Review

Mike Wuerthele| Dec 28, 20210 CommentsFacebookTwitterReddit

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CarPlay has come a long way in the seven years since its release, and the Boss BE10ACP is an affordable gateway to integrating Apple technologies into your car.

If you need to replace your car stereo, there are options on the market that provide support for Apple's CarPlay system. The problem in many cases is that you could end up needing to use a single-DIN head unit, a compact size that doesn't necessarily offer space for a display.

The Boss BE10ACP is a single-DIN head unit with a large display. Rather than being a double-DIN unit that would keep the display within the main unit's dimensions, the display is mounted so it sticks out a short distance from the front of the unit itself.

The connector at the back of the display, used to plug into the head unit itself.

Instead, what you get is a "hovering" display that isn't bound by the restrictive single-DIN dimensions so that it can be installed in practically any vehicle. Furthermore, the screen is adjustable up to 25 degrees up and down, 15 degrees left and right from centerline, and vertically by about three inches in total.

You have some freedom in angling the display from side to side.

The design does have the pitfall of potentially blocking vents and other dashboard elements, but it's only really a problem if there's a lot of controls and vents surrounding the head unit's space. Likewise, it's not a big issue if you're installing the single-DIN unit in a double-DIN bay —but plastic bezels will have to be purchased separately if you are.

Boss BE10ACP review - Key Specifications

The display is a 10.1-inch capacitive touchscreen. As demonstrated in a few of these pictures, the screen coating is exceptionally glossy and reflective, so glare can be an issue. If you've got the sun in your rear window, it will reflect right into your face.

We offset this a little with an old 12.9-inch iPad Pro matte plastic screen protector, which we cut to fit. This didn't impact night visibility at all, nor did the shininess of the screen.

At the bottom are four capacitive buttons used to access the menu, summon Siri, switch between system modes, and switch between FM and AM bands. In the middle of the four buttons is a volume knob that also controls power.

The back of the head unit, complete with wiring and ports on view.

Around the back are connections for the main harness, six pre-amp outputs, RCA AV inputs, the radio antenna, mic input, front and rear camera inputs, and a pair of USB ports on cables. One of the USB ports is intended to facilitate CarPlay and Android Auto, while the other is a standard USB 2.0 port with 1A charging for connected devices.

Boss BE10ACP - CarPlay use

Once you turn on the head unit with the knob, you must connect the iPhone to the correct USB port, using a USB-to-Lightning cable, then touch CarPlay on the display when it illuminates green.

You do have gesture support, including touches, swipes, and dragging. Returning to the main Boss interface is handled with a press of the Boss icon.

While the screen isn't as sensitive as an iPad or iPhone, it gets the job done. We didn't experience any deep delays or lags in the interface versus the desired action.

The Boss BE10ACP CarPlay Receiver display gives a great way to manage podcast playback while on the move.

While there's Bluetooth support in the unit itself, it does not support wireless CarPlay. You are forced to use the cable connection, which is fine. We've used wireless CarPlay in the past, and it's super-convenient but can be a little twitchy.

When you're actively using CarPlay, the head unit will turn off Bluetooth automatically, disconnecting other devices that may be connected in the process. This is good or bad, depending on your use case.

Boss BE10ACP Receiver review: Add CarPlay to your vehicle at a low entry-price

Once in CarPlay, you have access to the usual selection of apps and services it offers, sourced from the connected iPhone. Specifically, it requires an iPhone 5 or newer for CarPlay, running iOS 7.1 or later.

A microphone is supplied on a long cable that plugs into the back of the unit. It is intended to be run to the point of your choosing for Siri commands and phone calls. Ideally, that should be run close to the driver's mouth or in the middle of the dashboard. Fortunately, you are provided with enough cable for both options.

If you have steering wheel controls, the unit can support many different types, but it does require an adapter to work. Unfortunately, Boss doesn't include one in the box, so this is an extra expense if you need this functionality.

