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Navman was one of the pioneers in personal satellite navigation. Its PDA add-ons led the market, until the idea went mainstream and standalone devices took over. Although Navman was ready for that development too, now every handheld device seems to have a GPS built in, and the standalone is under increasing pressure to differentiate itself.
Navman's most recent answer is a 3D landmark model system, which we first saw with the S50 3D. Instead of just putting up icons to illustrate points of interest, this uses realistic 3D representations of landmarks, to help you figure out where you are. The 3D system has been brought out across a couple of Navman's S-series models, and the latest to get the treatment is the budget S30, which we first reviewed in vanilla non-3D form a year ago.
The problem is, there aren't that many of these visual cues included in the first implementation. In fact, during our route testing outside London and on its outskirts, we didn't come across a single 3D landmark at all. Most tellingly, driving around the A406/North Circular, we passed close by Wembley, and as the stadium loomed in our peripheral vision, it was nowhere to be seen on the Navman. So the 3D model idea is good in theory, but pretty useless in practice. It may come into its own with a bigger database of models, and with hardware 3D acceleration being added to many recent in-car computers this seems highly likely. For now, though, it's a bit of a gimmick.
Fortunately, the 3D system is far from the only thing worth mentioning about the S30. It has a 3.5in touchscreen TFT with a 320 x 240 resolution, which we found clear and easy to read even in sunny conditions, despite its small size. The touchscreen address entry can be a little finicky, though. As you enter a letter, the system speaks it back to you. But sometimes it speaks the letter but doesn't enter it, and it's a little too easy to hit the wrong letter too. Other than using addresses and postcodes, you can also search the usual database of Points of Interest (POI).
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