Sony may not be the first company you think of when considering satnav solutions but it’s dabbled in the market over the years, first with a notebook solution, then a PDA version and now with its own range of dedicated devices.
The NV-U51G is a budget priced module that is aimed directly as the space dominated by the likes of TomTom and Garmin. So it’s a rather plain box with a 3.5-inch touchscreen that fills the front of the unit. The screen is clear and bright and we had no trouble seeing it in even bright conditions. The onboard menu is a little tricky at first, as there is no real navigation system offered but once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly intuitive.
You tap instructions with your finger, so the icons are quite large and dumpy. We’d have preferred the option of using a stylus but one isn’t bundled with it, so you may find yourself using the end of a pen instead. A "draw and go" feature allows you to plot your destination by tapping it on the map. The NV-U51G also saves a list of recently visited destinations, giving you a variety of simple ways in which to input an address. We found the Sony quick to locate satellites, thanks to a SiRF Star III GPS chipset, and it rarely lost its signal.
On the move, we found it to be an excellent device, giving clear instructions in plenty of time, allowing you to place yourself on the road accordingly. Verbal instructions are also clear and concise, and adjusting the volume is a simple process - something that isn't always the case on rivals. However, even with the speech muted, the buttons still make a loud noise when pressed.
Weighing a mere 280g, you can easily take it with you on foot. However, the bulky design makes it less than ideal for this purpose as the design is aimed at being mounted in your car. Our only real problem with the unit arose with the car mounting kit. Although the rubber suction pad provides an adequate hold, attaching it is made difficult and time consuming due to various adjustable knobs that get in the way.
When it comes to the maps, it starts to show its budget price. It has maps of the UK and Republic of Ireland pre-installed on 512MB of built-in flash memory, although with no card reader, you won't be able to upgrade this in the future.
As a budget device, the Sony NV-U51G is well worth the asking price but we’d suggest that if you have the budget, opt for one of the more expensive models that support future upgrading of maps. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a good device and if your needs are simply, it’ll more than get the job done.