Quantcast

Home » Hooniverse Asks » Currently Reading:

Hooniverse Asks- Digital Vs. Dials, Which Instruments Do You Prefer?

Robert Emslie January 3, 2013 Hooniverse Asks

 

digitalvsdials

 

I saw some sort of factoid the other day about how very soon there will exist a generation that won’t know how to read an analog clock. Sha-zizzle, if that doesn’t scare you then maybe this will.

Much like clocks with hands, car gauges with dials could conceivably go the way of Elvis as high-impact consumers become identified as those more comfortable with digital imagery than traditional sweeping needles. By then of course I fully expect to be telling these digital dataheads to get off my lawn while also shaking my fists at clouds.

What about you, which side of the digital divide do you feel most comfortable residing? Are you embracing our inevitable fluorescent display future? Or, are you – like me – still addicted to the needle? What do you prefer in your automotive gauges, digital or dials?

Image: [Wikipedia]

Currently there are "84 comments" on this Article:

  1. buzzboy7 says:

    I'd at least rather a digital needle.

    But in truth, give me a proper cable driven speedo. Please.

  2. DemonXanth says:

    I like a mix actually. Certain things in dials, like tachometers and speedometers, but the rest can be digital without issue to fit more in the same real estate. I think most manufacturers really are on the right track with dashes that have alphanumeric or graphical displays tucked under or in between the main gauges.
    <img src="http://images.thecarconnection.com/med/2006-pontiac-gto-2-door-coupe-instrument-cluster_100263249_m.jpg&quot; width=400>

    • Scandinavian Flick says:

      Wow, someone posted my gauges before I did, and for the same reasons! I knew I hung out here for a reason…

      The thing I especially like about that particular cluster is the ability to easily change what is displayed in the center, and both sides. I like to keep mine on the digital speedo normally, but switch to instant gas mileage info on long trips. Also, the analog speedometer can switch between MPH and KPH on the fly. That's what the two dark spots next to the dial's center are. The one it's reading in lights up.

      • smalleyxb122 says:

        I, too, generally keep the digital speedo up on the display. How close does your digital readout match the needle? The gauge on mine consistently reads 2mph higher than the digital. Not sure which to trust, I go with the lowest reading (digital), letting me drive 2mph faster.

    • Vairship says:

      A sweeping hand odometer would be cool!

  3. danleym says:

    All dials, plus an old style odometer- I don't know why, but I really don't like digital odometers. I just like the look of the old ones.

  4. joedunlap says:

    Analog for me. Why? Because I dont really care how if my car is going 48 or 51 miles per hour or if the engine is spinning at 2345 rpm or 2346 rpm. I just want to know how close I am to the speed limit or the redline. Rapidly moving number in a digital display are difficult to read and become meaningless when you only have a split second to read them. A hybrid system using led's that fill a bar, similar to what was tried by several mfgrs in the 80's and 90s might be OK, but I still would rather have needles.

  5. P161911 says:

    Dials with a proper needle. Preferably with a linear calibration on the gauge. In the 1990s Ford and GM had a bad habit of making non-linear gauges for things like oil pressure. On the MN-12 T-Bird the oil pressure gauge was really just a idiot light, it was either in the middle or the bottom. On the C4 corvette, when they got rid of the all digital dash, just because the needle for say temp was halfway between 100 and 200 didn't mean it was 150. A digital auxiliary is nice to have. The little stepper motors in the dash of our Trailblazer are slowly crapping out. The voltmeter is dead and the speedo is dying a slow death.

  6. As owner of a 38 year old Opala, can anybody explain what this "digital" means?

  7. Manic_King says:

    Analog I'd say, but then again, my current car has computer screen between speedometer and tacho and it is set most of the time to show speed with nice big bright numbers, feels faster and easier to read than needle version.

  8. SSurfer321 says:

    I've got an analogue speedometer in my truck but added a digital tach. The Subaru has analogue speedo and tach. I much prefer analogue gauges. And the more the merrier. The Subaru only has fuel, speed and tach meters. Oil pressure, voltage and temp all monitored by idiot lights.

  9. Devin says:

    In watches and in instruments, analog looks better and works just as well.

  10. Dutch says:

    We rented a Fiat 500 last year that had a digital display in the middle of the cluster. The analog speedometer was around the perimiter of the cluster, but the font was busy and hard to read, so I found myself using the numbers in the middle. Any other time I perfer black faced instruments with white numbers and a red needle.

  11. Alcology says:

    I was thinking of this just the other day! I prefer analog gauges. I was wondering if there was a way to combine an e-ink screen with an analog needle. That way you can display whatever information you want in the background. Night lighting might be a little bit of an issue.

