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Review of the Garmin HUD+ head-up display

Garmin guidance that lets you keep your eyes ahead

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.
Garmin HUD+ Head-Up Display

Garmin's HUD+ head-up display works with Garmin's HUD app to give you you easy-to-follow directions, and you can keep it within your line of sight on your vehicle's dashboard

Garmin's HUD+ head-up display is a great alternative to the typical windshield-mounted portable GPS navigator or using your phone's native (and slow) GPS app.

The small black projector sits on your dash close to the windshield. It displays directions and crucial travel information on your lower windshield or a clear screen that sits directly in your line of sight. You'll see information for upcoming turns without having to take your eyes off what's in front of you, making things much safer for yourself and others on the road.

What you'll need

A device to run the app

The HUD+ doesn't acually have a GPS receiver in it. You'll need a smartphone or tablet to make it work. And your device needs to have reliable Bluetooth® capability, because that's how it transmits information to the HUD+. I used an iPhone® 5 for this review, but as long as your smartphone or tablet has the requisite app on it, you should be fine.

Garmin's HUD navigation app

Garmin's HUD app is the driving force behind the HUD+. The app is free and should be available for iPhone, iPad®, Windows Phone® 8, and most Android™ devices. The iPhone app itself is 121MB, and that's before downloading the required maps. You can download all of the maps of North America (U.S., Canada, Mexico), which take up 2.12GB of memory. Luckily, Garmin splits the maps up into different chunks of the continent, so you can port in only what you need. I downloaded the "USA East and Canada" package, which was just under 1GB of memory and included maps of Virginia. The maps took over an hour to download to my phone — keep that in mind before heading out on a long road trip.

Garmin HUD+ Head-Up Display

A screen shot of the HUD app on an iPhone 5, with maps you can follow even without the HUD+ head-up display

A handy stand-alone app (to a degree)

I'm a big fan of Garmin portable navigators. While I don't think they're perfect, I do think their combination of reliable directions, easy-to-follow graphics, and speedy routing make them the best solution for on-the-go guidance.

The HUD app brings most of Garmin's excellent navigation features (although text-to-speech is not one of them) into a phone app. It's like having a Garmin navigator loaded into your phone or tablet...all the time.

The big advantage of storing the maps on your phone (as opposed to having them load as you travel) is that you can still get directions through the app even when you don't have cell or Wi-Fi® coverage. That's usually not the case with native smartphone GPS apps, which rely on your data service.

The HUD app only works after it is paired with HUD+ projector. Once you've paired the app with a HUD+, you can use it without the HUD+ for up to 30 days. To continue working, it needs to be paired with the HUD+ again once every 30 days.

Getting started

Before hitting the road, I downloaded the HUD app and requisite map package to my iPhone 5, and turned on its Bluetooth connectivity. Next I went to my car to set up the HUD+ projector.

  • The HUD+ is a little larger than the average palm, but plenty sturdy. It has a sticky rubber base that conforms to the dashboard and a hinge for angle adjustment.
  • It needs to be connected to the 12-volt power (cigarette lighter) in the car, which is a bit of a drag, having that cable running up the side or center of the dash.
  • Garmin was nice enough to add a USB port to the charging cable base, so I could charge my iPhone while powering the HUD+.

Garmin provides two options for displaying the directions: a transparent windshield film and a reflector lens. The windshield film sits above the HUD+, held in place with a sticky backing. The plastic reflector lens attaches to the HUD+ and can be rotated slightly for the best angle. Both options are clear and easy to see through. I used the reflector lens for this evaluation.

The HUD+ automatically turned on when plugged in, and requested a pairing with my iPhone 5. Pairing was very quick, and automatic on subsequent trips.

On the road with the HUD+

To use the HUD+, I pulled up the app on my iPhone 5 and entered the address of my parents' house about 40 miles away as my destination. When I hit "Go" on the app, my phone showed my location on the map screen and the  HUD+ projected the distance to and direction of the next turn on the reflector screen in clear bright green. The app announced each maneuver, but without saying any actual street names.

Garmin HUD+ Head-Up Display

The small red triangle in the lower right corner indicates the car's speed (48 mph) is higher than the posted limit, which was 45 here

The cool thing about the HUD+ is that you can use other apps or functions on your phone like music or calling while still getting directions. You can also mute the voice prompts on the app and still see the directions projected ahead of you.

The HUD+ display is economical but full of vital information:

  • The left portion shows the direction of the next turn or maneuver with a large arrow.
  • Below that is a horizontal row of arrows representing the number of lanes on the road currently being traveled. The best lanes for the next maneuver are highlighted.
  • On the right side of the display, the top number shows the distance to the next turn or maneuver, in miles or feet.
  • Below that is the estimated length of time until arrival at the final destination, or the estimated time of arrival (this reading can be changed within the HUD app).
  • On the bottom is your vehicle's current speed and the posted speed limit.

As I drove, the directions on the HUD+ updated quickly following each turn. I could hear the directions being announced on my phone as it sat face-down on my passenger seat, but even without the spoken guidance, the navigation would've been quite easy to follow.

The HUD+'s display wasn't limited to just arrows in the top left portion. There are a few roundabouts in Charlottesville, and each one was represented by a circular pattern on the display. If I needed to make the first right out of the roundabout, the display showed a quarter-circle with a right arrow extending out of it. The directions were visually easy to follow while remaining within my field of vision.

Garmin HUD+ Head-Up Display

The HUD+ guides us through a roundabout with an exit at the 3/4-turn mark

Final thoughts on the Garmin HUD+

Overall, I was really pleased with the HUD+, and I can see how it'd make a great alternative to windshield-mounted portable navigators or basic phone app guidance, which can be unreliable and unsafe. I thought the speed and ease of use were both exemplary.

My main issue with the app/display combo is that the amount of memory the required maps take up in my phone is pretty high. Using the app along with Bluetooth on the phone at the same time is also going to drain the phone's battery pretty quickly, so I'd be sure to have a charging cable on hand to keep the phone powered up.

If you want to know more about the Garmin HUD+ or any other navigation system we carry, contact our advisors via phone, chat, or email.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/9/2016

    Roxy, the data strain shouldn't be anything out of the ordinary. Garmin's maps are saved to your phone when you download the app, so any data that's used is for GPS tracking, not for map-building. With a Bluetooth connection, your phone sends relevant info to the HUD device. If you'd like to know more about the app itself, check out Garmin's site.

  • Roxy Synder from 07090

    Posted on 2/5/2016

    Is this using DATA while you drive?? and if so, how much DATA is it using

  • Commenter image

    Dominic Devito from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/15/2015

    Abraham, thanks for sharing your experience with the Garmin HUD+. It was quite some time ago that I reviewed this item, so I can't recall if I tried to hear the audio prompts through my stereo's aux input or not. If Garmin told you the HUD app is not designed to transmit the audio prompts through the phone's headphone output, we can only hope that they noted your concerns for future iterations of the app. However, Garmin doesn't even mention the voice prompts in the manual for the HUD+ or on the HUD+ product page on their website, which leads me to think that changing the app's voice prompts capability might be a low priority for them. The whole point of the HUD+ is to have the directions always in your field of vision, obviating the need for voice prompts, as they are typically used for devices which you can't keep your eyes on at all times.

  • Abraham

    Posted on 7/14/2015

    A serious drawback of the system is the lack of ability to hear the audio through car stereo (through BT or AUX). The only way seems to hear the directions is through speaker of the phone. If I connect the phone to AUX, it becomes silent. I contacted Garmin and they said it is not designed to get audio through the car speaker. They should clarify this when it is advertised otherwise the product description is misleading.