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Can I watch video/video files in an Audi? (A4 B8/A5/Q5/A6/A8/Q7) (by LoCal)

27.12.2009 - LoCal sent in an answer to this frequently asked question.

This article applies to Audi A4 B8, A5, Q5, A6, A8 and Q7 models shipping, with large color screens, recently or at the time of writing, late 2009. It specifically does not apply to the new Audi A8 launched for 2010 (well, it might apply partially, as noted below). For an overview of different current Audi multimedia systems, see this article.

Note: This article does not cover any Audi models that have red/black monochrome big screens (like some lower-end MMI systems do).

This article also does not cover any rear-seat entertainment options, which are available to some Audi models, like the separate rear-seat Audi DVD player connectors available for e.g. A4 B8/A6/Q7 and full-blown rear-seat entertainment for A8. This article only discusses what can be done with and to the front-seat Audi multimedia systems. (However, just a mention, in general those rear-seat entertainment systems support DVD playback, composite video/stereo audio external input and, in the case of A8, also TV playback.)

This article also does not apply to the smaller or older Audis, which use different multimedia systems (e.g. A3/TT/R8), like the RNS-E DVD navigation. (Just as a mention, the RNS-E, in general, does not support any video playback other than factory TV support (if installed) and, only with certain software versions, external composite video/stereo audio input. You cannot playback video from memory cards for example on an RNS-E.)

So, these new, current Audi models sport, often as standard, beautiful 6.5" to 7" color screens in the dash and the oft-heard question is, can they display video? How about video files from a memory card?

Before one can answer those questions (well, the answer is pretty much a conditional yes to the first one and an unconditional no to the second one) in detail, you need to know and understand which Audi multimedia system your car sports. This above-mentioned article is worth a separate read, but to summarize there are three kinds of recent or current, big color screen Audi multimedia systems in the cars this article covers: radio (Concert/Symphony), MMI 2G and MMI 3G (the lower-resolution version and the MMI Navigation Plus variant with hard-disk).

As a rule of thumb, if your car is A4 B8, A5 or Q5, and the dash reads "Audi Concert" or "Audi Symphony", and controls for the multimedia systems are up in the dash and not down in the center console, you have one of the radios. If your car is A6, A8 or Q7, you definitely do not, never ever, have one of those radios. If you have one of the latter cars or an A4 B8, A5 or Q5 with factory navigation, you will have one the MMI variants (2G or either of the 3G systems).

If you have MMI, to tell which MMI you have might start by looking at your MMI big knob. If it has a thumb joystick on top of it, it has the latest, highest MMI 3G Navigation Plus with hard-disk and a high resolution display. If no thumb joystick, then you have either the MMI 2G (the color screen version being called MMI High or MMI DVD navigation depending on model and equipment level) or MMI 3G lower version (which might go by the name of MMI Navigation (without Plus), MMI Radio or MMI Radio Plus depending on model and equipment level).

To tell whether or not you have MMI 2G or MMI 3G lower version, look at the optical disc drive in your dash or, if your car does not have an optical drive in the dash (for example, A6 does not), in the glove compartment. If your optical drive reads "Audi Multimedia" and/or has two SD card slots openly displayed or behind a cover, you definitely have MMI 3G (the optical drive looks the same for both the lower and MMI Navigation Plus versions of MMI 3G). If your only optical disc drive is a CD changer, you have MMI 2G. If it is a single CD drive, you probably have the very lowest-end MMI 3G version, MMI Radio (without Plus) in the A6, that has a single CD drive and no SD memory card slots. (Read the previously mentioned article to understand and confirm which one you have.)

The ability of your car to play video depends greatly on which one of these systems your car has and what equipment has been installed at factory.

Let’s look at these one at a time, first as things stand from factory and look at retrofit options later:

1) Radio Concert/Symphony: You will have absolutely no video support from factory, not video from SD cards, discs or any auxiliary inputs - none. None. (Good news is that the color screen is theoretically capable of displaying video, it is not some low-color screen some have suspected.)

