Our main bugbear with the original version of Spirit was a feature called SlideTouch. This attempted to mimic the finger-friendly scrolling of Apple’s iPod Touch and iPhone, but instead ended up creating one of the most frustrating interfaces we’ve come across in a sat-nav. Menus were hard to control, and would frequently dock back into the side of the screen when you least wanted them too. Fortunately, all it took to remove the pain was to replace the freeform finger scrolling with simple arrows to shift the menus up and down, or dock them to the side. You can still switch back to SlideTouch if you wish, but unless you’re particularly dexterous we can’t see why you would.
Fortunately, Spirit wasn’t just a new interface – it also signalled a more free-form way of accessing the underlying address database. The Find icon offers the usual options for locating your destination via address, or by name if it’s a Point of Interest. You can drill down from city to street with the former, and via category with the latter. However, Spirit also allows you to search by keyword. Simply enter one or more words, and a list of any matching results will appear. Best of all, the keyword search is across an entire country and includes Points of Interest. So if you don’t know what city your destination is in, you should still be able to track it down, whether it’s a street or a tourist attraction.
The main menu also offers a Capture button for storing your current location in My Places – handy for saving a destination which doesn’t have an obvious address listing. There are also icons giving you direct access to the most frequently used category of POI, including petrol stations, hospitals, restaurants, tourist attractions, car parks and cash machines. There’s a route planner for creating journeys with custom waypoints, as well.
The Spirit 500 also incorporates a Travel Book, which is a tourist guide based on WCities data. This is essentially a more detailed POI listing, so you can read information about potential destinations. Phone numbers are also listed, so you can (for example) phone a restaurant in advance to make a booking, then navigate to it using the Spirit 500. Our sample came preloaded with data for London, Paris and Rome, but more can be downloaded and installed.