Our review of two Sony touchscreen car stereos
A bench test for phone compatibility and ease of use
In this article... we get hands-on with two different touchscreen radios:
We desk-test them to see how well they work for phone integration and selecting different media sources.
ony's intuitive touchscreen stereos offer much more than pretty faces, but their displays provide great starting points for evaluating ease of use from the driver's seat. Sony's late-2018 lineup includes two new multimedia receivers with convenient knobs. I took both through a test run at my desk to see how they stack up.
Bench-testing these Sony car stereos includes checking out their compatibility with different types of sources, such as thumb drives and phones.
Handsome touchscreens with finger-friendly interfaces
Both stereos have beautiful TFT displays, regardless of size. They each boast a resolution of 800 x 480 (1,152,000 pixels) with a picture that's crisp, clear, and easy on the eyes. Sony's Gesture Control feature enables finger swipes on the screen (up, down, left, right) to change radio stations (both terrestrial and satellite) and tracks, so you don't have to touch a button or turn the knob.
Many similarities with a few key differences
The 6.2" XAV-AX1000 sports a shallow chassis that’ll make installation much easier for do-it-yourselfers, and a handy control knob. It also offers front auxiliary and USB connections, as well as a dedicated rear-view camera input.
Sony XAV-AX1000 digital media receiver
The bezel-less 7" XAV-AX5000 offers the best view thanks to its larger dimensions, but it doesn't feature a knob like the other receiver. It does have a capacitive touchscreen and a small row of buttons along the bottom of the display, plus a pair of rear USB inputs. The compact, shallow chassis takes up very little room, so installers should have few problems with fitting the stereo and attendant wiring into most dashes.
Sony XAV-AX5000 digital media receiver
Testing both Sony stereos at the same time lets me see if there are any major differences between them in terms of screen performance. The good news is that there aren't!
iPhone and Android compatibility
Both Sonys work with Apple CarPlay®, which is great for an iPhone user like myself. The XAV-AX1000’s only USB port is in the front — not ideal but tolerable, if you're willing to deal with a cable up there and have a good way to mount a phone to the dash. (Once you've decided on a new stereo, be sure to check out our full selection of phone mounts.)
The XAV-AX5000 works with Android Auto™, but the 'AX1000 does not. Sony includes an external microphone with both receivers, so drivers can use voice commands instead of touching their screen.
Getting hands-on with a bench test
Since this is a bench test of these stereos, it's more about how they feel and look than how they sound — my office mates appreciate my taste in music, but would rather do their work without being disturbed by the tunes coming from my cubicle.
Sony’s “less is more” philosophy for the menu screen pays off, as it’s remarkably uncluttered and makes switching between sources with finger swipes a breeze. With the XAV-AX5000's capacitive screen, I can zoom images in and out. Response time for both stereos is fast, with no noticeable lag. The 'AX1000's knob, while on the small side for my rather large fingers, feel solid and let me change the volume with ease.
The knob also offers pushbutton control — a quick press gets me to the sonic options screen for changing sources and pulling up the EQ, while a longer push lets me use voice commands for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Video files look spectacular on both screens (when the parking brake lead is engaged, of course). The XAV-AX5000’s dual USB inputs are a digital music lover’s dream, since I can charge my phone while enjoying full-resolution FLAC music files from my thumb drive.
Final thoughts on these Sony touchscreen car stereos
While it would be nice to evaluate these stereos for sound in a vehicle, a desk test lets me get a quick taste of their performance without the hassle of an installation. Both Sony receivers proved easy to view and use, whether I was changing sources, adjusting the sound settings, or pulling up podcasts from my iPhone.
Apple CarPlay compatibility and Android Auto (on one of the stereos) is a huge plus for any road warrior. Considering their combination of connections, features, and specs, either of these Sonys is worth a second or third look for anyone in the market for a new touchscreen stereo.
Could one of these Sonys be right for you?
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