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We've been waiting a long time to announce this: we have finally started receiving the Linkswell GEN3 "T-Style" 12.1" tablet replacement radio for GM trucks (part number TS-GMPU12-1RR1)! Having seen a prototype version of this unit at the SEMA show last November, it's amazing to finally see the finished production piece:

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Read more about the unit: https://www.adcmobile.com/product/gen-iii-t-style-radio-for-gm-trucks/

To see the actual production unit and accessories, visit this gallery: https://drive.google.com/open?id=17lCS_GjFhwSnGHSWsvsu47Pa6Qm7joML
To see screenshots of the user interface, visit this gallery:https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ziyLjKHkYZH848alonmX7yfnmGWr235S

 

Here's the installation video in a 2019 Silverado 3500HD Z-71: 

 


The unit will replace the factory 4" (RPO code IO3 or IO4), 7" (IOB) or 8" (IO5 or IO6) radio in 2014-18 Silverado/Sierra 1500 and 2015-19 Silverado/Sierra 2500 & 3500 with either non-amplified or amplified (BOSE) sound systems, and ships with all harnesses and adapters that will be required for the installation in the box. The only exception is for trucks that have the factory BOSE systems - these will require an additional adapter that is kind of expensive (suggested retail is crazy, but we are selling them for our cost to help out guys with BOSE trucks). FYI: Alpine's adapter is actually made by Linkswell. Speaking of the Alpine radio, we carry that as well, but is is almost double the cost: https://www.adcmobile.com/product/alpine-restyle-gm-truck-mechless-receiver-i209-gm/

The GEN3 unit mounts in the dashboard exactly like the factory radio: it uses the original mounting points and screws to hold in the unit, and the outboard trim pieces clip in like factory. Although it moves the factory HVAC controls to the radio (on the hard buttons on the trim pieces as well as on-screen), it maintains the factory switches that are located at the bottom of the radio location under the factory HVAC controls. The unit itself is beautiful, with a dark grey bezel around the 12" vertical screen, with very high-quality control buttons for HVAC functions on both sides of the screen and two large silver knobs for on/off-volume and tuning and control functions. It has mounting bosses that line up to the factory radio mounting points and it ships with silver side wing panels that have an OEM-level finish, that can also be painted if you want to match a different color. The side panels also accept the factory switches (if any) that are currently mounted there. It has an improved UI that includes colored icons to more closely match the factory look and in contrast to the GEN2 units that had Android 4.4.4, it now has an Android 7.1 operating system. It has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of total internal memory. These cannot be upgraded, but external memory is virtually unlimited, as you can hook up external USB sticks or hard drives.

They updated the UI slightly to include colored icons that are similar to the factory. Although the unit is an Android tablet, the user interface is actually an overlay that cannot be changed both on the "home" screen and the menu bar, so you will not be able to "dock" your favorite apps or features into the either location. This is a little frustrating, as it forces you to go into the app list in order to launch your apps, but it does guarantee that the unit looks very clean and very factory at all times.

Here are a few shots of the actual production hardware showing the color, texture and finish of the radio, the control buttons and trim:

Radio unit (note it has the screen protector film on it):
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Side trim:
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Left side buttons:
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Right side buttons:
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The unit has full wifi capability, so it allows you to connect to your vehicle's hotspot or a hotspot on your phone in order to run just about any app you can download from the Google Play Store. It ships with Google Maps built-in, and can run run WAZE or any other app you choose. It can also be purchased with iGo Next-Gen navigation (or upgraded to it at a later time) for navigation that does not require wifi to operate. The iGo navi upgrade runs $100.

