The 10 Best Car Touch Screen Stereos to Buy 2020

The 10 Best Car Touch Screen Stereos to Buy 2020

Ever since Star Trek graced the airwaves in the mid-sixties, touch screens have been a symbol of the future. We live in that future, and if your car doesn’t have a touch screen radio, it can feel like you are trapped in the past. Good news, there are tons of options to fix that.

Choosing the Best Head Unit for You

We’ll get this out of the way first. A lot of people use the words head unit and stereo interchangeably. Technically, a stereo is the whole system. It’s the interface, amp, crossover, speakers, etc. A head unit is just the device in your dashboard. If you want a touch screen that connects to your car’s existing speakers, what you are going to buy is a new head unit. Got it? Let’s move on.

There are a ton of companies that all have their own idea of what makes a great car stereo. It’s confusing as hell to look at the hundreds of options and know which one to choose. That’s why we are breaking it down here. Start with this quick start guide. We’ll follow up with a showcase of some great head units for you to choose from. Finally, if you’re still thirsty for knowledge, there’s a deep dive at the end into the math and finer points of car audio.

Inputs Are Your Biggest Concern

There are a lot of ways to store music. While we have largely left the world of 8-track and cassette behind, there are still a ton of options that seem to stick around forever. CDs, for instance, are still something people rely on, despite being three decades old. Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who expect everything to be wireless and inconvenienced when they have to find a cable. Which are you? That’ll likely be your biggest consideration when choosing a head unit.

The Standard Inputs

The most common inputs are AUX and Bluetooth. AUX is just your everyday typical headphone cable. You plug one end into your audio device, one end into your stereo, and then play music through your stereo. Bluetooth is the same thing but without the cable. Bluetooth speakers and stereos are so ingrained into our society it’s difficult to believe that there are people who aren’t familiar with them. It’s that, but for your car.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are rapidly becoming the standard for in-car entertainment. Being able to control your system with your cellphone is awesome. First off, you can get music or video streamed directly from the internet. Second, having all your relevant apps appear on the “big screen” makes driving safer. You won’t have to take time to scroll through settings and tiny menus while navigating rush hour traffic.

Do You Really Need CD/DVD Support?

Take a second, and be honest with yourself. A CD/DVD player means that a head unit must be at least as deep as a CD, and have a slot to insert them. That slot takes up valuable screen real estate, and the extra depth eats up your cable management space. In some cars, the extra depth means you’ll be buying special faceplates because there isn’t enough room stock.

Other Inputs

In no particular order, you might also want: USB input, SD card, micro SD, HD radio, AM/FM radio, RCA in, Video in, WiFi, and ¼” audio. We have a more serious breakdown of inputs down the page here.

Screen Size

Just like TV screens, car stereo touchscreens are measured diagonally. The standard size for car touchscreens is 7’. Drivers who plan on using apps or watching movies on their screens (not while driving of course!) should look for a bigger screen.

Make Sure It Fits Your Car

We explain this in more detail at the bottom here, but the gist of it is that there are two sizes: single and double. Double is bigger, and there are a lot more options with more features. Older cars and even some newer cars won’t be able to fit them, though. A simple google search will tell you what your car can use.

Brand Matters

Sticking to the bigger name brands will guarantee you a good quality unit. Brands like JVC, Alpine, and Pioneer, are going to be your best sounding, best performing units. Boss, and their close competitor Dual, are solid options as well. Both have made a name for themselves by producing consistent audio components that may not be the best, but will definitely do what you ask of them.

At the bottom of the quality pile, we have anything from the flood of cheap, brandless imports. They aren’t all bad, you can read our thoughts down here, but the chances of you being unhappy with the product are higher.

Outputs

The last major consideration are outputs. For music, there are two output types you’ll be worried about. All head units have high-level, or speaker-level, outputs. Those are your typical speaker wire hookups. Low-level, or preamp, or RCA, outputs are for plugging the head unit directly into an amp.

Now we get to the meat of the article. These 10 head units represent a great cross-section of the best head units you can get, and range from funky single DIN units with tiny touch screens to a double DIN with a massive 10” tablet attached to it. You’ll find one you like, or at least be inspired to start your journey.

