Garmin HUD eases navigation but might tax your smartphone's battery

Every time you glance down at your dashboard, you're taking your eyes off the road. That's why drivers often mount their GPS or mobile device above the dash, to minimize that risk. Alas, locating a device here creates a blind spot on the windshield.

Better idea: Garmin's $150 HUD (head-up display), which projects navigation information into your line of sight on the windshield. The HUD works with Garmin's Navigon and StreetPilot apps (Android/iOS/Windows Phone 8 ), which supply the actual data and cost an additional $30 and up.

Compared to other add-on HUDs that cost thousands of dollars, the Garmin HUD is significantly cheaper because there are no built-in smarts. Also, the navigation graphics are old-school, bright-blue arrows and numbers generated by the unit's VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display), rather than slick animation.

Compact unit with two projection choices

The Garmin HUD is about the size of an external 2.5-inch hard drive. It weighs about ten ounces and feels very solid, almost hefty in your hand. The projector unfolds from its mounting base up to about a 70-degree angle. It also tilts side-to-side, so you can adjust the projection angle for your particular windshield. You can project information to the provided, transflective sheet of film, which you attach to the inside of your windshield, or you can use a plastic bezel that attaches to the device itself.

Attaching the transflective sheet requires cleaning and moistening the windshield, then placing the sheet and working out the bubbles. You can't remove the film without damaging it, so plan the placement ahead of time and follow the instructions carefully. It works fine, but it’s a bit more obtrusive when the HUD isn't on.

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