    • Devin says:

      E-ink doesn't refresh very quickly, which could be a problem depending on what you're trying to accomplish.

      • Alcology says:

        No it definitely doesn't, but if you use the e-ink for the indicators on the gauge, they won't need to update rapidly when you have a real needle moving across it. I was thinking more for general systems info.

  12. hwyengr says:

    Why not both? I really liked the layout of the RX-8. Some gauges should be analog so you can understand how close they are to their limit (tach, fuel, and temp), and some gauges you just need to see an instant absolute value (speedo). Sadly, I've traded from an RX-8 to a new Mustang, which has about the worst gauge cluster in history.

    <img src="http://l.yimg.com/dv/izp/mazda_rx_8_r3_2009_dashboard_instrumentcluster.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • topdeadcentre says:

      Wow. That's ugly enough to make me buy another brand entirely…

      • hwyengr says:

        The perspective on the photo is a little funky since the lens is level with the top of the steering column. Since your eyes are much higher, looking downward at the binnacle puts the whole thing into a less awkward view.

        Also, a 240 degree sweep tach is always cool, regardless of the rest of the layout.

  13. racer139 says:

    Analog for this fellow. My old 88 626 gt had the digital dash and I found that it was to bright even on its lowest dim. Now my last Volvo 850 had analog gauges with a digital trip computer in the bottom of the bezel that was useful and could be dimmed too a very low light level. I liked the trip comp but prefer analog gauges. I also have a Citizen skyhawk watch that has a big analog dial and two smaller digital windows for all other time related info…

  14. vwminispeedster says:

    I liked my MINI with analog speedo and tach with a big digital MPH readout so I could instantly see how fast i was going instead of having to recalibrate my brain to what this cars speedo needle was reading at 60mph vs this ones and so on. Just, BOOM, heres how fast you are going.

  15. Tanshanomi says:

    <img src="http://tanshanomi.com/temp/Can-Am_Spyder_dash.png"&gt;
    I really like the dash on Mrs. Tanshanomi's Can-Am Spyder. Very nice digital info screen flanked by proper analog gauges. And I think that it is very, very cool that you can switch between miles and kilometers, it recalibrates the speedo to match the numbers, rather than having dual scales. A very nice touch. Oh, and it converts the odometer readout, too.

    • smalleyxb122 says:

      Everything that you mention also describes the GTO as pictured in DemonXanth's post above. Speedometer recalibrates for English of Metric, and the center screen will give readings of odometer, trip odometer, remaining fuel range, or a large digital speed readout, all of which get preempted by low fuel, service oil, check oil, or "rest reminder". The smaller digital readouts will display fuel remaining (nearly worthless, since once the low fuel light comes on, it will only read "Lo"), fuel used, instant fuel economy, average fuel economy, trip time.

      I'm sure I'm missing some of the functions, but I do like the dash layout, overall. It's nice to have needles, but the quantity of information afforded by the incorporation of a digital display is hard to argue against.

      Oh, the digital readout also displays CD track and disc number, volume, mute, radio station, but only for a moment whenever those variables change.

      • Scandinavian Flick says:

        Heh, you went into more detail, but we were typing very similar responses to two separate comments at the same time…

  16. PilotMan says:

    Analog for sure! There are two huge reasons why;
    #1 I find it very useful watching for needle movement. For example, if I want to slowly increase my speed for better fuel mileage than I can coordinate my throttle inputs for a constant acceleration. Watching the speedo smoothly move through 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, can be very useful. Watching the Tach needle approach redline tells me when to shift for best acceleration.

    #2. Coordinating RPM vs. MPH is essential for manual transmissions as well. I don’t want to read MPH and RPM numbers and then mentally coordinate those numbers with what's already visualized in my mind regarding my car's familiar torque curve. The human mind really likes to visualize amounts rather than numbers, this is why we utilize graphs and pie charts for data. An analog dial is nothing more than data graph which is comfortable for the human mind to read.

    Some gauges would be better, a digital fuel gauge that accurately read gallons remaining would be much more useful than our stupid quarter tank analog fuel gauges. Same thing for temperature. Rather than cold, warm, hot a digital temp gauge would be much more useful.

    For aircraft it’s a whole other issue. Having a couple hundred analog dials doesn't help anyone while a glass cockpit can greatly simplify a pilot's work load.
    A glass cockpit is much more interactive with a large display that can be configured as you wish with engine performance and data illustrated with curves or sliders. Utilizing a 3-D mapping with real time location via GPS a pilot can see his flight path in relation to obstacles and other aircraft. A moving map is so much easy than the old days of radio beacons and dead reckoning.

