Vocal assistants have become an integral part of our lives and even found their way into newer cars. But what can you do for an older car that may not even have an AUX input, let alone access to Alexa? Thankfully, the Roav VIVA Pro is here to integrate Alexa into your car charger, an item that most of us carry already. We spent time testing and asking this device a few questions to see if it is fit to ride shotgun on your next road trip.
We have tested various aftermarket integrations of Amazon’s Alexa in the past, including the Logitech ZeroTouch, a smarter smartphone mount that triggers an app on your phone. We also tested the Muse by Speak Music, an Alexa button that also integrates with a charger. These devices accomplish much of the same goal but can add clutter to your car or rely too much on fumbling with a mobile app on your phone.
In the Roav VIVA Pro package, you won’t find long wires or unnecessary buttons and accessories. Instead, you’ll simply find the VIVA Pro car charging unit that resembles a slightly larger version of a standard car charger for your phone. It features two 2.4A PowerIQ-equipped USB-A charging ports, surrounded by a simulated carbon fiber finish, and the Alexa light ring plus a mute button on top.
One of the biggest benefits is the ability to transmit sound through Bluetooth, AUX output, USB and FM transmitter.
Packing all of the computing power into the charging unit also allows the device to be compact and to seamlessly integrate into your car. While you may not be familiar with the name Roav, the brand Anker may ring a bell. Roav is actually a new sub-brand of the Anker Innovations electronics company, focused specifically on in-car devices. We are big fans of Anker’s charging technology and the VIVA Pro doesn’t disappoint in the quality and design department. The build is solid and the design is more reminiscent of an actual Amazon product than any of the other devices in this arena. Charging through the device is also extremely quick and as fast as we have come to expect from similar Anker chargers.
Connecting to your virtual assistant
Setting up the VIVA Pro is as easy as downloading the Roav VIVA app for iPhone or Android and walking through the pairing steps. The Roav VIVA connects to your phone via Bluetooth and then asks how you would like to project the device’s audio. One of the biggest benefits of this device is the ability to transmit the sound through Bluetooth, an AUX output, a USB port (for Apple CarPlay) and even an FM transmitter for your older vehicles. For Bluetooth connections, the app even asks if you prefer taking calls through your car’s built-in system to avoid any audio issues when connected.
We initially connected our VIVA through the FM transmitter. You simply scan through the dial in the app to choose which radio station is dead air in your area. The audio then plays a chime through that station to let you know it is ready to go. The only issue with the FM connection is the change in audio if the station you selected receives a stronger signal on your drive, a problem typical of such transmitters. However, you can dial this in after commuting for a few days to find the right channel.
The AUX output and Bluetooth connection are rather straightforward; we spent most of our time using those settings. In our older 2005 Honda Element test car, the VIVA Pro completely updated our driving experience when connected through the AUX port. Playing your favorite music no longer involved shuffling through your phone at stop lights. Simply yelling “Alexa, play my Otis Redding station” would fire up Pandora (or your favorite music app that Alexa supports) and play the music in your car. Spotify fans may be disappointed as the service is not available through this device at this time. Roav told Digital Trends it’s working on adding Spotify compatibility in the future.
Can you hear me?
In addition to music, Roav and Amazon’s Alexa can help control your smart home devices, order coffee from Starbucks, or simply navigate home from work. Depending on the location of the 12-volt port in your car, the voice-isolation and noise-reduction systems may struggle a bit. In the Honda Element, the port is on the passenger side of the car and we would often have to manually turn down the music and shout at Alexa to get the device to acknowledge our voice. Our conversations in a BMW i3 were far less heated as the charger sits just between the seats and closer to the driver.
Depending on the location of the 12-volt port in your car, the voice-isolation and noise-reduction system may struggle.
For most requests, the Roav application runs in the background to let you have your favorite navigation or music app on the screen. However, changing directions to a new location while using Waze will tell you to switch back to the Roav app via a notification. Some requests, like asking Alexa to make a call, can also bring up a confirmation on your screen with the number or a list of names that it thinks you are trying to call. But for the most part, whether you’re ordering food or interacting with smart devices, your phone can stay in your pocket and the Roav system will still process the request and talk through your speakers.
Roav offers an easy, money-back guarantee that gives you a full refund for any reason until 30 days after delivery. You simply need to mail the device back in its original packaging. For quality-related issues not caused by irregular use, Roav will replace the VIVA Pro with a factory-refurbished model of equal value when one is available. Otherwise, it will send a new item to replace your broken product.Our Take
Priced at $73, the Roav VIVA Pro is more expensive than any other car charger and most Alexa-enabled car devices. The compact and unmistakably “Amazon Alexa” styling gives this device an edge over other accessories, but the voice detection issues and lack of Spotify support may be a deal killer for some buyers.
However, if you have an older car and are looking for a device to handle phone calls, music streaming, and add helpful vocal assistant features, the VIVA Pro may be the perfect passenger.
Is there a better alternative?
No, in terms of overall utility and simplistic design, the Viva Pro is the best option for motorists in the market for an Alexa-enabled device.
How long will it last?
Customers report frequent software updates to fix many early bugs, and we imagine this bodes well for future updates to keep the application fresh. But Amazon has also recently announced a new Echo Auto device for only $50 with full Alexa capability that could feature abilities that aren’t available in third-party devices.
Should you buy it?
If you have a vehicle without modern features like hands-free calling and music streaming through Bluetooth, then the Roav VIVA Pro is the best way to improve your experience behind the wheel. If you have a new car and are simply looking to gain access to Alexa, it is worth waiting for the Echo Auto or looking at more affordable solutions.