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Vivint Car Guard Review & Rating

One of our top picks for monitoring your home, Vivint Smart Home, now offers a way to use your mobile device to monitor your car whether it’s parked at home or in a lot, or being driven out on the open road. The Vivint Car Guard ($199) plugs directly into your vehicle’s OBD-II port and lets you track its location and receive alerts when it’s been bumped or moved. It’ll also let you know of erratic driving moves such as speeding and harsh braking, will diagnose mechanical issues, and trigger Vivint Smart Home devices such as cameras, outdoor lighting, and sirens. All of this earns it our Editors’ Choice for car accessories.

Design and Features

The Vivint Car Guard is actually a Moxee SD6200 ODB-II dongle that plugs into the OBD-II port of your vehicle. All cars manufactured in 1996 and later have an OBD-II port that allows service technicians to access the vehicle’s computerized diagnostic system. The port is typically located under the dash on the driver’s side, but you can always refer to your owner’s manual if you can’t find it.

The dongle measures 1.0 by 2.0 by 3.0 inches (HWD) and has a 16-pin connector that plugs into the OBD-II port on one end and a pair of small signal strength LED indicators on the opposite end, facing the driver. On the left side are Reset and Restart buttons and a SIM card slot.

Vivint Car Guard installation

The Car Guard contains a GPS radio for location tracking and a cellular radio that connects to T-Mobile’s 4G network for data communication. It also has a three-axis accelerometer that detects movement from bumps, break-ins, or towing attempts, and is equipped with a Wi-Fi radio that is not yet enabled.

As with the Fixd Active Car Health Monitor and other OBD-II scanners, the Car Guard scans your vehicle’s computer for Diagnostic Trouble Codes to help diagnose mechanical issues. But this scanner works on all types of engines (gas, diesel, electric, hybrid), whereas the Fixed scanner is limited to gas and hybrid engine diagnostics. With access to a database of over 10,000 diagnostic codes, the Car Guard will not only tell you what is causing your check engine light to illuminate, but will also tell you how much gas is left in the tank, your battery voltage, and whether the vehicle is currently parked or driving.

Parents of teen drivers will love the Car Guard’s Trip Insights feature, which provides a map of each trip with start and end times, total driving time, harsh breaking and rapid acceleration incidents, maximum speeds, idling time, and total trip distance. The map can be viewed in street mode or in satellite mode and uses color-coded markers to show where harsh braking and rapid acceleration events took place. You can configure Notifications to receive push alerts when a trip is started and ended, when the vehicle has been disturbed or is being towed, when it is low on fuel, and when the Car Guard device has been unplugged. You can also set a Home location geofence and receive notifications when the vehicle enters and leaves the perimeter.

Pricing and App

The Car Guard costs $199 and can be used in more than one vehicle, but you can only use it to monitor one vehicle at a time. To monitor multiple vehicles, you’ll have to purchase additional dongles. The first device requires a $9.99 monthly (no-contract) subscription, and additional dongles require a $4.99 per month subscription for each device.

If you have an existing Vivint Smart Home system, you can add the Car Guard to the device list and have it interact with Vivint devices such as cameras, door locks, and smart outlets. For example, you can have the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro begin recording when your car is disturbed, or have Vivint-controlled lights turn on when the car returns home from a trip. That said, you don’t have to have a Vivint Smart Home system to use the Car Guard, but it won’t interact with other devices on its own.

Vivint Car Guard trip insights

The Car Guard uses the same mobile app as the Vivint Smart Home security system. Tapping the Car Guard button on the bottom of the Home screen launches a map with a tab that shows the vehicle’s current location and status (parked, driving) and fuel level. Swipe up to scroll to the Trip History and Issues tabs. When you tap the Trip History tab, you’ll open a screen that displays a map of your latest trip with the start time and location and the end time and location. Below the map are the above-mentioned Trip Insights. To view past trip maps and insights, swipe to the left.

Tapping an Issues tab opens a screen that describes the maintenance issue, its severity, an error code, and possible solutions to resolve the problem.

Tapping the gear icon in the upper right corner opens a list of all installed Car Guard devices by name. Tap any device to view the vehicle’s make and model, VIN, and trip history. Here you can also configure notifications and create rules to have the Car Guard interact with other Vivint devices. These settings can also be accessed using the three-bar icon in the upper left corner of the screen.

Installation and Performance

Vivint Car Guard custom actions

Installing the Car Guard is easy and took just a few minutes in testing. I already had a Vivint account and the mobile app installed on my phone, but if you don’t have an account, you’ll have to download the app and create one.

I opened the app, tapped the Car Guard icon at the bottom of the Home screen, then Get Started. Following the on-screen instructions, I inserted the included SIM card and used my phone’s camera to scan the IMEI code on the bottom of the device. I plugged the device into my truck’s OBD-II port, tapped Connect, gave my truck a name, and selected a color. Finally, I set my home location with a geofence and configured notifications, and the truck was successfully added. I was ready to hit the road.

With one small exception, the Car Guard worked wonderfully in my testing. At first I wasn’t receiving disturbance alerts when my truck was bumped or when the door was opened without the starting the engine. A call with a couple of Vivint engineers resulted in a few tweaks to the accelerometer’s sensitivity settings that were pushed to the device in a firmware upgrade (apparently my truck’s suspension was a bit too stiff to register a bump). Once updated, I received disturbance alerts any time the truck was opened or moved without starting the engine.

Vivint Car Guard trip history

The Car Guard’s diagnostic sensors worked perfectly. I disconnected the airflow circuit on my truck and received two Maintenance alerts informing me that there was a possible issue with the circuit and that the air filter may be dirty. GPS tracking was timely and accurate, and the Trip Insights feature worked without a hitch, accurately recording rapid acceleration and harsh braking events and marking them on the map. Trip Start and Trip End push notifications arrived quickly, as did geofence alerts.

I created a rule to have an outdoor camera begin recording when the truck was disturbed and it never failed to record a clip. I also created a rule to have an indoor light turn on when a trip was ended, and it too worked like a charm.

Conclusions

With its $200 price and monthly subscription fee, the Vivint Car Guard isn’t cheap, but if you want a single device that will diagnose your vehicle’s engine issues, keep track of where it has been, and tell you in real time if your car is being broken into or towed, it’s worth every penny. And with Trip Insights, you can view maps of all of your trips with specific details, such as fast acceleration and harsh braking incidents, total trip time and distance, fuel efficiency, and idle time. The Car Guard also makes your vehicle a part your Vivint Smart Home system and can trigger video cameras and turn lights on when it arrives home. All of these features earn it our Editors’ Choice award.



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The 4 Best Car Mini-Amplifiers to Kick Out the Jams – Review Geek

The Alpine KTP-445U Mini-Amplifier.
Alpine

Modern vehicle manufacturers tend to design their car audio systems with irreplaceable stereo head units. But you can still improve your sound with aftermarket speakers and amplifiers. These mini-amps are easy to install and make a big difference in your car’s audio!

Important Features

It’s no fun to run a bundle of wires from the back of a car stereo through a maze of dashboard components, into the flooring, under some seats—or worse, into the trunk—and then back to the head unit again as you loop in a large amplifier.

Power requirements force you to run a dedicated circuit, usually from the battery and through the firewall of your vehicle. The whole process is a complicated task that will have you questioning whether or not it’s worth your time.

Mini-amplifiers are a total game-changer, though. They’re powerful enough to provide cabin-filling sound through your superior replacement speakers but small enough that you can install them in the dash, very close to the head unit in most vehicles. The power requirements are modest and often allow you to directly tap into the positive and negative leads that also power your factory stereo. Some mini-amplifiers also have additional features that can significantly improve the source audio from your existing car stereo.

