX input. As far as the wireless CarPlay goes, my understanding is Alpine will be the first to offer aftermarket wireless CarPlay with their new iLX-107 in February/March 2017.

  3. Tristan
    February 2, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Hi,

    I’m trying to decide between the Sony ax100 and the pioneer 4200 nex. I’ve heard the Sony doesn’t work with iPods (source: crutchfield) Do you know if this is true?

    Also, if it is possible, can you use Android auto at the same time? If not, not having an aux input could make things difficult. But maybe there’s a way to rig it to have an aux?

    Sorry for the flurry of questions and thank you for the wonderful site!

    -Tristan

    • February 3, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      Hi Tristan,
      I thought it would work with newer generation iPods, but quite honestly, I haven’t tried my own iPod. I will have to try it and report back. It’s possible it doesn’t support it because they assume people are going to use the USB strictly for CarPlay or Android Auto, but that would be unfortunate. I have not figured out how to add an AUX. I noticed an extra input on the rear, but I think that might be for an accessory that isn’t available in the US. I know in Europe, digital tuners are a popular add on so perhaps that’s what it’s for.

  4. February 3, 2017 at 3:12 am

    Hi I’m so happy I found your page! What a plethora of valuable info ;-) I am wondering if you’d suggest this deck over the Pioneer Appradio 4 DA120? My most important features in a deck are iPhone compatibility, (iPhone7) Car Play, excellent Bluetooth features and call quality (mic) noise cancellation etc. Does the DA120 still hold up over these years or are there better options in 2017 in the price range ($600). I just want the best extension of my iPhone in my car ;-) Cheers ;-) and Thank you

    • February 3, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      Hi Damian,
      The App Radio 4 is still a popular model that I sell here and it does still give you a few features additional over the Sony. The App Radio 4 has the glass capacitive touch screen, second USB input, HDMI input and AUX input. I kind of like the clean look of the Sony and with the matte black and the volume knob, but that also depends on what your car dash looks like. I do like the simplicity of the Sony radio itself.

      Any CarPlay deck should work with iPhone 7, any time I’ve had a customer have an issue the issue was with their cable (one customer had two brand new Apple brand cables in a row defective, it happens).

      Since the Sony is still relatively new, I haven’t had a ton of experience with the call sound quality (like talking to customers on their phones while they’re driving around). I can tell you since the App Radio 4 has been out for over 2 years that the mic call sound quality is good, but it’s sensitive and I typically have to turn it down to the 1 out of 3 setting on the Bluetooth mic sensitivity level. In general mic placement is also important. Works better away from the glass/roof, closer to the driver. I like to sneak them into the instrument cluster area for discreet location and functional position. I hope that helps!

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