2) MMI 2G: Does your car have factory television installed? If not, you have no video options straight from factory. Even if you have the Audi music interface and connect an USB device or an iPod via that, you will not be able to play or display any video - at least you will not see any picture. If your car has factory television, then obviously you will be able to view TV video, but also the television module contains pins to connect two composite video/stereo audio inputs (like a portable DVD player or a video iPod).

3) MMI 3G lower-resolution version: You will have absolutely no video support from factory, not video from SD cards, discs or any auxiliary inputs - none. (Good news for retrofitters is that the color screen is capable of displaying video, like it does in the case on rear-view camera.)

4) MMI 3G (MMI Navigation Plus): The currently highest version of MMI has built-in support for DVD video disc playback. This means it can, as standard, play movie discs on the dash screen - and if the car is equipped with the highest BOSE/B&O audio, also in surround sound. However, it does not currently, at the time of writing, play video files (at least no picture is seen) from other kinds of discs or memory cards. If you car has factory television, then obviously you will also be able to view TV video and the TV module also contains pins to connect two composite video/stereo audio inputs (like a portable DVD player or a video iPod) just as on the MMI 2G.

(Note that the next-generation Audi A8 shipping in 2010 features a new MMI touch (not a touch screen but a touch controller and revised user-interface) multimedia system, that is apparently based on the MMI 3G Navigation Plus technology. One can assume it has at least the video playback features MMI 3G Navigation Plus has, but there may be more... Assumedly the next-generation A6 and new A7 will also get this new MMI touch.)

So, there you go - factory video options. I should also mention that none of the factory video options allow displaying an image while driving, sound is heard though. If you want to enable video in motion, see the notes and links here. Also of note is that certain factory TV modules have pins for video output, which means the factory TV picture could be routed to e.g. an aftermarket rear-seat screen. These pins, like the video input pins, are in the TV module in the trunk/boot of the car and require retrofitting an adapter to connect to (adapters sold by Kufatec.de and Audi themselves - the pins are here at least for MMI 2G).

That may have satisfied you if you have factory television installed, since the easiest way to gain more video options is just to install the external audio/video input adapters and connect an external player that does whatever you need video-wise. But if not, you will probably want some retrofit options. I will not try to cover all third party options, but just give an overview of what I believe can be done.

1) Radio Concert/Symphony: As there is no factory option to facilitate any kind of video display on this system, your only option is a third-party solution that, on request, takes over the radio display and shows the video. In this article, in the updates section, I have listed a few possible candidates for an aftermarket way.

2) MMI 2G: There are various third party options available for MMI 2G too, see the links this article for some sites that also carry such products, but for a factory feel you can also retrofit the factory TV module. If you do not need the TV functionality, just the audio/video inputs, you can even do it without antenna installation. MMI 2G does, though (unless you have rear-view camera), require retrofitting an external video capable head-unit too when retrofitting this. Kufatec.de sells factory-part based technology kits, partly used parts guarantee reasonable prices. See this longer article for a comprehensive guide to retrofitting Audi TV module to MMI 2G.

3) MMI 3G lower-resolution version: This system is still relatively new and unknown, but I guess since there is no factory TV option available, the only route is looking for a third-party unit - or perhaps exploring if the rear-view camera support can somehow be plugged into.

4) MMI 3G (MMI Navigation Plus): The answer is pretty much the same as for MMI 2G, although all MMI 3G head-units seem to support external video input so they won’t need replacing. Browse through this, this and this for some perspective and few notes on MMI 3G television retrofits (the articles are mostly for MMI 2G, but a lot is relevant for MMI 3G too and there are also a few specific notes for MMI 3G).

As a final note, I would say that MMI 3G (MMI Navigation Plus) technology seems to have the potential for video file playback from memory cards etc. I wouldn’t consider it impossible that we’d see even a software update for MMI 3G to enable that at some point?

By LoCal

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