A lot of us have too many devices on our dashes already but some, like me, cannot live without Hema Maps so when they partnered with Aerpro for an in-dash solution, we jumped at the chance to have a look.
I’ve been using Hema Maps for around five years now. That is a lot less than those who have been following the company since its inception some 22 years ago but I would consider myself a loyal fan.
I’ve got most atlases, a few dozen fold-out maps, the Explorer app on my phone and have both the HX-1 and HX-2 navigators in my reserves but as nice as it is to be able to carry my navigator from car to car, I really do not like having things plastered to the windscreen when driving.
It is partly a safety concern. With airbags on both sides of the dashboard on most cars, I feel uncomfortable with the idea of my navigator becoming a missile should I be involved in an accident plus there is visibility. Having even the slimmed-down HX-2 on the dash is an obstruction I’d rather not have. My other concern is one that probably doesn't register with everyone but that's fighting over the cigarette lighter/power point. I've already got phones to charge and sometimes radios so I like what Hema have done with their Aerpro partnership.
AERPRO & HEMA MAPS
Aerpro are the guns behind everything you need to upgrade your head unit or stereo in your car. They make and distribute patch-looms using the same plugs as OE meaning all you have to do is plug and play as well as fascias that mirror the colour and texture of most dashboards so your new, more capable head unit will look at home.
They retail through the big-name auto parts and accessories stores, think Supercheap Auto, Autobarn, Repco and more plus, as they supply the hardware most aftermarket stereo and head unit people will use, you’ll find Aerpro at most independent installers for good reason.
WHAT IS THE AMHXD3?
Putting it simply, the AMHXD3 is a small black box featuring the brains of the HX-2 Navigator without the screen. It plugs into head units by way of USB which is also its power source. It has its own GPS antenna and is small enough, as we found, to tuck behind a head unit in a 79 Series Landcruiser or be carried around in your gear bag.
Having its own GPS connection and all of the data you’ve bought loaded in means it does not rely on a phone connection to deliver track or points of interest (POI) information. This is the biggest value in all of Hema’s digital products; you can use them without a connection to the outside world, in even the most remote places so long as you have a satellite connection.
HOW TO GET HEMA EXPLORER ON YOUR HEAD UNIT
We haven’t tested the AMHXD3 on other head units than what Aerpro sell but they tell us it’ll work on a range of units that have CarPlay built-in. The reason you’ll need CarPlay is that the module interfaces with it at the operational level, effectively, it carries its own CarPlay application with Hema Explorer built in which when plugged in, supersedes the head unit programming to offer Hema Explorer right there on the home screen. Ace.
WHAT IT CAN DO
The same as the HX-2, almost. You have the same three modes of Off Road, On Road and Adventure Maps but the Adventure Maps are an optional extra.
To get Adventure Maps, you need to log into Hema Cloud and pay to upgrade. I was a bit surprised to see that when the price of the AMHXD3 is so close to the price of the HX-2, I guessed it would be cheaper as it doesn't have a screen after all but I suppose you can write some off for the partnership with Aerpro.
Off and On Road remain the same in the AMHXD3 as they are in the HX-2 which means on-road navigation is supplied by Here Maps' excellent database and programming. I particularly appreciate that it gives you the next two directions when navigating, not just the next turn as it's not always that easy to change lanes when towing; a bit of warning is nice. But it is Off-Road that shines.
Just like the HX-2, you can scroll around the maps, buy and add more maps and click on POI to learn about what amenities are available. You can tap on tracks to read their grading and if there are any recent comments from the Hema community.
THE VALUE OF TRACKING YOUR ADVENTURE
My favourite thing to do with Hema’s digital products are to record where I am driving when off the beaten track. Not only is it invaluable to be able to know where I’ve been in case I need to backtrack but I also really enjoy looking at the driving stats like elevation and speeds so it is great to see that functionality carry over.
INSTALLING THE RIGHT HEAD UNIT
As mentioned, Aerpro has head units for almost every make and model, you can search their website here to see what they do. We got an AMTO29 bundle made for the Landcruiser 70 Series from 2010 on. It came with the fascia needed to keep the unit looking stock as well as patch looms to make install plug and play. It has a 9” screen, bigger than the factory 7” screen.
Installing it was a cakewalk. I genuinely mean this, you can do it yourself and you should. The hardest part of putting new stereos in used to be the wiring which you sometimes had to cut and solder, but not anymore. Aerpro’s patch-looms use the same plugs as the factory gear and the fascia just pops into place.
If you want a step-by-step, you get it in the box but it is basically:
- Pop off the trim around the stereo and unplug the clock and hazard light switch from it
- Using an 8mm socket, unbolt and remove the factory stereo, unplugging it as you go
- Install the new head unit in the fascia and start pugging things in
- Plug in the AMHXD3 black box into the USB plug labelled CarPlay on the back of the head unit
- Either run the USB wire up through the dash or do what we did and put the module behind the head unit
- Test it and pop the head unit, already in the fascia into place
AN IMPORTANT DETAIL
I mentioned earlier that the AMHXD3 connects to the head unit as its own CarPlay application. This means when you want to use CarPlay and the Hema app, you’ll need to connect to only the AMHXD3. If you connect to the head unit itself, it won't fire up the module and you’ll miss out on the Hema Maps part.
GETTING THE BEST OUT OF THE AMHXD3
The first thing you need to do is connect to WiFi to check for updates and to log into Hema Cloud then if you are already a Hema Cloud member, log in. If not, you’ll need to create an account on a computer and load your code to get your free three-year basic subscription.
You should reconnect to WiFi every now and then, especially after a big trip to make sure your tracks and notes are uploading to the Cloud and to see if there are any updates you should make.
THE COST TO HAVE HEMA IN YOUR DASH
Going down the route of products we are testing is not the cheapest way to get into Hema Maps’ digital products, that would be downloading the Explorer app onto your phone but with the app you do not get the level of mapping detail in the HX-2 or AMHXD3.
The HX-2 retails for $799, the same price as the AMHXD3 module which might work in other head units with CarPlay (we’ll test this as we can) so right now the only way we can confidently say you can add the power of the HX-2 inside your dash is with one of the kits Aerpro sell.
The AMTO29 retails for about $1000. We found them for sale at an authorised reseller, Complete Car Sounds. Hema Maps tells us they are gearing up to retail the same head units as well as the AMHXD3 as well so if you are after a combo, check their webstore at hemamaps.com.au