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Life's getting tough at the budget end of the sat-nav market. With so many contract mobile phones now coming with GPS receivers built in and sat-nav software for them so cheap, firms are having to offer more and more features for your money. It wasn't very long ago, for instance, that devices around the £100 mark were missing essential features such as voice instructions and multi-point route planning. Now every device worth its salt does all that and more, with some even including full European maps for under £150.
Navman's new baby navigator, the S30 has its work cut out to compete in such a tough market, so it's good to see that it has got the most important thing right and set the price at a competitive level. The Navman S30 can be had for around £120 with maps of UK and Ireland, which is £10 less than the equivalent Mio C220 and an even better deal than the Garmin 200W, which sells for around £25 to £30 more. Considering that the Mio is one of the best budget devices around this is an impressive feat.
But it's not just the price that sets the S30 apart. It also boasts a host of innovative features that cannot be found on other budget sat-navs. One of the most impressive is that it has relatively advanced audio capabilities compared with the competition. Where the Mio C220 merely gives "next go left"- or "next go right"-type instructions, the S30 will inform you to take "junction 23 on the M25". This isn't as advanced as it is on the higher end TomTom's which have a text-to-speech engine that will read all road names out to you as you drive - the S30 only does it on major roads such as motorways - but it's still an impressive inclusion.
Next on the list is the address entry screen, which handily reads aloud the letters as you tap the on-screen keyboard. You can turn it off if it irritates you, but it does make it very easy to tell when you've hit the wrong key and also means you don't have to keep too close an eye on the list of matches that pops up at the top of the screen.
In navigation mode, there are more thoughtful touches. The most notable are the extremely clear and realistic next-turning icons that appear in the top left of the screen. On every other sat-nav I've used, these are picked from a library of generalised icons so that one junction looks very much like the next. On the Navman S30 you get a bird's-eye view of the actual junction, which gives you a much better idea of what's coming up next. Along the same lines, the S30 also provides very clear on-map turn highlighting. Instead of a flat arrow, on the S30 you get a bright yellow 3D one, which makes your next turning virtually impossible to miss.