Review it – If you have an old or original car, you may not have entertainment that easily connects to your phone. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay provide features rich mobile experience and are OEM options on many new cars, but what if you didn’t get it from the factory? For those of us who don’t have them, there are third-party options – though those experiences may come with caveats. Let’s take a look at the Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S to see what it brings to the table.
What is it?
I love my 2017 Subaru, but the OEM infotainment system is a bit… lacking (to be polite). Although it has a touch screen and supports Bluetooth, it’s as fun as it gets. My wife’s 2020 Honda has Android Auto, and while it does require a wired connection, the multimedia and mobile experience is leaps and bounds ahead of my Subaru. The Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S seems to offer a solution for those of us who may not have the latest technology in our cars, or any technology at all, to enjoy the latest technology available.
The Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S is the newest device in the Intellidash range, which has four models. It supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay which provides a mobile app experience, controlled by your phone. For those who don’t have a phone that supports this, the Intellidash Pro S can also work a bit slower, but the value proposition is too low for its price.
What’s in the box?
- Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S
- Suction mount and adhesive disc for dash mount, and optional cable management
- Aux cables
- USB-C to USB-C cable
- 12-24V DC power adapter
- User manual
- Display IPS Touch Screen
- Bluetooth® 4.0
- Audio Output: Aux, FM, internal speaker
- AV input for rear camera connection
- Built in speaker and microphone
- Output: Max 2A via USB-C
- USB Ports:
- Type C-Smartphone Connection and Charging
- Type A-Supports Audio and Video Files Up to 32GB
- Audio Format: MP3/ WMA/ AAC/ AC3/ OGG/ REAL AUDIO/ FLAG/ APE
- Video Format: AVI/RMVB/MPEG/RM/MKV/MOV/MP4/WMV/FLV
- Power supply: DC 12V; Power Consumption: 12W
Design and appearance
Looking like a small tablet, the Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S is useful for productivity. All ports and connections are on the same side, which helps with cable management. The back of the unit is where the mount connects, using four connection points.
The 7″ IPS screen is very bright to cut through the glare, even the glossy surface can pick up fingerprints and glare.
I was very surprised by the design of this mount – the adjustable position gives a lot of flexibility in the transmission options and it is very strong.
It is also supported by Intellidash Pro S and SiriusXM service. SiriusXM can be accessed via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The installation of Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S will vary depending on your vehicle and the way you choose to install it. I chose to leave out the 3M adhesive since I’ve had problems in the past with adhesives damaging the dash. At first I tried the center mount from the windshield but then I settled on the left side of the steering wheel. There were three reasons why I went with this:
- The show doesn’t really interfere with the fire glass at this point.
- Easy to reach controls.
- Good options for hiding cables.
The height of the suction cup allows you to adjust the angle, height and depth, which makes it easy to dial in the right position. My only complaint with this setup is that road bumps can translate into screen vibration, although this is mitigated by a break on the front of the gauge cluster. The Intellidash includes adhesive pads that can also be used to deal with vibration issues. This position didn’t give me enough access with the included AUX cable to get back to my center console.
Unfortunately, the car’s power plug doesn’t have much capacity to add something, so if you have a dash cam, or other electrical wiring needs you may want to consider for your options. It also has a barrel connector, so the power and USB-C connector is complete. This is not good because it can make finding a power adapter with a USB power port difficult. Luckily, I had a USB-A port that I could plug mine into MIOFIVE 4k dash cam to.
For both iOS and Android, the initial setup of Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S is identical and delightfully simple. Plugging your phone into the Intellidash Pro S is all that’s needed to start the workflow. Intellidash will walk you through it, and once you’ve agreed to connect to your phone, you’re good to go. From then on, you will be able to connect wirelessly, automagically. The wireless connection is via wifi, so if your dashcam has the same connection you may need to switch connections when connecting to one or the other.
It’s worth mentioning here that if you don’t have a USB-C cable for your phone, you’ll need an adapter that isn’t included. The USB-A connection on the Intellidash is for flash storage only.
