- Review Price: £120.00
Life’s getting tough at the budget end of the sat-nav market. With so many contract mobile phones now coming with GPS receivers built in and sat-nav software for them so cheap, firms are having to offer more and more features for your money. It wasn’t very long ago, for instance, that devices around the £100 mark were missing essential features such as voice instructions and multi-point route planning. Now every device worth its salt does all that and more, with some even including full European maps for under £150.
Navman’s new baby navigator, the S30 has its work cut out to compete in such a tough market, so it’s good to see that it has got the most important thing right and set the price at a competitive level. The Navman S30 can be had for around £120 with maps of UK and Ireland, which is £10 less than the equivalent Mio C220 and an even better deal than the Garmin 200W, which sells for around £25 to £30 more. Considering that the Mio is one of the best budget devices around this is an impressive feat.
But it’s not just the price that sets the S30 apart. It also boasts a host of innovative features that cannot be found on other budget sat-navs. One of the most impressive is that it has relatively advanced audio capabilities compared with the competition. Where the Mio C220 merely gives “next go left”- or “next go right”-type instructions, the S30 will inform you to take “junction 23 on the M25”. This isn’t as advanced as it is on the higher end TomTom’s which have a text-to-speech engine that will read all road names out to you as you drive – the S30 only does it on major roads such as motorways – but it’s still an impressive inclusion.
Next on the list is the address entry screen, which handily reads aloud the letters as you tap the on-screen keyboard. You can turn it off if it irritates you, but it does make it very easy to tell when you’ve hit the wrong key and also means you don’t have to keep too close an eye on the list of matches that pops up at the top of the screen.
In navigation mode, there are more thoughtful touches. The most notable are the extremely clear and realistic next-turning icons that appear in the top left of the screen. On every other sat-nav I’ve used, these are picked from a library of generalised icons so that one junction looks very much like the next. On the Navman S30 you get a bird’s-eye view of the actual junction, which gives you a much better idea of what’s coming up next. Along the same lines, the S30 also provides very clear on-map turn highlighting. Instead of a flat arrow, on the S30 you get a bright yellow 3D one, which makes your next turning virtually impossible to miss.
Aside from the innovative extras, the S30 is a pretty solid performer. Map data comes from TeleAtlas, just as with the Mio C220, which is an excellent choice and, as a result, the S30 performed well during testing. The 3.5in, 320 x 240 touchscreen is bright and clear, and responds positively to the touch. It’s equipped with an autozoom function – also like the C220 – which zooms in at junctions and zooms out when you’re driving at high speed.
Audio instructions are competent too, matching those of the C220 and Garmin 200W. Turns in close proximity are linked together, plenty of advance warning is given and, importantly, instructions are also repeated the closer you get to a junction so that if you weren’t paying attention at first, you get a second, and third chance depending on how fast you’re driving.
Other good stuff includes an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to access all settings and functions without having to hunt about too much. The volume control, for instance, can be launched by holding down the volume button on the navigation screen; recent searches, favourites and the address search are just two simple clicks away; and you can get a route overview simply by cycling through the views on the map screen. Just as useful is the fact that important POI categories, such as food, SOS (pharmacies, garages and the like), fuel and parking are a simple click away on the second main menu screen – no need to go rooting around in the POI search menu. You also get speed camera updates free for 12 months, though these disappear unless you opt to pay for the £50 per year continuing subscription.
Route calculation and recalculation, meanwhile, is extremely speedy, and added to this, the S30 has powerful multi-stop routing and management tools. Each search option, for instance, allows you to add searches to your current route and these routes can be saved, alongside frequently used addresses, to your favourites list. Flick to the map screen and adding waypoints to your route is as simple as tapping the map and selecting an option from a pop-up menu. The pop-up menu also gives access to the route-around tool. So, if you’re stuck in traffic you simply click the road that’s clogged-up on screen, and choose the Avoid Area option.
The S30 is, in fact, such a good all-round navigation tool that it seems churlish to criticise it in any way, but it isn’t entirely perfect. Top of the list of problems is the volume of the speaker, which isn’t the loudest. Mount the S30 in a noisy cabin, switch the radio on and you’ll struggle to hear it while driving at motorway speeds. This isn’t helped by the fact that there’s no speed-sensitive automatic volume adjustment. There’s also no traffic information support (the Mio C220 features TMC support though a receiver isn’t included in the box), the POI database isn’t the most comprehensive, there’s no Bluetooth, and routing options are limited to car travel – there are no pedestrian, bicycle, motorbike or truck options here.
I also didn’t like the fact that the map screen is so cluttered. This is something that is, to a certain extent, inevitable in a small-screened sat-nav device, but it really is overkill here. On top of the information panels at the top and bottom of the screen there are over-large, square buttons on the right and left, plus road name labels littering the map view that often obscure your route. Annoyingly, none of this screen furniture can be switched off.
Despite the niggles, the Navman S30 is still a very sound choice if you’re looking for decent sat-nav on a budget. Not only is it cheaper than its main competition – the Mio C220 – but it also manages to pack a whole load of innovative features in, including spoken road names and junctions on major routes, and is much easier to use.
Good quality mapping, solid route choices, speedy performance and class-leading planning, browsing and editing tools means the S30 really stands out in a crowded and intensively competitive marketplace.
Score in detail
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