Here’s a list of the most important features to look for in a mini-amplifier:

  • Channel count: If you have an OEM stereo system, you typically need a four-channel amplifier to drive the main cabin speakers. However, some trucks and small cars might only need a two-channel.
  • Channel power: Root Mean Square (RMS) and PEAK watts per channel determine how much power is delivered to each speaker. RMS watts provide continuous power with little or no sound distortion. PEAK power is the maximum power an amplifier can briefly generate on a given channel. Each speaker must be able to handle the rated RMS and PEAK power (or more) on the amplifier channel to prevent speaker damage.
  • Channel flexibility: A flexible amplifier features channel bridging, which means it supports many channel and power configurations. For example, if you have a two-channel amplifier that produces 90 watts per channel, bridging those channels produces approximately 180 watts on a single channel. A four-channel amplifier with 75 watts per channel might support many additional configurations, such as two channels at 75 watts each (the usual for standard speakers), plus one channel at 150 watts (usually for a subwoofer), or two channels at 150 watts each (for two subwoofers). If you don’t mind sacrificing front versus rear fader volume configuration, you can also run four speakers off just two channels (left and right). This frees you up to bridge the other two channels and double up power for a subwoofer.
  • Sound processing: If your head unit could use a little help with sound quality, look for an amplifier that provides additional sound processing. Simple solutions usually include some form of configurable bass boost or manual EQ. Advanced amplifiers might include a microphone that listens to your car audio, and then automatically configures frequency equalization and speaker delays to deliver the best possible sound to the cabin. This is helpful when a factory stereo only has simple bass and treble controls, instead of multiband equalizer controls.
  • Crossovers and filters: Most amplifiers either have simple low- or high-pass filters, or a configurable crossover for each channel set. The purpose of filters and crossovers is to provide the correct frequencies to each speaker. A low-pass filter blocks high frequencies, and a high-pass filter blocks the low. If the exact cutoff frequency is fixed, you have a simple filter. If you can adjust the low- and high-pass frequencies, you have a fully-featured crossover. This allows you to control the exact frequencies at which the sound crosses from one speaker to another. For example, you might enable a low-pass filter for a subwoofer channel with the frequency set to 80 Hz. For the cabin speakers, you would also enable and set the high-pass filter to 80 Hz. In this example, 80 Hz is the cutoff frequency at which sound crosses over from the sub to the cabin speakers. This allows the sub to handle most of the bass, without risking distortion or damage from high frequencies. The cabin speakers will handle the low-mid-, mid-, and high-range frequencies, without risking distortion or damage from low frequencies. If possible, set crossover frequencies in the car stereo head unit; if not, use the amplifier, but not both.
  • Source signal support: Most amplifiers support a line-level input from a pre-output on a stereo head unit. But many factory stereos don’t provide pre-output connections, so amplifiers also usually support high-level inputs. This means you can use the head unit speaker wires as direct inputs to get the audio signal.
  • Auto-sensing turn-on: Aftermarket car stereo head units typically provide a remote turn-on wire (usually blue) that signals the amplifier to turn on. Most factory car stereos don’t have this wire, so a good amplifier can detect when sound is coming in over the high-level speaker wires to signal that it should turn on.
  • Power requirements: With a mini-amplifier, ease of installation is more important than the overall power output. Many 45 or 50-watt (RMS), four-channel amplifiers draw a minimum amount of power, which allows you to tap directly into the positive and negative leads for the car stereo head unit. This way, you don’t have to run a new circuit from either the fuse box or car battery, which can get complicated.

Best Overall: Alpine KTP-445U and KTP-445A

The Alpine KTP-445A Mini-Amplifier.
Crutchfield

The Alpine KTP-445U/445A is an excellent mini-amplifier. At 7-7/8 x 1-1/2 x 2-9/16 inches, it’s easily small enough that you can install it in the dash near the car stereo receiver. The 445U is the universal model, which you can easily install and configure to work with any head unit.

The KTP-445A is an Alpine receiver-specific model. It’s identical to the 445U, but it makes wiring much easier if you have an Alpine head unit. It includes an Alpine-specific wiring harness to connect the amplifier directly to the head unit.

The Alpine can drive 45 watts (RMS) x four-channels. You can also bridge two of the channels to achieve 90 watts (RMS). This allows for a 45 watts x four-channel configuration, 45 watts x two-channel + 90 watts x one-channel configuration, or a 90 watts x two-channel configuration.

It doesn’t include crossover or filter support, which indicates this amp is designed as a just-add-power (and probably speakers) application. The result is powerful, distortion-free sound that can take your factory stereo to the next level or be a strong component of a larger aftermarket system.

Best with Sound Processing: Kicker KEY180.4

The Kicker KEY180.4 Mini-amplifier.
Kicker

The Kicker KEY180.4 takes a more automated approach to producing rich sound. Although the 45 watts (RMS) x four-channels are the same as the Alpine, the Kicker adds digital signal processing to really open up your car’s audio. The overall dimensions are very similar to the Alpine, and the KEY180.4 can accept either high- or line-level inputs. If you use a high-level input, the Kicker detects sound to determine when it should power up or down.

In most cases, you can power this mini-amplifier with the positive and negative leads from your factory stereo. While you can’t bridge the Kicker, it does provide an automatic Kicker EQ system configuration. This mini-amplifier is designed to get the most out of a factory stereo that has minimal EQ control.

During the Kicker EQ setup, you place a microphone on top of the driver’s seat headrest. The system uses the microphone to analyze sample sounds from pink noise as it goes through the setup process. The automatic configuration sets the levels of a 40-band EQ and speaker time delays to improve overall sound quality. It achieves better results than many DIY car audio installers get through manual configuration. When you configure it correctly, it’s a set-it-and-forget-it way to dramatically improve the sound stage in the cabin.

This mini-amp is the Easy Button of sound processing and amplification.

Best with Sound Processing

Best Weatherproof: JL Audio MX280/4

The JL Audio MX280/4 Mini-Amplifier.
JL Audio

The JL Audio MX280/4 is the go-to mini-amplifier when the elements are a factor. The aluminum chassis is corrosion- and IPX6 water-resistant thanks to the sealed cover, which protects the knobs and switches, as well as the sealed wiring harness. The MX280/4 pushes 50 watts (RMS) x four-channels or 140 watts (RMS) x two-channels (bridged). It includes support for both low- and high-pass filters with configurable frequencies.

This mini-amplifier is definitely small enough to stash in a dashboard or bulkhead, but it’s also ideal for boats, large ATVs, Jeeps, or anywhere occasional splashing is not only expected but welcomed! The MX280/4 would pair very well with splash-proof Polk Audio speakers for a comprehensive, go-anywhere audio solution.

Best Bang for Your Buck: Sound Ordnance M75-4

The Sound Ordnance M75-4 Mini-amplifier.
Sound Ordnance

The Sound Ordnance M75-4 pushes a lot of power at a very low cost, but it does so at the expense of a little more size. At 7-1/2 x 2-1/16 x 4-3/4 inches, you might be able to squeeze this mini-amp into a space in your dash or behind the glove box, but fewer vehicles will support this. The M75-4 pushes 75 watts (RMS) x four-channels, but can also be bridged into 75 watts (RMS) x two-channels + 160 watts (RMS) x one-channel, or 160 watts (RMS) x two-channels. However, with this much power output, you have to run a dedicated power circuit.

The M75-4 does require line-level inputs. If your head unit doesn’t provide them, you can purchase line out converters to get the job done. Just keep in mind, this mini-amplifier is unable to use high-level inputs for automatic turn-on detection.

On the plus side, you get a bass EQ option you can use to boost low frequencies, low- and high-pass filters for channels one/two and three/four, as well as the ability to control crossover frequencies.

Best Bang for Your Buck

Sound Ordnance M75-4 75W x 4 Car Amplifier

The Sound Ordnance M75-4 packs a lot of punch into a small package for very little money. Pushing 75 watts (RMS) x four-channels with plenty of bridging options, you can’t beat the bang you get for your buck in this mini-amplifier.





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Everything You Need to Detail Your Car at Home – Review Geek

A hand wiping down the exterior of a car.
Bhakpong/Shutterstock

Nobody wants to drive a car that’s covered in coffee stains, paint streaks, and years worth of sneaker-dirt. If you’re ready to drive a car that feels brand new, then it’s time to detail that thing.

Detailing is tough, rewarding work. An occasional detailing job can protect your car from permanent stains and streaks, increase windshield and headlight visibility, and maintain your car’s trade-in value.

You could pay a professional $100-$200 to detail your car (it’s worth the money), but technically speaking, this is work that you can do on your own for peanuts. So let’s get right into it. We’re going to go over the cleaning products and tools that you’ll need to detail each part of your car, and we’re going to give some suggestions on how to use these products effectively.

Cleaning Kits

A bundle of cleaning supplies on the ground next to a car.
TakeroSun/Shutterstock

Before we get into the dirty details, let’s start with a few car cleaning kits. Some people refuse to take these kits seriously, but they’re a great budget option for people who don’t own any car cleaning products (after all, this article is a bit of a grocery list).

