- Review Price: £179.99
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.
Unlike other sat-navs, Motorola’s devices don’t come with integrated mobile data connectivity. Instead, you must pair the TN550 with your mobile phone over Bluetooth. However, this won’t require your phone to have a mobile data plan with tethering enabled, because the Motonav merely places a short voice call to obtain its information. So any mobile phone with Bluetooth will do, and any call contract too.
The remaining four Moto Extras also get their information via short mobile phone voice calls. The Fuel Prices system downloads the costs of petrol for garages in the local area, and lists them in order so you can head for the cheapest, although you can also list them by distance or A to Z. However, you can’t find petrol prices at an alternative destination, making Motorola’s system less flexible than TomTom’s.
In contrast, the Weather service lets you look up forecasts for your current location, or any other city or postcode. You can then browse a five-day forecast, although no hour-by-hour detail is available. Like the Garmin nuvi 1690, the Motonav TN550 also has the ability to look up airline information. Flight Info lets you search for airline and flight number, and then tells you whether the aircraft is currently on time and provides the ability to navigate to the appropriate airport.
The final Moto Extra operates in tandem with a desktop computer. When you find a destination in Google Maps, you can select the Send option. Motorola sat-navs will be one of the options, and all you need is the serial number from the bottom of the TN550. The destination will then be available next time you update the Google Location folder within the Favourites section. This is not a facility most people would use every day, but it will be really useful if you fancy planning a trip via a more friendly desktop computer interface, or need to send someone a destination whilst they’re on the road. Taxi drivers could find it invaluable, for example.
However, you only get 90 days of Moto Extras out of the box. A year’s service is then £29.99, with discounts available for buying more than one year. This is relatively competitive, but it doesn’t include traffic updates, which don’t come as standard at all with the TN550, unlike the TN760t. They can be added with the professional installation kit, but this is likely to double the price overall.
Also, whilst the TN550 still has voice activation, its capabilities are not as extensive as those of the TN760t. A single touch of the screen enables the system, after which you’re presented with a list of options. However, you’re only able to navigate to favourites, recent destinations or your Home location – you can’t enter a new address verbally.
In use, the TN550 provides essentially the same experience as the TN760t, minus the extra wideness. Spoken commands are clear, but bookended by an annoying chime. Junctions are illustrated by iconic lane guidance, with the occasional full-screen graphic for particularly important motorway interchanges. The TN550 lacks the 3D landmarks of the TN760t, but we’ve never been big fans of these anyway and you’re unlikely to miss them.
The Motorola Motonav TN550 is a more keenly priced proposition than the TN760t. However, it’s still a little expensive, when you can now pick up TomTom’s XL Live with a year’s service for around the same money. Since this includes the invaluable HD Traffic, we’d have to say that the TomTom is the better buy.
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