Back in the days when men wore braces, women donned shoulder pads and advanced technologies such as sprites, bitmapping and (wait for it) floppy disks were the talk of the town, Binatone was happy to make cheap musical instruments and pong-style TV games. I remember sitting in front of the TV, paddle in hand, perfectly happy playing ‘tennis', ‘football' and ‘squash', and conjuring plinky-plonky ELO-style compositions on a friend's electronic keyboard.
But times move on, none more so than in the technology industry, and today Binatone has gone from home entertainment novelties to more mundane fare such as phones, shavers, hairdryers and kitchen appliances. Its latest venture is into the world of satellite navigation and at £100 the price of the X350 isn't far off those of its more humdrum, home appliance cousins.
So what do you get for your money? The answer, on paper at least, is a surprisingly good sat-nav system. It's perhaps understandable that maps of Europe aren't included at this price, but there are very few other bases that aren't covered. For starters, it's well designed, with a large 3.5in screen and silver and black, rubberised trim surrounding it. That screen is bright and easy to read, even in sunny conditions and the touch sensitivity is both accurate and responsive. Around the edges are a slot for SD cards, a mini USB socket for charging the device, a 3.5mm headphone output and a socket for a TMC aerial so you can receive traffic information over FM, and the whole thing is slim and pocketable.
The X350 has Navteq maps on board and during testing I found these to be about as accurate as you could expect. There's always going to be the odd road here and there that isn't quite right, but it'll get you where you want to go 99 per cent of the time. It takes largely sensible routes and, when it doesn't, the device has multipoint routing, so you can easily set up an alternative. More importantly, perhaps, when you stray off the route set out for you by the navigation engine, route recalculation is, as far as I can tell, instantaneous.
I always say you can tell how good a sat-nav box is going to be by the quality of its voice instructions, and the X350 doesn't disappoint. They're accurate and timely, and the speaker is loud and clear. On the negative side it doesn't link instructions together when two or more turnings are in close proximity and there's no automatic volume adjustment based on speed or ambient noise, but neither are great losses.