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Lifewire / Nick Jaynes
First in-car USB charger to bring Amazon Alexa into your car
Easy to use, lots of functionality
Sporty styling with simulated carbon-fiber trim
Supports two devices at once
More expensive than other in-car USB chargers
USB ports mounted on the side, making them difficult to access
Not fully hands-free
Anker’s Roav VIVA is a great solution for drivers of older cars who want a hands-free personal assistant to help with making calls, getting driving directions, and playing music.
Do you have an older, low-tech car that you wish were more high-tech, particularly when it comes to hands-free functionality? Look no further than the Roav VIVA by Anker. It’s the first car charger to allow Amazon Alexa voice commands for directions, music playback, and more, all while letting you top up your devices with a pair of 2.4A USB ports. We tested one in our car to find out if having an in-car virtual assistant was a gimmick gadget or new must-have essential for thrifty but tech-savvy drivers.
You might scoff at paying the $59.99 manufacturer’s suggested retail price for an in-car USB charger. But even before you plug the Roav VIVA into your dash, you already feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. The brightly colored, carefully designed product packaging feels as premium as Apple, a nice change from the generic USB charger packaging you typically get on Amazon.
If you’re used to seeing small, slim chargers, pulling the Roav VIVA is surprisingly huge. Of course, you have to remember the Roav VIVA packs the power of Amazon’s Alexa, so it’s doing a lot more than just charging your devices.
If you want to have a voice assistant in your car while charging your devices, Roav VIVA doesn’t have a real rival.
Despite its large size, the design is attractive. The two USB ports are highlighted with orange plastic, rather than LED illumination like many in-car USB chargers. And the unit itself is ringed by sporty-looking simulated carbon fiber. The top ring and activation button illuminate with different colors, depending on the operation status, which makes it easy to see what’s going on at a glance.
The biggest downfall of the design is the dual USB ports are located on the side of the device. If your car’s 12V port is oriented horizontally on the dashboard, this means the ports will be harder to access and more difficult to locate without taking your eyes off the road. Really, it’s safer to plug your devices into the Roav VIVA when you’re not in motion.
Setting up the Roav VIVA is relatively easy. Plug it into your car’s 12V charge port, turn your car’s ignition on, and select the Roav VIVA on your smartphone’s Bluetooth device list.
Once it begins to pair, you’ll be prompted to download the Roav VIVA app as well as the Amazon Alexa app (if it’s not already on your phone). Download, sign into both, and you’ll be ready to answer a few setup questions, including the connection method to play music from your phone through your vehicle’s speakers. You’re given the option of Bluetooth, auxiliary cord, or USB cable. After selecting one of those options, give the Roav VIVA and Alexa apps permission to access your microphone and contacts, and you’re ready to go.
To use Alexa through the Roav VIVA, just tap the top button on the Roav VIVA and a chime will come over car’s speaker system. You can then give Alexa your commands, such as, “Alexa, call Mom” or “Alexa, play Lady Gaga.”
These commands are easily understood by Alexa if it can find the corresponding contact in your phone and if the requested music is accessible on Amazon. Road noise won’t hinder Alexa’s hearing you much either, since Roav VIVA includes in-car sound isolation technology with acoustic echo cancellation.
Road noise won’t hinder Alexa’s hearing you much either, since Roav VIVA includes in-car sound isolation technology with acoustic echo cancellation.
In this way, Roav VIVA is not as hands-free as one might expect. Asking Alexa to navigate you somewhere requires Alexa to open up Google Maps on your smartphone using voice commands. Alexa will then prompt you to tap your phone screen to open the Google Maps app once the directions are loaded and you will then need to start directions from your phone. From there, Google will take over with the audio directions.
Ultimately, if you were hoping for a 100 percent hands-free solution, the Roav VIVA isn’t it. But it is as close as you’re going to get without updating your car or infotainment system.
At $59.99 MSRP, the Roav VIVA by Anker is one of the most expensive in-car USB chargers on the market. Most of its competitors hover around the $10 to $15 range. It’s hard to compare Roav VIVA to those, though, because it does more than simply supply USB power ports for your devices. The addition of Amazon Alexa adds significantly to its value, justifying the extra cost.
The Roav VIVA competes with other highly rated in-car USB chargers, like the Anker’s own PowerDrive 2 or the RAVPower 24W when it comes to fast-charging USB ports. Both are chargers that offer dual 2.4A USB ports, allowing for quick device recharge on the go. But despite being priced a fraction of the VIVA, neither are truly comparable since they lack a voice assistant or any extra functionality like hands-free drive.
If you’re simply looking to charge devices, they’re still good options. However, if you want to have a voice assistant in your car while charging your devices, Roav VIVA doesn’t have a real rival.
A fast car charger with useful voice assistant functionality
The Anker Roav VIVA is a clever car charger that brings some smart voice assistant functionality to “dumb” cars. It won’t replace dashboard infotainment systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the VIVA is much cheaper to install, and has the bonus of giving you two relatively fast charging USB ports to keep your devices topped up.