There are, however, more useful developments elsewhere. The first is an online business directory search, which is a genuine step forward over the usual static POI database. Dubbed Navman Connect, this hooks up to your phone via Bluetooth and uses its internet connection to search out local businesses.
To test it I entered the names of a few obscure local shops – the sort of thing you’ll never get in a normal sat-nav POI – and was surprised to find that every one was in the listings. The address of the fish shop at the top of my road was located and returned, as was that of a small independent off-license. It’s a very useful addition to this sat-nav’s armoury of features, but there is one caveat – you have to know precisely what you’re looking for because, disappointingly, you can’t search the directory by category or business type.
Since it already uses Bluetooth for the directory, the S50 3D also boasts hands-free phone features. You can answer and make calls on the S50 3D, download the address book from your phone and write text messages on the device’s touchscreen keyboard. This isn’t usually a feature we see in cheap sat-navs, so it’s nice to see it here.
The Navman S50 3D also boasts Sirfstar’s new InstantFixII technology. This effectively allows GPS devices to predict more effectively the position of satellites in the sky, resulting in (supposedly) a much faster time to initial satellite fix, especially when the device has been switched off for a few hours or more. But, though the S50 3D is pretty quick at picking up a signal lock – around a minute from off even in extremely challenging situations – it’s not noticeably quicker than other sat-navs I’ve tested. It does, however, hold onto its signal well once locked on – more reliably than the Navigon 2100, for example, when the tall city buildings loom.
Finally, the Navman S50 3D also has EGNOS compatibility, something I’ve previously only seen on handheld hiking GPS devices. EGNOS is a system (WAAS is the US equivalent) that uses a land-based reference signal to enhance the accuracy of GPS signals. Again, however, its addition is of dubious benefit as it’s unlikely to help in the only situation where you’re likely to have problems with a weak satellite signal, in a city, with tall buildings either side of you since the EGNOS signal is transmitted across the earth’s surface.