For the most part, the Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S infotainment system experience is the same on Android and iOS, but with one big exception – we’ll get to that later. For the purpose of this review, I won’t get into the weeds of ‘what is’ Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as they are the only platforms Intellidash can run, in addition to other things it can do. his. The Android Auto and Apple CarPlay apps work fine, but there’s a lot of pain because this isn’t an OEM setup.
Having the ability to connect to the Intellidash Pro S wirelessly is a welcome feature, as having to tether my phone to my wife’s car was always my only gripe with using Android Auto in her Honda. When the Intellidash turns on automatically when the car is started, it’s a real experience.
The device’s hardware settings are a bit limited, but there are some important settings you’ll want to dial up. There is no ambient light sensor, so to avoid being blinded by the device at night you need to turn it off at night. mode. Since it works on a schedule basis this may need to change frequently depending on where you live. Apart from the lack of a light sensor, the power on the boot screen is the Car and Driver logo in a white space. The light doesn’t respect nighttime settings, so powering on the unit at night is like staring at the sun until you get past the boot screen.
Depending on your vehicle there are several ways you can connect between the Intellidash Pro S and your car audio, but I found the best way to go is to pull out the Aux cable. I spent some time with the output of the FM transmitter, and although it worked, I did not find the sound quality to be very good. Dropouts were frequent, and interruptions were always near no matter how many times I called. If you don’t have a way to connect the Intellidash to your car’s audio system, it has an on-board speaker but the sound quality is poor. Think cheap, small talk. There’s a built-in EQ in the audio settings if you want, though you can also EQ from your phone.
If your phone is not compatible with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, there are other options for making calls and music. By connecting the Intellidash Pro S to your phone via Bluetooth, you can answer calls or download music from your phone. While the Phone feature is handled well enough, music streaming is a bit of a letdown. You can skip tracks forward and backward, but changing albums or searching for a different song must be done with the phone itself.
Here’s the rub, and what I found to be the biggest difference between iPhone and Android. The way Android Auto communicates, it interferes with the phone’s wifi and Bluetooth connections. For a regular Android Auto installation that is OEM and all properly connected to your car’s audio system, this is great. However, with the Intellidash Pro S, you lose the ability to connect Bluetooth to your car (assuming your car supports it). Why is this important? With Android Auto forcing a Bluetooth connection in the Intellidash, you can’t configure your phone to use your car for phone calls. Even when I had my car’s Bluetooth connected to the phone, my phone didn’t give me the option to change the audio output to the car. This forces your text through Intellidash including mic. This wouldn’t be a problem if the mic on the Intellidash was better, but “mud and underwater” were the responses I always got from the other end of the phone.
Fortunately for iPhone users, the Apple CarPlay platform seems to work only on wifi. With my wife’s iPhone, I can only keep Bluetooth calls in my car, so accepting calls through the OEM audio system and using its microphone works fine.
Finally, voice commands via Siri or Google Assistant both work well. I found it necessary to block the sound of my car in order to get the Intellidash Pro S microphone to pick up my voice reliably when changing music, and it does a good job of capturing your request accurately.
Which I like
- The display is bright and large.
- Wireless connections and voice commands always work well.
- The climbing system is strong.
What I would change
- The Aux cable is the only way to output sound.
- The DC adapter must have a USB port for power sharing.
- I’d like to see a rotation sensor to enable night/day modes, and a black background for the basic Car and Driver mode.
Car and Driver has a fun product that does what it says it will, but as they say, your mileage may vary. The hardware is generally good and up to the task of running Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The problem with creating something like this is the amount of changes that come into play, because the experience will be very different depending on the phone you have and the car you want to install Intellidash on.
To summarize… the ideal user for this device is someone who has an Apple CarPlay enabled iOS device that has an aux port in their car, and is able to connect their phone to their car via Bluetooth. Any other changes will require compromise. I can’t fault the Car and Driver Intellidash Pro S for Android Auto issues using wifi and Bluetooth, because it’s not their own control platform. I hope Google will eventually address this issue as it limits the ability of third party Android Auto devices.
As a final note, during my review, I had a product question that I submitted via the Car and Driver customer contact form on their website. I received a thorough, helpful response within a business day, so thanks to the Cars and Drivers team!