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Testing the Garmin Heads Up Display (HUD) for navigation

Mel Martin

Garmin is just beginning to ship the company's first HUD (heads-up display) unit for in-car use with Garmin and Navigon apps. The U.S. $129.99 device (sale pricing for the summer) sits on your dash, and can project navigation information on your windshield using a supplied transparent film or a built-in reflector.


The unit plugs into a 12-volt supply in your car with an included cable and then connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth. The HUD notifies the driver of upcoming turns with an arrow in the appropriate direction and the distance until the turn. It also gives you your estimated time of arrival at your destination, along with your current speed. It also notes the speed limit for the road you are on if that data is in the Garmin or Navigon databases. (Most public roads are.)

Turn by turn spoken directions come through your phone speaker. The hardware does nothing on its own, so if you don't already have the Garmin Street Pilot or Navigon apps, you'll need to include those in the projected cost.

Gallery: Garmin HUD | 3 Photos


I gave the Garmin HUD a lengthy test today. Pairing the unit with my iPhone was quick and easy. After the link was successful, I received a message that there was a firmware update needed. I downloaded that through the Navigon app I was using. On a 4G connection, it took less than a minute.

Then I was off. I selected a destination, and the navigation information was instantly posted to the HUD. I was afraid the display would be dim in the bright Arizona sunlight, but the display was easily visible. In the gallery below, you'll see 2 sample photos of the display that I took when the sky was bright. The HUD also has automatic brightness control so it won't blind you at night.

It was a pleasure driving with the Garmin HUD. Even with my car navigation system, I am always taking my eyes off the road. With the HUD, I can keep my attention on the road, even though my eyes need to refocus on the HUD screen. I only saw one glitch with the unit; when I was driving on a road where Navigon did not know the local speed limit, the estimated speed I was driving was about double the real thing. I did not see this error when the HUD was displaying the speed limit and my current speed. This should be an easy fix, but you have to wonder how the error slipped through quality control.

I wasn't wild about the power cable hanging from my dash, but I understand the HUD has power requirements that would make battery operation impractical. I didn't try the stick-on film (knowing I would have to pull it off to return the sample unit), but the add-on reflector lens worked great. It also means the HUD is great for travel, because it can be placed on the dashboard of any rental car. The HUD unit has a sticky bottom, and even during some aggressive turning on winding roads I never saw the HUD move.

I didn't expect to like the Garmin HUD, but I really did. After I got used to it, driving without the HUD felt a bit naked and unsafe.


  • Easy to install and pair
  • Easy to upgrade firmware
  • Integrates perfectly with Garmin and Navigon apps
  • Bright display even in lots of sunlight
  • Should provide additional safety factor to keep your eyes on the road
  • Can easily be moved from car to car using reflector lens


  • Power cord hangs from dash
  • Speed not always reported correctly -- firmware bug
  • Pricey (It's on sale this summer for $129.99 but will then go up to $149.99)

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