JBL is a well-known brand for audio products, whether its home, car or portable products. The company produces aftermarket speakers, sound processors and amplifiers for cars, but never attempted to take over your dashboard, until now. The new JBL Legend CP100, announced at CES 2016, is the company’s first double din radio aimed at luring car owners into adding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities to their cars.
Harman’s demo hall at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, during CES 2016, had the JBL Legend CP100 on display in a demo box. I was able to get some hands-on time with the unit running Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functions.
The CP100 sports a 6.75-inch capacitive touch screen (like a smartphone) for $399, when its competitors typically employ resistive touch screens (like old Palm Pilot’s and Windows CE devices) unless you spend twice as much for a higher-end unit. Screen resolution is only 800 x 480, which doesn’t sound exciting in a tech world of 4K everything, but resolution on a screen that small is adequate from the driver’s seat.
Visually, the JBL CP100 looks very plain, but that’s ok. It’s a standard double din radio, which most Japanese cars since the 80’s and European or American cars from the late 90s can accommodate. The plain black plastic design makes it easy to blend in with most dashboards capable of accepting a double din radio.
Despite the Spartan layout, JBL provides physical buttons for power, volume and voice recognition, everything else is driven by the touch screen. The inclusion of a voice recognition button, which works with Google Now and Siri, is a nice addition for cars that lack a dedicated button for voice commands on the steering wheel. The buttons have white backlighting that easily blends in with all interior lighting colors too.
Steering wheel controls are supported by the CP100, but requires an external adapter, like other aftermarket radios. Advanced vehicle-link interfaces, such as iDataLink Maestro or Axxess InfoLink, are not supported, so those with cars that use the infotainment screen for climate controls and changing car settings will have to look elsewhere or forgo those factory functions, unfortunately.
The user interface for the CP100 is very simple, it’s a black background with a row of buttons for five functions: phone, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, FM, AM radio and settings. JBL designed the CP100 purely for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, so the plain user interface is understandable.
A single USB port is available for smartphone connectivity. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality works as expected. You simply connect your iPhone or Android smartphone and the phone interface takes over the screen. Navigating the user interface in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is fluid and responsive – I didn’t encounter any lag.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support using a car’s GPS antenna to provide turn-by-turn navigation, which provides better reception. The JBL CP100 does not include an external GPS antenna so navigation reliability relies solely on your phone, unfortunately.
JBL includes a wired microphone with the CP100, but it was hard to gauge how well it works in a crowded demo area. The CP100 also features a single video input for a backup camera for those inclined to add the feature.
A pair of full-range pre-amp outputs for the front and rear channels. The two preouts should be enough to connect the CP100 to cars with factory premium systems with external amplifiers. An internal four-channel amplifier that produces 45-watts peak, per channel, is available for cars without premium sound systems.
The JBL Legend CP100 is a compelling way to add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to your older car. Its designed to rely purely on your smartphone, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because Android Auto and Apple CarPlay provide good in-car user interfaces.
The $399 price for a head unit with capacitive touch screen easily beats out competing units from Pioneer, Kenwood, JVC, Sony and Clarion, which feature resistive touch technology. If I had an older car with a double din radio opening, the JBL CP100 would be hard to pass up.