Heads Up View DT1: Unboxing, First Impression
Updated: Sep 4
A Real Heads Up Display Changes Everything
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Long before Skyward went "wheels up" for Flight Sim Expo 2023, we had a set list of planned visits with the many companies and communities in attendance. While winding through the elaborate displays and small but informational booths, I had walked past something that made me triple take. Looking not once, not twice, but three times to assure myself that what I saw was real. There in a quiet corner away from the Microsoft Flight Simulator couches and behind a row of museum aircraft was a row of heads up displays. Actual heads up displays. Not a computer tablet using its camera to superimpose the image. A genuine, image projecting, collimation reliant, beam splitting glass heads up display. Pictures of the booth are below:
Since then, conversations with Dan Hall, CEO of Heads Up View LLC, started an ongoing relationship between the two companies. This has led to this product unboxing and first impression of their DT1 HUD. I'll take a moment here to thank them for this opportunity to not only unbox it, but use it long-term for many flights in many simulators to come. Of course, despite Heads Up View recently being announced as a sponsor of Skyward Flight Media, this is a honest take on a rather unique piece of flight simulation kit.
The box itself contains:
(1) dust cover, branded
(1) heads up display base
(2) HUD brackets
(1) HUD beamsplitter glass
(4) HUD bolts
(4) HUD washers
(1) microfiber cloth
(1) protective gloves
(1) 10' Video Cable/HDMI Cable
(1) 10' 12V Power Cable
(1) setup guide
An extra set of minor instructions were sent to us as well, to be included in upcoming shipments.
These units come with a 30-day money-back guarantee from the date the customer receives the order. It states that if for any reason the customer is not satisfied, the return of the unit in its original packaging will validate a full refund. HUV LLC provides a 1-year warranty from the original invoice date, guaranteeing its workmanship and material quality free from defect. The company agrees to, at its option during the warranty period, to repair any defect in materials, components or workmanship or to furnish a replacement unit free of charge. All of this information was explained in a letter placed beneath the top flap of the box, making it the first thing customers see when they open the box.
An extra set of minor instructions were sent to us as well, to be included in upcoming DT1 and SC1 shipments. To receive warranty service, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org starts the process.
The most notable part of the box from the outside is the sheer size and weight. It looks and feels like a solid piece of kit. But rather than being packed from top to bottom with bubble wrap, a significant portion of it was protective styrofoam packaging. Two layers of sturdy styrofoam panels on all sides of the hardware itself. So secure, it was a bit hard to remove certain items from the box. A good problem to have. Admittedly, one of the things we worried about with something as sensitive as this piece of equipment.
All items in the box come in separate packages, with the main part of the HUD being the heaviest item in the box. A pair of blue vinyl gloves were helpful when handling the more delicate equipment like the beam splitting glass pane and the 6-inch lens on the top of the HUD base. The smaller components like the HDMI cable, DC 12V power supply and HUD glass mounting brackets were made of reliable material, though now that I know adjustable metal HUD brackets are on the way, I certainly look forward to using those in the near future.
The most difficult part of the unboxing was removal of the blue protective film on the HUD glass and projection lens. The protective film was very firmly attached to each surface. The included gloves did reduce the chances of accidentally causing damage during installation, but patience in slowly removing the film to reduce stress on the glass is important.
Curiously, the HUD base has a speaker built into it. Alongside the ample amount of power sources and display ports on the back of the unit, the presence of audio ports and the speaker was unexpected. During our initial use we did not use the speaker, but did need to disable it as an audio output on our computer to prevent it from grabbing audio.
With a handful of screws and a screwdriver, it took very little effort and know how to assemble the HUD correctly. It was very straightforward with an easy to understand double sided piece of paper guide.
The overall size of the DT1 is a bit on the large side height wise, but minor redesigns are already in the works to alleviate this somewhat. The space requirement from between the PC monitor and the rear of the DT1 being about 8 to 12 inches did trigger an unusual on the spot redesign to accommodate the HUD for testing. As someone that has frequently favored more compact desktop flight simulator setups that emphasize modularity and the ability to detach flight sim gear as needed, this heads up display was somewhat incompatible. Some quick thinking and readjustments resolved this issue, but this was an example of how the design philosophy of a cockpit focused builder and a desktop flight sim rig are rather different. More on this later.
This is where we ran into a few problems on our end, and most likely others who do not normally deal with this sort of thing will find a few hang-ups. During this part of the setup, really only patience and the willingness to learn a few new things you may not have done before are what brings the entire process together.