Top 10 Best Touch Screen Stereos 2020

1. Best Overall Touch Screen Stereo: Boss Audio BCPA985RC

Boss Audio BCPA985RC


Why we like it: Boss is a leader in budget audio, and the BCP puts that on display with this inexpensive full feature unit. It also has a backup camera.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 7”
  • Install Size: Double DIN, shallow
  • Inputs: HD radio, AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB, RCA
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

If you are on a budget, but still want Apple CarPlan and Android Auto, voila. The Boss Audio BCPA985RC comes with a backup camera, which probably doesn’t matter to most people. It also comes with an external mic that you can tape closer to your mouth. That way, your friends can hear you better as you yell expletives at other drivers.

Our Review

Boss, like we’ve said before, does the whole budget car audio thing really well. The BCP is a perfect example. It’s straight up the least expensive way to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in your car without dipping into the scary generic brands.

The BCP does everything you expect. It’s got inputs and outputs, nothing really notable. What is notable is the design. Boss did a good job with the way this unit looks. It’s very minimalistic and clean. Since it doesn’t have a slot for CDs/DVDs and doesn’t have any physical buttons, you get the impression that it’s a lot bigger than it is.

Boss seems to have taken that design philosophy and applied it to the install as well. They include good instructions and all the cables you need to just get going. Since they also sell their own line of adapters, just google your car and “Boss stereo adapter,” it makes this one of the easiest DIY projects on our list. Maybe that’s not the most important thing, but trust us when we say that the biggest drawback to buying inexpensive stuff is the documentation and ease of install. With the Boss, you won’t be suffering like the people who buy the really cheap units like this one on our list.

Why You Might Want Something Else

Like with other inexpensive units, if you really value audio quality, you will have to spend more. Get the Alpine, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t need Android or Apple support, get this Pioneer.

Of course, if you don’t need Apple or Android support, the cheaper Boss will probably be okay. It doesn’t look as good, but it’s half the price. If half the price is still too much, the Sarcch unit is one quarter the price, just don’t expect it too much from it.

Pros

  • Inexpensive for a unit with Apple and Android support
  • It has got a clean minimalist design
  • Included installation kit is really well put together

Cons

  • Sound quality could be better
  • Touchscreen doesn’t respond as fast as other options

2. Best Premium Touch Screen Stereo: Pioneer AVH-2400NEX

Pioneer AVH-2400NEX


Why we like it: The Pioneer blows everything else out of the water when it comes to features and sound quality. The screen tilts to reveal the CD/DVD drive.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 7”
  • Install Size: Double DIN
  • Inputs: CD/DVD, HD radio, AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB, RCA
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

Pioneer developed the AVH-2400 for the person that’s willing to spend money to get the best. It’s easier to list the things it can’t do, and when people look at your car and see the Pioneer label, they’ll know you take audio seriously.

Our Review

The word Pioneer appears on this list more than any other brand, and that’s for a good reason. They are sort of the leader when it comes to quality. The AVH-2400 NEX exemplifies that. It’s got everything: Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a big screen, CD/DVD support, way more inputs and outputs than you’ll ever use, and one of the fastest processors on the list.

That speed is worth talking about. You can get the sharpness and color resolution from the other Pioneers we list, even the flip-out screen here. What you can’t get anywhere else is the speed. You tap, it works, there’s no waiting around for an app to load.

There’s also something else about Pioneer that’s hard to explain. We’ll mention it again in other reviews of Pioneer units, but they build things in a way that makes them more satisfying than other units. It’s a combination of a lot of little things, like the NEX has a bunch of apps pre-installed that are meant to work with the unit, so you don’t have to guess at it. The screen has a good response and a nice feel, and the built-in microphone for Bluetooth calling sounds just a bit better than its competition.

Why You Might Want Something Else

There’s one big drawback to the NEX, one that is definitely the reason most people pass on this unit: the price. It falls into the category of “of course it’s amazing, it’d better be if it costs that much.”

The truth is that the Boss with Apple and Android support will do almost everything the Pioneer will do for less than half the price. If you aren’t absolutely obsessed with quality, you’ll have a tough time justifying the extra dollars you have to throw at the NEX.

Pros

  • Pioneer build quality and support
  • Apple Car Play and Android Auto ready
  • Full range of inputs, including HD radio
  • Full range of outputs

Cons

  • Expensive
  • The CD/DVD slot is inconvenient. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's hard to come up with reasons not to like this unit.

3. Best Budget Touch Screen Stereo: Boss Audio BV9364B

Boss Audio BV9364B


Why we like it: The Boss BV is a perfectly acceptable head unit with great features that is less than $100. It also includes a wireless remote.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Screen Size: 6.2”
  • Install Size: Double DIN
  • Inputs: CD/DVD, AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, USB, RCA
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

If you are looking for a cheap option that still comes from a reputable company, the Boss BV is excellent. Sure, it doesn’t have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but it’s tough to care for the price.

