(Pocket-lint) - Portable in-car satnav systems have come a long way in a short time. Budget models have shown particular improvement. Garmin's woeful Streetpilot, launched a couple of years back, would have forever put many off buying a budget model again.

Today, devices such as the Chicago 6000, Route 66's first foray into this particular sector of GPS solution, prove that cheaper models have become as trouble-free and competent as more expensive models, but simply have fewer luxuries. OK, so this one has an MP3 player (more on that ludicrous extra in a bit) but Route 66 has pretty much all you need and more to get from A to Z, via G,L and T if you feel the need.

The Chicago 6000 may have a daft name, but there's little that's daft about its functionality. The UK mapping is almost faultless and offers all the info you need, including a good selection of roadside POI. Detailed European maps and Continental route finder aren't included but main routes and trunk roads are all there if you'd rather use a digital device than a good old fashioned fold-out map.

It'll store your home and office locations, keeps a longish list of past routes and offers a good variety methods to get there, including shortest, fastest and via. So far so ordinary, but the screen is crisper and larger than most similarly priced models, and the inclusion of a graphic that tells you which lane you need to be in is useful.

Unfortunately, the touchscreen sucks. Stylus taps need to be precise and unusually firm, although a little digital clicking noise makes you think a tap has been registered, it often hasn't. And if you prefer to use your fingers, you'll definitely need long nails and free from any form of calcium deficiency. It wouldn't be that bad, but for the confusing and often illogical menu system that you'll need to navigate quite a lot if you need to change settings.

And while it's much quicker than many more expensive models at getting a GPS lock, and it rarely loses the signal, it did send me the wrong way on two seperate occasions. Battery life is also questionable and after just a month it won't take a full charge.


Overall, though, the Chicago 6000 has enough advantages in the budget end of the market to recommend it, depsite it's obvious faults. But for the love of all that's holy, don't think that the MP3 thing makes this any more a worthwhile purchase than getting a toilet that also makes toast. You will never use it.

Writing by Jonathan Goddard.