Boss BE10ACP review - Other audio features

Along with CarPlay, you also have Android Auto and fairly standard Bluetooth functions when CarPlay isn't in use. For example, you can set your iPhone to automatically connect to Bluetooth whenever it is in the car, after pairing it for the first time.

Those functions include calls and audio streaming, with the screen showing the track, album, and artist information but not album art.

If you plug in a properly formatted USB thumb drive, you can playback music and video, as well as view photographs stored on the drive. The latter two of those can be viewed while parked, not while on the move.

You are limited to 32GB for the drive, which can be a considerable amount of music and podcasts that are always connected to the head unit on the second USB connection, if not limitless. Still, it's a nice option to have if you're not able to hook your iPhone up at that moment, and the local radio stations aren't playing your style of music.

There's also a built-in AM/FM tuner with stereo and mono switching, station listings, auto-search and store, and local and distant station options.

Audio is driven to your car's speakers using its rear connections and built-in internal amp. It provides up to 340W of total power output, with 20W RMS and a peak of 85W for each of its four channels.

The head unit just shows the port where the display attaches once installed.

There's also a 10-band equalizer, so you can tweak the audio output of the unit to match your taste.

Boss BE10ACP review - Camera and video

Ports on the back provide an AV input, so you can use the head unit's display to show video from an in-vehicle Blu-ray or DVD player, for example. For this particular connection, the controls and track functions are handled by the host device, not the head unit, as it only serves as a display in this particular instance.

The display shows a large disclaimer, basically telling you not to watch video while driving.

If you connect front and rear cameras, they are viewable on the head unit's display with a quick touch of the Camera button, with the view switchable between the two.

If you put the car into reverse gear, the rear camera can automatically display on the screen, assuming you've had it installed and adapted properly —but more in this in a bit. The delay for its appearance can be configured by the user if required.

When the rear camera input doesn't offer automatic parking guidelines, you can set them up within the device's settings menu, complete with touch-and-drag fine-tuning.

We didn't need to adjust the parking guides much. This will depend very much on your backup camera, though.

Boss BE10ACP review - installation

The BE10ACP is a single-din receiver, with a large external screen, as we've already discussed. This can make it easier, physically, to install, but the installation process itself is not impossible, but challenging, and requires either some soldering skill or tools and caps to connect the individual wires.

The major auto manufacturers make sure that the installations of their factory stereos are clean and easy. Any given model has a common fitting, making it easy to install on the assembly line.

This common fitting, unfortunately, does not go as far as crossing different models, nor different cars even from the same company.

So, for third-party additions, what you get is at a minimum two-fold. These days, you can buy half of a wiring harness for your particular vehicle through a vendor like Crutchfield, and you get the other half of the harness in the box for the stereo.

This leaves the user or installer to wire the harness together correctly before installing it in the car, referring closely to cable labels and any available documentation for any other adapters you may need, like steering wheel controls.

If you do this yourself, at one point, you've got this wire spaghetti on your desk or workbench.

You may need to do some wiring, so some electronic confidence may be required for installation.

Some stores offer to build the harness for you for a small cost, around $30. And of course, third-party installers will include it in the labor costs.

If you plan on installing the stereo yourself, We highly recommend you take the harness wiring from the vendor that sold you the appropriate harness adapter for your car. It is an incredible labor-saver and worth the money.

None of this is a specific ding against Boss, here. This is industry-wide, and needs to be considered before a self-installation is performed.

CarPlay apps aren't perfect

I've used CarPlay units off-and-on since inception. Over the last seven years, Apple's CarPlay-compatible apps have evolved, and are pretty good now. The interface has been well-thought-out, and the software execution is solid.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for third-party apps, assuming there's any support for the feature at all.

As an example of an app that has CarPlay compatibility, but only a nod to it, the XM Radio app is just adequate. The app is fussy when plugged in, and to display your favorites, you often have to switch between any other app and the XM app.