Anyway, here are some of our favorite car cleaning kits. Some of these are all-purpose cleaning kits, while others are focused on tools or specialized cleaning products:

  • Turtle Wax Ultimate Kit: A bargain cleaning kit for your car’s interior and exterior. The only thing that this kit is missing is a foaming cleaner for your carpet and upholstery.
  • Armor All Premier Kit: Another affordable cleaning kit for your car’s interior and exterior. Like the Turtle Wax kit, this kit has everything but a foaming cleaner for your carpet and upholstery.
  • Chemical Guys Car Wash Bucket Kit: A great kit full of cleaning products and wax for your car’s exterior. This kit doesn’t come with any products for the interior of your vehicle.
  • Mofeez 9-Piece Cleaning Tool Kit: This kit doesn’t come with any cleaning products. Instead, it’s loaded with cleaning tools like microfiber cloths, brushes, handled sponges, and squeegees.
  • Headlight Cleaning Kit: A cheap headlight cleaning kit can take the foggy film off of your headlights.

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. We’ll start with the hard interior surfaces of your car and then move on to upholstery, the car’s body, and the windows.

Start with Hard Interior Surfaces

A man wiping down the interior of his car.
Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Start by cleaning your car’s hard interior surfaces—the cup holders, the dashboard, etc. You want to do this before cleaning your car’s carpet or upholstery, as you’ll probably dislodge some unsavory crumbs and dust while wiping around the interior of the vehicle.

This part’s easy, it’s just like wiping down your kitchen or bathroom. Here are some of the cleaning products you’ll need to detail those hard surfaces:

  • All-Purpose Cleaner: Don’t clean your car’s interior with bleach, specialty cleaner, or vinegar. Instead, use a gentle all-purpose cleaner from CarGuys or Chemical Guys. Household brands will work fine (so long as they don’t contain bleach).
  • UV Protectant Spray: The plastic, rubber, and vinyl inside of your car can discolor due to UV exposure. It’s not necessary, but a UV protectant spray will keep your interior from discoloring over time (it’ll also give your interior a showroom finish). Some protectants double as all-purpose cleaners.

But you can’t just spray a bunch of all-purpose around your car and call it a day. You have to get into the cracks, wipe things down, and make sure that nothing is sticky. For that, you’ll need a few cleaning tools:

  • Compressed Air: Use compressed air to push dirt out of crevasses and buttons. Canless air will work too.
  • Toothbrushes or Detailing Brushes: Toothbrushes and detailing brushes are great for getting dirt and grime out of vents, buttons, and crevasses. You can even dab them with some all-purpose cleaner for tough stains.
  • Cloths or Sponges: Use microfiber cloths or sponges to clean the surfaces inside of your car. If you plan on using a UV protectant spray, then you’ll want to work it in with a microfiber cloth.

Again, cleaning the surfaces inside of your car is just like wiping down a kitchen or a bathroom. It’s not difficult at all (although it requires some acrobatics). Now that those surfaces are clean, it’s time to take care of those nasty seat stains.

Make Your Upholstery and Carpeting Look like New

A man vacuuming down the interior of his car.
bogdanhoda/Shutterstock

Car upholstery and carpeting can get pretty nasty, but they’re actually pretty easy to clean. You just need some special products (specifically for cloth or leather) and a bit of elbow grease. Just be sure to take the floormats out of your car so you can get things as clean as possible.

Here are some of the cleaning products for your car’s upholstery and carpeting:

  • Foaming Fabric Cleaner: Use a foaming cleaner to get the stains out of your upholstery and carpeting. Automotive brands like Chemical Guys or Turtle Wax are great, but common brands like Woolite will work too.
  • Leather Cleaner and Conditioner: Clean your leather seats with an all-purpose cleaner, then hit em’ with some leather conditioner so that they stay soft and crack-free. You could also stick with inexpensive household brands like Weiman.

And of course, you’ll need some tools to work those chemicals into your seats and carpeting:

  • A Vacuum: You’ll need to vacuum some of the dirt, dust, and crumbs out of your car. You could use your vacuum’s hand attachment, a cordless vacuum, a Shop-Vac, or the vacuum at your local car wash. If you live in an apartment, check if the complex has a car vacuum for tenants.
  • Scrub Brushes: You’ll need to scrub your cloth upholstery and carpeting with a brush (or a brush drill attachment). Leather upholstery should be cleaned and buffed with a soft leather brush.
  • Cloths or Sponges: You can use a cloth or sponge to spot-clean upholstery. You can also use them to wash the upholstery (with water) once you’ve got the stains out.
  • Towels: Once you’re done cleaning your upholstery and carpeting, dry it off and let it air out. Otherwise, you might end up with mildew.

Now that you’re done cleaning your upholstery and carpeting let’s clean the car’s exterior and wheels. After that, we’ll take care of the car’s windows. (You can clean the windows before the body if you want, but the windows will look cleaner if you do them last.)

Knock Out the Exterior Body and Wheels

A man wiping down the hood of his car.
REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock

Alright, it’s time to clean your car’s body and wheels. It’s easy—you start by washing the wheels, and then you clean the car’s exterior from the top down. After everything’s cleaned and dried, you apply a polish or wax.

Here are the cleaning products you’ll need, including some optional products for tough jobs:

  • Wash Soap: Don’t use dish soap on your car. It’s just too abrasive. Instead, stick with wash soap from an automotive brand like Meguiar’s, Chemical Guys, or Armor All.
  • Bug and Tar Remover: Hit trouble spots with some bug and tar remover. (Or use the all-purpose cleaner that you bought earlier.)
  • Polish and Wax: Once your car is cleaned, you’ll want to dry it off and hit it with some wax. This will protect your car’s paint job and prevent water spots. Use a popular brand like Meguiar’s, Turtle Wax, or Shine Armor.
  • Detailing Clay: A little detailing clay can take off pollutant stains and unwanted paint without scratching your car’s body.
  • Tire Cleaner: There are a ton of different tire cleaning products on the market. Cheap foaming detergents will get the job done just fine, but some specialized wheel cleaning products will also make your wheels shiny.
  • Black Trim Restorer: If the rubber or plastic trim on your car is looking a bit discolored, then hit it with some trim restorer.
  • A Headlight Cleaning Kit: A cheap headlight cleaning kit can take the foggy film off of your headlights.

And here are the cleaning tools you’ll need to detail your car’s exterior. The most important things to have are a hose, buckets, and a wash mitt (but you can be flexible if you want to save some money):

  • A Hose: Yeah, you need a hose or pressure washer to clean a car. If that’s not an option, then try using the hose at a self-service car wash, at a friend’s house, or at an apartment complex (preferably one that you live in).
  • Buckets: Use two buckets to wash your car. One bucket is for soapy water; the other is for clean water.
  • A Wheel Brush: Hit your wheels with some wheel cleaner and a long wheel brush. You could also use a typical hand brush or a drill attachment. Deal with the wheels before you start cleaning your car’s body (or you’ll end up with tire grime all over your freshly cleaned car).
  • Wash Mitt: Wash mitts are soft, easy to use, and they make exterior cleaning a breeze. Dunk it in your soapy water and start cleaning your car from the top down.
  • Microfiber Cloths and Sponges: Use a cloth or a sponge to work out the grime that’s too tough for your wash mitt. You’ll also need a microfiber cloth to apply wax or polish (you could also use a motorized waxer).
  • Drying Towels: Dry off your car with some microfiber towels. Then, use microfiber cloths to apply wax or polish.

You’re just about done with all this detailing work. Now it’s time to tidy up your windshield and windows.

Save the Glass for Last

A man cleaning a car's windshield.
Andrey_Popov

It can be tempting to clean your glass early on in the detailing process, but it’s best to save the glass for last. Otherwise, you can ruin all that glass cleaning work while hosing down your car’s exterior or spraying chemicals on your dashboard. Anyway, this should be the easiest part of the detailing process. It’s all downhill from here!

Here are some of the cleaning products that you’ll need to clean your windows:

  • Glass Cleaner: You can clean your car’s glass with an all-purpose cleaner, specialty glass cleaner, Windex, or soap and water.
  • Detailing Clay: Are your windows coated with an impossible layer of fog or film? It could be pollutants or paint stains. Some detailing clay will pull that crud off without hurting your windows. Detailing clay should also help with smoker stains.
  • Rain-X: This isn’t an absolute necessity, but Rain-X is a cheap, reliable product that increases visibility in the rain.