Our Review

Boss is more or less the leader in budget audio. We here at AQ talk about them every time we mention car audio, and this list is no exception. This time around, we are talking about the BV9364B, and it can be summed up in two words: perfectly acceptable.

It’s got everything you could want out of a budget stereo. The Bluetooth is fine, the screen is on the smaller side, but it’s still fine. Plus, unlike the units we’d call cheap rather than inexpensive, it’s got preamp outputs.

There is some funkiness, though. It’s got little doors over the SD and USB slots. Our guess is that it’s supposed to make it look cleaner, but it actually makes it look cheap. Boss makes up for it by being dead simple to use. It’s got big friendly icons and a giant mode button for rapidly switching inputs. It’s no Pioneer. It’s not that intuitive, but like we said before, it’s perfectly acceptable.

Why You Might Want Something Else

First, there’s another Boss on our lists that actually has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If budget is your biggest concern, but you still want those apps, get that one.

You’ll also be disappointed if you are really into audio quality. It has preamp outputs, but doesn’t support FLAC or have a full equalizer. It’s also not going to give you any volume or real bass without the amplifiers. The box claims 80-watts, but they are being tricky. The watts RMS is hard to find. That’s the number that tells you what power level you can actually get instead of just the peak output during perfect conditions. Whenever a company hides the RMS rating, you know that’s because it’s on the lower side. Don’t expect to make your ears bleed if you buy it. Shell out for the Alpine if you need that.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Has every all the outputs you could want
  • Included installation kit is really well put together

Cons

  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
  • Sound quality could be better. Box says 80w output, but no way it will ever do that.

4. Best for Apple Play and Android Auto: Alpine iLX-W650

Alpine iLX-W650


Why we like it: The Alpine iLX is high quality, has all the right inputs and outputs, and has a massive screen.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 6.75”
  • Size: Double DIN, shallow
  • Inputs: AM/FM, HD radio, Bluetooth, camera, aux, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

The Alpine iLX is the iconoclast’s dream. It doesn’t waste space with CD/DVDs, and it doesn’t even do the AM/FM radio thing so great. It’s got future tech and expects you to use it. If you like physical media, don’t like using your phone to control the music, or aren’t ready to accept our robot overlords, then look away.

Our Review

When we set out looking for the best, we had a few criteria. It had to be well built, it had to have Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and it had to have a full complement of inputs and outputs. The Alpine delivers on all fronts.

First, Alpine is no stranger to the audio world. They rank up there with Pioneer and JVC, and all three are Japanese companies well known for audio quality. You can bet they stand behind their products 100%. Consider that checkbox checked.

Second, Alpine built the unit to work around Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This thing represents the future. It’s incredibly minimalistic in design, making the screen feel huge. The minimalism extends to the form, it’s less than 3” deep. For reference, the monster Pioneer here is twice that. The small size makes it easy to install and work with.

Finally, it’s got all the preamp outputs you could want. You can plug right into your 5-channel amp and blow the doors off. Since it’s an Alpine, even if you don’t plug into an amp, you’ll still get great audio quality, and great video quality. In fact, it supports two backup cameras simultaneously. That’s a unique feature on this list, even if it’s not one most people will really worry about.

Why You Might Want Something Else

Suppose you don’t really care about Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. You could spend your money better elsewhere, especially if you want a CD/DVD option. Units like the Pioneer AVH-X we mention are probably a better fit, it’s nearly identical. Just swap the Android and Apple stuff for a more beautiful screen and a DVD player.

Pros

  • Large screen
  • Compact design makes it easy to install
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Fantastic audio quality

Cons

  • Need special wiring harnesses for preamps and standard inputs
  • No radio metadata display. It’s not a friendly device if you prefer old school media options.

5. Best Looking Touchscreen Stereo: Pioneer AVH-X390

Pioneer AVH-X390


Why we like it: You can take full advantage of Netflix and your DVD collection with this Pioneer’s beautiful screen.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 6.2”
  • Install Size: Double DIN
  • Inputs: CD/DVD, HD radio, AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB, RCA
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

If the do everything Pioneer is too expensive or you need the CD/DVD player the Alpine doesn’t have, the AVH-390 is a good fit. The only issue is that this really needs amps to take advantage of that beautiful Pioneer quality. The output is pretty low. If you are a hardcore audiophile, though, you probably already have that base covered and are just looking for a head to play your FLAC files. This will do it.

