Hyundai Blue Link review

Blue Link is an above average – if frustrating – entry into the infotainment market

With its updated Blue Link infotainment system, Hyundai is showing that it can compete with the big boys when it comes to in-car technology.
With its updated Blue Link infotainment system, Hyundai is showing that it can compete with the big boys when it comes to in-car technology.
With its updated Blue Link infotainment system, Hyundai is showing that it can compete with the big boys when it comes to in-car technology.

Highs

  • High-end graphics
  • Numerous features
  • Stable and responsive operation

Lows

  • Non-intuitive user interface
  • Mediocre touch screen

DT Editors' Rating

Updated on 7-8-2015: This rating was lowered to reflect increased competition in the space from Apple and Google. For more on how we rate products, see our scoring breakdown.

Technology has been a key part of Hyundai’s effort to shoulder its way into the company of up-market automakers.

It is no surprise, then, that the company’s Blue Link infotainment system is among the most advanced in the business. After this year’s update, it boasts a truly dazzling number of features – enough to make it competitive with just about any system on the market.

Unfortunately, Blue Link can’t fully live up to its promise. Critically, Blue Link lacks a truly intuitive user interface, which makes it difficult to actually access many of the system’s features. As a result, Blue Link is an above average system that can’t quite break into the top tier.

Ease of use

Hyundai says it designed Blue Link to work like a smartphone and in some respects it is easy to see that. The system is built around a series of menus with app buttons familiar to anyone who has used to a tablet or smartphone, which is to say: everyone. As a result, it is fairly easy to navigate from place to place.

Once the user has navigated the system to the desired location, things fall apart a bit. The features themselves are not always logically organized. Take for example the process of streaming music from a phone. Unless a phone is already paired, the music button is blacked out. Instead, the user must pair the device through the phone menu. Not a big problem in and of itself … but there is more.

Blue Link is an above average system that can’t quite break into the top tier.

When I plugged in my phone to charge via the USB, I was unable to use any of its audio apps. If I tried to play an audio book via Audible, whatever I had just been listening to via my iTunes library would immediately cut back in. I found this frustrating, but assumed I could switch the system to Bluetooth streaming where the app had worked just fine. Silly me! Despite spending a great deal of time and effort, when my phone was directly plugged into the USB port, I was unable to find any way to switch Blue Link from the USB connection back to Bluetooth.

This isn’t to say that this task is impossible. There might be a way that I was unable to discover, but it is indicative of how settings and features are hidden in this system. I frequently found that basic things were easy to accomplish, but that anything even slightly complicated was nightmarish.

People who use this system everyday will no doubt figure out all of its nooks and crannies, making this less relevant in the long run. But getting to that point is going to be frustrating, and it may prevent less tech-savvy users from accessing a lot of what Blue Link has to offer.

Features

User alienation would be a shame. As I said in the introduction, Blue Link is loaded with features. The obvious stuff like navigation, Bluetooth streaming, satellite radio, and voice recognition are all there. For the user who is willing to dig deeper, however, there is much more.

For starters Blue Link features more Internet radio services than you can shake a “cloud” at (see what I did there?). A fully tricked-out system features Pandora, Aha radio, and Sound Hound. Anyone who needs more Internet radio than that may want to consult a professional.

In the category of less entertaining and more useful, Blue Link also features SiriusXM’s Travel Link. Travel Link can show stock prices, movie times, real-time traffic, and weather updates. But most importantly it does this through the satellite antenna rather than the users data plan. That may mean that users have to pay for satellite radio, but at least that is a flat fee.

Topping all of this off are the integrations with both Google and Apple. Blue Link’s navigation system is tied in with Google’s destination search, meaning that drivers can use the car’s voice recognition system to simply ask the car to find a destination. For drivers who prefer to have their lives dominated by Apple, Hyundai is just as happy to offer Siri “eyes free” integration.

Hardware

When it comes to hardware, Blue Link offers something of a mixed bag. Blessedly, Hyundai has picked a system and stuck with it; Blue Link is a purely touchscreen-based system. This means that there is no screwing around with multiple interfaces. Unfortunately, Hyundai didn’t get it quite right.

Blue Link also has the chameleon-like ability to live up to whatever interior it is placed in.

