Packard Bell GPS 400 GPS receiver review

Usually the phrase "only available from Currys, Dixons and PC World" sends a bigger shiver up our spine than the memory of Keith Chegwin naked on the telly.

However, as well as being good value for money, the GPS 400 manages to pack quite a performance kick. Sub-£200 satnav devices usually only dream of doing that. The customised Destinator satnav software has 2D and 3D views, voice guided directions, dynamic routing (with near instant re-routing), plenty of points of view options, and operates equally as efficiently in pedestrian as it does car mode.

Although it uses the same NAVTEQ maps as CoPilot (see our Pocket LOOX N520 review), the interface to these isn’t as polished as CoPilot by a long chalk. Perhaps the most irritating difference being the postcode entry for finding a destination, not seven digit entry, not even four digit entry, no madam just for you today how about no digits? Yep, no postcode search at all in fact. The SiRF StarIII chipset means it locks onto satellite signals strongly but not as strongly as the N520, and not at all indoors.

Size-wise it sits nicely between in-car GPS and PDA option, although it actually feels a lot bigger than the on the page dimensions of 115 x 100 x 34mm would have you think. Much of this is down to a combination of thickness and weight (240g) although it certainly isn’t a heavyweight by any means - just don’t expect to slip it bulge free into your pocket.

The 3.5-inch TFT screens is bright, but struggles in direct sunlight whether on foot or in the car, the latter being problematical when battling with reflections and screen size: dedicated, factory fitted, in-car satnav will always have this kind of hybrid device beaten in sheer size and viewability. However, the GPS 400 has voice navigation and we found this worked well in use, anticipating turnings correctly and announcing guidance clearly and loudly enough to be heard in heavy traffic.

Where the GPS 400 comes into its own for a satnav unit is that when you are not using the GPS to find where you are going you can remove it from the car and make use of the built-in MP3 player (it’s no iPod but it works well enough) and dedicated photo viewing software (which is really very good indeed, thanks to the big bright screen). All of this functionality, especially when away from the car and it’s cigarette lighter socket, relies on decent battery life. The rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery was good for 5 hours and 21 minutes when listening to MP3s, but this fell to 3 hours 38 minutes using the GPS. Luckily a cigarette lighter adapter is included in the box, along with a carry case (well soft pouch really), a car windscreen mount of the bendy stick variety, AC adaptor, USB cable for connecting to the PC and the MMC card containing the mapping. This is quite impressive for a budget item, as often such things as AC adaptors and car mounts come as expensive extras.

Verdict

The TomTom One provides a better satnav experience, and the Pocket LOOX N520 a better all-in-one unit if you want MP3 player and photo viewing. However, for the money, the GPS 400 does an admirable job of bridging the gap between the two.