And of course, the tools you’ll need to get the job done:

  • Microfiber Cloths and Sponges: Microfiber cloths are great for cleaning glass. They’re durable, and they don’t leave streaks. But tough stains might require a little help from Mr. Sponge.
  • Interior Reaching Tool: The interior corners of your car’s windshield can make a cleaning job impossible. If you hate dealing with that dang windshield, then use one of these reaching tools.
  • A Squeegee: You can dry your windows with a cloth, but you’ll be thankful for a squeegee should you decide to hose down or power wash your car.

If anything, we suggest buying an interior reaching tool, but you could just clean your interior windows with a cloth.


There you have it. We’ve covered every product that you need to detail your car, including a few products that, while not necessary, can make the process easier and protect your car from future stains and damage. Again, this is a big grocery list, so we suggest sticking with the budget cleaning kits if you’re trying to save money.





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Best Bang for the Buck Aftermarket Car Speakers – Review Geek

A speaker in a car door.
Alexandru Nika/Shutterstock.com

You might be happy (or stuck) with the stereo head unit in your vehicle, but you can still improve your sound. These inexpensive car speaker replacements can transform your car audio without destroying your bank account!

What to Look For When Buying Aftermarket Car Speakers

Most of us aren’t on a mission to win performance audio competitions. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great sound from your car stereo speakers. If you are looking to dump those pitiful factory speakers or just want cabin-filling sound in a complete aftermarket stereo rig, you will want to keep an eye on these crucial car speaker concepts:

  • Dimensions: Unfortunately, you can’t just drop in any speaker you want into those factory mounts. You need to start by picking a speaker of the same dimensions. Most speakers are defined in height and width (for oval speakers) or diameter (for round speakers). Depth is also extremely important. Not all speakers of the same “size” will fit your car. Car audio retailers such as Crutchfield and Sonic Electronix can help you identify what speakers will fit in your specific vehicle.
  • Power Handling: You can’t have your signal source overpowering your new speakers. Overpowering can result in horrible sounding distortion at best, or even destruction of your speakers at worst. If an aftermarket amplifier or head unit power your speakers, you should be able to identify the (RMS) and (PEAK) power outputs. From there, just ensure that your speaker (RMS) and (PEAK) power handling capabilities are higher. If you are replacing factory speakers connected to a factory head unit, you generally don’t need to worry about overpowering them. Most factory head units and factory amplifiers generate relatively low power output.
  • Sensitivity: If you will not be using an aftermarket amplifier or head unit, then speaker sensitivity becomes very important. The higher the sensitivity, the less power the speaker needs to generate a given volume level. You are looking for a speaker sensitivity of 90 dB or higher if you will be powering the new speakers with a factory head unit.
  • Frequency Response: What type of sound are you trying to get from the speaker? Small speakers generally do well with mid-range and higher frequencies. Larger speakers usually do well with low to mid-range frequencies. This can get very technical if you are looking for a complete factory replacement system. Ideally, you want a subwoofer that handles frequencies up to 50-80Hz and front and rear car speakers that can handle 50Hz to 22,000Hz or higher. The vehicle itself will usually dictate the speaker size in various locations, which then influences the overall sound. It is also helpful to have a head unit that can manage crossover frequencies so that all vehicle speakers are operating only in their optimal frequency range.

Best 6×9 Inch Speakers

Focal ISC 690 - 6x9
Focal

If you’re not interested in adding a subwoofer to your car stereo, your best bet for low-end sound (bass) is to have a good set of 6×9 speakers in the back. Most front doors won’t support a speaker of this size, so you will often have just the two rear 6×9 speakers. You should focus on speakers that deliver a rich sound in the lower frequencies of 30Hz (or lower) to 120Hz.

  • Kicker 43DSC69304: In addition to sounding great, there is a very good chance that these Kicker 6x9s will fit as a drop-in replacement in most vehicles. The shallow mounting depth is key here. Kicker engineered these speakers to produce excellent overall sound quality with strong power handling of 6 to 90watts (RMS) and frequency response of 30Hz to 20kHz. More importantly, at 92dB, these speakers are sensitive enough to operate without additional amplification.
  • Pioneer TS-G690: While the low price is most attractive on these speakers, don’t overlook the good sound quality or their appeal as direct factory speaker replacements without amplification. These Pioneer 6x9s can handle up to 45 watts (RMS) and support a wide frequency range of 32Hz to 32kHz. They can also get by without additional amplification thanks to a sensitivity rating of 90dB.
  • Infinity Reference REF-9632ix: Infinity Reference speakers have been setting sound quality standards for a very long time. These 6x9s do not disappoint as they are going to be strong in the low-mid, mid, and upper ranges. With a higher bottom-end frequency response of 46Hz, they might serve better with a subwoofer companion, but they will do just fine if you don’t have one. While they are highly sensitive at 90dB, they come into their own with an aftermarket amplifier as they can handle up to 100 watts (RMS).
  • Focal Integration ISC 690: Focal speakers have been mainstays in high-performance audio for decades. With audiophile-level sound reproduction, strong power handling of 5 to 80 watts (RMS), and excellent sensitivity at 93.6dB, these speakers can handle just about any condition you throw at them, and they will still sound great. However, with a 55Hz bottom end, you will probably want to pair these speakers with a subwoofer.

Best 5×7/6×8 Inch Speakers

Polk Audio DB 472 - 5x7
Polk Audio

Back in the day, 6×9 speakers were common on the rear deck of many cars. While you can still find them occasionally, 5×7 and 6×8 speakers in the rear doors are becoming more common in our SUV-preferring lifestyles. Speaker manufacturers have recognized this trend and are now providing great aftermarket options to make your rear audio sound better in a smaller package.

  • Kicker 46CSC6894: Once again, Kicker strikes a balance of form and function with these speakers as they will fit into most vehicles and still generate great sound. With power handling of up to 75 watts (RMS) and 90dB sensitivity, these speakers can be driven by your existing head unit or with an aftermarket amplifier. Since frequency response goes down to 45Hz, you can get by without a subwoofer, but you might want to add one anyway.
  • Polk Audio DB 572: Polk has a reputation for producing excellent low-cost options that are usually marine rated (waterproof). This makes them a great choice for your boat or convertible. With solid power handling at 75 watts RMS, excellent sensitivity at 92dB, and a frequency range that goes all the way down to 35Hz, these Polk units are the ultimate utility speakers.
  • Rockford Fosgate P1683: Rockford Fosgate is also known for creating a great sound. In this case, they engineered a speaker that can handle from 6 to 65 watts RMS with a 90dB sensitivity. You get a decent frequency response from 65Hz to 24kHz that will provide a powerful, balanced sound across the full range. But you will probably want to add a subwoofer for a bit more punch at the low end.
  • Infinity Reference REF-8632CFX: These speakers won’t fit in every vehicle, but if they will fit in yours, you can’t go wrong with the excellent Infinity Reference sound. Power handling is solid at 60 watts (RMS) with a frequency response of 49Hz to 21kHz. The 93dB sensitivity will work well enough with a factory head unit, but they will sound much better with an aftermarket amplifier.

Best 6 1/2 and 6 3/4 Inch Speakers

Infinity Reference REF-6532ex 6.5
Infinity Harmon

For smaller vehicles or vehicles with limited door space, there is a good chance that you will find 6 1/2 or 6 3/4 round speakers in your existing system. These are actually pretty decent form factors with a woofer cone that can produce more bass than you would think. The options below are the best choices for factory replacements.

  • Rockford Fosgate R165X3: You can expect plenty of volume out of these speakers with a 2 to 45 watts (RMS) handling power and 91dB sensitivity. The frequency response is excellent for 6 1/2 in speakers at 52Hz to 20kHz. But the best part about these speakers is the great sound for a minimal price.
  • Kicker 43DSC6704: Kicker delivers yet another great factory speaker replacement option in a sub-2-inches, shallow mount form factor. Frequency response is above average for 6 3/4 in speakers with a range of 40Hz to 20kHz. Sensitivity is excellent at 90dB, so you can plan on either using the factory head unit for power, or you can crank up the juice with an aftermarket amplifier.
  • Infinity Reference REF-6532ex: Similar to the Kicker options, Infinity produces excellent sound from a shallow mount option likely to fit in most vehicles. You get Infinity Reference sound quality in a package that handles up to 55 watts (RMS) with a frequency response of 57Hz to 21kHz and good sensitivity of 93dB. These speakers will sound good with a factory stereo, but these speakers will come into their own with an aftermarket amplifier and, ideally, complimented by a subwoofer.
  • Polk Audio DB 652: These speakers are practically begging to be the speaker of choice for Jeeps Wranglers everywhere as they are fully marine certified (waterproof) and sound great. They provide an excellent frequency response of 40Hz to 22kHz and power handling of up to 100 watts (RMS). Boasting a 92dB sensitivity, these speakers are ready to rock with just a head unit, or you can push them with an aftermarket amplifier to take advantage of the power that these speakers can handle! Also, the sub-2-inch mounting depth means that these speakers will plug and play in most vehicles.

