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Analog or digital gauges - which is better?

Just like many things, it boils down to personal preference. There are, however, a few things worth noting.

Analog or digital gauges - which is better?

When riding a motorcycle, the gauge cluster, also known as the information cluster, is critical for keeping you informed. In today's vast selection of bikes, they can take the form of analog gauges, digital gauges, or a combination of the two. 

They show your current speed, engine RPMs, and a number of other danger indicators. Regardless of their strengths and weaknesses, both do an excellent job of giving you the information you need as a rider. Let's take a look at analog versus digital gauges and pinpoint the pros and cons of each.

Analog gauges - pros

Analog or digital gauges - which one is better?

Analog gauges, often known as analog dials, are a more classic design of measuring your bike's statistics. They make the display of information incredibly simple with little to no added complication, which is ideal for budget-friendly machines or retro-style bikes like scramblers and cafe racers. These dials will provide you with all of the information you require about your vehicle and its current state. It's also a lot easier to keep track of the movement in the analog approach since the dial rises up, and a three-dimensional item pops out at you to indicate what has to be communicated. They also give off a very mechanical look and feel—something very much appreciated by retro and classic aficionados. 

Analog gauges - cons

Analog or digital gauges - which one is better?

The analog gauges' precision may be limited by parallax and synchronization defects and the physical capabilities of the gauges' motors. When an engine revs very quickly, for example, in a high-performance sportbike, the motor in the instrument cluster may not be able to keep up with the speed information being relayed via the sensors. This could result in a slow-moving and inaccurate tachometer or speedometer. Furthermore, unless there are demarcations for specific temperature readings, an analog temperature gauge can only give you a ballpark estimate of your engine's actual temperature. In either case, it does a decent job of indicating if the motorcycle is running either too hot or cold. 

Digital gauges - pros

Analog or digital gauges - which one is better?

Digital gauges function in the same way as analog dials do. These gauges are more precise when it comes to presenting information because they don't rely on measurement increments and avoid parallax errors to determine the data that's actually being displayed. The configuration of a full-digital display can also be changed depending on the rider's preferences. This is especially true on premium, top-spec machines like the new BMW R 1250 GS. Furthermore, because the information density can theoretically be much higher than that of an analog cluster, digital gauges can present so much more information and offer loads of customizability to elevate your riding experience. 

Digital gauges - cons

Analog or digital gauges - which one is better?

Despite their complexity, digital screens have a drawback. The problem is with the latency and refresh rate of the screen. Unlike analog dials, which have a physical as well as a mechanical connection to the data being monitored, digital displays must deal with a refresh rate. Most modern smartphones feature a 60Hz refresh rate, which is sufficient, albeit there is a tiny lag, especially when displaying rapidly moving objects such as high-revving engines and sudden changes in speed. 

In addition, digital speedometers use sensor data to represent the speed in actual values. However, there can sometimes be a lag between what is displayed and what the sensor detects, resulting in a speedometer that isn't as smooth as you'd like it to be, or one that has the appearance of flickering, especially when recorded with a video camera with a high frame rate.

The verdict

Digital displays, on the other hand, can be more precise, especially when measuring speed. A digital display can show your actual speed, with the option to choose your preferred unit of measurement.  As a result, on a digital gauge cluster, determining if you're moving at exactly 100 kilometers per hour is significantly easier than on an analog one—a particularly useful feature if you cruise along the expressway at the speed limit. A digital display can show almost anything, which makes it more information-intensive than even the fanciest analog cluster.

Activating sport mode on certain bikes, for example, changes the appearance of the instrument cluster, with the rev counter and speedometer being bigger or even colored differently to reflect a sportier attitude. On the digital display, only the information essential for that mode will be displayed, enabling you to focus on driving. You can, on the other hand, change the layout of the display on certain high-end models to better suit the type of information you want to be easily accessible.

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