Add-on head-up displays are a nice option for those who want to upgrade their car, but can't afford a car upgrade. Such devices have also proven popular subjects of crowdfunding campaigns, but Navdy took the more traditional venture capital route and the result is a product that you can purchase now, no waiting. We spent around a month with the device and found Navdy to be a welcome addition to our dashboard.

Navdy promises to merge automobile-grade navigation with hands-free control of your phone, all wrapped up in an easy-to-install package. We were initially unsure about the "easy-to-install" part when the instructions required us to locate the OBD-2 input on our 2014 Honda CRV. But, thankfully, Navdy provided links to this information within the instructions.

UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS

More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.

UPGRADE

Once the OBD-2 port was located, setup was a simple process of determining the height the Navdy unit should be mounted on top of the dashboard for optimal viewing, picking the appropriate mounting elements, fixing the Navdy to the dash, then running the connecting cord from the Navdy to said OBD-2 port. Clean towelettes to wipe down the dash before installation were even included in the package, along with a cable guide to keep the cord that runs from the unit to the OBD-2 port from hanging and getting in the way..

The Navdy unit attaches to the top of your dash with either a pad or a small pedestal, each with a sticky backing. No glue, screws or related hardware are required, and removal of the unit from the dash involves gently pulling it up and away from the surface. Any remaining residue quickly cleans up and the ease of install and removal lets you quickly transfer Navdy to different vehicles.

The hands-free capability comes courtesy of the Navdy Dial that mounts on your steering wheel – although, the company told us that some users are mounting it on their gearshift – and connects wirelessly to the dash-mounted unit and your smartphone via Bluetooth. You use the dial to scroll through menu items, such as contacts, music and favorite places, then make your choice by pressing the button in the middle of the dial.

Navdy is activated once you turn your vehicle on, so it's not running all of the time and draining your battery. Before you head off, flip up the small glass display screen on the Navdy and place it at an angle that allows you to see the information presented. Within a few seconds of turning on your vehicle, Navdy immediately displays your speedometer and other info like time and compass directions on the screen.

The full functionality of Navdy is dependent upon the companion app that's compatible with iOS 9 and 10 and Android Jellybean, which provides Navdy access to relevant data on your phone. Scrolling through the Navdy menu items with the Navdy dial will call up the information from your phone that is displayed on the HUD, and a click of the dial will select the desired item.

For example, you can use the dial to scroll through your contact list to find the person you want to call. Once found, hit the middle button of the dial and the call is made. You don't even have to change your phone to speaker mode. It's done for you. Choosing music or favorite places is just as easy.

You can also move through some menu options with simple left or right gestures in front of the unit, but doing so with any consistency proved difficult, and this method doesn't allow for the more reliable and refined interaction available with the dial.

Its creators bill Navdy's navigation system as "automobile grade" thanks to a dedicated GPS chip. It definitely performed well in our time with it and was definitely better than any phone-based systems we've used.

While the app is necessary to get the full use of the Navdy device, there's still plenty of functionality without a smartphone connected thanks to the OBD-2 connection. It can sub for your speedometer, compass, temperature gauge, gas gauge and provides all of these directly in front of you without having to take your eyes off the road.

As easy as Navdy was to use, we did have one problem with it. We initially found ourselves sometimes narrowing our field of vision when switching focus to concentrate on what was projected on that small screen. While this didn't get us into any trouble or near misses while driving, it took some getting used to initially. So for those contemplating buying a Navdy, allow some time to adjust to looking at information differently.

The Navdy is similar to other units like the Exploride and Carloudy, both announced last year but neither of which have shipped yet. The Garmin HUD was an early entry into the portable HUD market in 2013, but still only provides navigation functionality.

Since it started fulfilling pre-orders mid-2016, Navdy said users have already logged over 1.6 million miles with the device with no major issues reported.

Granted, head-up displays are making their way into more and more affordable cars, but not everyone can afford a new car. At US$799, the Navdy isn't cheap, (the company also has a 24-month payment plan from $33 a month), but it's still one of the next best ways to bring a touch of the latest technology to your windshield thanks to its ease of use and range of functionality.

Product page: Navdy

View gallery - 14 images