Our Review

Here’s a Pioneer again. That means good quality, a great range of features, a really nice touch screen, etc. It gets boring reviewing Pioneer units because it’s hard to find bad things to say about them. This one has sort of a small screen, especially compared to minimalist designs like the Boss.

That screen, though, is beautiful. We have a note about it here, but don’t let the “low” resolution fool you. We’re spoiled on iPhones that have higher than 4k resolution, but the truth is on a small screen 800×480 is more than enough to look great. If you’re going to pop in your favorite Fast and Furious movie to play during Cars and Coffee, this is the screen to view it on.

It’s more than just the quality of the picture, though. The menus, icons, and colors are all customizable. If you want to stick to an interior theme with your build, the AVH can be made to fit in. We are talking a lot about the display, which isn’t the most important thing, but that’s just because the rest is what you’d expect from a high-quality unit. That lets us focus on the standout features, and the display stands out.

Why You Might Want Something Else

Every time we mention a unit without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, we have to point out that if those are valuable to you, you won’t be happy with it. This is no exception, although if you wanted to learn to love FLAC, this would be the unit to do it with. Get the Alpine, those apps are the reason it’s such a great buy.

It also isn’t inexpensive. There’s a lot of great options that cost less, so if your budget is tight, get this Boss head uint instead. It has all the same features, including the DVD player, and it’s a third the cost. You won’t find a substitute for the customization, though.

Pros

  • Beautiful LED display
  • Great audio quality
  • Pioneer build quality and support

Cons

  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
  • Screen is on the small side

6. Best Flip-Out Touch Screen Stereo: Pioneer AVH-3400NEX

Pioneer AVH-3400NEX


Why we like it: If you have a single DIN setup and don’t want to sacrifice anything, Pioneer has you covered.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 7”
  • Install Size: Single DIN
  • Inputs: CD/DVD, HD radio, AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB, RCA
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

In general, if you want a full feature unit that has a great screen and fantastic sound quality, but have an older car, then you are out of luck. Most good head units require double the space that older stereos required.

Pioneer has come to the rescue with the AVH-3400NEX. It’s all the goodness of the other NEX on our list, but it is crammed into a tiny single space unit with a fold-out screen. Audiophiles building classic JDM customs rejoice.

Our Review

The Pioneer NEX series is one of the best lineups on the market. We reviewed one here and called it the best premium setup you could buy, in fact. The AVH-3400 is pretty much the same thing, except the screen pops out and raises up like some kind of futuristic laptop. As far as impressing your friends go, this unit takes the cake.

There’s a lot to like about a flip-out screen. You can keep a car looking stock, if that’s your thing. With the screen retracted, it looks like any old head unit. It’s also good if you get super distracted by shiny objects while driving; you can withdraw the screen and kill the distraction.

Now, generally, with flip-out screens, you live in constant fear that something is going to break. This is a Pioneer flagship model, though, so that’s not likely. Since flip-out units are so small, they usually lack outputs. Pioneer did their thing and somehow crammed all the standard preamp outputs and a backup camera hookup. It’s honestly amazing, you might change your opinion of flip-out screens after a few minutes with this one.

Why You Might Want Something Else

Let’s rip the bandaid off and get right into the most prominent problem; it costs a lot. That cool flip-out screen and compact, high-quality Pioneer goodness makes this NEX head uint the most expensive thing on this list. It even costs more than the more powerful NEX here, so if you can fit the double unit, you’d probably be better off going that route.

If you don’t have the space for a double DIN unit, there are still less expensive options. The fixed screen Power Acoustik is still a fine unit, if not nearly as feature-filled, and if you are really, let’s say “adventurous,” the Comecho is a fascinating single DIN head with a screen that fits inside the faceplate.

Pros

  • Single DIN so it fits older vehicles
  • Can do just about everything
  • Pioneer build quality and support

Cons

  • Quite expensive, especially compared to the Double DIN counterparts
  • Frustrating to use with screen retracted

7. Best Extra Large Touchscreen: Dual Electronics DMCPA11BT

Dual Electronics DMCPA11BT


Why we like it: Dual Electronics brings the home theater to your dashboard with a gigantic 10” screen. The screen is attached on a mount allowing it to be bigger than the face of the stereo.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 10.1”
  • Install Size: Double DIN
  • Inputs: HD radio, AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB, SD
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

Do you like big screens? Do you wish your car had a big screen in the middle of the dash? Well, Dual made a unit for you. The screen is 10” and on an adjustable arm. It has actual HD resolution, unlike a lot of the fakers in the cheap sections, and it’s strangely bright and inviting. Seriously, if you don’t mind that it’s going to dominate your car’s interior, this thing is fantastic.

