Have you ever driven fifty miles out of your way before realizing the map was upside down? Have you ever had to stop and make that embarrassing phone call when you got lost on the way to a friend’s house (or worse, a date or job interview)? Or the ultimate insult…have you ever had to stop at a seedy gas station or motel off the highway and ask for directions (yup, when you hit the cornfield, you have gone too far)?
Well, Navigon is putting an end to all of these and many other embarrassing situations. With the Navigon 7100 GPS Receiver, you never need to worry about getting lost again. And most importantly, you will never have to worry about folding your map back into the glove box. Let’s take a closer look.
What’s In the Box: The Navigon 7100 includes everything you will need in order to get started right away. In addition to the receiver, you will find:
- The relevant maps (in my case United States and North America, sans Mexico) on a single SD card
- A stylish car mount which can suction onto your window or can be permanently stuck onto your dashboard
- A drawstring cloth pouch, which is just big enough to hold the GPS receiver, but no accesories
- car adaptor, AC adaptor, and USB adaptor, so you will never be without an option for charging the battery. One nice feature is that the AC Adaptor has a removable head which can be replaced for international travel (as shown on the below).
- external microphone, with several suction cups to ensure easy placement in any convenient location.
- a plastic stylus, which slides discreetly into the back of the receiver.
Quick Overview: This is the part in the review where we would normally give you a quick tour of the device. To be honest, though, there are very few controls to discuss.
All you will find on the top is the SD card slot. I love the fact that maps are stored on an SD card. This means (in theory), you could swap out maps if you were to travel overseas. It also makes it very easy to update the maps at a later time, although I could find no information on how to obtain updated maps.
The right side contains the power button. The left side is empty.
The bottom contains a reset button, to be used in case of an emergency (this is the equivelant of a soft reset or reboot and should not erase any of your saved data); and a microphone jack for use with voice recognition commands and the telephone features. There is also a mini USB connection into which you can plug the car adaptor, AC adaptor or USB adaptor.
The back of the device has a huge speaker which provides driving instructions loud and clear. There is also a jack for the external antenna (should you need it) and sheath for the stylus.
The majority of the back of the device is taken up by the car mount connector. The car mount easily twists onto the back for a secure connection. once the two are connected, they rest together so seamlessly that they almost appear to be a single unit. The car mount itself is extremely configurable. The head is mounted on a swivel, which allows you to position the receiver at any convenient angle.
At its base, there is a ring of sticky tape on a plastic cover. Use this sticky tape to mount the GPS to the dashboard. If you do not wish to permanently affix it, just remove the plastic cover to reveal a suction cup which will securely hold the GPS receiver to the front windshield of your car.
That leaves only the front which is pretty much entirely made up of the fantastic 4.3 inch, high contrast screen, with an ultra-wide 16:9 aspect ratio. I thought the screen was amazing and really did a great job of displaying all relevant information. Of course, we will talk about the information contained on the screen later. On the bottom of the face is an LED light which shows the power and battery status.
Before Your Start Your Trip: When you turn on the Navigon, you will be initially presented with the standard warning about not operating the GPS while driving. While I understand the intent of this message, it always makes me chuckle because driving in the car is the only time I use the GPS. Still, I do recommend programming your destination before you begin your trip. Let’s take a closer look at how easy that is to do.
Your trip will always begin from your current location. All you have to do is enter your destination. There are four ways to do so. If this is a new location, tap the “New Destination” button.
You can then begin searching for an address, point of interest, or directly access the nearest airport, restaurant, or Zagat rated restaurant.
To enter a location, just select the state at the top, and then begin typing. Once you have entered the street, number, and city or zip code, tap the “Start Navigation” button. Piece of cake.
If you have already saved you home location, then just tap the “Take Me Home” button. This will automatically plan a route from your current location to your house. Additionally, you can save other locations under the “My Destinations” button. From here, you can connect to your last destinations or your saved favorites. Finally, you can program locations to be recognized by voice command. Just tap the voice command and speak after the tone.
For a little extra customization, tap the Options button. From here, you can change your starting point, change the preferred route, add points of interest and intermediary stops, and configure seven pages worth of basic settings affecting the what information will be displayed on the screen, and how it will appear.
I was extremely impressed by how easy and intuitive it was to enter a destination. Regardless of whether you are inputting a new destination from scratch, searching for a saved destination, or using voice commands, it never takes more than a few steps to get going. This is perfect!
Hitting The Road: Once you have entered your destination, the Navigon receiver will automatically calculate your route. Using the Route Profile options menus, the Navigon actually gives you quite a bit of control over the route selection.
You can select the fastest route, optimum route, short route, or scenic route. You can also instruct the Navigon whether to allow highways, toll roads, ferries, and u-turns.
I did notice that, despite this customization, there were still a few times that the Navigon recommended a route which was different than the one I preferred. No problem. As soon as I turned onto my preferred road, it automatically (and very quickly, I might add) adjusted to the new course and replotted the route.
Once you have set all of the options that best fit your trip, you have the choice of navigating on a map in 2D or 3D resolution. Additionally, you can choose a Mapquest-style, turn-by-turn directions.