Best 5 1/4 Inch Speakers

Rockford Fosgate R152-S Component 5.25
Rockford Fosgate

It’s a simple fact that woofer cone size has a lot to do with the ability of the speaker to generate low frequencies. Most 5 1/4 inch speakers simply don’t have enough surface area to give you any low bass. If a 5 1/4 speaker is all that you can put into your front doors, these speakers offer the best audio quality.

  • Polk Audio DB 522: Once again, these speakers are a solid choice for marine or otherwise “wet” applications. The shallow mount design means they are basically pop-in replacements for just about any vehicle. They provide excellent power handling at 100 watts RMS, and frequency response is decent, going down to 55Hz. Just don’t expect a big low end from any 5 1/4 speaker.
  • Kicker 43DSC504: Once again, the shallow mount design means that these speakers will install easily in most vehicles. Power handling is decent at 50 watts (RMS), and the frequency range is above average for 5 1/4 inch speakers at 45Hz to 20kHz. But the real story here is quality sound for a low price.
  • Rockford Fosgate R152-S: These Rockford Fosgate speakers are the choice for a component speaker system with external tweeters. If you are looking to replace both the factory door speaker and the tweeter in the windshield pillar at the same time, this matched set is what you are looking for. Power handling is on the low end at 2 to 40 watts (RMS). But with a sensitivity of 95dB, these speakers are designed to run well on your factory stereo.

You may think that you need to spend a lot of money on your car stereo to get a great sound. It’s simply not true. You often don’t even have to buy a new stereo head unit or amplifier to achieve dramatic improvements. If you don’t need head-banging volume and you really just want better quality sound, these speakers can upgrade your car audio for a very reasonable investment.





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The 5 Best Trunk Organizers for Your Car or Truck – Review Geek

A black trunk organizer full of groceries in a trunk.
Ira Shpiller/Shutterstock

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clean, organized trunk that’s easy to dig through? One that doesn’t throw your groceries around like a primitive beast? It might sound impossible, but a simple trunk organizer can solve these issues.

Trunk organizers are similar to toolboxes and closet organizers. They give you a place to put all your car-junk, so everything stays clean, tidy, and easy to find. And since they don’t move around too much, trunk organizers are also great for holding fragile items, like groceries, antiques, or catered food for dinner parties.

The case for a trunk organizer is pretty clear, but every trunk is different. Some are small, some are large, and some (truck beds) are routinely exposed to the hellish forces of nature.

So, we’ve found the best trunk organizers for every type of car, and we’ll explain why each might be right for your vehicle.

Best Overall: FORTEM Waterproof Organizer

The Fortem trunk organizer.
FORTEM

The FORTEM waterproof trunk organizer is a great option for just about any vehicle. It’s a two-foot-long, collapsible box with three compartments, large mesh pockets, adjustable straps, and a detachable lid (so you can keep its contents private).

Plus, it’s waterproof, so you can use it in a truck bed for things like groceries—although, you’ll probably want to keep it folded up inside your truck so it stays clean.

Best Overall

Best for SUVs and Vans: PIDO Backseat Hanging Organizer

The PIDO hanging organizer strapped to the back of an SUV bench.
PIDO

SUVs and vans have a lot of vertical space, which makes the hanging backseat PIDO organizer the perfect solution to keep your trunk completely clear.

This organizer is easy to install—you just hang it over the backseat of your SUV or van. It has large pockets that can accommodate smaller groceries or glassware.

The PIDO organizer is made of waterproof nylon that’s sturdy and easy to keep clean.

Best for SUVs and Vans

Best for Compact Hatchbacks: SURDOCA Hanging Organizer

The SURDOCA trunk organizer
SURDOCA

Compact hatchbacks have small, deep trunks that can get messy and disorganized fast. If your car’s trunk is adjacent to the backseat (some aren’t), check out the SURDOCA hanging trunk organizer. It has a ton of separated pockets and will keep the floor of your trunk completely clear.

Best for Compact Hatchbacks

Best for Cars: FORTEM Collapsible Organizer

The FORTEM collapsible trunk organizer.
FORTEM

The FORTEM collapsible organizer is the bare-bones, more affordable version of the FORTEM waterproof organizer we suggested above. It doesn’t have a lid and is just under two feet long, but that’s what makes it perfect for town cars.

This organizer can hold your tools, groceries, or junk, without taking up your entire trunk. It has hooks that keep it secure while you drive, and it’s made from a nylon material that won’t get funky if you happen to spill some food or bruise a banana.

Best for Cars

Best for Trucks: UnderCover SwingCase

The UnderCover SwingCase Organizer in a truck bed.
UnderCover

Even if your truck has a bed cover, it’s good to have a durable, totally waterproof bed organizer. After all, there’s not much room for tools and groceries in the front seat.

The UnderCover SwingCase is a solid truck bed organizer that sits flush against the side of your truck’s bed. Made of durable plastic, it has a lock and two compartments for your tools, groceries, empty soda cans, and anything else you want to keep from rolling around the back of your truck.

Oh, and don’t worry—Amazon makes it easy to buy the right SwingCase for your truck’s make and model.

Best for Trucks





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Apple in India: What about the smart car revolution?

I’m going to make two predictions: Apple will (eventually) introduce its take on semi-autonomous vehicles and India will emerge to be one of the biggest markets for such vehicles.

Designed in California, Made in India

The first Apple products to be made in India are already in circulation in the form of some iPhone XR models which carry the ‘Made in India’ statement on the shipping label.

Apple hopes that making 2018’s most popular iPhone model in India will help it reduce prices and build market share in the rapidly growing economy. It’s also a good way to test the efficiency of hardware manufacturing there.

It is worth noting one more thing: Apple has always carried the ‘Designed in California, Assembled in China’ statement on the back of iPhones, but dispensed with this in iPhone 11, which only carries a centrally placed Apple logo.

Might this mean future devices will be manufactured in different locations worldwide?

Apple’s wheels will roll

I see the company managing a confluence of technologies that will contribute to its future semi-autonomous vehicles. We know it is testing these, we think we know that it will be sourcing some components for the cars from Quanta, and we also know it is developing processors, including motion, radar and Lidar processors, to help make these vehicles smart enough to handle complex road networks.

We also know it has emerging technologies that could help make vehicles sensor smart, such as the UWB savvy U1 chip and ever-improving chip-based machine intelligence.

Networking between vehicles is also important, and it seems pretty clear that the faster than Bluetooth data exchange of the U1 chip and move to adopt Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will contribute to solving the problem of ensuring smart vehicles from different manufacturers can talk to each other.

You don’t want cars to collide simply because competing manufacturers couldn’t agree a universal standard with which to share proximity data, do you?

But, why India?

The existing vehicle market can easily be defined as mature.

While most leading economies are embracing electric cars and replacing fossil fuels, consumers remain (understandably) reticent to replace existing vehicles fast.

In part this is because the relative cost of electric vehicles remains out of reach for many consumers. At the same time, most continue to embrace the ultimately unsustainable idea that everyone should own their own vehicle.

Replacing existing vehicles and transforming sentiment around vehicle ownership will take time.  That’s an opportunity for Apple to sell people cars they can own as a premium product, but the truth is that transportation is becoming a service industry.

Apple knows this, of course – that’s why it invested a billion dollars in Didi.

Follow the money

You can see the pattern toward transport as a service all across every market.

Uber, Lyft and the rapid global expansion of vehicle manufacturer owned car, bicycle and scooter sharing services all represent this shift.

Emerging economies are likely to be especially ripe.

They need transport just as much as anywhere else, but the expense of vehicle ownership, problems around air pollution and other concerns mean consumers there may be more willing to embrace car sharing schemes.

India has several advantages that may help it drive into this future.

