Garmin nuvi Satnavs: Getting Real Behind the Wheel

Garmin-nuvi-basic

100 years ago Rolls Royce cleaned up at the Alpenfahrt Rally through the Austrian Alps, taking the first three places. Enthusiasts will be celebrating the centenary with another mountain rally, covering 1850 miles and tracing the original 1913 route. Only this time instead of trying to make out details in unwieldy map books they’ll be using Garmin’s latest premium satnav on their journey through the mountains. Garmin invited us to play with the nuvi (and to ride around the streets of London in a vintage Rolls Royce).

There’s a lot more traffic on the streets of London than the Austrian Alps and that’s when Garmin’s free real time traffic alerts come in handy. The Digital Traffic service is subscription free thanks to updates via a built in DAB technology which does not require an internet connection. Digital Traffic is available on the new Garmin nuvi Advanced and Premium series. The virtual route marker changes to red to highlight traffic congestion up ahead.

Rolls-Royce

Garmin have also made it easier to follow directions with the introduction of ‘Real Directions’. So, instead of “turn left in 200 metres”, you’ll now get “turn left at the church” or “turn left at the traffic light”. The system is updated four times a year in case churches and traffic lights move or disappear.

Garmin-nuvi-Premium

The premium model has a 5 inch screen, Digital Traffic capability, lifetime maps and Bluetooth connectivity. With an aluminium casing and a convenient magnetic mount it’s priced at £299.99.

You can still get a 5 inch screen on the advanced model for £149.99, but you’ll have to do without lifetime maps and Bluetooth and settle for a plastic casing. If you’re happy with a smaller 4.3 inch screen you can pay £139.99 and still get the Digital Traffic navigation features. There’s also an ‘essential’ model which excludes Digital Traffic.

For more info head to www.garmin.co.uk

Mio Spirit 695 LM and 697LM: Free map upgrades for life

There’s no getting around the fact that Navman and Tom Tom have dominated the satellite navigation market for some time now, mainly because they have consistently managed to improve their product offerings, a strategy that has left them with an even firmer grip. This is key in a market like this, where we continually demand more from these little boxes of tricks and in many cases have come to depend on them.

Mio-Spirit

Mio has made a name for itself primarily with bikers, where its Cyclo range has become almost legendary. Someone at Mio has clearly decided there is ample opportunity within the in car sat nav market for an alternative product that can compete not just on price but also in areas where the big boys have perhaps missed a trick.

The Mio Spirit 697 and Mio 695LM cover both of these bases with a promise of free map upgrades four times a year for the life of the unit and some novel new features which include an option to find your car when you’ve forgotten where you left it, (how many times does that happen in the car park at Asda) as well as an expanded route choice  that adds ‘easiest’ or ‘most economical’ to the usual duo of ‘quickest’ and ‘shortest’.

The 5 inch colour screen 695 together with its higher end 697 stable mate, which also includes hands free Bluetooth and voice activated  input also contain other useful features, including IQ Routes (additional data from other drivers)  LearnMe Pro (where your short cuts will be remembered for next time), Lane Guidance, Parking Assistance and a very useful Pedestrian Mode.

Spirit 697 LM: £169.99  Spirit 695 LM: £119.99

Mio also has a range of entry level products which have also had a makeover and a software upgrade; the Mio Moov 410, 413 LM, 610 and 613 LM.from £69.99 to £99.99.

www.mio.com

Tom Tom and Renault launch electric car navigation

At last someone has seen the light and for once produced something entirely useful for the electric car; and that someone is Tom Tom. Not content with dominating the navigation market the navigation superhero has turned its attention to the electric car in a way that is so beneficial to electic car owners you have to ask yourself why has it taken so long?

TomTom-Dash

Thankfully Renault has seen the light and designed space in its Fluence Z.E.electic car for an in dash navigation system developed by Tom Tom which not only obviously navigates, using Tom Tom’s tried and tested GPS software, but also allows drivers to navigate to the nearest recharge station. Thus solving one of the major worries for electric car owners. Genius.

The Carminat TomTom Z.E LIVE, receives direct information from the battery about its charge state and then taking the current planned route into consideration, calculates whether a recharge will be necessary. If it is, it’ll display just where the nearest charging points are located along the route.

While it’s at it, it will also provide the most energy efficient route in the first place, eking out those extra precious miles from every available cell.

The Carminat TomTom Z.E LIVE also carries many of Tom Tom’s now standard features such ad HD traffic, local Search with TomTom Places and Google, safety camera alerts and IQ Routes.

Giles Shrimpton, Managing Director of TomTom Automotive points out “This is the first navigation system TomTom is launching in the area of electric vehicles and it represents a great milestone for us as a company in this exciting new market”. Renault has clearly scored a bit of a coup with this, and providing Tom Tom expands this to the other electric car manufacturers, it will be one less thing in the minus box for electric car owners.

