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Cheap slim double-DIN Android stereo fitting & sort-of review

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As fitting a full-size stereo in some LR products is not easily possible I thought this might interest a few - even if the vehicle is a Jaaaag, it's still JLR :rtfm:

I've just bought and fitted one of these:

SWM-7018-7-inch-Android-8-1-Car-MP5-Player-GPS-Navi-Radio-WiFi-BT-FM-No-Cam-Super-Happy-Funtime-HelloKitty-AreYouStillReadingThisRubbish?

Although many many others are available from £30 to £1000, the Chinese seem to be way ahead of the established brands like Kenwood, Alpine, etc. in terms of capability although I'm sure they're behind in build quality and output. What's surprising is you can buy a fairly smart/inoffensive  looking one from China yet the big brand ones often look really naff, like a 12-year-old has designed them with maximum flashing LED's and stupid chrome bits and whatnot.

s-l16001.thumb.jpg.494f0c95ad87318054b9461161dec1b9.jpg

 

What made me choose this one;

- It's in the UK and I'm impatient

- It's the latest fairly recent Android (8) which has a few niceties about app permissions etc. (although I would NOT trust this thing with my phonebook or password!)

- It is the least-worst I found in terms of hideous buttons, blue LED's, cheap knobs, etc. for blending into the dash in the Jaaaaag, downside is no front USB/SD/Aux connections

- It supports steering wheel buttons

- It was £58 which is just about tolerable if it turns out to be awful

I also bought a DAB dongle for £25 because why not - I bought this one and can confirm it didn't catch fire hasn't caught fire yet.

 

First off - the unit:

It's slim - if you lay it flat on its face it's about 60mm deep.

It's got a couple of sensibly placed threaded mounting holes on either side which makes life easy if you're putting it in some sort of custom dash or panel.

It comes with a big pile of wires, but crucially NO wiring diagram (it's in the eBay listing so I saved it and printed a copy!).

Also, annoyingly, not all the inputs & outputs have wires connected in the plugs (I guess to save money/space), I swapped a couple of pins to give me AUX IN instead of AUX OUT.

However, it's reasonably well put together, no buttons means nothing much to feel flimsy I guess, and the back is a cast heat sink made of whatever faux-aluminium all these things are made of.

The connectors are a nice touch, any unused connections you can just not fit the plug and save trying to bundle up 20 unused wires & sockets behind your dashboard. The wires are all labelled, and the USB wires are a generous length.

Bizarrely there's a lapel microphone on a 3.5mm jack in the box, despite there being nowhere I can see to actually plug that in. :huh:

 

The DAB dongle is a hideously cheap feeling USB stick with an SMA connector on one end and a little black box with a sticky-backed antenna that must be stuck to your windscreen or similar AND have a little tab grounded to the body. It's got a fairly generous length of cable with it, I got it from the stereo to the top of the windscreen with the best part of a metre to spare.

 

Fitting was a bit of a faff mechanically, but that's not relevant here so I won't go into detail. The unit itself has a very simple mounting system, it's the Jaaaag that's got a funny-shaped cradle.

 

Wiring: All the basic stuff went fine, there's two USB's so one of them went to the USB-DAB dongle and the other I've brought out with an AUX socket like this to replace the cig lighter.

 

Initial verdict is the thing works well and sounds OK too.

The DAB dongle software required some farting about and a USB stick (the instructions cover it) and the interface is not the best, but it works and sounds good. It really does need to have a well mounted antenna though, when I tried it just sitting on the dash it struggled to get and signal at all.

The interface is a bit tedious and the icons down the side don't actually do anything (except power) but TBH unless you're fiddling with it all the time it's liveable with.

I haven't connected it to an internet yet (it has wifi) so nav isn't working, but the GPS works even though I just stuck the GPS antenna to the top of the heater controls to keep it out of the way.

 

Technically you can install apps and add accessories to give you TPMS, OBD, DTV, etc., but I'm not that fussed.

Likewise it has at least 2 AV inputs for reversing camera, dashcam (it can record to a USB stick via an app supposedly) but I'm not doing that here, there's too much trim in the Jaaaag for me to be installing a reversing camera.

