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Akabane A500 car heads-up display review

While offering features similar products so not, this car HUD is still lacking

Akabane A500
(Image: © Akabane)

Tom's Guide Verdict

By pairing OBD data with a GPS receiver, the Akabane A500 can do things other HUDs can’t, like display dozens of operational parameters as well as run braking and acceleration tests. Too bad it has a small direct-view screen that also manages to get in the way of the driver’s view.

Pros

  • +

    OBD and GPS data

  • +

    Direct view display

  • +

    Lots of parameters shown

Cons

  • -

    Big and clunky design

  • -

    Obstructs view

  • -

    Confusing array of interface choices

  • -

    Lacks phone integration

Akabane A500: Specs

Size: 4.3- x 3.3- x 2.9-inches
Weight: 5.1 ounces
Power: OBD-II port
Display size: 3.5-inches
Color/Monochrome: Color
Number of parameters displayed: 60
Alarms: Yes

Akabane’s A500 takes a different tack when it comes to heads-up displays, opting for a direct-view display instead of projecting the data onto the windshield. This HUD is able to combine ODB and GPS data to show what’s going on inside the car, while also offering the ability to perform acceleration and braking tests. 

For all it does, the $90 price tag is a reasonable price to pay for such versatility. That makes it one of the best car heads-up displays.

Akabane A500 car heads-up display review: Price and availability

At $90, the Akabane A500 costs twice as much as other capable HUD units generally go for. But the unit makes up for that by showing lots of operational data. It’s the only automotive device the company sells in the U.S.

Akabane A500 car heads-up display review: Design and features

Rather than lying flat on a dashboard, the Akabane A500 sits upright, meaning the screen is more visible and it can get in your face. At 4.3 x 3.3 x 2.9 inches, it’s among the biggest HUDs around — but the 3.5-inch display is one of the smallest. It weighs 5.1-ounces.

Because the Akabane A500 is designed to be aimed at the driver, rather than projecting data onto the windshield, the textured black plastic case has an adjustable stand to angle the display. There’s also a hex key in the box, which lets you tighten the stand and prevent wobbling. The screen lacks anything like the Dagood A8’s light sensor, which is able to automatically adjust brightness, but the A500 does have an eyebrow extension to reduce stray reflections from the sun.  

Rather than relying solely on OBD data, the A500 has a built-in GPS receiver that can help with speed readings — as well as perform braking and acceleration tests. Sadly this doesn’t mean it’s capable of showing a map or providing directions.

Akabane A500 GPS button

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The A500 includes a 69-inch flat cable for plugging it into the car’s OBD port, and it’s easy to hide it away inside dashboard gaps. It does without an on/off switch, so the A500’s three button interface can be an awkward way to decide what’s on show.

With 60 items to choose from, its parameters are collected into nine groups that can show anything from speed and engine RPMs to voltage and engine temperature. In other words, it can be a daunting task to try and set the screen up exactly the way you want it.

The HUD can warn of things like a needed gear shift and if you’re driving too fast. It can also show that an OBD fault exists under the hood, but none of the codes needed to identify them. The system also lacks phone integration that could be used for displaying text messages or directions.

Akabane A500 car heads-up display review: Setup

Compatible with a wide variety of cars made after 2010, the A500 won’t work with every vehicle on the road. For instance, Akabane warns that the A500 is not compatible with hybrids, diesel cars and some trucks. 

Akabane A500 on dash

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Its OBD connector is short enough to not get in the way but like many others, it can be hard to grip when trying to remove it. Be sure to have a pair of pliers on hand, in other words. Unlike other HUDs on the market, there’s no rubber mat for the A500 to sit on. Instead, it comes with a glue strip to attach it to the dashboard.

The A500 comes with a 1-year warranty and a short eight page fold-open booklet that explains the device’s basics. There’s no troubleshooting section or a list of its operational parameters, so it required some trial and error to set the gauges up the way I wanted.

Akabane A500 car heads-up display review: Performance

A moment after I plugged the A500’s OBD connector into my 2014 Audi A4 AllRoad’s diagnostic port, the HUD unit was ready. The screen turns itself off when the car is shut off, but there's no dedicated power switch. That’s something I’d rather have, to ensure the unit isn’t draining the car’s battery.

The A500 worked well on the road, showing the car’s operational details, and offering a great auxiliary set of digital gauges — particularly for cars without a tachometer. 

Akabane A500 on dash

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

My favorite set up was a dial tachometer showing the car’s speed in the middle, some key parameters on the side and the compass heading underneath. The A500 responded quickly and accurately to my driving and was readable from several different angles. Happily, it lacked the stray reflections that projection HUDs can have, but can get washed out in direct sunlight.

Sadly, while the A500 can show that an OBD fault exists, it can’t tell you what it is. So you’ll still need to keep one of the best OBD-II scanners in your glovebox.

The final trick up the A500’s sleeve will go down well with the performance-oriented crowd. It can run acceleration and braking tests that time exactly how long it takes to get to speed or back to a stop.

Akabane A500 car heads-up display review: Bottom line

One of the most expensive in-car heads up displays available, the Akabane A500 is big, bold and can get in the way of the driver’s vision. While easy to get going, the factiIt can show a lot of over-the-road data can be confusing and hard to adjust. 

Once you find a layout that suits your needs, the A500 can be a great tool — especially with the built-in OBD and GPS features. The fact sunlight didn’t affect the projections too much was also a bonus — though there are still ways it could have been better.

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in technology reporting and reviewing. He works out of the suburban New York City area and has covered topics from nuclear power plants and Wi-Fi routers to cars and tablets. The former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing and Communications, Nadel is the recipient of the TransPacific Writing Award.