Instead of constantly looking down at your phone while you’re trying to drive safely, DASHMAPS is a windshield projector head-up display that puts transparent, turn-by-turn directions right in front of you, while allowing you to keep your eyes on the road.
To use the device, you just have activate the GPS on any flat screen smartphone (including those from Apple and Samsung), lay it in the tray and its never-slip base mat, and start driving. The anti-glare screen will reflect a sharp, crystal-clear image, without the use of batteries or wires, and without installation required.
When you’re finished using DASHMAPS, its base mat works like hundreds of tiny suction cups that un-stick themselves, without leaving behind any sticky residue on your dashboard.
Clearly, this is a compelling concept. Who wouldn’t want an inexpensive, functional heads-up display in their car, that works with the smartphone they already own?
But is DASHMAPS just like something you’d find in an expensive luxury car, as claimed on the website? Is it innovative? Does it have any competition, or is it the only game in town?
There’s no doubt that new, easy-to-use technology is exciting. But before handing over your credit card number and placing an order for DASHMAPS, we’re here to help you answer questions like these. So, take a few minutes and read what we learned during research.
How Do Aftermarket Heads Up Displays (HUDs) Like DASHMAPS Work?
Writing for Road & Track, Blake Z. Rong explains that heads-up displays were first patented by the Royal Air Force during World War II, and have only become more advanced since. In fact, he reports that “HUDs have become essential to flying. In a fighter plane, with the enemy on your tail and AIM-9 Sidewinders at the ready, having all that information right up front could mean life and death.”
And while the stakes aren’t quite so high behind the wheel of a car, taking your eyes away from the road while trying to look at your phone’s directions could prove just as dangerous. As such, HUD technologies have made their way into the automotive world.
Blake tells us there are two main methods used to accomplish this, both of which involve tiny projectors:
- A transparent image is cast directly onto the windshield, which acts as a giant screen. In some vehicles, the image can be adjusted to appear in different areas of the windshield.
- Another popular technology (popularized by Mazda), known as a combiner, projects “heads-up onto a small plastic window that flips up,” which “creates a uniform image no matter how the windshield's shaped” and “reduces the number of mirrors needed to send the image onto the windshield clearly.”
Over the last couple of years, aftermarket products like DASHMAPS have appeared that implement the latter’s plastic window technology, but which are not a permanent fixture in the vehicle and can be removed at will.
In fact, Blake emphasizes this point by noting that “a lot of aftermarket displays use such a combiner so you can install it in nearly any vehicle you please.”
We’ll talk more about what this means for you in a moment, but let’s first take a closer look at DASHMAPS’ price.
How Much Does DASHMAPS Cost?
Each DASHMAPS unit is priced at $19.99, with free S&H. This includes the base and display, one cleaner cloth, and one storage pouch.
DASHMAPS comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, less S&H. To request one, you’ll need to contact Paragon Direct TV at 866-871-0171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does this price compare?
DASHMAPS vs. Other Aftermarket Heads-Up Display Units
Search online for the term "heads-up display" using any search engine, and you’ll quickly learn that there are perhaps hundreds of HUD products to choose from. Even if you narrow your search results to only those units compatible with flat screen smartphones, you’ll still find dozens of products competing for many of the same customers as DASHMAPS.
While top Google results at the time of our research featured a variety of designs and ranged in price anywhere between $14 and $400, we found several products that appeared to be identical to DASHMAPS, based on their pictures (we didn’t test any of these units ourselves for firsthand verification):
- IP Brothers Head UP Display, $25
- Techstick Universal 6 inch Max Car HUD, $26
- Dewhel Universal GPS Navigation Holder Head UP Display, $24
- H6 6" Screen Car HUD Head Up Display Projector, $23
- Universal 6 Inch Car HUD, $20
We can see that DASHMAPS is the least expensive option here (although it's only $0.01 less than the Universal model), and also includes free shipping. As such, if the price is your main concern (the only factor that seems to be meaningfully different between these models), it might be difficult to beat.
But is DASHMAPS’ design necessarily the right option for you?
How to Choose the Best Heads Up Display For Your Car
As we briefly referenced earlier, How-To Geek explains that built-in HUDs often have more robust functionality that aftermarket units, as they’re able to “pull data from everything that's actually happening from inside the engine in real-time, without the need for any GPS-assisted guesswork."
If you’re not in the market for a new HUD-equipped vehicle, but want top-of-the-line technology (at a top-of-the-line price), the $400 Navdy unit rests on top of your dashboard like DASHMAPS, but pairs directly with your phone via Bluetooth and then displays information and notifications on its plastic screen.
A step down from there are HUD units that hook up to the OBD2 (On-Board Diagnostics) port in your vehicle—the same one technicians will use to diagnose warning lights. Many of these models are wired, though, so you’ll have to consider this factor from an aesthetics perspective.
On the flip side, Mashtips reports OBD2 options can deliver a wide variety of information, including the “speed of the car, fuel level, engine check and oil data, directions in which car is moving, altitude, water temperature, battery voltage, [current and average] fuel consumption, [and] mileage measurements.” Higher-end models could even offer customizable display settings.
From there, we have ’trays’ like DASHMAPS, which simply invert your smartphone’s display and project the image onto a plastic screen. While these are generally some of the least expensive options, they typically represent bare-bones models that get the job done, but come with no additional features.
Finally, there are standalone heads-up display apps that can be downloaded directly to your smartphone, without the need for any additional equipment (other than perhaps a sticky surface to rest your phone on). These typically increase the brightness on your screen and invert the image, which will then reflect off your windshield.
While these could perhaps represent a low-or-no-cost method of helping you figure out if a higher-end HUD is right for you, How-To Geek emphasizes:
“We can't exactly recommend this option if your speedometer is broken and you're looking for a stock replacement, as phone GPS systems are notoriously spotty, and shouldn't be used as your main method of gauging how fast a car is going at any given time."
Our Final Thoughts About DASHMAPS
The bottom line is that if you’re looking for tray-based, smartphone-centric heads-up display at the lowest possible price, it might be difficult to outdo DASHMAPS. And the company stands behind it with a 30-day refund policy, so you’ll only lose a few dollars in return shipping charges if you give it a try and are dissatisfied with its performance.
But based on everything we’ve discussed here, DASHMAPS is up against hundreds of different competitors, so be sure to explore all your options before deciding to hand over your hard-earned money.