Our Review

The first widespread use of touch screens in cars came in the form of GPS units, like TomToms and Garmins. They had, if you were lucky, a 5″ screen. Then came the infotainment centers from the factory, which boasted 6″ screens. Aftermarket 7″ solutions like the Alpine unit on our list are commonplace now, so believe us when we say that the Dual feels massive with a full 10″ display.

If a big screen is all it was, the Dual would still be a pretty good unit. It seems like they are trying hard to compete with Boss, though, and pulled out all the stops. It’s got Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is lovely. It’s got preamp outputs and USB fast charging. It even has the decency to be very reasonably priced for what it is.

Dual Electronics is a bit of an oddball company. Their products range from Walmart discount bin quality to better than Boss. They used to be just a random Chinese import brand. Over the last couple of decades, they have grown into a real competitor in the budget audio scene. Notably, they acquired Jensen, which is a name audio enthusiasts are probably much more familiar with. That’s where the Dual DMCPA11BT came from. On the inside, it’s all Jensen.

That’s the sprinkles on an already fantastic stereo sundae. The Dual is a rebranded Jensen; that means getting a unit that punches way above its weight class for a much lower price than you’d expect.

Why You Might Want Something Else

The giant 10″ screen is pretty, futuristic, and perfect if you like watching movies or really detailed GPS maps. It’s truly terrible if you don’t have very much space. The Alpine screen fits neatly inside the double DIN space, the screen on the Dual sticks way out. It sticks above and all around the install space. If you have vents or climate controls nearby, you’ll probably want to go for something more conventional.

The screen has a lot of wasted space, too. It has an Apple-style bezel that creeps into the screen real estate and makes the unit look bigger than it already is. If you have a small car, this thing will dominate your cockpit space.

Pros

  • Giant screen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready
  • Very easy to use

Cons

  • Reverse camera safety can be temperamental
  • Takes up a lot of room

8. Best Inexpensive Stereo with Backup Camera: Sarcch Double DIN

Sarcch Double DIN


Why we like it: It’s hard to believe that this head unit is so inexpensive. It’s basically an entire computer, with a camera, for less than a date night at Olive-Garden.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 7”
  • Install Size: Double DIN
  • Inputs: AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, USB,
  • Preamp out: None

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

The Sarcch is the right unit for someone who builds furniture without instructions, doesn’t mind laughing at electronics when they get weird, and prides themselves on buying cheap gadgets. It’s not high quality. It’s not easy to use by any stretch of the imagination. You will be googling issues when you can’t decipher the menu system.

But if you are the type that drives around a 93 Metro and goes livid at the idea of spending more on a head unit than the total cost of your car, the Sarcch is perfect.

Our Review

We want to put you in the right mindset to understand the Sarcch, and we think the best way to do that is a quote straight from their sales page.

“The line of the car stereo is a bit complicated, each color is connected with different functions, please compare with our picture or installation manual /Video to install patiently.”

That really tells you everything. This is a random, brandless piece of imported tech. These types of units usually come from China and are thrown together from the parts bins of other manufacturers, or are suppliers of other components trying to get a few extra dollars by assembling their own units. They aren’t bad, but they are a risk.

The Sarcch really makes a case for that risk being worth it, though. It’s truly, unbelievably incredible how many features they give you for pennies. It includes its own backup camera. They even give you a roll of vinyl tape in the box. Not even Boss does that with their famous install kits.

Why You Might Want Something Else

If you want to plug in the unit and get straight into listening to your music, get something else. Get the Boss without Android or Apple support if you are on a budget.

