Best Car HUDs: Display More Information Safely While Driving12/19/2019
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Data information display is an important part of any driving experience. If you can’t read important information like speed and engine RPMs, it can be more difficult to drive safely. Most cars use a basic dial setup inside the dashboard, but many drivers (and some manufacturers) are enhancing this setup with a car head-up display (HUD). This type of display places this information above the dashboard or onto the windshield where it’s easier to read. Read on for our guide on the best HUDs to see if one is right for you.
Why Buy a Car HUD
- Read information safely. Keeping an eye on the gauges in a vehicle isn’t the most dangerous thing you can do while driving, but it does create increased risk. Anytime you deviate from watching the road, you may miss something important or dangerous to react towards. Car HUDs try to minimize this risk by displaying the information more in line with the road itself; some even project the information right in front of you with a transparent display so the readouts look like they float about the hood.
- Display more information. Modern cars tend to have more advanced, customizable displays in the dashboard, but customization can be limited depending on the manufacturer. If you want to see the information that’s most important to you, it’s helpful to have a HUD that is designed to give you more flexibility or to show more information in a single screen.
- Upgrade an old car’s display. With older cars, information is all analog with basic gauges and dials. A true dashboard replacement can be costly if you want to go digital with the readouts, making a car HUD a better investment for older vehicles. Since most are mounted on top of the dashboard, there’s no part swaps or replacements.
Types of Car HUDs
Car HUDs that connect to a car’s OBD2/OBD-II port read information straight from a vehicle’s onboard computer. This makes information access quicker and more reliable than GPS-based devices. These units also tend to offer more information you can use while driving or maintaining the vehicle.
Since smart devices can acquire and present a lot of important vehicular information with just the onboard GPS, many car HUDs use a basic smartphone connection to display this information to the drive. This type tends to fall into two subtypes: HUDs with a dedicated display and basic bases with an integrated phone holder. Dedicated displays can present the vehicle information on its own screen, while basic mounts hold the smartphone and reflect its screen with the information presented from a native app. Both options tend to support Android and iOS phones, with some offering built-in Apple or Google Maps support.
Car HUD Pricing
- $50 and under: Budget car HUDs in this range tend to be simple in design and function. Most have a basic display, either projected or dedicated, that can show limited vehicle information like speed. Smartphone-based devices are also common in this range.
- $50 and above: Higher-end car HUDs can quickly skyrocket in price above the $50 mark, many landing around $200 or $300. These options tend to offer advanced features like GPS navigation.
The most important thing with any heads up display is the display itself. How the HUD presents information will influence the overall driving experience and the safety factor. Traditional HUDs project the screen onto a piece of glass so the information appears to float above the hood. This setup is best for safely reading the screen, but it can be difficult to align and use, especially in bright daylight. Dedicated displays have better daytime results but are often more limited in usability.
A car HUD needs someway to access or collect different data points like speed. Since all modern vehicles have an onboard computer that does this automatically, many HUDs simply access this data via an OBD-II port. Many smartphone-based HUDs, however, use the phone’s GPS or a built-in GPS module to calculate speed and location. These HUDs lack more advanced information like engine performance and status readouts. For power, HUDs draw juice from the OBD-II port or the cigarette lighter.
Attaching a car HUD to the dashboard can be tricky if the device doesn’t come with the right mount. Many use a simple suction mount that is similar to the type of many GPS navigation devices use. These are good for lightweight HUDs but can fail with heavier devices or on hot days. Higher-end HUDs tend to come with a dedicated mounting base that sticks onto the dashboard with an adhesive, offering a more stable base.
- Extra Features: Modern car HUDs are like many other smart electronic devices in terms of offering different feature sets. Budget models tend to stick with the basic vehicle information, while more advanced options can feature higher-end capabilities like GPS navigation, automatic speed limit/over speed alarm detection, battery voltage monitoring, voice-activated/hand-gesture control, hands-free phone calls with the ability to see incoming calls, and more. Before you buy a car HUD, it’s important to see what options are available that may add some additional, useful perks to your driving experience.
Best Car HUDs Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Car HUD Overall: TIMPROVE T600
The T600 is a car HUD that bucks the trend of projecting the display onto the windshield or a separate piece of glass in favor of a more traditional LCD display. At 2.2 inches, the TFT LCD screen strikes the right balance in size to be easy to read without taking up too much of the driver’s view. The dedicated display also takes away the lengthy setup and alignment projected HUDS require to view.