In addition, since it is an Android tablet and can be used as such, those of you that use your trucks for work can run any Android app that you would normally run to conduct your business, like Quickbooks, calendar apps, messaging apps, proprietary business apps, etc., giving you the ability to make your truck your office, and move the functions that you would normally have to do on your phone, tablet or laptop over to the radio that is always-on and doesn't require anything but a hotspot to function. I know when I was working on the road doing installs, I would have killed to have a deck like this that would have allowed me to review my schedule and enter data without having to bring up anything else on my phone or laptop :- )

It supports Bluetooth 4.0 protocol for hands-free and A2DP music streaming (requires the supplied external mic for Bluetooth hands-free), and supports factory OnStar, steering wheel controls, HVAC controls, vehicle settings and USB ports. It DOES NOT retain the factory CD player or satellite tuner. Although it doesn't retain factory XM radio, the SiriusXM app can be installed on the unit, allowing access to 100+ additional channels of satellite programming than the in-car tuner for $7.99/mo.: https://www.siriusxm.com/xtrachannels, and of course all apps like Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio can be used as well. Retaining factory XM was definitely on my own "must have" list of features, but some design allowances (see below) made this MUCH more difficult to integrate easily.

The system has a total of three USB inputs (the factory USB and two additional inputs), and it will allow USB audio and video content to be played (yes, even while moving, but we don't want you to do that : -). It can also support gaming apps on the tablet and even run old school games using some of the common emulators and downloadable ROMS that are available, with USB controllers to give you a more X-Box or PS2/3/4 experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrOxIscDLdU

It also ships with a USB dongle that adds Apple Car Play and Android Auto to the unit, giving you the ability to have Car Play/Android Auto without having to upgrade the factory hardware (and still be stuck with the factory radio). Last time we checked, just doing the Car Play upgrade to an existing factory radio cost $1000, https://www.infotainment.com/products/2014-2015-chevrolet-silverado-mylink-apple-carplay-and-android-auto-upgrade so when you consider that you get all of the other features as well, the T-Style radio option starts looking pretty attractive! Additionally, the adapter has a mode that will allow true display mirroring from an iPhone or Android device (settings would need to be changed, and not all devices will be guaranteed compatible with this mode).

Apple Car Play interface:
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Car Play audio display:
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There is an optional outboard DVR camera available that can both record your trips onto an SD card ( not included) inserted into the camera, but that also functions as a driving aid to warn of lane departure, etc. This may be something that could be considered very cheap insurance, since having a video record of any accidents or other mayhem that happens on the road in front of you can literally turn out to be a lifesaver!

The system has a total of three camera inputs. One of the inputs will display the factory rear camera (the factory rear camera adapter is included in the box) or allow you to add an aftermarket rear camera if your truck did not come with a rear camera. There is a right side camera and a front camera input as well. A right side camera can be added and that input can be triggered by the right turn signal if you wish, or manually through the touchscreen. The front camera input can only be triggered manually through the touchscreen. Keep in mind that just because they are labeled "right" and "front", these camera inputs can be used for any camera you may add (like a wireless camera on a trailer or camper), a camera under the truck if you do rock crawling or off-roading, or even any video device that you just need a display for.

Camera interface:
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The system has one AV input, giving you the ability to connect outboard AV sources such as media players, games, etc., and for the first time on any T-Style radio, a rear AV output! This is pretty huge because it will allow you to set up a full rear entertainment system in the truck using the head unit as a source. This includes the AV input, the radio or any file that can be played on the USB input. I don't know if it will send app audio and video like Netflix to this output, but I will try and find that answer and report back. If you set up a system with headrests or an overhead DVD unit that has outputs, you can send the radio's output to the rear and the rear system's output to the radio, giving you ultimate flexibility for entertainment options! NOTE: THE UNIT IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH THE FACTORY REAR ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM. This means that if you have the factory rear entertainment system, it will not function - you would have to replace that system, or add something like headrest monitors in order to have rear entertainment. We will try and determine if there are any workarounds for this limitation...

It has a file manager so you can do standard file management operations as you would do on your tablet or laptop, and since it also contains a Chrome internet browser, you can surf the net as you would on any tablet, and download files as well. Downloaded files can be saved to any memory attached to the unit - internal memory or external USB drives. One very important and cool feature is that it will allow you to install .APK files (APPS) from any source, not just the Google Play store! This is important because there are literally dozens of APK mirror websites that have hundreds of thousands of apps available for download that are not necessarily available from the Play store. Of course, if you download anything that is NOT in the Play store, you should always verify the safety of the apps you are installing...

