I’ve received a review sample of a brand new product from iPazzPort. iPazzPort is of course most well known for their line of portable wireless keyboards which are very popular among Android mini PC and also tablet and smart phone users. iPazzPort has also produced a few Android mini PC and Android TV set top boxes of their own. However, the iPazzPort KarPlay Monitor System I’ve received is a brand new product and it is obvious that iPazzPort are very excited about their new product.
The iPazzPort KarPlay is an accessory that is designed to be used in your car. It is a 7″ LCD display that will connect to your iPhone or Android smart phone via AirPlay, Miracast or DLNA and act as an extended display for your smart phone. The KarPlay is a natural progression of iPazzPort’s iPazzCast devices. If you recall, the iPazzCast is a HDMI device that attaches to your HDTV’s HDMI port and allows your TV to connect to your phone via AirPlay, Miracast or DLNA. The iPazzCast is a quick and easy way to share photos and videos with others on a flat screen TV.
The iPazzPort KarPlay combines an iPazzCast with a 7″ LCD monitor. So instead of a device that plugs into an existing display, this display already has AirPlay, Miracast and DLNA enabled. The whole idea behind this product is to enable the user to use the KarPlay as a larger display for use in the car and to display apps like GPS navigation, music playback or watching video.
The iPazzPort KarPlay comes with the display unit itself, a 12V DC USB power adapter for use with the car cigarette lighter, USB power cable, 3.5 mm audio cable and a dashboard mount. The KarPlay does not comes with a built-in battery so it will only work if it is connected to a USB power source. You can either power it using the included power adapter or you can plug it into any USB power source including a laptop USB port for example.
The unit measures about 7.5 x 5.5 x 1.15 inch and it has a 7 inch display with a speaker located right under the display. On the left of the unit are five buttons. From top to bottom, the buttons are for changing the display mode, volume increase, menu or settings, volume decrease and the power button.
At the back of the unit is the power socket, a 3.5 mm auxiliary out jack, the mounting bracket for the dash mount and a flip stand for propping up the KarPlay on a table.
The build quality is about average but since this is not an expensive product, it is comparable to a similarly sized tablet within the same price range. However, it must be noted that compared to a proper tablet, the Karplay has no touch screen, no computing power and no battery. In light of that, I would have expected the quality of the KarPlay to be better.
iPazzPort KarPlay Monitor System Performance
The first thing I tried was to use the KarPlay in Miracast mode. With the iPazzCast, this was the more useful mode as the display will just simply mirror whatever that is displayed on the phone.
There is some setup required for getting the KarPlay to work with my phone but the included manual covers all the necessary steps. Miracast only works on Android phones that have the Miracast feature included but this should include most Android phones released in the last couple of years. Miracast simply just mirrors everything on your phone display to the KarPlay which makes it the most versatile mode as just about any app will work with the KarPlay.
The Miracast mode is a little more complicated to setup compared to DLNA and it requires connecting to the KarPlay’s WiFi AP to make some configuration changes to allow the KarPlay to then connect to your home WiFi network. However, this only needs to be done once and the settings are saved on both the KarPlay and on your phone for future connection.
Everything went without a hitch and I managed to connect my phone to the KarPlay at my first attempt. The KarPlay will also automatically rotate the display depending on whether my phone was on portrait or landscape mode. There is a slight lag between the two displays but nothing really serious.
Then I tried playing a movie via Netflix. And this is where the limitation of the iPazzPort KarPlay begin to show. Firstly, the display resolution and quality on the KarPlay is just average. While my phone only has a 5 inch display, it’s 1080p resolution and display quality puts it miles ahead of the KarPlay which brings up the question of why you would want to trade your higher quality phone screen for a lower quality (albeit slightly bigger) display. Of course, in the car, the KarPlay will be placed further away and thus the lower resolution and poorer display quality may not matter as much. In fact the larger display probably helps when text is displayed on screen.
Secondly, while playing movies (this goes for both online videos and locally stored ones), there is distortion when the phone is being moved about but plays okay when the phone stays still. The speaker on the KarPlay is terrible. Setting the volume to anything above 30% will cause the audio to be distorted beyond recognition. Fortunately, it has that aux out port so use that instead if you want to actually listen to anything.
The biggest issue I have with the Karplay is not actually a fault with the KarPlay itself. Miracast just mirrors the display on my phone but there is nothing that I can do with controlling the apps or media playback on the KarPlay itself. All the controlling has to be done on the phone itself. If you are watching a movie, you cannot pause the movie. If you are listening to music, you cannot skip tracks. If you are using your GPS, you cannot set destination or manually reroute. So I ended up having both the KarPlay and my phone on my car dash with the same display.
If you are primarily using the KarPlay for GPS navigation, there is the fact that many car GPS systems will not allow for destination setting while the car is in motion for safety reasons so it is not so different from KarPlay. However, with the KarPlay, you can pass your phone to a passenger to make changes to your navigation app while you are driving.
DLNA is actually quite limiting compared to Miracast but on the KarPlay it might make more sense to run it in this mode instead. The reason for this is that DLNA can run in the background playing a movie or a song while the phone is running some other app. For example, setting up the DLNA mode actually prompts you to download and install an app that is used for setting up the KarPlay including changing the display language. The app also includes a remote software that lets you control music and movie playback.
The problem with DLNA is that while it is connected in this mode, you cannot connect to your phone’s data connection at the same time and thus you have no internet connection. So while technically you can multitask while in DLNA mode, there isn’t much you can do without a data connection.
A good use of the KarPlay in this instance is for controlling playback of movies and music via your phone while using the KarPlay as a remote display for passengers at the back of the car for example. With most digital content available as digital downloads nowadays, it may be easier to manage your media collection via your smart phone rather than having a collection of DVDs in the car.
In conclusion, the iPazzPort may initially sound like a great add-on for the car but it has limitations that the user has to consider. The lack of an input system on the device itself is its biggest problem but this is a limitation of the video casting technology used as it is not designed for such usage.
Most of these limitations are less of an issue if the KarPlay is to be used by other passengers in the car rather than the driver himself. Under these circumstances, the KarPlay can be a helpful add-on that provides a larger GPS display or for entertaining kids without letting them laying hands on your phone for example.
However, if the driver is the primary user, what the driver is getting is basically a bigger screen that mirrors the phone display and interaction with the KarPlay is limited. The driver will still require the use of his smartphone and its smaller UI for any interaction with the apps which negates many advantages of having a bigger screen.