 

Will update with some pics later and will see how I get along with it on my commute this week.

A couple more pics:

dims.png.d63412822e413d15524a076ad9235a06.png

It's compact!

 

back.png.72771e828eb92c536a3e0e2edb47530e.png

Connectors make it low-profile, no octopus to wrestle.

 

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I looked at these sorts of things when I was putting parking cameras in my wifes S-max, you can buy ones that fit the exact shape of the dash (a funny ovally shape radio as standard) which is a nice touch. What put me off is they were advertised as having satnav etc etc but when I read the small print it said things like can do nav and dab etc etc but you need an appropriate app. I know there's loads of choice on android but I felt like I was going to have to give it a wireless signal all the time and keep trying to find the right app to use. It also said can work with steering wheel controls but no backup saying how you do it.

As it's not my car and I rarely drive it it's hard for me to work out which apps work so I chickened out and got a kenwood, fascia adaptor and canbus steering wheel control adaptor. Although this is the first Kenwood I've had and I can't say I'm that impressed with the GUI. The wife can talk to siri on her iphone with it and listen to music and do navigation though so she's happy enough. 

Look forward to seeing how you get on. 

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The one Neil has just documented in the defender section from JVC looks good - more expensive than this, but uses carplay/Android equivalent to mirror the phone to the device. Its a tiny bit deeper at 75mm but the interface appears good from the pics etc

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1 hour ago, Cynic-al said:

What put me off is they were advertised as having satnav etc etc but when I read the small print it said things like can do nav and dab etc etc but you need an appropriate app. I know there's loads of choice on android but I felt like I was going to have to give it a wireless signal all the time and keep trying to find the right app to use. It also said can work with steering wheel controls but no backup saying how you do it.

Juts use google maps, the handy thing here is that you can now download huge portions of the country so there is no need for a data connection at all.

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Online is so handy for traffic updates on maps, though. Turn on your phone hot-spot and tether is a good option if you don't want to splash out for the usb 4g dingle. 

I found the URL text most amusing, BTW :)

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Good to know you can download google maps as not having a connection to stream is one of the things that put me off. Someone told me waze was good too. She seems to prefer to use google maps on her kenwood with the screen sharing thing but I've never tried it. I have the built in VW stuff in mine, if you tether that to your phone you get fairly decent traffic planning. It'll do google maps via the screen mirroring but I've never tried to connect it, I'm starting to feel like a tech dinosaur! 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Cynic-al said:

I know there's loads of choice on android but I felt like I was going to have to give it a wireless signal all the time and keep trying to find the right app to use. It also said can work with steering wheel controls but no backup saying how you do it.

For an Android App I don't think you can beat "Here WeGo"
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.here.app.maps&hl=en_GB
 

Which is what used to be Nokia Maps and is now owned by some car companies (Edit it's Audi, BMW, and Daimler and Nokia maps used to be NavTeq)
It has offline maps that are frequently updated, so does not require a data connection unless you want traffic updates.

 

Edited by zardos

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Yeah most of these units advertise DAB, TPS, OBD, Dashcam, and Sat-nav but they all require either extra bits and/or an app - the unit DOES have its own GPS with it, and comes with several navigation apps.

You can download various offline maps / navi apps etc. and you can plug a 3G USB dongle in to get internet, or you can Wifi through your mobile, or parked outside your house if the Wifi signal is good enough...

Or you can cast your phone screen to the unit (supposedly, not tried yet) and do it that way.

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Thanks FF, ..... being somewhat older I belong to the part of the population that didn't know anything about this gear at all until your post! Two good things for me to learn are the existance of a DAB dongle and aerial assembley and the possibility to load maps and perhaps have a meaningful GPS without carrying a separate unit around.

On the ubject of GPS, does anyone have a good system that allows you to choose a larger vehicle profile and avoid B road selection as part of the quickest and or shortest route?

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A very interesting write-up Fridge. Thanks. The URL text made me laugh too.

As for GPS @Blanco, in our 110 we use a TomTom 5100 and set the max speed to whatever we want in order to get realistic journey times. There's easy selection of mon-motorway, fastest, eco routes. I don't pay for Traffic updates any more because of the free data across Europe that makes Google Maps / traffic so handy now. So we have the iPhones working in parallel but the TomTom screen is easy to glance.