The Navigon 70 Easy and 70 Plus Live – Coupling driving with relaxation?

I have never really been a fan of sat navs, finding them slightly patronising and off-putting and preferring to follow my own route with a good, old-fashioned map. Although I have to admit, how advanced has the world become when a machine can tell you when you need to start indicating to change lane in busy traffic? This “Active Lane Assistance”, which provides safe assistance when the traffic starts to get hectic, is just one of the many features of Navigon’s two new products – The Navigon 70 Easy and the Navigon 70 Plus Live.

Navigon-70

These two new additions expand Navigon’s 70-series family of large five-inch display screens designed to making route calculation easier than ever. Talking about the extended product range, Jorn Watzke, Executive Vice President of Product Line Management said:“With the extra variety in this product class, we are making it easier for our customers to find the right large-screen device for them.”

Both the 70 Easy and 70 Plus Live are neat, stylish devices but with large, realistic screens, which can provide you with a wealth of animated driving information if you require it. As well as the arguably patronising “Active Lane Assistance” – what’s wrong with just looking in your mirrors? – both sat navs include “Navigation My Best POI”, “Navigation MyRoutes” and “Reality View Pro”. By simply clicking on the “One Click Menu”, drivers are able to see their three favourite POIs, by clicking anywhere on the display. In addition to this mammon of highly sophisticated route reading technology, users can import their own destination via the Fresh-Software, which can be arranged in individually named groups.

The Navigon 70 Plus Live is marginally superior to its younger brother, the Navigon 70 Easy, in the sense that includes five Live Services for twelve months. These Live services include, “Weather Live”, “Google Local Search”, “Clever Parking Live”, “Mobile Safety Camera Live” and the improved “Traffic Live”, which provides users with information about motorways hold-ups, as well as obstructions on main roads and even country lanes. The 70 Plus Live even has a “Navigon Sightseeing” feature, which informs travellers of points of interest on their route.

If you are not “au fait” with all this sat nav terminology – and we assume that readers of Latest Gadgets are up to date with the latest techie lingo – the Navigon 70 Easy and Navigon 70 Plus Live, simply put, are designed to make driving a whole lot more relaxed – Being this relaxed will cost you though, £119.99 and £199.99 correspondingly.

TomTom Start 20: TomTom goes easy on first time users

No one can accuse any reader of latest gadgets to be anything other than comfortable with new technology. But there are, believe it or not, people out there who get sweaty just thinking about it. The mere whisper of wireless free or Bluetooth is enough to send certain individuals diving for cover.

TomTom-Start20

It’s no wonder then, that the undisputed heavyweight champion of Sat Nav, has spotted an opportunity in the market and devised a cunning plan. TomTom, with the release of its new Start series is championing first timers to have a go and see what all the fuss is about without having to cope with any blood pressure rises. The Start 20 series is all about simplicity. Big screens, easy control and sight access from all areas.

So, let’s look at that for a moment. The new look screen sizes range from 4.3’’ for the Start 20 up to 5’’ for the slightly larger Start 25 and all of them come with touch screen technology to make planning a route as simple as ABC. TomTom has added something in the region of 2 million kilometres of new roads into its entry level maps and at the same time enhanced the graphics to show built up areas, water features and forests in greater detail. And just to make first timers even more relaxed, the smart lane exit guidance system available on the more expensive models has been integrated into this range too. This displays a 3D representation of the correct lane to take when approaching junctions on busy roads and motorways so drivers don’t miss a turn off.

Street names are now available within the spoken instructions and Tom Tom guarantees that devices will be able to update to the latest maps free of charge within 90 days of first use.

It’s all good news for first timers, and now there’s no excuse to hang on to that dog eared A-Z.

TomTom Start 20 from £129.99

NuLink! 2300 series: Garmin now lets you see what lies ahead

Garmin has finally found a ground breaking idea to bring it out from behind Tom Tom’s rather large shadow. Its next generation of Sat Nav’s, the NuLink! 2300 series incorporates PhotoLive pictures (via a subscription) from live traffic cameras along your selected route. The company has announced it is committed to giving drivers the very best traffic avoidance possible and this neat idea will certainly be a welcome addition.

Garmin-SatNav

The new system will have access to over 80 million traffic sources across Europe in its war on waiting, so as well as live traffic cameras we’ll receive information from radio travel reports, traffic hazard stories like road debris, Google local search and even en-route weather radar, airport arrivals and departures, fuel prices and even exchange rates.

In an excellent security move, Garmin has included a built in tracking system that can be activated by the owner’s instigation. The tracking can be monitored on the web, posted to social networking sites or to another 2300 unit and provides another level of enhanced safety that can be used in all kinds of situations.

