BMW iDrive Screen - All you need to Know

Paul Smith
Oct 19, 2020

Over the last decade or so, more and more of our interaction with our cars has been through a screen on the dashboard. The BMW screen -- the focal point of the iDrive navigation system -- lets you see vehicle information, navigation directions, messages and more. As time has gone on, the list of things you'll find on the iDrive menu has increased, meaning more time spent staring at the dashboard display.

With the BMW iDrive screen being so important to your in-car experience, it's worth getting to know a little more about it. So what types of BMW vivid screens are there? How do you protect and maintain it? And what aftermarket or OEM BMW screen upgrades and navigation screen replacements are available if you need it?

BMW iDrive screen history

Like the screens on our phones, computers and TVs, BMW improves the screen technology in its central information display with each generation of vehicles. Compared to the screens in older models, today's are larger and sharper, and often feature advanced features, like touchscreen control.

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These screen improvements were quick to find their way to BMW's premium models, but enthusiasts of the more mainstream vehicles often had a long wait to enjoy the latest and greatest features.

Which BMW has a flip up screen?

The screens in most modern BMWs stand upright from the top of the dashboard, but BMW has used a few different designs through the years. In many older vehicles, like the E65 7 Series or E60 5 Series, the screen was embedded in the dashboard itself. A small number of vehicles, like the E87 1 Series, even offered a flip up screen that could fold down into the top of the dash.

As more and more features have been added to the iDrive system, making constant access to the screen more important, this design has been phased out.

What size is the navigation screen in a BMW?

The most obvious change to BMW's screens has been the size. The earliest iDrive screens were 6.5" -- roughly the same size as the largest iPhones or Samsung Notes. Making do with a screen the size of a phone had obvious consequences; cramped menus, poky navigation maps and a generally underwhelming experience were hallmarks of the early iDrive experience.

To remedy this, an improved BMW panoramic screen was available with higher-end navigation options. A size bump to 8.8" meant a lot more screen real estate. As these screens also took on a wide-screen aspect ratio, the space could be used more effectively. For example, iDrive split screen options allow using navigation and music side-by-side, for extra convenience.

BMW iDrive screen

More recently, BMW went on to introduce a larger 10.25" wide-screen display. Though initially reserved only for premium models, in the current generation it can be found in vehicles throughout BMW's catalog. With more screen space than earlier versions, the 10.25" display is popular with people who make heavy use of their iDrive system, including CarPlay, video playback and other features.

The premium place previously occupied by the 10.25" has now been taken up by an even larger 12.3" screen, found in some of the latest vehicles like the G05 X5.

Which BMW cars have touch screens?

BMW has also added touchscreen control to its information displays in recent years. Like larger screens, these were first found in high-end models, but have since spread to more mainstream vehicles. Most of the latest generation have touchscreen control either as standard, or as an optional extra. 

Our NBT Evo ID5/ID6 retrofit comes with a 8.8” or 10.25” BMW touch screen as an optional add-on for those vehicles that were equipped with an OEM touch screen from the factory. The 8.8” touch screen option may be available for F2x and F3x BMWs, while a 10.25” touch screen is on offer for F15, F16, G30 or G31 vehicles. Still, it’s always important to check your vehicle compatibility beforehand. Decode your VIN here and see if BMW touch screen could be an option for your car. 

Want to have a little sneak peak of the touch screen in action? Check out how easy it is to control it:

What year did BMW update its navigation screen?

Which screen you'll have in your vehicle depends not only on what year it's from, but also which model it is and what navigation option you have. Unsurprisingly, luxury models with premium navigation options are going to have bigger screens, and they'll get extra features quicker.

In the 3 Series F30, for example, all vehicles with the basic Business navigation had the smaller 6.5" screen, while vehicles with Professional navigation system had the larger 8.8" screen. The only major change through the model run was the addition of touch screen control for the larger screen starting from the 2018 model year.

By 2018, the 7 Series had already had a touchscreen for two years, along with a larger 10.25" display. A 10.25" non-touchscreen display was also available in the F10 5 Series throughout production, starting in 2010. It would take the launch of the G20 3 Series in 2019 for fans of BMW's more compact model to get the option of a similarly sized screen in their own cars.

iDrive screen replacement

If you’re preparing for an iDrive screen replacement you have several choices - either change it along with a full head unit replacement or get a standalone screen upgrade such as VividScreen or Panoramic Screen. See which option will suit you best. 