Look, we don’t want to discourage you from experiencing cheap junk units. Lots of people tinker with them and make them do what they advertise without issue. It’s just that, well, let’s put it this way. They warn you nine separate times on their website about the dangers of installing it yourself. Seriously, they don’t tell you the RMS wattage. They do mention, twice, to “pay attention to the electricity when install by yourself.” If you don’t want to deal with that, spend the extra money, you won’t regret it.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Includes a backup camera
  • Looks kinda cool with red buttons and minimal front features

Cons

  • You’ll have to figure out how to use it by trial and error
  • No preamp outputs

9. Best Single DIN Large Screen Stereo: Power Acoustik PD-710B

Power Acoustik PD-710B


Why we like it: Power Acoustic’s unit is single DIN, so it fits older cars, but still boasts an impressive 7” touch screen. The screen is detachable.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 7”
  • Install Size: Single DIN
  • Inputs: CD/DVD, HD radio, AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, USB, RCA
  • Preamp out: Front, rear, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

Single DIN car owners on a budget who still want the future inside their cabin have really limited options. The Power Acoustik is one of them. It’s not amazing, it’s just good enough to bring you into the modern era for a reasonable price. It’ll fit older cars and do just enough to not bother you with its lack of features.

Our Review

This Power Acoustik PD-710 is a really interesting little unit. It’s a single DIN, so it fits most cars. Unlike most single DIN units with a touch screen, though, the screen hangs down. In theory, that makes it more likely to fit without taking up too much dash real estate. In practice, most cars have stuff underneath the radio, so your mileage may vary.

Other than the compact size, the Power Acoustik isn’t much to write home about. It does everything it says it does with little fuss. The user interface is very clean and straightforward, and the screen is adequate. It has a CD/DVD player, and while it doesn’t have preamp outs, it is still an upgrade over a factory head unit.

There’s not much else to say, really. It’s perfectly adequate, and it’s a reasonable price.

Why You Might Want Something Else

Probably the biggest reason you’d want to run from Power Acoustik is the lack of features. It’s neat that it is a single DIN unit, but if you don’t need that, there are way better options. The Pioneer here has a DVD/CD player also, and a full set of preamp outputs. If you don’t care about features, the Boss costs less.

Pros

  • Single DIN, so it fits older vehicles
  • Has preamp outputs
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Screen hangs down, so it might interfere with other dash controls like A/C
  • The screen could definitely be better quality, with slow touch response and only ok resolution.

10. Best Compact Single DIN Touchscreen: Camecho Single DIN Car Stereo

Camecho Single DIN Car Stereo


Why we like it: The Camech’s screen is only 4” tall and technically isn’t a touchscreen. But its exceptionally compact design and wide-ranging compatibility meant we had to put it on the list.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance:

  • Screen Size: 4.1”
  • Install Size: Single DIN
  • Inputs: AM/FM, Bluetooth, camera, aux, USB
  • Preamp out: Front, sub

Who This Unit Is Perfect For

Allow us to be blunt for a moment, but this is an excellent unit if you like weird things. It fits all the standard requirements for a modern head unit. It accepts Bluetooth and comes with a backup camera, remote, a microphone, and an itty bitty 4” screen. It’s just really different; the whole screen and control panel fits inside a single DIN face.

Our Review

Camecho is another piece of inexpensive imported tech. The English quality in their interface is much higher than the unit from Sarcch, but only marginally. It has all the telltale markers of a unit that will be frustrating to use. The buttons are really tiny, for a start, and the volume knob wiggles in unpleasant ways.

Despite that, there is a charm to the Camecho that nothing else comes close to. It’s a tiny, full-featured touch screen unit that fits where nothing else could. It doesn’t have a screen that sticks out and blocks your controls, and it doesn’t feel the need to prove itself with a screen that folds out. Having all the features crammed into the tiny space makes it look especially high tech. We’ve been programmed to think of smaller gadgets as more futuristic, the Camecho really captures the essence of that.

If being a conversation starter isn’t enough, and we aren’t saying that it’s not enough, then the Camecho still does ok. It’s at least got a subwoofer preamp output, and it comes with a backup camera. Unlike similar units, the Camecho has Bluetooth capabilities. You just have to get really close to it to watch things or use the menus.

Why You Might Want Something Else

We said that this was the perfect unit if you like things a little bit weird, but if you value function, it’s probably not your best option. The instructions are terrible, the buttons are hard to see, it’s missing a lot of simple features. The Power Acoustik we mention is also a single DIN unit that has a much bigger screen, and it won’t have you pulling your hair out trying to decipher what “varies of a car logos adjustable” means.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Includes a backup camera
  • Ultra-compact, it will fit any vehicle

Cons

  • Terrible documentation
  • Screen is tiny

A Deep Dive Into Car Stereos

We want to apologize. The world of audio has no end. Each time you learn something new, you will also learn that there are two more things to learn. It’s a rabbit hole that has claimed many lives; you probably know a few people that spend all their time mumbling about RMS and pass filters. Maybe you are that person.