The system supports all factory HVAC control layouts, including manual controls, auto controls, etc. It has large control buttons on both sides of the bezel to control common functions. It has HVAC controls built into the interface as well. It controls factory vehicle settings, but I don't have a firm grip on exactly what each one of them does.

HVAC Interface:
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Vehicle options:
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The "cold boot" time is pretty unimpressive (~45 seconds!), but it has a "fast boot" setting that you can set to 15 minutes, 12 hours, 24 hours or 48 hours that allows the radio to stay in a "sleep mode" for that preset time, making it essentially "instant-on" when you come back to it within that time frame. This feature will draw tiny amounts of power, so it's advisable to make sure you have a healthy battery in the truck if you set this for extremely long intervals. The radio will prioritize the backup camera, so if you do start driving after a "cold boot", the backup camera will operate pretty much immediately.

Here's a little side note on the design priorities that have been shared with me (and my own impressions of the company and their previous products): When they first suggested they were considering the unit for GM trucks, I was extremely excited to see what they could come up with, because this is the same company that had been making the GM multi-camera modules we have been selling for almost 5 years under various manufacturer names, and who we knew understood and were comfortable with the factory systems in these trucks. I had literally dozens of suggestions for them, and shared what I felt were the priorities they should hit if they wanted this unit to be successful. My original request was to be able to retain as much as possible of the factory MyLink system and all factory options. They said that although they had been very comfortable with the camera interfaces, those were a pretty finite challenge that mainly involved "hijacking" the video and touchscreen streams and substituting their own functions, while removing the factory head unit and retaining all of the factory features for every version of factory audio system in these trucks took the engineering challenges to a completely new level!

For instance, since GM never shares their data on the MyLink system with aftermarket manufacturers, all of the data that needs to be supported in this kind of swap needs to be sleuthed out after the vehicle is delivered, by trial and error, using production vehicles equipped with all of the various systems. This makes producing a single unit to replace all possible combinations of factory systems (IO3, IO4, IO5, IO6 and IOB, along with all options in each level) a literal nightmare. They investigated just doing a replacement screen that retained all of the factory HMI and radio tuners, MyLink, etc., but this has proven to be a HUGE undertaking. While it is still being developed, that type of product will take immense fine-tuning to make it viable since potential problems can be caused with a factory update, negating any integration they have done and causing issues that would make the customer want to rip it out of the dash! Like Alpine has already done with their replacement radio (at $2000, almost twice as expensive as well), Linkswell decided to just do a complete replacement radio that bypasses most of the factory modules and so does not rely so heavily on interpreting the factory data stream. This allows the system to be much less dependent on factory data, and lets the radio system live pretty much independently of any updates done to the truck, making the owner's experience a whole lot less troublesome in the future.

We have received information from a supplier tied to another manufacturer of similar radios (Phoenix Android) that has gone down the path of retaining the factory modules saying that they are having ongoing issues with their CANBUS integration and are considering pulling the product from the market due to these problems. Of course, they won't mention this when trying to sell you a radio - keep in mind that not all manufacturers are created equal! There are other units out there that are similar (like the Phoenix), and we get asked every day why the Linkswell units are more expensive if they are the same unit. Simple answer - they are not the same unit! Although they are similar in layout, the underlying hardware and most importantly, the programming and functionality is NOT AT ALL the same - if you watch some of their demo videos, it's very obvious that they did not really think through their control layout, as they have AT LEAST three different HVAC control methods, and because they have attempted to retain the factory MyLink functions (see my comments regarding this above), it's also very obvious that it slows down the unit considerably. Another HUGE difference is the physical layout of the radio and how it mounts in the truck - the Phoenix radio comes with the radio and the side trim all as one piece, which has a very distinctive disadvantage: you cannot actually screw it into the dashboard! It can only be mounted with clips because the side trim panels are not removable, which makes it EXTREMELY easy to steal, since the thief doesn't even need any tools! The Linkswell unit is designed to mount basically the same as the factory unit, with the factory screws, and the trim panels clip in like factory.

