It may seem like Star Trek technology, but automotive HUDs have been with us for a while. In fact, HUD displays made their first appearance in fighter jets.
Of course, since that time, the technology has advanced and become more readily available for consumer use. While some auto manufacturers are starting to include a HUD in their newer vehicles, there are still plenty of solid aftermarket options.
Choosing the Best Car HUD of 2017
Still, figuring out which aftermarket car HUD is right for you can be difficult. With different types of displays, different vehicle compatibilities, and different connectivity options, know what is a good value requires specific knowledge. That is why we have put together our list of the top5 aftermarket automotive HUDs as well as a comprehensive buyer’s guide, to you can feel confident making an informed purchase.
|Dedicated Screen||5 inch|
|Garmin||Film Projection or Vacuum|
|Echoman EM03B||Dedicated Screen||4 inch|
|Arpenkin X5||Film Projection||3 inch|
|ZXLine A8||Film Projection||5.5 inch|
1. Navdy – Simply the Best Aftermarket HUD
The Navdy is the unquestioned champion of the aftermarket HUD arena. Is accomplishes this feat on all levels and by providing a product which can accomplish tasks that are simply non-existent outside of it. Of course, all of these advantages come at a premium price which is by and far the most expensive product on our list many times over. Still, if you are looking for the best aftermarket HUD available, this is the only game in town.
First, the Navdy features a dedicated screen that uses LED lights in full color. Quite simply, there is not another product on our list that can hope to compete with the brightness, clarity, and cohesion of image quality. The only issue is that the screen’s supposed transparent projection which is supposed make the image seem superimposed into the distance does not work for everybody. However, this is less of an issue with the product and more a result of different people’s biology not responding to the technology the same.
This allows the Navdy to use numerous 3rd-party apps or other apps on the phone without issue and will not interrupt the products function like it would with the Garmin. As icing on the cake, the Navdy can even respond to voice commands–though the effectiveness is a bit spotty – or hand gestures. With these interactive functions, you can answer calls, respond to texts, and get directions in real time.
2. Garmin – The Best Mid-Tier Aftermarket HUD
While the Garmin cannot come close to competing with the Navdy in terms of functional robustness, it does still provide far more versatility and options than any other product on this list and does so at a much lower price point than the Navdy. In fact, the Navdy is at least 3 times more expensive than the Garmin and may be more than that depending on the supplier.
However, one area where the Garmin provides a unique feature that the Navdy cannot match is screen versatility. Whereas the Navdy uses a dedicated screen, the Garmin is able to use both a dedicated screen or a film projection. While a dedicated screen is without question better for image quality, smaller cars or those with a lower angle windshield slope may have trouble accommodating the HUD and screen without seeming awkward, unsightly, or just not fit properly.
Moreover, while the Garmin does not feature the same breadth of 3rd-party app compatibility as the Navdy, it does use a proprietary app that allows GPS and directions – though in a more limited context. The Garmin also accomplishes this connectivity via Bluetooth, just like the Navdy.
3. Echoman EM03B – The Best HUD for Mountainous Driving
The Echoman holds a unique position on this list. While it does utilize a dedicated screen on which to project its display, the screen is definitely inferior to both the Navdy and the Garmin. Of course, using a screen, it is still superior to simple projection displays. Unfortunately, this does not prevent some of the same issues as projection displays which is a bit troubling. However, many users have found that by placing an opaque sheet behind the screen, these issues are completely resolved. Still, this requirement speaks to a larger issue the Echoman presents throughout its use: poor design.
For one, the display does present a good amount of information. In fact, the Echoman is unique in that it is the only HUD on our list that presents your altitude. In fairness, the Navdy could be used to find that information as well, but it is not presented natively. As such, if you are driving over mountainous terrain – like in Japan where the Navdy was developed – you will be able to see your altitude.
Unfortunately, both the altitude and the compass – the other piece of information not often found on a HUD – have their own issues. For some reason, these features regularly find themselves out of sync and must be realigned regularly. However, the HUD does not present the method for doing so in an easy manner and is not even necessarily effective once you do figure out how to change it.
4. Arpenkin X5 HUD – The Best Budget HUD
This aftermarket HUD is a barebones product. Keep in mind, there are many people who have no interest in all of the other pieces of information that the other HUDs on this list provide. In fact, there are numerous customers who have purchase some of the other products that noted they specifically used tape to block out some of the unwanted clutter to better focus on only the information they were interested in.
Of course, this can be a bit of a double – edged sword. While the total amount of information the HUD can display is not truly compromised, and numerous users will appreciate the displaying of a single piece of information at once, switching through the different pieces of information can be tedious and ultimately takes your eyes off of the road.
Moreover, this HUD features the worst display out of any on our list, and there are no ways to correct it like with some of the other products we reviewed. The Arpenkin, as a budget HUD, uses a projection display onto a film placed on your windshield. Unfortunately, this film does little to alleviate the problems common with many projection HUDS.