BMW NBT Evo retrofit

No iDrive upgrade brings so much technology and convenience as this one. NBT Evo ID5/ID6 retrofit comes with loads of multimedia features already activated, like CarPlay, Video & Services in motion, BMW Apps, etc., and most importantly features a high-definition screen.

However, when retrofitting your BMW with a new iDrive system, it's worth remembering that the screens available to you depend on your model, not the iDrive system you're upgrading to. BimmerTech's NBT Evo ID5/ID6 retrofit kits come with 8.8" and 10.25" screens, either with or without touchscreen capability. Checking the screen(s) available for your vehicle is easy:

  1. Check our NBT Evo ID5/ID6 retrofit page.
  2. Enter your VIN to identify your vehicle.
  3. Check the parts list in the 'Installation' section, and the 'Option' section, for screens included or available as an add-on.

The fact that one iDrive system can potentially include a variety of different screen sizes sometimes means it's possible to upgrade your screen size -- for example from 6.5" to 8.8" -- without changing any other hardware. Our Panoramic Screen retrofit for BMW F30, as well as our aftermarket VividScreen upgrade for BMW E6x and E9x let you step up your screen size without having to replace your whole iDrive system.

Panoramic Screen vs VividScreen

Up for a standalone BMW iDrive screen replacement? If you want to change your factory screen for one with twice or more the resolution, BimmerTech’s VividScreen and Panoramic Screen upgrade are the retrofits you can’t overlook. Both of those displays are, all in all, quite similar to each other, yet each of them comes with different kit components that fit separate technology upgrades. 

BMW VividScreen

BimmerTech’s VividScreen is an 8.8" iDrive display, and is made specially for BMW E6x and E9x with CCC, M-ASK, CHAMP2 head units.

The latest 8.8” 1280x480 BMW screen replacement provides noticeably better image quality compared to the factory screen, as it doubles or even triples its pixel density. Plus, it significantly enhances the quality of the image and contrast while viewing. VividScreen is also designed to resemble the factory screen to perfectly match your BMW interior, so you shouldn’t worry about fitting it in the car. But what’s especially convenient about this BMW navigation screen replacement, is the fact that it comes with an inbuilt Multimedia Interface (MMI) module, which supports our SmartView mirroring devices and our Rear & Front View cameras. This means, if you’re compatible, you can get them all for a much lower price.

However, if you want to retrofit CarPlay in your BMW, VividScreen is NOT an option for you. The only screen matching our CarPlay upgrade is a BMW Panoramic Screen upgrade. 

BMW Panoramic Screen

Our Panoramic Screen upgrade, just like the VividScreen, packs a sharp 1280x480 display, OEM quality and spot-on integration with your BMW's interior.  It also comes in two screen sizes:

  • 8.8” - offered exclusively for F3x vehicles with EntryNav head unit
  • 10.25” - available only for F10, F15 and i3 BMWs with EntryNav head unit

Although this BMW iDrive screen replacement doesn’t have it’s own MMI module, it will be a perfect fit for our CarPlay MMI Prime, if you want to add one. Pairing up the CarPlay retrofit with Panoramic Screen will enable you to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in full-screen, with a lot more space for your icons, messages and maps. 

BMW Panoramic Screen installation will require some coding to optimize your iDrive for the bigger display, so right after you add it to your head unit remember to schedule a remote coding session with our BimmerTech technician. The session is included in the price of the retrofit. 

How to replace the BMW iDrive screen

If your iDrive screen is flickering or frozen, and no iDrive screen fixes are working, it could be necessary to replace it. If you do decide to, either because your iDrive screen is not working or you just want to change to a larger version, it's one of the easier DIY projects you can do.

As the internal trim in each model differs, how to change your iDrive screen will depend on your vehicle. However, in general you will only need to remove the air vents below the display to allow access to the screws connecting the screen to the dashboard. With that done, the screen is attached with a simple wiring harness, which can easily be unplugged. Connecting the replacement is just as easy, and requires no soldering or wire cutting. The entire process can be completed in up to an hour.