The DT1 and other products from Heads Up View LLC acts as a second screen or display for the personal computer. Depending on which flight simulator the HUD is being used with, the ease of integrating the DT1 changes. For example, Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D and older versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator have built in HUD only views that can be undocked into a separate window, then dragged into the DT1 display area. From there field of view adjustments can be made literally on the fly - while flying - without having to type any code; though that is an option for those that are more technical like that.
On the other hand, Eagle Dynamics' Digital Combat Simulator World is very dependent on editing LUA files. The more monitors a user has, the more complicated the setup gets. This is something that has to do with DCS itself, rather than the heads up display. When the DT1 is connected and powered on, DCS does recognize it in its list of monitors. This helps simplify setup to a degree, but for people that are not used to working with .lua files or using multiple displays, this can seem like a daunting task. This is where patience and the willingness to learn a bit come in handy.
Fortunately, the Supported Simulations page of the Heads Up View website has all the needed .lua files in .zip files with an ample amount of screenshots to further explain what needs to be done. These files need to be placed in very specific folders. Most importantly, some basic math will need to be done to calculate the combined dimensions of both displays. Those dimensions are then used in the .luas that export the heads up display outside of DCS World into the DT1 secondary display. And of course, since this is editing .luas that are a part of the simulator's base files, it is possible that an update to DCS World could override any user made changes. While that does sound annoying, this problem is easily circumvented just by copying and pasting the user's HUD settings into a separate word document. In the event data is overwritten by an update, pasting the data into that file can be done within a minute or so.
Once the DT1 is running in sim, further adjustments to HUD position and size can be made to work best with the user's hardware setup. Adjusting the HUD image vertically or horizontally is also done by changing X and Y values in the corresponding .LUA files for each aircraft.
Other simulators utitlize third party software to make this process much easier, so it is best to check the HUV website or send an email to their support staff to ask more specific questions.
During our unboxing day, we flew short non-combat sorties using the F/A-18E Super Hornet in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and the F/A-18C Hornet Lot 20 in Digital Combat Simulator. The DT1 worked exactly as advertised, even in the most difficult of visual conditions like bright white clouds in the midday. The HUD image was not completely washed out. The back side of the HUD unit also has its own set of controls for changing contrast, brightness and more. So even the brightest of high definition 4K+ monitors do not washout the colors of the DT1.
After further adjustments were made for the desktop setup we used, the DT1's image clarity and its ability to physically project the HUD image had an immediate impact on immersion within each simulator. That authentic feeling of it "really being there" permeated everything we tested. This was especially true when using head tracking with the DT1. Without the heads up display being ever present on the computer monitor, peeking around the HUD or seeing how the information somewhat appears and disappears during changes in the user's seating position further adds that "real feel" experience.
With the HUD being an addition that is unmoving, unlike a rudder pedeal or HOTAS that is constantly being manipulated, once it is in place there is no need to relocate it or adjust it. Unless it needs to be removed from a multi-use desk area. With a majority of the visual adjustments to the information displayed made within each simulator, physically moving the HUD out of the way, if needed is not a massive problem.
I believe that, on its own merits, the heads up displays from Heads Up View are the most authentic and realistically priced way for very serious flight simulation users to get their hands on this type of accessory. Rather than paying a many thousands of US dollars for a 1:1 design accurate, fully licensed HUD that would only fit in one simpit, the approach of Heads Up View offers a more grounded approach. With their design being more universal, made of more accessible materials and capable of standalone use, simmers can purchase the DT1 at a more realistic price point of around 795.00 USD.
Certainly it is still a high price when you think of other flight simulation accessories around or beneath the same pirce point. In conversations with the CEO of Heads Up View, I brought up the point that these devices are very niche in the sense that it is a sea changing piece of flight sim gear but not absolutely vital to all flight sim operations. This truly is a cockpit builder level accessory. I cannot say it is something that will be as prolific as rudder pedals, for example. However, it is an eye opening type of hardware that makes you reconsider how you approach flight simulation as a hobby.
Within minutes of flying in each simulator, there was a palpable mix of excitement to see a genuine heads up display working outside a near-professional use simulator and gradually understanding what the addition of this level of flight simulation hardware to a desktop style flight simulation setup means in the long-term.
The Tip of the Iceberg
For the past few days the Skyward staff has been discussing what our next step with flight simulation is because of the presence of the Heads Up View DT1 in our collection. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the use of the DT1 has pushed us into an unexpected position with this level of flight simulation. In the near future, a second article discussing the DT1 and the next level of flight simulation is set to release with what we think are informative points of view being in this transitional point we are now. Expect an unusual team project from Skyward to be announced in the near future.
About the Writer
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. [Profile]