We’ve been on a run of wireless Android Auto dongles of late here on AndroidGuys. These devices are a great way to expand the functionality of older car head units to support the plug-free variant for Android Auto control. CarlinKit A2A is another solid option for users looking for this type of device.
Nothing new to see here really. The CarlinKit A2A “box” will immediately strike a resemblance to the other models we’ve reviewed recently. It’s a small rectangle with rounded edges in a lightweight, plastic shell. It can feel a little cheap out of the box, but these things will be tucked away in your car and don’t need to be a tank, and is in line with the quality of most competitors.
Besides the casing, the CarlinKit has a single USB-C port on one side and a USB-A on the opposite. This is the business end of this device. Hooking this up to your car with the included USB-C port is simple as can be. The USB-A is shown on the website to be used for manual local updates, but no mention of how to perform this in the manual.
Setup and function
Getting going takes less than five minutes with the CarlinKit A2A adapter. Plug the USB-C into your dongle, and the other end into your car. Then, find the Autoxxxx option in the Bluetooth settings of your phone. That’s it. You should see the CarlinKit interface take over with Android Auto in no time.
Daily use is just as seamless. Each time you jump in the car the unit should connect to your phone and auto-launch. I’ve found this to be consistent throughout my testing. I never had an instance where the CarlinKit didn’t connect and bring Android Auto to my car at startup.
All other features seem to function as you’d expect with similar Android Auto wireless dongles. I did have one nagging issue from time to time. About once a day, the unit would lose connection during usage and then recover around 30 seconds later.
My gut is that the CarlinKit A2A is either dropping WiFi push to the phone occasionally, or the device is fully rebooting. There was an update available during my test period, and I’d hoped this would fix this bug, but it didn’t. I would also note that this is not exclusive to the CarlinKit, but isn’t present on other units from CarsiFi or Moto.
One additional feedback on the update process is that it uses a web interface. I’ve found this to be pretty clunky with the Android Auto systems. This is by nature Android Auto uses a dual connection to perform the wireless features. Both Bluetooth and WiFi are being utilized to make the interface work.
When using an IP-based option to see settings and perform updates, you get in this weird loop of having to disconnect the WiFi yet also stay connected to keep the connection for updates. It’s an odd and frankly inconsistent experience. I’ve found the app-based options from AAWireless and CarsifFi to be much easier and better-resulting options.
CarlinKit has built another good option for Android Auto users who want to go wireless with the A2A. The quick setup and mostly consistent performance make it compelling. I’d be more apt to recommend if they can fix the disconnect bug.
The final piece of any review is price. The CarlinKit A2A is currently $94 directly from CarlinKit and can also be bought at Amazon for $98. Either is a competitive price to the other wireless Android Auto devices on the market.