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The trouble with sat-nav systems is you still have to have more intelligence than the average family pet to use most of them. Even if it's a TomTom there's a fair amount to get used to, from entering the address the ‘wrong way around' to getting the volume loud enough so you can hear the instructions clearly on the motorway.
Last week a coach driver, clearly flummoxed by his sat-nav, ended up in Lille, Belgium, instead of Lille, France - some 100 miles off track. And there have been numerous other accounts of similar blunders in the past.
Accurate driving instructions are, of course, essential. But for the most part the manufacturers seem to have this aspect of their design cracked. And that's why I always think the most important thing for a sat-nav is its ease of use.
The first step along this road is the screen - so many sat-navs cram in so much on-screen information that the map can become cluttered and difficult to read and on-screen buttons fiddly to press. That's not the case with Panasonic's new Strada CN-GP250N sat-nav. This device's massive 5in screen makes it an absolute doddle to read, as well as simply offering more room to display a bigger map area.
Approaching Wandsworth Bridge from the south, for example, you can see the whole sweep of the Thames in front of you, and as petrol stations pass by one, two or even three streets away, you'll be able to see where they are and where to turn to reach them. Even with all the POI categories on the device selected to display on the screen, it never feels too crowded. Furthermore, many locations such as McDonald's restaurants and popular petrol stations have logos associated with them, making them much easier to spot.
The big screen also makes the touch-screen easier to operate - buttons are larger and easier to hit while leaning over to the screen in the car, and that's important with the software installed on this Panasonic. That's because the Strada uses software produced by German sat-nav specialist, Navigon - software very similar to that used by the Navigon 5100 I reviewed a few weeks ago, in fact.
I criticised it then for being a bit fiddly, with a small, difficult-to-read next turn icon and distance indication, and for having a slightly washed-out colour scheme. But with the large and bright 5in screen these weaknesses all but disappear.