Regardless, we put together this section to help you de-mystify the finer details of car stereo heads. Hopefully, it can at least answer any questions you have without losing you to the void.

Single DIN vs. Double DIN

Just in case it’s on a test, DIN is a German standard measurement for car radio equipment. One DIN is 7 inches by 2 inches. A double DIN is 7”x4”, double the height of a single. There, go win your next trivia night.

In practical application, though, most cars have space for either a single DIN head unit or a double DIN head unit. If you have a car that can fit a double DIN unit, your choices are infinite. You can buy special bezels that will hold a single DIN if you really want to, but most touch screens and high-performance stereos are double.

If you have an older car or a custom setup that doesn’t have space for a double, then your touch screen options get a lot more limited. We included a handful on our review list, including a Pioneer with a fold-out screen and a funky tiny infotainment unit. They cost more or have fewer features than their larger counterparts, though.

Getting the Music to Your Speakers

There are way too many different ways to play music these days. Except for cassettes, every time a new technology comes out, we add it to the pile. AM radio has been around since the early 1900s. We still rely on it to give us road updates, meaning your head unit has to be able to use tech from pre-WWI right alongside tech that is only a few years old. When you are buying any stereo, it’s helpful to narrow down which technologies are the most important to you.

Radio

Radio tends to come in three flavors nowadays. First on deck is the oldest broadcasting technology, the AM/FM radio. Useful for if you are in a place with weather conditions you need to know about or enjoy commercials. Satellite, sometimes simply called XM radio because of the most popular company offering it, is radio waves from space. That means you can get them worldwide, which is cool. You do have to buy a special receiver though, even if your stereo says it’s HD radio-ready.

Finally, we have the most recent addition to the radio lineup: Internet Radio. There are hundreds of internet content providers, including the giants Pandora and Spotify, so it’s impossible to talk about all of them here. You probably already have your favorite.

Like the Alpine or any of the Pioneer unit, most of the higher quality units have internet radio apps built-in. The Pioneer NEX, for example, has no less than four different internet radio apps that connect instantly with your phone and can be controlled from the screen.

Physical Media

Physical Media is any media that has a physical form. It’s refreshing when things are so straightforward. This includes DVDs, CDs, USB drives, SD cards, and Micro SD/TF cards. It used to include things like 8-tracks, but unless you are very into keeping things period correct, that’s not a concern. In today’s age of the cellphone, most people don’t use physical media anymore. That’s why units like this Boss don’t even have a CD/DVD player anymore. The Alpine doesn’t even have an SD slot, and includes the USB largely for charging your phone.

Some people like watching their DVD collection while they drive. Units like the Pioneer X390BS have video output as well as DVD input. That way, you can use a single head unit to power an entire entertainment system in your car and keep the kids entertained.

AUX

Auxiliary input is the most straightforward way to plug in an audio device. Anything that has a headphone jack can be plugged into a stereo with AUX in. Just run an auxiliary cable from the device to the head unit, and you are good to go. If you still sport an OG iPod that doesn’t have Bluetooth, it’s pretty much your only option.

The problem is that as Bluetooth and app-driven services like Apple CarPlay become standard, the headphone jack is disappearing. iPhones famously don’t have headphone jacks, and they have historically set the trend for the future. In the car audio world, we are already seeing the repercussions. Not to keep calling attention to the Alpine unit we recommend, but it only has an AUX input in spirit. The port is on the back, buried under your dash. You aren’t really meant to use it.

Wireless

Bluetooth is the most common wireless hookup and the universal standard. If you have a modern device of any kind, it has Bluetooth. Most people have interacted with a Bluetooth speaker; a car head unit with BT capabilities will behave the same way.

Fancier devices like the Dual we recommend can talk both ways. It can receive audio signals from your phone when you stream music, and it can control the music stream from your phone with the buttons on its own screen.

A/V Inputs

Backup cameras, video game consoles, other media devices like DVD players, and similar can all be plugged into head units with video and extra audio inputs. For instance, the Power Acoustik we recommend has a full set of RCA inputs. You can even run a Super Nintendo right on your car’s stereo screen and play Mario Kart with your friends. Just don’t do it while driving, that might make the crashes a little too realistic.

Touch Screens

Touching a high definition touch screen with a finger

The centerpiece to a touch screen stereo is, of course, the touch screen. To best understand touch screens, it helps to break them into the two main ingredients: touch and screen.