The touchscreens used by Hyundai are by no means terrible. In fact, they are large and offer excellent resolution. However, they lack sensitivity particularly when it comes to swiping and scrolling. During my use, the system repeatedly thought that I was trying to click on an icon when I was in fact trying to scroll down a menu. These screens are still far from the worst that I have used, but they are still frustrating.

On the plus side, what is going on behind the scenes is all good. In my experience, Blue Link is remarkably stable and fast. Once the buttons work, transitions from menu to menu happen smoothly. What is more, in all my time with Blue Link, I have never experienced a freeze or a crash, which is something Ford’s SYNC can’t claim.

Graphics

Graphics are a consistent problem for most mass-market systems. Even if the Blue Link touchscreen may not work as smoothly as an Apple product, the designers clearly decided to emulate the looks.

Hyundai-BlueLink-image-5

From the apps buttons to the menus, Blue Link bears a striking resemblance to both iOS and Android displays. Ripoff or no, but the result is nice to look at. In fact, compared to the slightly cartoonish graphics used by systems like Toyota’s Entune, Blue Link comes across as grownup and refined. This helps add class to entry-level products like the Elantra, and doesn’t let the side down on Hyundai’s high-end products like the Genesis.

Conclusion

Blue Link isn’t perfect. And after my frustrating battle with Audible audio streaming, I am probably not the system’s biggest defender. Yet Hyundai’s effort is still above average for mass-market infotainment systems. It doesn’t want for features, and, unlike a great many systems, once the user has figured it out, it will actually work.

Perhaps most impressively, Blue Link also has the chameleon-like ability to live up to whatever interior it is placed in. This is an attribute that even the best mass-market systems, like Uconnect, struggle to do. This makes Blue Link a solid offering, and there is the hope that Hyundai can simplify its user interface over its life span.

Until then, at least it is nice to look at.

Highs

  • High-end graphics
  • Numerous features
  • Stable and responsive operation

Lows

  • Non-intuitive user interface
  • Mediocre touch screen
Cars

Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.
Gaming

Among hundreds of choices, these are the best 25 SNES games of all time

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games.
Gaming

How to keep a PS4 in your pocket with the PlayStation Mobile app

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can get the most out of the system while on the go.
Gaming

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Gaming

Nintendo 2DS XL vs. Nintendo 3DS XL: Which handheld reigns supreme?

The 3DS family of systems hasn't shown any signs of letting up in the age of the Nintendo Switch. With the New Nintendo 2DS XL in the picture, let's compare the newcomer to the New Nintendo 3DS XL.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Outdoors

General Motors cycles into a new market with its first-ever ebikes

When General Motors launched a public campaign last year to name its new ebike brand, many wondered if Bikey McBikeface might win out. But it didn't. Instead, it's called Arīv, and the two bikes are up for pre-order this week.
Product Review

The 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a do-it-all Swedish army knife

Volvo laced up its smallest station wagon in hiking clothes to create the V60 Cross Country. It's a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon that laughs at icy roads while coddling its occupants. We travel to Sweden to try it out.
Cars

The Polestar 2, Sweden’s answer to the Tesla Model 3, begins taking shape

Volvo sister company Polestar has released a teaser image to give us our first look at the 2, its second model. Polestar tells us the 2 will arrive as a four-door fastback with a 400-hp electric powertrain and about 300 miles of range.
Cars

2020 Kia Soul and Soul EV continue to think inside the box

The 2020 Kia Soul is the third generation of Kia's boxy curiosity. The Soul maintains its signature look, but gets tech and powertrain upgrades. The all-electric Soul EV returns as well.
Cars

Psychedelic Volkswagen Microbus from Woodstock returns for an encore

With its trippy paint scheme, the Volkswagen "Light" bus became a symbol of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. VW teamed up with the artist who created this rolling mural to stage a comeback in time for Woodstock's 50th anniversary.
Cars

Amazon plugs in with $700 million investment in electric pickup company Rivian

Amazon invested $700 million for a minority stake in U.S. all-electric truck maker Rivian, according to a joint release. The announcement follows a Reuters report that GM and Amazon might invest $1 billion to $2 billion in the company.
Cars

2019 RAM 1500 Classic Warlock special edition: Badass style without the whoop

If you like the looks of blacked-out badass trucks without the cost of a desert racer, FCA announced the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a special edition pickup that focuses on appearance with only a touch of additional off-road capability.