Vehicle compatibility is another highlight with the T600. Most other car HUDS require an OBD-II port to connect with the car’s computer for information like vehicle speed. The T600, on the other hand, uses a built-in GPS to collect and present information. This makes the device compatible with older vehicles (pre-1996 vehicles and imports) that may lack the required OBD-II port.
Since the GPS has to acquire a signal with satellites above, it doesn’t necessarily display the correct vehicle information from the start, unlike most OBD-II car HUDs. This can make it difficult to get an accurate reading on your vehicle’s speed or trip information and leaves the T600 susceptible to issues with GPS signal disruptions, much like GPS navigation.
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Best Car HUD Value: TIMPROVE Universal Digital Car HUD
If you can live without a lot of fancy features and a full-color display, TIMPROVE’s Universal Digital Car HUD is a great budget option that has a fraction of the cost of most other car HUDs. This HUD has a basic number display in green to make it easier to read. Like some other HUDs in the company’s lineup, it also works with a GPS module to track vehicle information like speed instead of the more traditional OBD-II port.
The HUD simplifies the user experience that many projected HUDs make difficult. Instead of projecting onto the windshield, the HUD is meant to be mounted onto the dashboard somewhere near the middle. This not only positions the HUD to be read quickly, but it also takes away the lengthy alignment procedure projected HUDs require so the driver can read the screen on the glass. The numbers on the screen are easy to read.
Unfortunately, this HUD may be too basic for some drivers looking for an in-depth display that offers more information and capability. Since the screen is just a number display, there isn’t much customization possible to tailor the information to your liking. Because of this, there is also no GPS navigation, even though the HUD uses a GPS module to determine vehicle speed and location.
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Best Car HUD Honorable Mention: Autolover A8
The car HUD landscape is full of devices that take the same projected technology used on military vehicles. Autolover’s A8 is one such device that does the job better than others. Projecting the screen onto the windshield itself, the HUD makes it easy to read important information while driving without taking up any space on the dashboard or from the driver’s view.
Using a car’s OBD-II port, the HUD displays information quickly and accurately direct from the car’s computer. Thanks to the OBD-II connection, the HUD can pull a lot of information from the computer, much of which is useful when tuning and upgrading the car to get feedback and results. The large projector screen also displays a lot of information at once onto the windshield.
There are a couple of drawbacks to consider from this pick. The display sticker that attaches to the windshield can be tricky to get positioned for the best viewing experience for the driver. While many measurements can be switched between imperial and metric units, the fuel consumption and mileage readouts are limited to metric (kilometers per liter) alone, meaning you can’t read the fuel economy in miles per gallon.
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- Be aware that many projected car HUDs can be difficult to see in direct sunlight. HUDs with a dedicated piece of glass tend to perform better in daylight than devices that project directly onto the windshield.
- If you have a car that’s older than 1996, you should find a HUD that has a built-in GPS and that doesn’t require an OBD-II port. OBD-II ports became standard in 1996, so older vehicles can be hit or miss.
- Be prepared to spend some time aligning the display and HUD for the best viewing results. Projected screens may require some repositioning to get the display to line up with the reflecting surface and your eyesight.
- HUDs with a dedicated screen need to be mounted off the center of the steering wheel so they don’t interfere with the driver’s view. Typical locations for GPS navigators like the center of the dashboard are the best.
Q. How does a projected HUD work?
A. A screen mounted to the dashboard points up towards a reflective surface like glass. The image of the screen is then bounced off of the surface into the eyes of the driver. This makes it look like the display is floating above since the reflective surface is transparent.
Q. What type of HUD display is the best?
A. If you want a reliable display that is easy to see in daylight, a dedicated display is a way to go. To get the true HUD-like experience, however, a projected screen is better.
Q. What information can a HUD display?
A. Speed tends to be the most universal bit of information all car HUDs show. Other information can include the fuel level, engine and oil data, mileage, temperatures, and more.
Our pick for the best car HUD is the TIMPROVE T600 for its dedicated, easy-to-read display that works day and night.
The TIMPROVE Universal Digital Car HUD is the best pick for saving money with a dedicated display that trims the information fat in favor of the most important data drivers want.
Are you thinking about using a car HUD to enhance your driving experience? Already have one in your driving setup? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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