Our first experience of Motorola's new push into the UK market, the Motonav TN760t, proved to be a highly unusual device. But it was also an expensive proposition, particularly when accompanied by the professional in-car installation option. Fortunately, at the same time as the TN760t, Motorola has also launched a more modest alternative, the TN550. At £80 less for the UK and Republic of Ireland mapping version, it's a much more affordable proposition.
The most obvious difference between the two models is the screen, more specifically the aspect. The TN760t has the widest screen of any sat-nav currently on the market, with a 2.39:1 ratio similar to panoramic cinema. The TN550, in contrast, opts for a conventional 4.3in widescreen with a 16:9 ratio. There are some immediate downsides to this shrinkage, as Motorola's novel Motonav interface appears to have been designed more with the TN760t in mind than the TN550.
One of the key ideas behind Motorola's sat-nav software design is to keep the map on-screen as much as possible. So when you call up the initial menu, this merely places a few icons over the map. However, the extra information panel you can add on the left of the screen makes the TN550's map display far too small for comfort. On the TN760t, the remaining map is around the same size as a 4.3in widescreen, so it's still readily usable.
The same can be said of the Enter Destination interface. On the TN760t, there is enough space for the on-screen keyboard and results panel to be visible at the same time. But on the TN550, the results panel is stowed on the right, and has an annoying habit of popping up when it has come up with some suggestions, so it covers half the keyboard. This is particularly irritating if you're still typing text.
However, the TN550 does still offer Motorola's streamlined combination of address and Points of Interest (POI) in one. You type in a city or postcode, then the street name or keyword, and you will be presented with a list that provides matching results from the address and POI database. The results pane has a second tab as well, which groups the results into categories. So if you're just looking for restaurants, for example, you can narrow the search.
The Enter Destination interface is also where you are most likely to encounter the live services, which Motorola calls Moto Extras, for the first time. A Google button lets you search the internet for your given keyword, if the address and POI databases stored on the device itself have failed to come up with the intended destination. The results come from the same Google Local Search offered by most other live-enabled sat-navs, so are extensive and include extras like phone numbers.