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Blanco - There's quite a few GPS apps where you can set the vehicle height, have a look around. I've used "PolNav", and "Navigator" which can use OpenStreetmap downloadable maps. TBH mostly I use Google maps on my phone if I need to.

 

As for the stereo - I've been commuting with it for a couple of days now and it's definitely showing its cheapness.

1st problem is I can't work out if the ignition switched and permanent live wires are swapped (I wired them as directed) as the unit appears to "boot up" every time I start the car, rather than just "wake up" like a phone would. It also asks me every frickin' time if I want to give Google access to my location data :glare:

The DAB dongle works fine if you're not moving but struggles on the move, the stations available change drastically and reception is not great - made worse by the loud squawks it makes when the signal is bad. I wasn't expecting much and it's about met my expectations. I don't know if owt can be done to improve it. I suspect they are all like that as DAB is difficult.

FM reception is OK but not as good as the old factory unit and the app is very basic. I don't know if a better app could be found that would work with the hardware, some hacking may be required.

Steering wheel controls work well enough.

Sound is loud & clear, I haven't tried turning it up to 11 yet.

For some reason the "lights on" input doesn't appear to be working so the screen stays bright at night.

I haven't tried the "screen casting" thing from my phone or playing stuff from USB stick yet.

The default interface and settings are underwhelming in that you can't choose what it shows and the configuration is a bit limited, I don't know if I can get into the factory settings to sort some of it out.

The buttons down the side of the screen do nothing, except for the power/mute one, no idea what could be done about that.

 

TBH it's pretty much as I expected, this was always a £50 experiment, if I can't live with it I'll buy a better unit and stick this one in the ambulance for reversing camera duties.

Interestingly, identical units in other ebay listings appear to come with fully-populated input plugs and sockets with all the AV wires so I guess these guys were just cutting it to the bone to save money. One to watch if you're buying.

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Posted (edited)

It hasn’t got a demo mode has it Fridge? I’ve got a pioneer and that has one when first turn it on it goes through a set routine showing different things took me a couple of days to work out what the hell was going on  :blush: . And turn the bloody thing off  :hysterical: .

Edited by ianmayco68

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Nope, it's just got a custom default screen that shows your speed, and big buttons for radio / bluetooth.

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i think the +12volt en switched 12 volt are the wrong way round , i have the same radio/tablet in my 110 and it does power up from scratch if i use my battery isolation switch.

if i don't use the battery switch it just turns on fast (sleepmode).

 

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Yeah, I'm just avoiding having the frickin' dash apart again so soon... <_<

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I had a Garmin truck satnav when I use to drive hgv. You could indeed set height, width, length and weight restrictions. The downside was the mapping wasn't that great. It knew low bridges and weight restrictions and would sometimes warn of a tight bend which I guess was based on the map shape but that doesn't mean the road was in any way suitable. Every time I left our yard instead of trying to get me to go down a double width narrow b road it used to try to take me down a single width b road then do a 90 degree turn over a single width old bridge where I've seen vans have to shunt to get around and down a single width unmade road as on its map they were all b roads. 

Don't know if they've improved since, it was ok for routing the main road bit in the middle of the journey but if I was going somewhere new I just used to have a look on Google maps satellite view and that gave me a better idea of what I was going into then the satnav did. 

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OK day 3 and the flaky FM reception is getting on my wick now :glare:

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I built a really expensive in-car computer  for my overland truck a few years ago (riiiiight before cheap tablets came on the market 😕) which ran windows, had a dash mounted touch screen display and had Garmin Maps For Mobile running on it, with a GPS dongle- was brilliant, faster, bigger and more info than a sat nav unit.  They discontinued it for some reason and don't seem to sell a maps app either which seems odd, I'd happily pay for that again.

Incidentally, the one cool thing about running a windows pc was running Google earth with the gps dongle activated so the map follows you, zoom down and pan to an angle and as you're driving along you get a birds eye 3D view of peoples back gardens and stuff hidden behind high walls 

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