The 2300 series is packed with new features that herald the next generation of portable satellite navigation. POI’s (Points of Interest) have been completely overhauled and combined with Google Local Search, and with Automatic Speech recognition technology you can give your unit a name and just wake it up by calling it out. Once it’s awake you can navigate through the menus by voice recognition making it truly hands free. Of course the knock on effect is the Bluetooth enabled advantage of dialling phone numbers through the voice recognition too. PhotoReal Junction View displays a digitised view of your approaching junction in a split screen view so you can be fully prepared for your next manoeuvre and you can save real money by following a proposed EcoRoute to reduce fuel consumption.

On the face of it, the 2300 series is a leap forward for Sat Navs, and we can only guess what Tom Tom will come up with in response.

The NuLink! 2,300 series £229

AA Sat Nav app: Get where you’re going (though not in central London)

I have to admit that I am a big fan of the AA – ever since they sent a massive lorry to transport our little camping trailer to our Peak District campsite, and the lovely lorry driver drove it through a farmyard and actually deposited the trailer at our pitch. It earned us a certain standing among our fellow campers and my four-year-old still gets excited when he sees an AA van.

AA-sat-nav

So, when I found that the AA (which, incidentally, is also the nation’s top-selling road atlas provider) had launched a new AA Sat Nav app for the iPhone I was looking forward to trying it out. My first impression, however, was that it looked pretty much like the Co-Pilot app I already have on my iPhone (and which costs a quid or so less), albeit with an AA-branded skin on top.

The new app – entitled AA Sat Nav UK & Ireland – offers 3D map displays, lane indicator arrows and speed limit alerts as well as ‘safety camera’ warnings.

On the plus side, it’s really easy to use – determining whether you’re on foot, car, bike or motorbike can be done simply in settings or from an icon on the side of your map – which is very useful.

I was also rather excited about being able to find the nearest petrol station/tourist attractions and so on – really useful when you’re away from home and missing your internet connection – and as we often are in quite remote locations where you need to know where the next place to fill up on diesel is, I thought this would be a bonus.

But I found it a bit of a let down. My first two attempts, which I tried at home, pinpointed a petrol station five miles away, when I know our local garage is less than two miles – and the nearest church it could find was nearly five miles away (we can see the church tower from our front garden).

However, I had no quibbles with the actual routing and sat nav functions – in fact it got a gold star because I am forever directing lost delivery drivers who have got lost by their sat nav which can’t cope with the fact that the road through our village has one name if you turn left at the T-junction and another if you turn right, but the AA Sat Nav managed just fine – so a big thumbs-up for that.

However, what was really slow was the app’s ability to lock on to the GPS location. In my little village it took a couple of minutes – but in the middle of London’s Soho it really struggled.

I checked on the app’s site to make sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong – checking my iPhone’s setting, and making sure I could see the sky – but it just seemed unable to hold on to a signal. For a penny under 27 quid that was rather disappointing.

The issue with locking on to the location in Central London aside, as a sat nav, the voice directions worked really well. I guess when a standalone sat-nav device costs around 90 quid it’s not a bad deal. But the extra facilities for finding local points of interest did not prove accurate enough for my liking.

The AA Sat Nav UK & Ireland app can be downloaded from the iTunes Store for £26.99.

Navigon Easy 40 satnav review

Convergence seems to be affecting all handheld devices with a touchscreen. From PMPs to gaming consoles and satellite navigation systems, it’s pretty likely that your smartphone – whether ‘Berry, Apple or Gingerbread flavoured – would be able to do a passable impression of gaming, music playback or getting you from A to B. And indeed if you have modest needs, then dedicated systems are not for you. However, there is something to be said for focus, be it the dedicated horsepower of a gaming console (Sony’s NGP looks particularly hard working), the storage capacity of a PMP or the increased functionality of a sat-nav.

Navigon-Easy-40

Navigon, a leading German brand sent us an Easy 40 to review, to see if we would prefer navigating with it to just winging it with a smartphone (although they also make some pretty full features smartphone software). Out of the box the unit is as expected, small, black and solid feeling plastic. I could accidentally drop it without worrying too much. The Windows CE based 4.3 inch touchscreen is thin and light and pops onto the windscreen with no trouble. But that’s the least I expect. So what’s it like to drive with?

Navigon also have a lovely little sightseeing function built in. Although this only has the sites you’d expect, when you are in an unfamiliar locale it can be reasonably helpful. It also can provide a little historical detail (I’m a born and bred Londoner and even I can’t tell you what half these buildings are). And I can think of countless times when the opening times function would have been a Godsend.

Other useful features included the Last Mile, that takes from where you park to where you actually want to be and will also help you navigate back to the car. You can also customise the places of interest so it will show you museums or service stations along the way – if you are really into service stations that is.

The Navigon Easy 40 is £130 or so from Amazon and is both feature packed enough to interest a serious motorist over the casual user and reliable enough to take on the more established brands (in the UK at least) of Garmin or TomTom.