Not only is the economy growing, but India is already home to the world’s fourth-largest auto industry and is the seventh largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles.

Away from a product-based business

Furthermore, the pace of urbanization means the country will have over 500 million people living in cities by 2030 – that’s around 1.5 times the current population of the U.S. And it is deploying 4G and 5G networks fast.

There are problems smarter vehicles may help resolve. These include road congestion, road pollution and the fact that the country has some of the world’s deadliest roads, according to the WHO. (India loses around 3 percent of its GDP to road accidents each year, according to its Ministry of Road Transport and Highways),

This perfect storm of economic imperative, along with government focus on improving the business landscape for tech firms in the country and to boost development of smart infrastructure with the Smart City Mission, mean India is expected to become a global leader in shared mobility by 2030.

This makes India a big opportunity for an Apple Car, particularly if Apple chooses to adopt different business models to bring such a project to market, for example:

  • For private ownership (at a price, like an iPhone).
  • For private/commercial subscription (Think an iPhone Upgrade Program for a car).
  • For public sharing/access through trusted ride sharing partners.

These three models combine the best of a product-based revenue with a good heap of service-related recurring cash. We know Future Apple is all about services – and that it is already exploring new technologies outside U.S. media oversight in various countries worldwide, including India. Apple’s Tim Cook has also met with some of India’s biggest executives, including senior members of the Tata Group (which also has a car brand).

Life in the fast lane

None of this means Apple will rush anything to the market.

Even once development is complete (and it doesn’t seem to be), manufacturing and regulatory challenges will take time to resolve. And the Apple Car project is another of those Apple myths that is regularly declared dead, usually just before yet more information slips that proves the legend alive and well.

With this kind of background – and a project of such complexity – it’s no wonder that even spookily accurate Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo doesn’t expect an Apple Car until 2023 at the earliest. (Though I think the opportunity will be greater in 2025, when 5G networks proliferate).

Apple Car isn’t merely a technology or product design challenge.

It requires the reinvention of something (transportation) that already exists.

At the same time, it is essential the results of that reinvention marry up both to existing needs and also meet rapidly transforming economic, environmental, global and socio-political realities.

The rapidity of the pace of change means future transport models may gain mass market success in emerging economies such as India faster than in developed economies, because existing habits are less deeply entrenched and consumers more prepared to experiment with both new transport and ownership models.

In part this is because the transformation wrought by these new models isn’t just about technological change, but also requires a shift in consciousness around what transportation is.

And — as the resistance to those warning about the effects of climate change show — many in the more developed economies are not yet ready to move to where the puck is most definitely going to be.  

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.





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The 4 Best Apple CarPlay / Android Auto Car Stereos in 2019 – Review Geek

A person pressing a button on Apple Carplay
Hadrian/Shutterstock.com

While more vehicles are coming with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay built-in, you don’t have to buy a new car to get these excellent in-dash systems. There are some great aftermarket units available—these are some of the best.

Important Features of an Aftermarket Car Stereo

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have revolutionized car stereos in recent years. When auto manufacturers build a new car, the car stereo features are generally set in stone. But Apple CarPlay and Android Auto open up support for new and updated applications at any time. For example, with iOS 13, Apple added a new split-screen layout that dramatically improves usability. Every car stereo with Apple CarPlay got this change for free!

Several car makers now include support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But if yours does not, you can get this technology by replacing your factory stereo with an aftermarket stereo. But before you pick out that new head unit, take a look at these important features:

  • Wireless support: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were initially a wired affair, but the wireless variant of these two technologies is becoming the new standard. Combined with in-vehicle wireless charging pads, connecting to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be as easy as entering the vehicle and plopping your phone down!
  • Speaker Amplification Power: Most aftermarket stereos have far more amplification power than your factory head unit. If you want a decent volume from your speakers, you will want at least 20 watts (RMS). Unless you are planning to add a speaker amplifier like a Kicker Key 180.4 or an Alpine KTP-445U to your rig, you need to pay attention to available amplifier power.
  • HD Radio / Sirius XM Support: These days, most aftermarket stereos support Sirius XM. HD Radio is a little rarer. That’s unfortunate because HD Radio is a great way to get high definition digital music for free over the airwaves.
  • Capacitive Touchscreen: Older and less advanced receivers use resistive touchscreens requiring you to push long and hard on the screen to make something happen. Capacitive touchscreens (like the one on your phone) are far superior to resistive touchscreens, making this a non-optional requirement for a good car stereo these days.
  • Backup Camera / Dashcam Support: Support for front, side, rear, or dash cameras is growing in the car stereo segment. Most aftermarket receivers now support two or even three camera inputs. If your existing car stereo shows you a backup camera when you go into reverse, this is the minimum required functionality for your replacement unit.
  • Comprehensive Equalizer / Crossover Support: The ability to dial in sound frequencies to achieve what you like to hear can’t be overstated. It’s not good enough to just have bass and treble adjustment. Also, fine-tuning crossover frequencies for each set of speakers (front, rear, and subwoofer) will result in an overall cleaner sound and also extend the life of your speakers by directing each speaker to play the frequencies it is designed for.
  • Line-Out Pre-amp Connections: Three pairs (6 channels) of pre-amp line outs (front, rear, and subwoofer) is also a basic requirement these days. All of the good receivers have them. You should question the purchase if the receiver you are evaluating doesn’t—or, you know, just avoid it altogether.
  • Steering-wheel Mounted Controls Support: Most modern cars come with steering-wheel-mounted controls these days. You’ll lose convenience if your aftermarket receiver doesn’t have a way to allow these controls to manage the stereo’s functions. The most common interface solution includes the iDatalink Maestro device. You will be looking for iDatalink support in any receiver that might replace your factory head unit.
  • Bluetooth Dual-Phone Pairing: Virtually every modern car stereo can pair with a cell phone via Bluetooth. Some of the better stereos can pair with two cell phones simultaneously, allowing for either phone to make or receive a phone call while the stereo seamlessly switches between the two phones.

Best Overall: Kenwood Excelon DMX906S

Kenwood Excelon DMX906S
Kenwood

The Kenwood Excelon series of car stereos is known for high-end features such as stronger amplification, better quality preamp line outs, and an extensive list of modern features. The DMX906 delivers on this paradigm with standout features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a customizable widget-based user interface, comprehensive 13-band EQ and 3-way crossover controls, HD Radio, and dual phone Bluetooth support.

The Kenwood provides standard features like SiriusXM radio support and three pairs of preamp line outs. It also has extended support for iDatalink Maestro that includes the ability to display additional vehicle diagnostics such as engine RPM and tire pressures. The DMX906S has a 6.95-inch capacitive touchscreen and provides 22 watts (RMS) x 4 channels, which is enough to drive just about any set of front and rear door speakers without additional amplification.

Best Overall

Kenwood DMX906S 6.95″ Digital Media Touchscreen Receiver

The Kenwood DMX906S boasts an incredible list of features including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, customizable user interface, and dual phone Bluetooth support to nail down our pick for Best Overall car stereo receiver.

The Budget Pick: Alpine ILX-W650

Alpine iLX-W650
Alpine

The Alpine ILX-W650 boasts a capacitive 7-inch touchscreen and support for wired-only Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in a package that is less than three inches deep and for an extremely low price! This is the go-to unit for replacing extremely shallow factory head units. The ILX-W650 also provides a standard feature list that includes support for iDatalink Maestro, 6-channel preamp outputs, support for SiriusXM radio, as well as custom EQ control.

If you aren’t replacing a shallow mount factory unit, the ILX-W650 practically begs you to bolt an Alpine KTA-450 mini-amplifier onto the back (a supported configuration) for a total depth of less than 5-inches while pushing 50 watts (RMS) per channel x 4 channels. In fact, the KTA-450 actually comes with the bracket you need to make this happen. Better yet, if this is your desired configuration, you can buy an ILX-W650/KTA-450 combo that will save you a few bucks.

The Budget Pick

Best DVD Receiver: Pioneer AVH-2550NEX

Pioneer AVH-2550NEX
Pioneer

If you need the ability to pop in a DVD and send video to the kids in the back seat, then look no further than the Pioneer AVH-2550NEX. This unit shows off with a very responsive 6.8-inch capacitive touchscreen, a customizable display and button colors, and external remote control.

