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Navigon may not be one of the biggest names in the sat-nav business, but it has been leading one area of technology on a regular basis: 3D enhancements. It was one of the first to introduce 3D landmarks, with the 7210, and then City View 3D with the 7310. Now the 8410 launches yet another foray into the third dimension: Real City 3D.
Where Landmark 3D only includes realistic models of certain key buildings, and City View 3D approximates the dimensions of city blocks with featureless boxes, Real City 3D lives up to its title by mimicking what you’re likely to be seeing through your car windscreen as faithfully as possible. The level of detail and quality are not unlike an early first-person-shooter videogame. It’s similar to Doom 2 in graphical terms, only without the monsters, unless you count the guys driving white vans.
Your route is still projected in front of you as a line, and since the buildings will now block your view round corners, there’s also a small top-down 2D map as well, superimposed over the bottom right-hand corner. Screen updates are unsurprisingly more jerky than with the usual map, but this isn’t as bad as you might have expected. Since you won’t usually be travelling over 30mph within most cities, anyway, the map keeps up with your real position reasonably well.
However, Real City 3D has a number of other drawbacks. Although the building models look real, they often don’t look a lot like the buildings you will actually be seeing. The main reason is that most of the textures are generic, with only a few matching the true building facades, which may be a very distinctive colour. Some unusual building shapes are replicated, such as concave fronts, but most eye-catching features are omitted. For this reason, Real City 3D is more of a distraction than a hindrance, like a window on an uncanny alternative universe. It sounds great on paper, but it needs to be even closer to reality to be truly useful, and only the central part of very major cities are covered, too.