At CES 2019, Alpine introduced their new mechless double din receiver, the iLX-W650. This new product has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 7" capacitive touchscreen. This AV deck is perhaps the cheapest Alpine has ever offered as it's being launched at a price point of just $499.99 CAD. We suspect Alpine has taken notice of the success of Sony's XAV-AX5000 which has been the fan favourite for almost a year now. The Sony has been popular because it offers both Android Auto AND Apple CarPlay, and one of the most user-friendly interfaces with a responsive and sharp LCD screen.
Convenience & Connectivity (iLX-W650 vs. XAV-AX5000)
As previously mentioned, both these head units have Android Auto & Apple CarPlay and all the great convenience features that come with them. They also both offer bluetooth, rear auxiliary, dual camera, and Sirius XM direct input. The Sony does have a bit of an advantage as it offers dual USB ports while the Alpine only offers one. However the Alpine iLX-W650 does offer 3 Amp USB charging which is considerably faster than any of its competitors. The Alpine does not offer a GPS navigation option, while the Sony can be paired with a rather expensive TomTom navigation module (XA-NV400). That being said, Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps all offer a superior navigation UI than the TomTom system.
Convenience & Connectivity Winner: Sony XAV-AX5000
Design (iLX-W650 vs. XAV-AX5000)
Both of these double din receivers offer a very minimalist design with a large bezel-less panel. They both only offer white illumination as opposed to variable colour illumination found on higher end decks, but the white is clean and blends in with any interior nicely. Both decks have smaller chassis and should be easier to install than typical double din systems. The raised physical buttons on the AX5000 are easier to find but the Alpine offers a unique two-finger swipe feature to change volume and skip tracks for even better hands-free operation. This feature is really handy as no true double din receiver can combine a 7" screen with a rotary knob, so a quick way to adjust volume without looking is appreciated. On some applications, we've also found that the "ledge" on the AX5000 can stick out a bit due to the graphite colour and physical depth.
Design Winner: Alpine iLX-W650
There a few key differences in the approach that Sony and Alpine take with these receivers. On the EQ front, Alpine offers a simpler experience with just bass/mid/treble adjustments, whereas Sony offers a 10 band custom EQ option. This actually makes a lot of sense as customers shopping in this market segment are likely favoring convenience over custom audio adjustability. Those that are looking to add amplifiers to their system will appreciate the Alpine's 6 channel 4V preouts over the Sony's 5-channel 2V preouts. The iLX-W650 also offers time correction tuning which is not even offered on the Sony.
Audio Feature Winner: Alpine iLX-W650
That being said, as these are mid-range receivers they do lack some features like HD radio. Another key feature these are missing is iDatalink Maestro RR support which on some vehicles is a must-have for full factory amplifier retention. Those who have a vehicle that can greatly benefit from the iDatalink Maestro support may want to go with the Pioneer MVH-2400EX which also features a 7" screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It also adds variable colour illumination and RCA Video in/out.
From an installers perspective, the Sony is nice that you can simply ground the parking brake cable which saves both time and money. With the Alpine, you'll need to either purchase a bypass module or run the parking brake wire to the parking brake or a switch that you can pulse. With the Alpine, we like the modular design with the optional power pack amp and even just the USB port which you can unplug from the back, unlike the Sony's which is hardwired in. It's a toss up between the slim chassis of the Alpine and the single din chassis of the Sony. In some European cars, the Alpine should be an easier install but in either case, the smaller chassis is appreciated.
Installation Winner: Draw between XAV-AX5000 and Alpine iLX-W650
Alpine is hitting this market segment hard with their iLX-W650. It's an attractive design with great audio features and modern connectivity. The Sony has a slight edge in user friendliness with physical buttons, dual USB ports, and a simpler menu interface. We prefer the look of the Alpine as the all black faceplate blends in better with most vehicles. If you're doing a full ecosystem car audio build, Alpine's amp and speaker selection is much better than Sony's and the preamp voltage is higher.