Nuviz Head-Up Helmet Display Review | Full Riding Test
Ultimate Motorcycling recently attended the global launch of the Nuviz helmet-mounted head-up display (HUD) communicator and GPS device. The Nuviz enables a rider to monitor and execute multiple functions via the “screen” while listening to voice prompts, music, or taking phone calls.
Having used it for around 500 miles on a variety of roads, I can report that it works as claimed, and works well. It has a myriad of cool features, a couple of minor omissions, and a well-funded Finnish company behind it that is staffed by some very bright, passionate minds (many from Nokia).
I was using a pre-production unit, so it is possible that some niggles will be addressed by the time the unit goes on sale, and even if not, Nuviz assures us that all software and firmware upgrades will be free, so early adopters need not worry.
Here are the essential Fast Facts you need to know:
1. The Nuviz has four main functions: GPS-based Navigation, phone, music, and photo/video. All of these are accessed by a handlebar-mounted controller and projected onto a virtual screen. That screen is a small-ish rectangle projected on to a slightly darker background, giving the appearance of the info being about two or three feet from your face. It does not hover across your entire field of vision, nor does it appear magically somewhere on the distant horizon in front of you. It is more like a normal instrument pod that is always close to your field of vision. However, you do have to consciously look at it.
2. There are five pages of functions that you toggle through to get critical information. The main page is a readout of your speed with the speed limit smaller above it, the clock time, the Nuviz battery level. When programmed, it also shows the distance and time to your final destination, with a graphic up the left side illustrating your next turn and distance to it. The directions are backed up by audio instruction as well. The other four pages are the Rides main page, the Map, the Calls (phone) page, and the Music page.
3. The Nuviz also has a smartphone app. This allows you to program rides with the navigation, maintain a profile, and see your stats (distance, average speed, etc.) from the latest ride. It worked very well with the current Apple iOS. The app also accesses the really quite comprehensive Nuviz Settings, where everything from camera resolutions to navigation options such as additional maps, changes to voice prompts, and speed warnings can all be accessed and changed.
4. The GPS-based navigation has conventional turn-by-turn directions, time and distance to destination etc. All maps (globally) can be downloaded to the Nuviz, free of charge, as desired. I used the California map and it worked flawlessly. The map display page shows your planned route, very similar to any conventional GPS maps. I found it a little small to be of any real use and preferred the ‘next turn’ directions on the main HUD page.
5. You can make and receive phone calls. The Nuviz imports your contacts and latest call list so an outgoing call to any of your favorites is easy. However, the Nuviz cannot access Siri, so if you need to dial a number you cannot voice request it; you will have to stop. Although the audio will be routed through the Nuviz headset, you will have to initiate the call on the phone as normal. When someone calls you, the HUD shows the caller ID, allowing you to decide how keen you are to interrupt your ride. By using the execute buttons you can either accept or deny the call without leaving the page.
6. You have to be on the music page to start or pause music, or to forward to the next track. I found this a little awkward and would prefer to see a dedicated controller button to change music functions without having to leave the main page. The only music functions available are play/pause and skip forward a track. There is no repeat track function or return to a previous track.
7. The camera has its own dedicated button on the controller, so it’s easily accessed. Click to take a picture, hold down to start/stop video. The video does not record the music you’re listening to, but it will record your voice over the ambient wind/engine noise if you choose to narrate. When you use the camera, the icon appears in the bottom right corner and you use it from there using the dedicated controller button with no need to navigate away from the page. Photos and video are saved to any typical Class 10 (for video) micro-SD card, and they are also automatically uploaded to the phone app and appear in your Photos inside a Nuviz folder.
8. The Nuviz device mounts on the front, right side of almost all full-face helmets. It is fairly large and ungainly looking, but it is not heavy; I did not notice the weight at all while using it. Riding at freeway speeds, my Shoei RF-1200 with the Nuviz in place wasn’t unbalanced, nor did it feel front heavy. If your eyes were closed, it would be difficult to tell that the device was installed.
9. The impressive Nuviz handlebar-mounted controller is permanently paired to it via Bluetooth. The only time you touch the Nuviz is to turn it on and off; all functions are selected and operated from the handlebar controller. The small, round controller is very well designed, and easy to mount without removing or shifting handlebar components.
10. You cannot use the Nuviz without the controller. The controller is powered by a large watch-type flat battery that is claimed to last as long as over a year; it does not turn on or off.
11. The controller has four buttons operating a nicely intuitive interface. The two left side buttons are to execute functions. The top left button equals the top left corner of the ‘screen’; the bottom button equals the bottom left corner of the screen. Depending on the icon you’re seeing, you click the appropriate button. The bottom right controller button instantly accesses the camera for either pictures or 1080p video. The central toggle switch navigates up or down through screens and also adjusts audio volume. The top right controller button is reserved for future use.
12. You have to purposely look at the HUD. It is not something in your peripheral vision or permanently across your field of view. You glance slightly down at it as if it were a conventional instrument. However, because it is so much closer to where you’re already looking—ahead—it is much less distracting than looking way down at your instruments.
13. Care must be taken during installation to get the HUD in the correct place for your line of sight. The display must be relatively in front of your face and about nose high. I failed to allow for the slightly forward-angled riding position on the Kawasaki Z900, so the HUD was a little too low and too much to the right. Fortunately, the Nuviz mounting plate is attached with a sticky pad, and those are easy to replace if you get it wrong.
14. The screen is (miraculously for me) fully in focus. I was amazed, as I need relatively strong reading glasses for just about anything within 10 feet of my eyes. Yet even without any glasses the Nuviz was in full focus and totally readable.
15. There is no brightness adjustment to the display and it doesn’t need it. The color readout is eminently visible, even in bright sunlight. At night, it is spectacularly easy to read.
16. The Nuviz has a port at the back to charge with any micro-USB cable, and the device functions as normal when charging. If you forgot to charge it in advance, or you’re on a very long ride, you can charge it while riding and continue using it. The port also has the micro-SD card where the video and pictures are recorded.
17. Other communication devices can be connected to the Nuviz via Bluetooth. If you have a Sena 20S, for example, and prefer to use that for certain things such as music, you can do it—if you don’t mind your helmet bristling with electronic devices.
18. There is no bike-to-bike communication or rider-to-passenger communication via Nuviz. Some people may see this as an upside! However, Nuviz assure that in a future firmware release this functionality will be coming, so you may or may not choose to make the upgrade. That may be what that undesignated controller button is for.
19. The audio volume is a little low. Each function’s volume can be adjusted separately, and there is a master volume control. I had everything cranked up to maximum and it was adequate, but I’d prefer more available volume. I do use earplugs, and it was principally at freeway speeds where I felt it was a little lacking. Nuviz is aware of this and is working on an update already.
20. The sound quality when using the phone could be better. I had a long phone conversation with my better half while riding at around 30-45 mph, and she said the sound quality was fairly poor. She could clearly tell I was on a Bluetooth device with some static as well as background noise. With Sena units, she says the vox function is so good that she can’t tell I’m riding a motorcycle. Hopefully, Nuviz will work on improving the unit’s fidelity and noise-cancellation capabilities.
21. The pre-production Nuviz unit we tested does not have a final weather rating. Nuviz says it is being extensively tested in all kinds of environments and weathers; final all-weather testing is currently underway.
22. The retail price is $699. Everything about the unit, including the packaging, screams premium quality.
Overall, the Nuviz works extremely well—operating it is logical and intuitive and I was impressed how much thought has gone into the high number of complex tasks it can accomplish. The Nuviz will be useful to many motorcycle riders, especially any who are used to riding off the cellphone grid.
For additional information, visit Nuviz.