Some of the other products on this list who suffer this issue have a workaround by placing a black film behind the screen. Sadly this does not work with the Arpenkin, which makes this only suitable for nighttime driving.
5. ZXLine A8 – The Largest HUD Display
After the Navdy and the Garmin, this is probably the best HUD for most people – assuming it works for you vehicle. Unfortunately, the ZXLine was designed to work primarily in newer model vehicles. This means if your vehicle is 7 years old or older, there is a good chance the ZXLine simply will not function. To make matters worse, the English translation of the directions were written by a non-native speaker of English. As such, they are often confusing, it not outright contradictory.
However, if you have a newer model vehicle and are not looking to spend over $100 on an aftermarket HUD, the ZXLine will perform better than either the Echoman or the Arpenkin. However, both of those other models have clear advantages in some respects, so you will need to weigh what it is you want most.
Still not bad for the money
One issue that is a bit of a push-pull consideration is the information organization. Quite simply, there is a fair amount of information, and it is all bunched together. This cluttered organization can make it somewhat difficult to see quickly. However, the ZXLine did at least color code the information to make it easier to see what you are looking for. Still, people with poorer eyesight might find it difficult to use.
Best HUD for a car – Buyer’s Guide
There are only two types of aftermarket automotive HUDs at the moment: projections and screens. Ultimately, the HUDs that utilize their own screen are generally superior.
The screen itself allows you to quickly and easily reposition the unit if the angle does not allow the best presentation. Moreover, HUDs with their own screen are far more likely to suffer less from the dreaded “double image.”
However, the material of the screen will play an important role in whether this effect occurs as well. However, there is no standard material used for HUD displays that use a screen, though avoidance of plastic composites is advisable. Unfortunately, the HUDs that utilize a screen are also generally significantly more expensive than HUDs that simply project the image.
Problems and Solutions
Still, you get what you pay for, and projection HUDs have their own issues. The biggest problem with projection HUD has to do with the image quality. In the most ideal conditions, the image quality of a projection HUD will generally be pretty good. However, ideal conditions are usually limited to at night without too many bright lights. During the day, and especially if the sun is in front of you setting on the horizon, the image of projection HUDs can be completely washed out.
This also requires you to stick a small piece of film onto your windshield which can be difficult. Specifically, you need to know exactly where the film should be placed which can take a few tries of trial and error. Moreover, depending on the HUD, the film itself may be sticky. This can make removing it from the windshield difficult, and if you have to reposition it numerous times, it may lose some of its adhesive integrity.
Connectivity and Information
Most HUDs still connect by way of wires. This is especially relevant for the HUD’s ability to display the vehicle’s performance. Moreover, many HUD’s are also powered by the 12 volt vehicle outlet located on your dash. However, if your HUD connects to your smartphone, it may require another stage of connectivity. In this regard, the HUD may connect directly to the smartphone with a cable, or it may allow connection through Bluetooth.
Whether or not your HUD connects to your phone will also impact the amount and type of information you can receive. HUDs that do not connect to a smartphone generally only receive information from the vehicle itself. This information can include, speed, RPMs, engine temperature, and a host of other pieces of information. However, if your HUD connects to your phone it will often provide directions when driving, and some of the more advanced HUDs will even allow you to use 3rd-party apps.
This consideration can broken down into 3 qualities: brightness, resolution, and cohesion. Cohesion in this instance relates to whether or not the display creates a double-image effect or not. Generally, it is the polarization of windshields that cause this effect. The brightness will have a lot to do with the type of illumination–with LED being the brightest.
However, the brightness will also hinge on whether the display is projected onto a dedicated screen or a film placed on the windshield.
The same considerations which impact the brightness of the display will also impact the resolution and the cohesion with the same factors producing a better or worse quality.
This consideration can be broken into two parts: smartphone and vehicle. The best HUDs connect to your smartphone and even allow the use of 3rd-party apps while in function. However, even for the HUDs that connect to your smartphone, many of them require the use of HUD-specific apps and may stop working when you switch to a different app.
The other compatibility consideration for HUDs has to do with the vehicle in question. Different vehicles have different readout systems which measure the vehicle’s performance. These readouts are OBD, OBD II, EOBD (for European standards), and JOBD (for Japanese standards). If your HUD and vehicle readout are not compatible, you will not be able to receive information about your vehicle’s performance through the HUD.
If money is no issue, the Navdy is the only option that can provide a full modern experience. Aside from its impressive dedicated screen size, it also presents more information than any other product on our list.
Of course, this has to do more with the Navdy’s ability to connect with your smartphone and utilize 3rd-party apps, but it is still an impressive feat to be able to control your smartphone with hand motions directed towards your HUD.
Beyond the Navdy, the Garmin offers a decent product at a greatly reduced price, though the smartphone functionality is greatly reduced as well. For a stripped down, budget option, the Arpenkin is a solid choice, though the ZXLine may be a better one.