In addition to showing your route in a clear two or three-dimensional map, there is an impressive array of secondary information which can be displayed on the screen. By far, the most useful feature for navigating my way around the Washington, DC area (one of the highest traffic areas in the United States) was the integrated traffic receiver.
Now, this is not necessarily a unique feature for a GPS. What is unique is that it is absolutely free. Typically, the traffic receiver requires a separate subscription service. Including it free of charge really makes the Navigon stand out among many other receivers. Just tap the traffic icon under options and you will be presented with any relevant traffic events along your route.
In case there is a traffic event along your route, you may find that part of your route is blocked. In this case, just tap the roadblock icon and tell the Navigon approximately how long the road will be blocked. It will automatically plan an alternate route for you in seconds. One problem I found here, however, was that it will only plan an alternate route from your present location. This makes it difficult to plan ahead if you know a roadblock will be coming later in your route. It would be nice if you could enter the location of the block along your route and have the Navigon plan in advance.
Likewise, at any time during your trip, you can add an interim stop, location, or point of interest. This is fantastic for those last second decisions to spontaneously visit Yellowstone Park or Mount Rushmore in the middle of that trip across the country. Just tap skip route point to ignore the interim stop.
This brings us to my favorite feature of the Navigon receiver, the Reality View Lane Assistant. One of my least favorite activities when traveling is driving on strange highways. Was that a left hand exit? These two highways split when? Well, no need to worry about any of that with the Navigon Lane Assistant. As you approach the highway changes, the Lane Assistant will switch to a view of the road, showing the highway signs and displaying an arrow on the correct road. This makes navigating your ay through strange cities and highways incredibly easy.
In addition to these “in-route” features, there is also a great deal of statistical information available on the screen. At a glance, you can find:
- your current road
- the next turn
- distance to the next turn
- speed limit
- directional compass
- remaining distance
- duration of trip
- time of arrival
Of course, all of these can be toggled in the settings menu. This leaves my wife’s favorite feature, the speed limit warning. The Navigon will be so kind as to warn you when you exceed a set speed above the posted speed limit. While this was amusing at first, it was quickly turned off as we sped down the turnpike at…well, I better not tell you what the actual speed was, but it was fast enough to invoke a warning from the Navigon receiver.
Points of interest: One thing I always find when we travel is the abundance of unplanned, intermediary stops. Someone gets hungry, or we take longer than expected and need to find a hotel room, or the worst of all: the unplanned bathroom break. The Navigon 7100 includes 31 categories (with a total of over four million points of interest), including:
- government services
- cultural and sightseeing activities
- and a full range of Zagat rated activities and stops.
This is a fantastic way to identify and plan the stops along your trip. I did notice, however, that it did not recognize toll road plaza stops along. This is a real problem because we do use the turnpike and other toll roads for travel quite frequently. The fact that these points of interest were not recognized could hinder our trip planning.
The Navigon does not, however, just point out the selected points of interest, however. Let’s face it, when you are hungry, not just any restaurant will do. Ask my kids, Wendy’s is not the same as McDonald’s. So, I need to know which is which when we are planning stops along the trip. The Navigon offers fully branded points of interest. Not only will it tell you what is coming, but it will show the logo or other branded icon whenever appropriate. This means, we can always ensure we don’t just stop at any restaurant, but we will always stop at the correct one.
Maps: I was extremely impressed by the maps in the Navigon. Oftentimes, I have found GPS maps do not always recognize some of the back roads on which we travel regularly. The Navigon never had a problem with this. In fact, the only problem I encountered were with newly constructed roads. I live in an area which is currently under heavy development. This means roads are constantly being rerouted, redeveloped, and simply constructed. I tried to look up the availability of updated maps and could not find any information on the Navigon website. Since the maps are all stored on an SD card, however, loading updated maps would be as easy as inserting a new card.
Bluetooth Phone: Interestingly, the Navigon is also Bluetooth enabled. This allows it to connect to your phone via Bluetooth and act as an in-car hands free accessory. Initially, I had some concerns with this feature, as I was afraid that talking on the phone would temporarily interrupt navigation, but it really seemed to be able to do both at the same time. I was a bit disappointed by the quality of the Bluetooth connection which was extremely static filled. The Sprint Mogul, however, has had well documented problems with Bluetooth hands free devices. As such, it was impossible for me to determine whether the poor connection was related to the GPS receiver, my phone, or a combination of the two. Still, in states which now require the use of a hands free device, this can be a handy feature.
Battery: I was really not impressed by the battery (which is not removable or replaceable) on this unit. It is an 1150MaH battery, which is really underpowered for this screen and constant GPS connectivity. As such, it is rated for only four hours of use (per six hour charge). I found the battery did not even last this long. From a full charge, I got about two to three hours of use. Fortunately, with all of the included charging adaptors, you should rarely need to use the Navigon on battery power alone.
Where to Buy: Navigon
What I Liked: great looking screen, amazingly accurate maps, robust branded points of interest, easy to setup and use, extremely customizable display, the Lane Assistant is simply phenomenal, integrated traffic receiver.
What Needs Improvement: poor battery, points of interest should include toll road plazas.