Our installation car had a XM receiver, as a factory install. The interface on it had near-real-time metadata updates so you could see what was playing on up to four channels on any given favorite channel screen.

Additionally, you could select a favorite artist or song, and the radio would alert you to your selections playing on any other XM channel.

The iOS and CarPlay apps don't do this, at all. In fact, on the CarPlay app, the metadata on the Favorite channel screens isn't real-time, and you have to back out of that screen and go back to it, to see what's on the other channels.

So, if you have a "must" app, make sure first that it's CarPlay-compatible, and then check to see if it does what you want it to.

It took a while for major car manufacturers to even consider CarPlay as an option, and a few are still holding out. I expect the next two years will see more evolution and improvement than the last seven have as adoption climbs, in this regard.

Tough call to self-install or have the pros do it

Considering that I spent a great deal of time in my life figuring out how to fix things while under the Atlantic Ocean and then spent several years inside Apple's service chain, it's safe to say that I'm pretty handy mechanically, and electrically to some extent. I got the wiring harness spliced up in about an hour, but I can see that time being a bit higher or lower depending on experience and method.

Helpfully, since this is a single-DIN unit, my car had an easy installation, requiring only a single bezel and four screws to be removed to yank out the factory stereo. Had this been a double-DIN stereo, I'd have to get in there and cut out a bracket with a Sawzall or similar tool, which would have made this much more challenging.

However, if I had an earlier version of my vehicle, installation would have required not just that bracket cut, but also a nearly-full disassembly of my dashboard.

I cannot stress this enough: Third-party CarPlay heads are not plug-and-play. It is critical that before you consider a self-installation, you research what it will take to get a stereo in your car.

Fortunately, I did this. There are several websites where you can see what you need, and what extras you have to have for the installation. Since I'm in Virginia, I used a Virginia company to help me out —specifically, the aforementioned Crutchfield.com.

While the head unit itself was provided for this review by Boss, I ordered the bits and bobs I needed for my install, and instructions for same. For this particular stereo, the extras ran about $130, and that seems to be about typical if you want to preserve steering wheel controls.

Big-box stores like Best Buy offer installation with purchase, which I recommend if for no other reason than accountability if something goes terribly wrong. Or, you can pick a local company to do it —there is no shortage of car audio installers adjacent to metro areas in this day and age.

And then, there's the question of CarPlay. It's better than it was, like I discussed above, but it's still not what you'd call a universal need. In the last seven years, the technology has evolved from niche, to a little less niche.

I didn't recommend it at launch, and had a hard time suggesting it for use until about 2019. But, in very late 2021, the environment has changed enough that I can say that if you're Apple-centric, a CarPlay receiver is an obvious add to your integrations and hardware.

It's no secret that Apple has its eyes on the automotive space, and CarPlay will only get better. Fortunately, you're not stuck with an out-of-date receiver limiting you, as your iPhone will remain the brains of the operation.

I've said it before, and I'm going to keep beating this drum —a unified score for anything is nearly impossible. Generally, you have to incorporate installation, if the product says what it's going to do, and so forth.

It's hard to consider pricing for the Boss BE10ACP. It very much depends on your car, what you need for brackets, and if you choose your own labor which you should not consider free versus professional installation which is absolutely not free.

The Boss BE10ACP review hardware based on pricing and feature set alone, is a 4 out of 5. Whether or not this corrects to a 2 out of 5 since you have a super-challenging installation specific to your car and skill-set, or a 5 out of 5 because you're an electrical engineer and have done many installations like this before, is an entirely personal decision.

Score 4 out of 5

Boss BE10ACP pros

Boss BE10ACP review cons

Where to buy

The Boss CarPlay-compatible digital multimedia receiver retails for $379.99, but is currently on sale at Amazon. Shoppers can also pick up the BE10ACP at Crutchfield and Best Buy.

Prices do not include the extra gear, nor installation.