Navigation systems

The corporate hospitality and events industry mushrooms across the length and breadth of the nation.  For most of us this often means a single month can present a very varied diary. An awards ceremony at Grosvenor House? A hotel launch in Manchester? An exhibition at Glasgow's SECC? Followed, perhaps, by a team incentive event in the New Forest. For those organising the events, time is vital. The advent of satellite navigation reduces  waste of professional time (and fuel). As with so much technology the range on offer can be confusing. Here, we look at some of the entry-level choices that can help business drivers get from A to B on time and with minimal road stress.  Sat Bal  (25 Oct '07)

Garmin Nuvi 200   

This slimline, "top pocket" system isn't hampered by a 3.5 inch screen. On the contrary, the driver sees all the necessary features clearly on screen while in motion and has the option of verbal instructions to accompany the strong visual maps. The menus are logically set out and driver-friendly and this Nuvi contains maps of the UK and Ireland, full post-code search, 3d maps and voice instructions.

Further ease of use is provided by the comprehensive Point of Interest (POI) feature which lets the driver select from utilities such as the nearest hotel or petrol station. However, the unit did get confused when searching for a particular fast food outlet citing a branch as several miles away when, in fact, a nearer one was to hand. That said, we did find the POI an asset for the type of venues that Red carpet readers would find useful during business driving eg. exhibition halls and hotels.

The Nuvi's speed camera alerts are timely and appear on the screen as a visual icon accompanied by warning sounds. The units beeps continuously if the speed limit is exceeded on approach to the speed camera giving ample opportunity to avoid three licence points.

The touch-screen facility features accurate mapping which provided clarity on multi-direction motorways synchronising closely with overhead signs. Wrong turns are  signified by the Nuvi's voice intoning the word "recalculating" and swiftly calculating the correct route.

All in all, the Nuvi 250W is a very competent system for the price and has a great user interface with fast, intuitive programming and selection options.

Circa £170


Navman S30

Navman's S30 junior offering is competitively priced and compact with stylish screen visuals. It combines thorough mapping and precise navigation in a simple to use package.

Voice directions are given in good time and plotting course is easy although some might find the 3.5 inch screen a little restrictive. It's also an articulate little unit whose voice instructions are detailed eg. telling the driver to leave "at junction 9" rather than the usual "exit left".

The audio can also be set to voice the letters that are input onto the screen display  when entering address information. This audio confirmation is useful since the size of the screen can cause errors when characters are hastily input.

Navman's screen display is aesthetically a cut above others as well as practical. An example is the exit icon displayed at junctions. Unlike the homogenised junction diagrams used by other units the Navman S30 gives a more customised view of each  particular junction, making navigation easier.

For added clarity, luminous 3D yellow arrows denote turnings to all but eliminate missed exits. Speed camera alerts also feature as standard.

Circa £149


Snooper Strabo

As the name suggests Snooper originally carved out its reputation in speed camera technology.

The Snooper Strabo is the result of its foray into navigation and has been designed for out of the box use.

Search information requires simple input and the NAVTEQ-powered guidance is robust although it takes a short time to track satellites when initially switched on.

The unit looks good and feels durable and as well as POI it has street-level data for the UK and Ireland. The visuals are clear and legible and the Strabo's camera heritage is apparent with its precise pinpointing of speed cameras and known mobile vans.

A "favourites" memory stores up to 100 addresses to save repeated input of locations. Other features include an MP3 player and even a Bluetooth handsfree system.

Circa £190


Magellan Maestro 3100

The Maestro didn't live up to its name, providing a mixed bag of pros and cons. It features a 3.5-inch touch-screen which initself isn't a huge problem, however, this meant smaller graphics and icons concentrated together.

This was mitigated somewhat by predictive input which anticipated destinations. UK maps are loaded on and the unit features a "trip planner" system which is useful for  multi-stop trips. The big reservation with the Maestro was its hesitance to find destinations. This was a recurrent feature and obviously detracted from the overall purpose. Voice instructions were delivered clearly but not soon enough to make certain exits, which the driver is alerted to by a sonorous electronic tone.

The system does have price in its favour but its sluggishness made us wonder whether  buying one would amount to a false economy in the context of business driving.


Circa: £139



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