Tested: Nuviz motorcycle head-up display (HUD) review

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Date reviewed: February 2018 | Tested by: Graham Mudd | Price: £615 | www.ridenuviz.com

 

BikeSocial Test Team member Graham Mudd typically rides 8,000 to 10,000 miles a year for commuting and pleasure. He’s been testing the Nuviz motorcycle head-up display for several months now…
I love gadgets; any little nick-nack that makes life a bit easier or puts a new spin on an old way of doing something. So I was really excited to get my hands on the Nuviz head-up display (HUD), which promises to revolutionise how ride information is conveyed to the biker.

The initial idea is simple – take all your gadgets with all the information you need and roll them into one easy-to-access unit. A HUD is something that’s been trialled before with limited success – the Skully helmet being the most famous example – but Nuviz has taken the best elements of these unsuccessful models and built on them to make a reasonably universal unit that gives full functionality with maximum convenience.

 

 

So how does it all work?

The Nuviz links with your smartphone and its own handlebar controller by Bluetooth. It’s really easy to set up and only takes a moment thanks to the clear instructions.

You use the free Nuviz app on your iOS or Android phone to tailor all the unit’s settings, and the Nuviz uses your phone for music and calls. A headset and microphone plugs into the main unit and fits into your helmet with sticky Velcro pads.

GPS is built in, so if you only want to use it for navigation then you don’t even need your phone to be connected, though you will need to have uploaded your route beforehand.

There’s also an 8MP camera, which can take stills an 1080p video. But the game changer is the HUD. The Nuviz’s clear prism sits in the lower portion of your vision, displaying information on a series of screens that you cycle through using the intuitive handlebar controller.

 

 

Main Unit

The Nuviz attaches to your helmet via an adhesive mounting plate, which also has the connector for the headset. Simply attach the solidly-built to the plate and away you go. After a short boot-up the device will sync with the controller and your phone.

A replaceable 18650 lithium-ion battery gives a really impressive life off one charge – I had the music going, made some calls, took some photos, shot two hours of video, was using the sat-nav and cycling though the screens, yet after 250 miles and eight hours of riding there was still juice left.

The screen itself is brilliant. At first I was a bit dubious of its size but as it’s so close to your face it’s just about perfect. The image appears projected about a metre in front of you, but due to its position and transparent prism, your view is never obscured… you can see through it. It isn’t distracting after the initial novelty wears off, and it serves its purpose perfectly of never having to look down at your dash or phone/sat-nav. The screen’s brightness automatically adjusts so it is always clear on bright days and never dazzling at night, and you simply use the handlebar controller to cycle between speedo, phone, music, sat-nav and camera.

The Nuviz itself feels fairly weighty at just over 200g, but once attached you don’t really notice it. Although not the smallest of helmet accessories, it sits with the helmet’s profile well and is streamlined, so causes no drag unlike my previous Go-Pro copy, which caused a fair amount of buffeting at speed.

The photos and videos it takes are good quality and clear, taking up about 1.5-2MB of space, whereas an hour of video will take about 10GB. The Nuviz has 16GB of onboard storage and an expansion slot for a micro SD card. Quality isn’t quite as good as a GoPro, but for the price when the other features are taken into consideration, it’s very good.

The only slight niggle I have is that with the screen being so close to the visor, it makes clearing rain difficult. But aside from that I cannot fault the design at all, it really is a neat bit of kit!

 

 

Controller

The Nuviz comes with everything you need to attach the controller pretty much anywhere on the bike; even with my Suzuki Burgman 650’s overcrowded left bar had a suitable spot, and it takes moments to attach the mounting plate.

Nuviz claims the included battery will last years, and it’s a standard button cell. It takes seconds to sync with the helmet unit, and has four chunky buttons mounted around the central up/down toggle switch – think the old ‘Simon Says’ toy and you’re not far off. Even with thick winter gloves on, the buttons are easy to use.

Controlling the Nuviz is really simple; the toggle switch cycles through the various screens and highlights routes in the Rides screen, and the top left and bottom left buttons select options displayed in the corresponding areas of the HUD. For example, on the Maps screen top left shows a ‘+’ that zooms in the map and on the Music screen shows a ‘≥’ to skip to the next track. The top right button activates the Google Assistant/Siri and voice controls for information on the fly – I got the weather update for my destination with no problems.

The controller’s Lower right button activates the camera – it’s really easy once you’ve played with it for a couple of minutes, though on the move I tend to leave it on the speedo screen to limit the temptation to play.

Although it’s brilliant to have a phone function, it would have been nice to be able to listen to text messages and reply with a speech to text function. If you can use Google assistant and are synced with your phone this isn’t a great stretch of the tech, especially for this price bracket.

 

Showing the screen is always going to be hard on camera, but only by trying it can you experience how clear and easy to see it is

 

Navigation

The sat-nav function is fantastic. You use the app on your phone to select a route in a very similar way to Google Maps. You can set points of interest, waypoints and get a choice of routes depending on the options you’ve selected in the settings. On the fly you can also set it to find nearby petrol stations, shops and restaurants using the handlebar controller.

Unlike a Garmin or Tom Tom there isn’t a ‘winding road’ option, but as a get you from A to B tool, it’s flawless. Once the Nuviz syncs with your phone it uploads the route, and from then on it’s stored and you don’t need to have your phone connected. Using the controller ,simply cycle to Rides, scroll down to the route you want and hit the enter button. Instructions over the headset are crystal clear and you have the choice of viewing the detailed route like a normal sat-nav on the Maps screen or a simple arrow with distance on the Speedo screen. On both screens your current speed and the road’s speed limit are shown.