    • danleym says:

      I enjoyed the entirely analog and definitely nonglass cockpit in the only thing I've ever flown. Then again, I didn't have an engine to worry about, and my flights lasted 15-30 minutes and I never got far from the airport.

      • danleym says:

        Here's a pic- meant to post one and forgot about it. Not this one exactly, but same model:

        <img src="http://www.scalesoaring.co.uk/VINTAGE/Documentation/Blanik_L23/images/PT-PPB.jpg&quot; width=500>

        If you've ever had an interest in flying but decided it was too expensive, look into soaring (flying gliders). There's a lot of local clubs around and for the most part it's pretty cheap for lessons. I know one of the clubs around here has a bunch of older instructors who just love flying and don't charge for instruction. You still have to pay for the glider rental and the tow plane, but it is surprisingly cheap. Like less than $50. I didn't do it for long, but it was a blast, and the experience of soloing is pretty damn cool.

    • jeepjeff says:

      I'd rather have the analog fuel gauge without a calibration. My wife's Civic has a series of LEDs that work exactly the same as my analog gauge. Why? Because the depth gauges used in gas tanks are horribly non-linear. They aren't accurate beyond telling "zero, some, lots", unless you spend a lot of time noting internally calibrating it (I know how much fuel I have at the 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 and red marks, and it's not anywhere near capacity*fraction).

      Yes, we could make accurate gauges. They're expensive, and the cheap gauges work more than well enough. Sure, it's nice to be able to figure out range remaining and whatnot, but the "need fuel soon" feature is the important one. (And since I've figured out what the non-linearity of my tank sensor is, I can do the range calculations in my head.)

  17. Mad_Science says:

    If they ever standardize or open up or just plain get hacked, I see a future in all-digital screen dashes, as you can do whatever you want with whatever you want. Example:
    <img src="http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4152/5096238254_356b9da3d2.jpg&quot; width="500" height="335" alt="2011 GTR Interior (8)">

    Note that that's once screen of 11.

    • danleym says:

      I do think an entirely customizable display would be cool- have one solid digital panel, and let me put the speedo where I want it, display which readings I want to, alter the size of each gauge (make that speedo nice and big for grandad, a little smaller for me so I can fit more gauges). The technology is all there for something like that, probably just a matter of time until some company does it (if they haven't already- maybe someone has and I haven't heard of it).

    • jeremy![™] says:

      granted its not as clean or as big as the gtr, but a fella i sorta know is doing this to his miata.
      <img src="http://i48.tinypic.com/15yvyq0.jpg"&gt; http://clubroadster.net/vb_forum/89-roadster-proj

      its not really clear from the photo, but that device can also hook up to the cars ECU. so… gauges a plenty.

  18. topdeadcentre says:

    I much prefer analog gauges. The Volvo V70R 2004-2008 gauge cluster is a model of beauty and simplicity:
    <img src="http://img179.imageshack.us/img179/5576/1001455amedium7ia.jpg&quot; width="450/">
    (This is not an example from my car. I've only had mine up to 120 mph or so, disclaimer, disclaimer, yadda yadda..)

  19. jeepjeff says:

    I still carry an analog pocket watch and prefer it to my phone. The main display of my phone has an analog clock face to display the time. I like analog dials, but with a digital odo, at least, that's the tech level I like on my Jeep. My digital odo also acts as a poor man's scan tool if I do a little jig with the key (it can display codes on the odo if I've got a CEL).

    My wife's Civic has an analog tach and a digital speedo. The speedo works well enough and is well setup to glance at, but I'm a dial guy. It isn't better, and if they hadn't made it big and carefully placed it, it would be much worse. It's much harder to get a simple dial wrong (although, the 500 above…). The tach on the Civic is useless, since you don't have direct control it. It ends up being a waste of dash real estate (I could see it being useful if you've got engine trouble to see if it's idling at the right points, but otherwise, you can tell exactly what the computer is doing by sound).

  20. muthalovin says:

    So, it seems that all of us prefer analog. The question is: what backing?

    I love whit-faced gauges, but the new GTO's gauges are rad.

    • Preludacris says:

      I have a theory to back it. Engine and vehicle speed aren't 'on or off' like a digital signal is. It doesn't make sense to display them in 1-mph or 10-rpm increments, because they're both constantly changing. With an analog dial, it's easy to see in your peripheral vision not only the position of the needle, but which direction it's moving and how fast.

    • Preludacris says:

      Ohhh… you mean color. Heh.

    • jeepjeff says:

      Call me boring, but I like the good ol' black background. With one but: the backlighting has to be in sync with the headlights. I find it easy enough to read in the day, and when it's all lit up, just fine at night. It's the one thing they got wrong with my wife's Civic. It always looks to me like the lights are on at night, which then causes me to forget to turn on the lights. It also has DRLs, so there's a enough of a glow out front to fool that check, too.