When replacing your iDrive screen with a larger one, it's important to remember the difference between the aspect ratio of the smaller 6.5" screen and the 8.8" or 10.25" wide-screen display. Without adjusting your iDrive, the picture on the screen will be stretched to fill the wider screen.

BMW iDrive screen

Depending on your vehicle and factory system, it may be possible to code your iDrive to correct the screen resolution and remove stretching. When possible, BimmerTech offers this service with all screen upgrades.

Frequently Asked Questions

Apple CarPlay: Full-screen or split-screen?

One advantage of having one of the bigger BMW iDrive screens is the possibility to use split-screen mode, to show two different things on the screen at once. For example, you might want your navigation directions on one side, with the current radio station on the other.

One time you might not want to split your screen is when using Apple CarPlay. In vehicles that support it, BMW uses a split-screen CarPlay interface by default, keeping a section on the right of the screen back for the iDrive system.

BMW Apple Carplay

BMW Apple Carplay full-screen

What this means in reality is just less space for your CarPlay interface, and as CarPlay makes it easy to toggle between navigation, music and messages, you might prefer to go all in on CarPlay.

In many vehicles it's possible to unlock full-screen Apple CarPlay by coding your iDrive, which can be done via USB or in a coding session with a skilled technician. To find out how to code BMW CarPlay full-screen mode and whether it's available for your vehicle, take a look at our BMW iDrive coding options.

How to display a video on the BMW screen?

Coding is a great way to unlock other screen features, too. Activating the USB Video Player option makes it easy to watch videos on your iDrive screen, and with the Video in Motion option, your passengers will even be able to watch as you drive. For business rather than pleasure, you can also switch to showing full text messages on the dashboard display, or your choice from dozens more iDrive options. Learn more about BMW iDrive coding, and how it can help you put the growing screens in the latest vehicles to good use.

How to screen mirror Android phones?

In some BMWs, you can even get videos, messages, navigation and more straight from your Android mobile phone. The Android Screen Mirroring feature lets you cast your phone's display to your iDrive, and get your favorite apps on your BMW dashboard screen. In many of the latest vehicles, it's available as a coding option from BimmerTech, and is just one way to connect your mobile phone and iDrive system.

How to retrofit BMW Screen mirroring? 

If coding an Android Screen Mirroring feature is not for you, there are some other ways you can add an iDrive screen mirroring functionality to your vehicle. Our screen mirroring retrofits will make it possible to have your phone content mirrored onto your head unit display, but also play videos from the most popular VOD platforms on your iDrive screen.

If you’re a loyal Apple owner and don’t plan on changing your iPhone for an Android supported system any time soon, you may find our SmartView HD Apple TV3 or SmartView HD Apple TV4 a spot-on screen mirroring solution. These retrofits are also the only ones to enable video streaming from the most popular VOD platforms, such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu or Amazon Prime, and fit perfectly with our BMW VividScreen upgrade.

In case you’d like to mirror both Android and Apple devices, our SmartView HD Flex or CarPlay MMI Prime retrofit would be your go-to products, with the latter adding a whole new infotainment experience to your vehicle.

Check out more about best screen mirroring retrofits for your BMW. 

How to take care of your iDrive screen?

Current-generation iDrive screens are exposed, with a special coating to prevent damage and ensure good visibility in all light conditions. However, that does mean it's important to take good care of the screen, to prevent scratches and other damage.

Even routine maintenance can cause problems if you don't know how to clean the BMW iDrive screen properly. Repeated rubbing with a rough cloth or harsh chemicals can wear away the anti-glare coating or cause scratches. It's important to always use a soft microfiber cloth when wiping your iDrive screen, along with distilled water or high-quality, dedicated screen cleaning solution.

Proper maintenance means not having to figure out how to remove scratches from the BMW navigation screen later on.

Whether you're looking to replace your iDrive screen, upgrade your hardware, or just make a few changes to help you make the most of your dashboard display, our expert team is on hand to help you find the right upgrades and retrofits for you. Get in touch and we'll be happy to help.

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