While DVD playback is the standout feature on this unit, the AVH-2550NEX also impresses with Apple Carpay, Android Auto, HD Radio, SiriusXM support, enhanced iDatalink Maestro support that includes vehicle diagnostics, a 13-band graphic equalizer, high and low-pass filter support, and 6-channel preamp outputs. However, this unit only pushes 14 watts RMS x 4 channels, so you may need an additional amplifier to drive the front and rear speakers if you are also trying to improve volume or reduce distortion.

Best DVD Receiver

Best Single DIN / 9-inch Screen Receiver: Alpine Halo9 ILX-F309

Alpine HALO9 iLX-F309
Alpine

We are starting to experience a paradigm shift to larger displays on premium vehicles. If you are looking for something larger than a standard Double-DIN touchscreen, the Alpine Halo9 ILX-F309 is for you! The receiver chassis consumes just a single-DIN space but has a large 9-inch capacitive touch screen that appears to hover just in front of your dash. The screen is permanently mounted to the receiver but does feature flexible up, down, and tilt positioning options.

In addition to the beautiful touchscreen, the Halo9 ILX-F309 supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD Radio, and has support for SiriusXM. It also boasts a 9-band parametric EQ, high and low-pass filters, 6-channel preamp line outs, and support for enhanced iDatalink Maestro that includes vehicle diagnostics. This unit has an additional stand-out feature in that it is compatible with an optional accessory controller that manages up to eight additional devices such as winches, LED lights, suspension kits, and powered bed covers. Amplification is a little light at 18 watts (RMS) x 4 channels, so an additional amplifier may be helpful if you need a bit more sound.





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4 Thunderous Powered Car Subwoofers Under $300 – Review Geek

An SUV with a subwoofer in the open trunk, and speakers on the opened passenger's side door.
EugenePut/Shutterstock

If you’re looking to add a little more bass (no treble) to your car’s sound system, a good subwoofer is the way to do it. These combos can add some thunder without pounding your wallet.

What to Look for in a Powered Subwoofer System

Twenty years ago, if you wanted powerful bass for your car audio, you had to spend north of $1,000 to get a decent system. Thankfully, times have changed. You can get a great-sounding powered subwoofer package for less than $300! While you might not win any audio competitions with them, these inexpensive systems are an easy bolt-on to enhance the rumble of a factory car stereo or custom aftermarket sound system.

Here are some important factors to consider when you purchase a powered subwoofer for your vehicle:

  • Enclosure size and form factor: It’s easy to get an inexpensive, decent-sounding system. It’s not as easy to find one that sounds great and fits well in your vehicle.
  • Power: Subwoofer and amplifier power is best measured by Root Mean Squared (RMS) watts. RMS watts is the continuous power handling level into a given speaker resistance with a Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) of 1 percent or less. So, you’re looking for how much power the subwoofer/amp can handle continuously without sounding like garbage.
  • Frequency response: In most cases, larger woofers generate more volume and lower frequencies (deeper sound). But don’t get trapped by the bigger-is-better concept—that’s not always the case. There are some great 10-inch, eight-inch, and (surprisingly) six-inch subwoofers out there that generate a low, tight rumble.
  • Signal input options: Most powered subs support a line-level input from a subwoofer pre-output on a stereo head unit. But most factory stereos don’t provide subwoofer pre-outputs. Some subwoofers also support high-level inputs, which allow you to tap into the front or rear speaker wires directly to get the audio signal. The good news is this “tap” doesn’t actually have to drive the subwoofer; it just provides the sound stream to the subwoofer. It doesn’t affect the volume or quality of sound for the source speaker channel.

The key to adding good bass is to match the right size, power, and frequency response to the cabin volume of your vehicle. Larger interior spaces require more power, but also typically have more space for a larger system. A smaller interior often doesn’t require as much speaker size or power to achieve good bass. In a smaller car, you can get away with less power, and a smaller speaker size and installation footprint.

Best Overall: Rockville RWS12CA Slim 1200 Watt 12-inch Subwoofer

The Rockville RWS12CA subwoofer and remote.
Rockville

The Rockville RWS12CA combines a slim subwoofer box with a built-in monoblock amplifier and a 12-inch, shallow mount subwoofer. This system measures 24 inches (length) x 15 inches (height) x 4.37 inches (top depth) x 6.65 inches (bottom depth). It pushes 300 watts (RMS) and 1,200 watts (peak). The RWS12CA delivers powerful, cabin-filling bass in a form factor that’s easy to install, at a price point you won’t believe. The enclosure will fit under most rear crew-cab seats in a full-size truck. You could also easily stow it in the trunk of a car or the rear hauling space of an SUV.

The RWS12CA plays nice, with an aftermarket head unit that provides a line-level sound source and remote turn-on signal. You can also tap into high-level speaker lines to add it to a factory system. With an Auto Start Music Sense, the amplifier detects when the high-level speaker source provides a signal and turns on the amp power. A configurable low-pass crossover, +12 dB bass boost, and remote bass control are also included.

If you already have sub-wiring in place, you can knock $10 off the combo price. Otherwise, the Rockville RWS12CA + Wire Kit is the better value.

Best Overall

Best Bang for the Buck: MTX Terminator Dual 12-inch Powered Subwoofer

MTX Terminator subwoofer and TNA251 monoblock amplifier.
MTX Audio

If you have plenty of available space—and a desire for real thunder without thumping your bank account—the MTX Terminator Dual 12-inch powered subwoofer box is the way to go. The two subwoofers in this system can handle 200 watts RMS each, for a total of 400 watts (RMS) and 800 watts (peak). It ships with an MTX TNA251 monoblock amplifier that’s specifically matched to the subs. The subs are mounted in a sealed, 5/8-inch-thick MDF box for tight bass response. However, you’re going to need plenty of room in the trunk or rear cargo area for this beast (it measures 14 inches x 29.625 inches x 13.5 inches).

The TNA251 amplifier is highly configurable and supports both high- and line-level inputs, high- and low-pass filter crossover systems, and remote bass control (not included).

There are certainly more powerful subwoofer systems out there, but power isn’t everything. This rig perfectly matches the sealed enclosure size, dual 12-inch subs, and amplifier to produce thunderous bass you won’t find elsewhere at this price.

Best Bang for the Buck

Best Low-Profile Subwoofer: Rockville RW10CA 10-inch 800-watt Subwoofer

The Rockville RW10CA subwoofer.
Rockville

The Rockville RW10CA will amaze you with the bass it generates from its 12.4-inch (length) x 13.4-inch (width) x 2.7-inch (height) box! This unit will fit behind most standard- or rear-cab truck seats, or even under many vehicle seats. Of course, with the included mounting brackets, you can lock in this sub just about anywhere in rear storage.

But the best part about the RW10CA is how Rockville was able to cram the 10-inch sub and amplifier into that tiny box and still generate so much bass! It pushes 200 watts RMS and 800 watts peak, so you won’t be disappointed with the sound this little box manufactures. It provides an 18-decibel bass boost and low-pass filter, and a remote bass control is included. The RW10CA supports both high- and line-level inputs and has automatic turn-on capabilities.

If you like the RW10CA but have an extra-small vehicle with limited mounting options, check out the Rockville RW8CA 8-inch 600-watt low-profile unit. Its 12.4-inch (length) x 11-inch (width) x 2.7-inch (height) box is 2.4 inches narrower than the RW10CA, so it will fit under even smaller car seats.

Best Low-Profile Subwoofer

Best Bass Tube: MTX RT8PT Powered Subwoofer

The MTX RT8PT Bass Tube.
MTX Audio

Bass tube-style subwoofer enclosures are great options for smaller cars that need a little extra low-end punch in a small, easily storable form factor. A bass tube packs well in the trunk or rear storage area, and they typically feature an eight- or six-inch subwoofer. Placement is important—they sound best when they point into a vehicle corner, so they can take full advantage of audio wave reflection.

The MTX RT8PT sports a 120-watt (RMS) onboard amplifier, and an eight-inch high-performance subwoofer in a vented, tube-style enclosure. The RT8PT cranks out far more bass than you’d expect, given its small size. It supports both high- and line-level inputs and provides a low-pass filter, so you can blend the bass output with existing speakers.

The MTX RT8PT enclosure also features a flat bottom and angled subwoofer design to provide stability and maximize sound reflection.

Best Bass Tube





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The Best Back and Lumbar Pillows for Your Car – Review Geek

An illustration showing how comfortable a driver looks with a lumbar pillow.
jehsomwang/Shutterstock

Do you ever catch yourself hunching forward at the wheel? It may be time to upgrade your car seat with a supportive lumbar pillow.