The map itself is clear, with white roads on a black background and the route highlighted in light blue; simple but very effective, with no chance of confusion. If you miss your turn, the redirect calculation is super-quick and I never encountered any map mistakes or wrong instructions.

My only niggle is that on Maps view the street names are tiny and you have to zoom right in to read them; the map doesn’t auto scale depending on what speed you’re doing.

 

The instructions for the initial setup are clear and easy to understand

 

Audio

Unfortunately audio performance is where the Nuviz falls down. I’m not saying I expect Dolby sound quality, but for the price I expect a lot better. Firstly, Nuviz states the headset is compatible with flip front helmets, however the wires from the mounting plate keep getting trapped in the joint when you close it. The microphone lead is too short meaning you have to part lift the helmet to detach it, and if you don’t the sticky Velcro pad comes off with the microphone. A bit more work needed there.

Cabling aside the sound quality is pretty poor. I understand Nuviz will have concerns about setting the volume too high causing hearing damage, but even at full blast they are too quiet. Pottering around town is fine, but anything over 40mph and the music is drowned. Even wearing filtered ear plugs I struggled to hear the tune over 50mph and this is riding a Burgman 650 with a super-protective screen. Add to this the fact that the bass line is distorted and the higher tones sound scratchy. This is somewhat confusing as the sat-nav instructions are as clear as day. It should be noted that a firmware update had already been applied before I got the device to review, which boosted audio levels. While I don’t think it’s enough, I’d hope a further update might improve things.

Call quality suffers the same. I phoned my wife (a simple process – the Nuviz accesses your phone’s contact list and you either scroll using the controller or use voice commands, which is a nice touch) and up to 30mph the conversation was fine. At just over 40mph, understanding each ther was starting to get difficult and by 65mph all she could hear was wind and I couldn’t hear her at all. My £40 Aldi headset performs better, which is very disappointing.

My last dig at the audio… to listen to music you have to be paired with your phone, and have the MP3 player activated for the Nuviz to control the media. There is no option to download music onto the memory so you can listen to tunes without your phone, and you cannot skip back or repeat a track, which is a bit of an oversight.

On the plus side, my daughter’s Aldi headset linked with the Nuviz, so come summer we will still be able to chat on the move.

 

Conclusion

Nuviz is breaking new ground with this tech, and as a first version there were bound to be teething problems. The HUD and the controller work together flawlessly with your phone to deliver a fantastic new way of showing all the information you need with no need to take your eyes off the road. I was really impressed with the way the screen floats in your field of vision wherever you look without obscuring anything, and the intuitive control system that’s easy to use even with thick gloves on.

But Nuviz really needs to work on the audio headset and media interface. I understand the team is running in the vanguard of this technology, but for this price it needs better performance and functionality. With the right development and a reduction in the price, this sort of product will be the future. Dashless motorbikes anybody?

 

 

Second opinion: Consumer editor John Milbank

Before sending the Nuviz to Graham back in 2017, I used it on my Vozz lid for a few weeks, as well as testing it on a couple of other helmets – as such I was operating with a fairly early version of the firmware.

Like Graham, I found it didn’t get on well with flip-fronts thanks to the wires that run from the main unit to the speakers, though the unique design of the Vozz meant I could run it on there. Mounting to the slightly sculpted front of an Arai Quantum ST was tricky, but it worked. However, I was unable to fit it onto a Nexx adventure lid.

I was very impressed with the ease of set-up, as well as how the route planning pulls locations from the internet, though it isn't flawless – Google maps shows the Motorcycle Industry Association in Coventry, but the Nuviz just came up with locations in the USA on that occasion. Postcode searching was fine and has the work’s car park as an option, which my TomTom didn't.

While there wasn’t a dedicated winding routes option, like TomTom or Garmin, I did find my routes had two options, one of which was more fun; while setting up is easy, like many electronic devices these days, some features aren’t that obvious.

What I did miss is my TomTom’s live traffic (even when planning a route) – sure, you can filter if traffic gets really heavy, but not in many parts of London; it’s best to avoid the jams if you can. And while an audible warning of speed cameras is much appreciated, there were no visual markers, and when I used it, not all the speed cameras were on there.

 

The camera performs well in various light conditions

 

I considered the sat-nav display to be okay, but too small for me, meaning I had to stare at it longer than my TomTom Rider. The blue route on white roads (orange for motorways) is fine, but the direction of turn arrow was big and white, so hard to see at a glance, especially on very busy roads. It was easy to find nearby filling stations, but if I was following a route, I’d have to cancel it to get to fuel, then fire it up again – clunky, but possibly a firmware update fix?

For me, the Nuviz simply didn’t replace the tech I already had, but that’s not to say it won’t suit a great deal of people. If you’re a light user of sat-navs, you could be very happy, but without features like avoiding a blocked road, or even an indication of when you should arrive at your destination, I found it lacking. And not everyone wants music streaming, but like Graham I do, and there the Nuviz was lacking.

I did really like the camera though, which was much better than having a separate Drift or GoPro on my helmet.

A TomTom Rider 450 costs £429, and a single Sena 10C Bluetooth intercom with built-in camera is £349. At a total cost of £778, it’s substantially more expensive, and potentially less convenient than the Nuviz, but you’ll need to decide if you want or need all of the additional features and performance that the individual devices can offer. The Nuviz is a jack of all trades, and thanks to strong firmware update support, new features and improvements are constantly being released.

 

Nuviz video quality

Brief clip showing video and audio quality – you’ll be able to hear that the music being played through the device is also caught

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