Resistive vs. Capacitive

When you touch a touch screen, there has to be some way to translate your finger into an input, otherwise, you are just poking at a TV like a weirdo. There are four main ways to do that, and if you want to know about all four, ViewSonic has a handy article with diagrams here. In the car audio world, we really only care about resistive touch and capacitive touch, though.

Restive touch means that when you press on the screen, the screen acts like a button. They are slower than capacitive touch, and generally, they have less accuracy. They also have sensors that take up space and diminish screen size. The only upside is that they are a lot cheaper to produce. You’ll find them on inexpensive units like the Boss BV9364B we recommend.

Capacitive touch screens use the tiny amount of electricity in your body to register touch. They are faster, look better, and usually feel better. Cell phones and tablets use capacitive touch, as do most modern touchscreen head units like the gigantic Dual we recommend.

Screen Resolution

Small screens don’t need a lot of pixels to look great, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see many ultra high definition screens when searching for a head unit. We are spoiled by cell phone and tablet screens that have incredible resolution. Honestly, stereo technology just hasn’t entirely caught up yet.

The only thing to be aware of is how companies might be misleading you. Just because the box says “HD” doesn’t mean it’s a better screen than one that just says “VGA.” Case and point, the Pioneer AVH has an excellent looking display, the Sarcch doesn’t. The Sarcch makes the bold claim that it’s a full HD display, whereas Pioneer is smart enough to know that HD requires more than 800×480 pixels.

Pixel Density

Without getting too technical, it’s important to know that they aren’t outright lying to you either. If you browse through CNet’s primer on HD resolutions here, you’ll notice that a 32” TV with a resolution of 1280×720 is absolutely high definition. If you’ll allow us to do some math, a 32” TV has 720 pixels along its width of 28”. That’s 25 pixels per inch. The Sarcch has 800 pixels along its width of 6”, and that’s 133 pixels per inch. The math checks out.

All of this is a really long-winded way of saying that you shouldn’t worry too much about the screen. If a screen is your only concern, get the giant Dual we recommend. It’s definitely a tablet with a head unit attached and not a head unit with a screen sort of scenario.

Imports, Knock-Offs, and Cheap Junk

At the bottom of the quality pile are the cheap, usually from China gadgets that have flooded the market over the last couple of decades. They are easy to identify: weird brand names, terrible descriptions, and there will be a ton that all look identical but vary slightly in name and price.

The biggest reason they can exist at all is because Android is a free platform, so almost all of them run some version of the Android OS. The screen technology and processing technology are open source, so any factory that produces any modern gadget has all the tools necessary to build a cheap stereo. The units themselves are usually built from factory leftovers, or by suppliers with questionable business practices trying to undermine the larger companies that they are contracted by. It’s a constant, ever-changing world of corporate espionage, knock-offs and cheap labor changing hands.

Now let’s be clear, they aren’t necessarily bad units. They will be lower quality, sure, and probably have weird little quirks like indecipherable labels. That doesn’t mean they won’t play videos or music, or work fine over Bluetooth. You just have to know what you are getting into. You might get a great unit that works great, or you might get something that falls apart after a month. You might have to spend a half-day reading forums to figure out how to change the station. It’s really, really hard to beat the price, though.

Welcome to the Future

No matter what you choose, you are getting something awesome. Upgrading a head unit in a car is one of the best ways to make it feel new again. Seriously, get in a resto-mod Chevelle or something. If it has a touch screen, it will feel new despite being sixty or more years old. Even if you don’t really want a screen in your car, you should get one. If Tesla is any indication, cars will only have touch screens instead of physical controls in the future. You might as well get used to it now.

About the Author

Ken Steinberger

Ken Steinberger

Ken was born into a family of gearheads. His father owned a performance motorcycle shop and raced in the desert. At the same time, his mother used to chase his father with water and gas in her modified 240z. When he came of age, he was forced to crew on Nitro Hot Rods, but his heart stayed in the desert where he fell in with a bad crowd of Baja champions in garbage VWs. He restored Jeeps and old muscle to earn some clout in the automotive world, but it was never enough to satisfy the need for knowledge. That’s why he spends all his time nowadays researching, experimenting with, and talking about everything car-related in a vain effort to claim the title of “expert.” All that knowledge is boring to just hoard, so he writes as a way to share experiences and entertain the world.

Browse posts by Ken Steinberger