In conclusion, the people at Linkswell know that we are never shy about sharing our impressions of their product :- ), and I'm happy to say that they listen to us very closely when it comes to suggesting updates and tweaks. They have literally written new firmware for us overnight when we have identified issues that needed to be corrected, and our fixes have been integrated into the ongoing firmware updates that their F**d and RAM units have received. In other words, it's really refreshing to have a company listen to us when we tell them what's wrong with their products and they fix them based on our input! We will most definitely be giving the same type of feedback on these radios if and when we see something that needs to be fixed or changed.

We have already sold a couple hundred of the Linkswell "GEN2" F**d F-Series and RAM radios, and have had a largely trouble-free experience. As I mentioned above, there have been a couple hiccups that have been addressed in firmware updates, but the hardware has been very solid. For the most part, guys are very satisfied with them, provided they are comfortable with losing factory features that the replacement radio doesn't support (mainly the CD player and satellite radio). The overwhelming majority of issues we have dealt with have been install-related, and even though we have some pretty in-depth videos and install photos & guides, some guys have had install & setup problems, and other issues that have forced reloading or updating the firmware to fix. Some issues stem from users changing settings that are not supposed to be touched, and some just due to not really really understanding what they have gotten themselves into. Although you don't need to be a professional installer to install these types of radios, it does require that you are able to read instructions, watch videos and have some knowledge of mechanical and electrical concepts. We very much want the installation to be as "pain-free" as possible, and we very much want to help you with the install, so if this is something that you feel you would want to tackle yourself, it is highly suggested that you call us in advance so we can pass along some of our "installer tips" to help insure things go well.

Feature-wise, here's the highlights:

Android 7.1 operating system
12.1″ HD touch screen Android Tablet
Optional iGO NextGen Navigation System (w/full screen display)
Will run Google Maps, WAZE etc.
Download and run apps from the Google Play Store
AM/FM Radio w/RDS (18 FM presets, 12 AM presets, plus My Favorite Stations )
3 USB inputs (1 factory input, 2 auxiliary)
32GB Memory 2GB Ram
BT 4.0, A2DP for handsfree calling and music streaming
USB Music and Video player w/1080P Video
Rear A/V Outputs allow Rear Entertainment options
4X45 Watt built-in amplifier w/DSP & EQ
PhoneLink System (Apple & Android compatible)
On Screen/touch screen climate controls: A/C, Dual Zone Climate, Seat Heaters/Coolers, Defroster, etc. if equipped
Retain vehicle’s reverse camera
Add aftermarket front, rear or right cameras
DOES NOT maintain XM satellite radio
Optional USB DVR w/ ADAS Driver Assist
Display factory parking sensors (if equipped)
WIFI capable for web browser, app download 
Programmable fast-boot settings to speed boot up time
Control of vehicle settings
 

Edited by wottenad
added video
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Interesting and cool but since it negates my full tow camera setup I can’t see the value. 

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Does the temperature display in the top left actually work?

 

Do the dim buttons in the top left work, do they still work when the truck automatically turns on the lights and dims the radio?

 

Does it have issues with "audio focus"? On my Phoenix I need to turn on the music player and then mute it to get other audio apps to work.

 

Will the newest version of Google Maps display properly? On the Phoenix, only the factory loaded, old version of Google Maps will display properly.

 

Does the small speaker actually work for Navigation? 

 

I have one of the infamous Phoenix units and am looking for an alternative. I'm stuck on these T style radios for some dumb reason. I know that the Linkswell is not the Phoenix but is it a safe comparison to say that the Linkswell is a Phoenix that's had the bugs worked out?

Edited by ford5of5

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