While some manufacturers will want you to believe otherwise, satellite navigation systems for the car are still expensive. With most weighing in at over £500 it's refreshing to see the Navigon BlueMedia PNA unit priced at just under £400. But does the cut in price mean a cut in features? We jumped in the car to find out.
The unit is about the size of a chunky PDA with the main focus being the touch-screen QVGA TFT Display with 65k colours and a screen size of 320 x 240 pixels. Next to this is a panel of controls if you don't fancy touching the screen all the time and the unit also ships with a stylus as well.
Maps of UK and Ireland come pre-installed on a 256Mb SD Card memory card and this can be upgraded or changed depending on where you are heading.
The unit uses Mobile Navigator 4.2 software and on the whole this is fairly good. The software offers all the usual GPS features such as 2D or 3D map modes and night and day setting for using the device at different times of the day. However in tests it wasn't without its problems, mainly that the software was slow to update by about five seconds. Now five seconds doesn't seem like a long time but at 50 miles an hour it's enough to have gone past the turning that you've realised you were meant to take. In the unit's defence there is a voice option to give extra instruction and pre-warn you of the turning, but with the radio up you're not going to hear it.
Get pass the slowness and the software isn't as bad as it could be. Plotting addresses is simple although it would have been nice to include either an on-screen full size keyboard or predictive text as you currently have to tap on icons with 3-letters each. It's a strange choice as the unit's screen could have certainly coped with the size of an on-screen keyboard. Perhaps to overcompensate for this, the unit also allows you to save you most common addresses and store them for later use.
Grumbles in the software aside its actual mapping skills where good. On every destination you set you also have the choice of setting certain parameters like toll roads or motorways. For Londoners, this means you can get the unit to route you around the Congestion Charge Zone, however on our test driving from Earl's Court to Wapping rather than going round (in our minds the quicker route) the unit opted to take us down the very busy Edgware Road and around the top. This meant an additional 1 on our journey.
Additionally in our tests we never once experienced satellite dropout and a nice feature is that the unit will always tell you how many satellites you are picking up.
Accessories included in the box for the price is very good. For cyclists, there's a bike mounting kit while car-mounting kit comes with a long bendy pole and a large sucker to attach to your windscreen. Also in the box is an in-car and mains adapter.
If you can cope with the slightly slow to respond software this is a good unit to go for. Its large screen is easy to read and the inclusion of button controls on the side and the stylus means it won't be greased within seconds. In addition to that the pre-installed SD Card means you are ready to go from the start. This unit isn't by any means perfect, but for the price it's a good start.