      • Maymar says:

        I always kept my old Civic's dash brightness around the halfway mark – I'd usually notice if the cluster was way too bright and remember to flick my lights on.

    • Devin says:

      I have the good fortune of having my favorite gauges being the same ones that are in my car.

      <img src="http://image.automotive.com/f/2012_toyota_matrix/42004011+w500/gauges.jpg"&gt;
      White on black with red accents. Classy as all get out.

      (Note, picture is not from my actual car, since I have a proper transmission so no gear indicator. Also from Canada so the speedo is in km/h)

    • smalleyxb122 says:

      About the only thing that I liked about my '92 Maxima was the white faced gauges. White faced gauges that had cutouts for the numbers that were backlit at night, so during the day, the gauges looked white with black numbers, and at night, they were black with white numbers.

  21. CptSevere says:

    The speedo on the '69 Toronado we had when I was a kid rolled, and the indicator was stationary. Weird, but it worked OK.
    <img src="http://automotivemileposts.com/toronado/images/toro1969dashoptions.jpg"&gt;

  22. MVEilenstein says:

    There's a difference in the way digital and analog information is processed. For example, I can look at my digital watch see that it says 9:14. However, a quick glance at the clock on the wall tells me the time is a slightly upbent mustache shape. When we memorize shapes and positions, we can access the information in our minds that tiny bit quicker. With a digital clock, I have to actually read the numbers and process them.

    It might take a millisecond more, but when you're driving it makes a difference. For critical information (speed, tach, oil, water, etc.) I want to see a orange or white needles on a black face. Less important information (time, temperature, odometer, etc.) can be displayed digitally, since I don't normally need to know that as part of driving.

  23. Van_Sarockin says:

    Dials, natch. With a leaking oil pressure line, so it can drip on your foot and remind you that you still have oil.

  24. Tanshanomi says:

    <img src="http://www.zilliox.org/photosT&%5E454521$/Mobile%20Uploads/And%20you%20may%20find%20yourself%20behind%20behind%20the%20wheel.jpg"&gt;
    Just so long as it's not one with maddening scale distortion.
    Yes, that's the Town Cow.

    Note the square of black electrical tape on the display. That's how my father-in-law "fixed" the airbag fault warning light.

    • jeepjeff says:

      That's the advantage of a Chrysler product. My airbag warning light seems to broken right along with the airbag, so everything looks just dandy on my dash.

    • Devin says:

      Reminds me of how I "fixed" the dashboard problems on my dad's '85 F-150.

      See, the dashboard has a bunch of little warning lights lining the top, with little black filler pieces that cover them. Those little black pieces all fell off one year, leading to the little light bulbs being exposed. Turns out that the light for the brights is aimed DIRECTLY AT MY EYES which made night drives a bit annoying. So I found a bit of kleenex box, tore it off, and shoved it in the hole. You could still sort of see a bit of light on the edges, so you knew the brights were on, but it solved the problem otherwise!

      Farm trucks are fun.

  25. Andrew says:

    Digital for me! It's easier to read tachs like the one below at track speeds.

    <img src="http://zakiu.com/cars/GPW/dash1.jpg"&gt;

  26. Mr. Smee says:

    No love for HUD? It's good enough for fighter pilots.
    BTW, Canada apologizes for Bieber.

  27. fede6882 says:

    i think ferrari is doing it right, although i don't quite like digital dials…

    <img src="http://ascentofspeed.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Ferrari_458_spider_dash_display.jpg&quot; width="500/">

  28. jjd241 says:

    I think this may have been shared here before, but this may be a good time to bring it up again…a 360 view of the shuttle Discovery flight deck…(flash required)
    http://360vr.com/2011/06/22-discovery-flight-deck

    • danleym says:

      That's cool! Thanks!

      I love how one of the components of the flight deck of the space shuttle is a trouble light, just like most of us have in our garage.

  29. Great goods from you, man. I have have in mind your stuff previous to and
    you’re just extremely great. I actually like what you have bought right here, certainly like what you’re stating
    and the way in which by which you assert it. You’re making it enjoyable and
    you continue to care for to keep it smart. I can’t wait to learn much more from you.
    That is actually a great site.

  30. Alexandra says:

    This is a topic that’s close to my heart… Thank you!
    Exactly where are your contact details though?

  31. Greetings! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew

    where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form?

    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one?

    Thanks a lot!

Search

Hooniverse Marketplace

Featuring Top 2/3 of vehicles Available in Marketplace

Read more





Subscribe via RSS
Have you visited Hooniverse's Retro Tech site, AtomicToasters?