- Review Price: £77.05
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).
There are also useful standalone sections for Fuel, Parking and SOS, which list nearby petrol stations, car parks and hospitals respectively, without you having to wade through the full POI system. However, we found at least one petrol station listed which has already been closed and turned into a block of flats, despite the late 2007 TeleAtlas map data. You can set up a multi-point route that can be saved as favourites for future use. Choosing to avoid a traffic jam you have just encountered couldn’t be easier. Simply click on the road, select Avoid Area, and your route will be recalculated around it.
Once your destination is chosen, the S30 3D’s true strengths shine through. The navigation interface is well designed and relatively intuitive. Details of your next turning are clearly displayed on the top left, whilst the top right provides a choice of five readouts, including distance to destination, time to destination, current speed, estimated arrival time and current time. The display will also switch automatically between day and night modes depending on the current time. However, the screen does feel a little cluttered, leaving little room for the central map area.
The voice guidance is also clear and precise, reading out your next turn and the approximate distance before you have to make it. Although we sometimes found the orange route indication a little hard to see in complex road systems, the 3D arrow used to indicate turnings were obvious, so we never missed an instruction once. You can also set the Navman to provide a speed limit warning, but only for one speed. It doesn’t update according to the actual limit on your current road.
Whilst the core navigation system is excellent, this is still a budget model. Safety camera data comes pre-installed, but on a free trial basis. For regular updates you will need to subscribe, at £34.95 a year or £99.90 for three years. You can add live traffic updates, with the optional module that costs £49.99. There is no Bluetooth built in, and no input for an external GPS aerial should your car’s windows impede the signal. The navigation system is for cars only, it can’t create routes for other modes of transport with different routing requirements, such as pedestrians or HGVs.
The basic S30 3D comes with just UK and Ireland maps. The maps for other regions are on the disc, but encrypted. You can purchase a key to unlock Western Europe, Eastern Europe, USA & Canada, Australia or New Zealand for £69 each. The S30 has about 320MB free for further maps with UK and Ireland already installed. The bundled NavDesk software used to transfer maps is busy with features, such as the ability to upload different voices to your Navman, subscribe to safety camera information, and work with the NavPix system.
This brings us to the other major addition the S30 3D has over the basic S30 – Navman Connect. This uses the Infobel service to provide a much more extensive database of POIs. With the S50 3D, a Bluetooth-connected mobile phone can be used to access Navman Connect on the move. But with the S30 3D you will need to search the database on an Internet-connected PC whilst the Navman is attached via USB. Any locations you add are downloaded to the device automatically, and can be loaded as destinations in the Navman Connect section. We found the Infobel service contained the majority of locations we searched for. Navman Connect could come in handy for planning possible destinations in advance for a holiday trip, but although it covers Europe, it was missing a few countries – such as Portugal.
The S30 3D’s headline 3D model system may be a disappointment, but at least you don’t pay a premium for it. In fact, this is one of the cheapest standalone sat-navs currently on the market. Yet it’s still a very capable device, and easy to use. For many people it will have everything you need to get around from A to B, for a very reasonable price.
Score in detail
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