What to Look for in a Supportive Car Pillow

While you could technically use any lumbar pillow in your car, you may get sick of it and revert back to your slouching ways. See, regular lumbar pillows are made for office chairs, not car seats. They may provide lower back support, but they often lack support for the upper back or shoulders.

So we suggest buying a lumbar pillow that’s designed specifically for the car. These pillows are more supportive than regular lumbar pillows, and they’re often a lot more breathable and adjustable to boot.

Of course, no two pillows are alike. Here are some things to look out for while shopping for a car pillow:

  • Size: Small lumbar pillows can correct your posture, but they rarely provide support for your upper back and shoulders. If lumbar pillows have seemed uncomfortable to you in the past, then we suggest getting a full-back or a back and neck pillow.
  • Removable covers: If you’re worried about stains and smells, consider buying a pillow with a removable, washable cover.
  • The look: Back and lumbar pillows look super dorky. Spinal health is a solid trade-off for looking like a nerd, but you can try and minimize the dork-factor by buying a lumbar pillow that actually matches your car seats (beige pillow with beige seats, leather pillow with leather seats, etc.).
  • Breathability: Memory foam isn’t very breathable, which means it can make your back sweat if you live in a hot and humid area. If you already experience some back sweat while driving,  maybe you should buy a lumbar pillow with a breathable mesh or cotton lining.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to get into it. Here are the best back and lumbar pillows for your car.

The Best Overall: Dreamer Car Full-Back Pillow

The Dreamer back pillow for cars.
Dreamer

Basic lumbar pillows can improve your posture and help with lower back pain. But they can leave your upper back hanging, which isn’t always a comfortable feeling.

Thankfully, the Dreamer cushion can support your whole back while you drive. It’s made of supportive memory foam and secures to your seat with adjustable straps. Sadly, the Dreamer’s cotton cover isn’t removable, but you should be able to clean it with whatever solution you use to clean your car’s seats.

The Best Overall

The Budget Pick: ZIRAKI Lumbar Cushion

The ZIRAKI lumbar Xpillow
ZIRAKI

If you’re just looking for a cheap memory foam pillow that’ll fit in your car seat, then look no further than the ZIRAKI lumbar cushion. It’s a supportive, adjustable pillow with a washable cover. For less than $20, what more could you ask for?

This ZIRAKI pillow is more portable than most car pillows, which means you can reasonably use it for the other chairs in your life. That is, if you’re willing to take it out of your car.

The Budget Pick

The Premium Pick: Anyshock Neck and Back Car Pillow

The Anyshock back and neck car pillow
Anyshock

If you want to get extra comfy-cozy while fixing your posture, then you should check out the Anyshock neck and back car pillow. It’s made from breathable memory cotton, and it adds extra support for your back, shoulders, neck, and head.

These Anyshock pillows come with adjustable straps and have machine washable covers.

The Premium Pick

For Leather Seats: Aukee Leather Lumbar Pillow

The Aukee leather lumbar cushion.
Aukee

Typical memory foam cushions can clash with leather seats. So, if you’re trying to keep your car looking as cool as possible, consider picking up an Aukee leather lumbar pillow. It’s an attractive leather-lined pillow with memory foam innards, and it’ll give you the back support you need without taking away the cool factor from your leather car seats

The Aukee pillow doesn’t have any straps. This means it’s less dorky than other pillows, but also that it might move around when you get out of your car. Also, the Aukee pillow’s leather cover is removable, but it’s made of leather and shouldn’t need to be cleaned too often.

For Leather Seats

For Sweaty Backs: MAXXPRIME Mesh Lumbar Cushion (2 Pack)

The MAXXPRIME mesh lumbar cushion
MAXXPRIME

Some people experience a sweaty back while driving. It’s nothing to be ashamed of—it’s probably just the climate, or maybe it’s the car seats. Either way, memory foam pillows aren’t very “breathable,” so they’re not great for people who sweat while driving.

If you suffer from sweaty back, consider buying a mesh lumbar cushion. It’ll air out your back a lot better than a memory foam cushion, and it’ll still provide the back support you need. MAXXPRIME’s mesh back cushions are a great option, as they’re affordable and adjustable.

For Sweaty Backs





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Can an Apple Watch prevent fatal car accidents? It just might.

Today’s connected cars try to deliver a lot of safety features, such as using radar and video cameras to detect an imminent accident and sometimes take over braking and steering control in an effort to avert that accident. At the very least, the cars will issue increasingly loud and bright visual and audio alerts to get the driver to take action to avert the accident.

But a new University of Missouri College of Engineering study calls into question whether such systems work and, far more frightening, whether they might indeed be counterproductive and make drivers less safe. Yet it’s possible that a simple smartwatch might be part of the solution. Ah, the joys of IoT and connected computing never end.

The problems with these systems — sometimes called advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) — come down to two issues: alert fatigue (where the driver gets so annoyed by the frequent and seemingly pointless alerts that the driver either ignores them or turns them off), and distractions that come at the worst possible instant.

Although alert fatigue can make the system unable to improve safety, it’s the distraction problem that can make the experience literally less safe. According to Jung Hyup Kim, an assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering in the University of Missouri College of Engineering and a primary author of the study, there are two possible driver states at the moment of alert that a serious accident is imminent: The driver either already knows about the situation and is actively working at this instant to avoid the accident; or the driver doesn’t already know about it.

If the driver happens to not have noticed anything yet, then the alerts can be lifesaving and critically helpful. But if the driver has already detected the problem and is actively trying to solve it, an insistent alert at the instant can distract the driver at the worst possible time. In theory, that distraction alert might even cause a brief delay in response, which itself could prove fatal.

What does Kim suggest doing about this? He is proposing a system that will try to determine if the driver is already aware of the problem and is actively engaged in protective measures. Kim’s proposed system will feature video cameras in the dashboard, which will watch the eyes and look for changes suggesting that the driver is already in panic mode, as well as a wrist-based sensor that will track changes in muscle tightening. That wrist-based sensor would likely be a smartwatch and quite possibly integrated into an existing popular smartwatch.

To get more technical and specific, let’s look at how the report describes these monitoring mechanisms: The system will use “physiological measures to advance our understanding of the relations between human biometric signals and physical reactions, such as pupillary response, electroencephalography, electromyography signals, etc. The dilation of pupil could reveal the upcoming choice of the human about half-a-second before the actions in the dynamic decision-making process. Also, other studies have supported that the patterns of pupillary response could reflect human perceptual decisions. Therefore, in this study, we assumed the pupil dilation changes could be one of the indicators of physical responses once drivers give a physical reaction to the collision warning. Also, electromyography (EMG) is an electrodiagnostic medicine technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. As it quantifies muscle force levels, it has been widely used to classify human postures, with decoding user intent and indicating patients’ physical movement in healthcare. So it was introduced as another indicator of physical movement in this study. Therefore, the research objective is to predict drivers’ upcoming physical reactions to collision avoidance warnings by using the ratio of pupil diameter changes and EMG responses as two physiological measures.”

In a phone interview with Computerworld, Kim compared the distraction problem to a husband driving a car with his wife a passenger when a pedestrian runs out into the street. This prompts the wife to shout at her husband, ostensibly to flag the pedestrian problem. “The wife screaming might make you more frightened,” Kim said, and therefore less able to maneuver the car quickly to avoid hitting the pedestrian.

The EMG sensor is looking for “a strong muscle constriction that we might be able to detect” whereas eye movement could be tracked by either a dashboard camera or having the driver wearing an eye-tracking device, such as $20,000 eye-tracking glasses.

I would argue that the glasses are a bad idea. The only way for this approach to work — and it would be up to car manufacturers to do it — is to make the system seamless, piggybacking on existing systems, such as a smartwatch the driver might already be wearing. A dashboard camera would be invisible to the user. And Apple, for example, would probably love the idea of embedding EMG sensors in a future Apple Watch so that the latest version of the watch would be pushed by Toyota or Ford or whoever.

If this works, it would sharply reduce unnecessary alerts (“unnecessary” being defined as trying to tell the driver something the driver already knows), which should reduce both alert fatigue and distractions during emergencies. It would be a welcome improvement. Now if I can only get my car to stop beeping when I have the audacity to put a bag of groceries on the front passenger seat without then connecting the seatbelt.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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