Review: Nextar I4-BC GPS

I am a GPS nut, and  I have been since I won my first one, a Garmin GPS-12 at the Dayton Hamvention as a door prize.  That Garmin had no maps in it, but fortunately it’s almost unheard of to not have included maps on a GPS unit these days.  So what makes the Nextar I4-BC special?  Let’s find out.

The Nextar I4-BC is a GPS based on the Microsoft Windows CE 5.0 core.  It boots displaying the Netropa Intellinav software, so you can hardly tell that this device runs Windows CE, until you see the Windows CE sticker on the back of the device.  The trick to the I4-BC is that it also includes a camera which mounts on the back of your vehicle using the existing license plate bolts.  In the package it also includes some extended bolts, in case the ones on your car are not long enough.  Mine, however worked out fine.

Image Provided by Nextar

Image Provided by Nextar

The camera gets it power whenever you put your vehicle in reverse.  To wire it into your vehicle, you’ll splice across one of the reverse lights.  When you put the gear shift in reverse and these lights come on, the camera comes on and the GPS display flips to the rear view image. After you put your car back into gear, the I4-BC flips back to navigation mode.

Installation was fairly easy, but you should be forewarned that you may have to take various parts of your car apart.  I had to take some trim pieces off as well as one of my tail lights to wire the GPS into the van.  Also, the leads that are included on the camera won’t be long enough for some vans or extended bed pickup trucks; I ended up buying some more wire and some crimps to get the connection made.  You may also want to have a drill for your installation too, so you can hide the wires.  Since my installation wasn’t permanent, I did it as destruction free as I could, and I managed to not damage my vehicle in any visible way because I did not drill holes.  If you buy this GPS unit, then I highly recommend drilling a hole for the wire to avoid having the cable being shut in your trunk lid as I did in my installation.

The navigation mode is very easy to understand.  The status display is my favorite on this because it always shows the time and the distance, plus you can also display all points of interest along the way; this is something that the Dash does not do.

The Nextar I4-BC also can be a MP3 Player; however, you cannot play MP3’s while your in navigation mode.  This kind of makes the MP3 player only useful when your not using it in the car.  The problems don’t end there: the headphone jack is not a standard 3.5 mm, it’s a 2.5 mm jack making it even more difficult to use, as a lot of the FM transmitters and Bluetooth adapters available are 3.5 mm devices only.  Furthermore, the MP3 player doesn’t read ID3 tag information, and you can’t create play lists.  It’s a very dumbed down MP3 player that I would ONLY use if it was all I had.

You can also use the I4-NC to view images on the SD card.  This works fine and is kind of useful because it is a bigger LCD that can be used to show off pictures taken while in the field.  You can zoom in on the pictures, rotate them… and that’s about it.  There’s no provision for a automatic slide show, and you can’t play music or navigate at the same time your viewing pictures.

In comparison to my Dash, the Nextar is tiny.  It’s about the size of most old-school Windows Mobile handhelds; the Dash is a giant next to it.  However, my opinion is that the Dash has the upper hand inphysical properties becuse it hasd a nice long mount when you use the included extension.  The Nextar I4-BC has a cheap plastic mount with a suction cup and it’s very short.  I had to lean forward in the car seat to manipulate the touch screen…not good if you’re the driver.  To be fair, I did have to lean forward with the dash as well, but not nearly as far as with the Nextar.

I could generally read the screen unless there was direct sunlight on it, and again, it would have helped if it had a better mount.  If you own a minivan, this device may not be for you, as most mini’s have a huge dashboard thanks to the large sloping windshield.  When you put the GPS at the right eye level, it’s very far away.  Most times it was ok, but sometimes I had to strain.  You may need to experiment with the positioning in your vehicle.

Now I’ve talked about everything but the navigation software, so let’s cover that The Netropa Intellinav software that runs this device is almost identical to what you can run on any Windows Mobile device, and It performs all navigation functions adequately.  The maps have the same issues as the Dash maps, as they are still out of date.  One example is a road that was recently taken out when we built a new building at work.  Normally it’s not a big deal, and if you vary from the displayed route, the GPS will reroute you to your destination.

One thing that the Nextar unit has over the Dash is that I can set up a multi-destination trip; you can’t do this on the Dash, yet.  This works well, except it will not automatically go from one destination to the next.  You need to interact with the screen to indicate you want to go to the next destination.  This makes it very inconvenient if you want to have tighter control on your route.  I suggest just routing directly to your destination, and letting the GPS recalculate if you choose not to follow any of the GPS wackiness that I have come to accept.

Speaking of this wackiness, every GPS has some.  No one has gotten it right yet, and likely no one ever will.  What makes sense to me, may not to you.  However I dislike having incorrect addresses.  For example, my own house is off by about 3-4 houses on the Nextar’s map, and this is common on my street – even Google Maps messes it up.  So I have just accepted that no one will get this 100 percent.  What I am saying is that you should never rely soley on your GPS to get you anywhere.  Use the two ocular devices on your head to look, and the computer in your head to make judgements; don’t let any GPS act as your brain or ultimately you will still get lost or possibly end up in a accident.

Is the Nextar I4-BC worth the $299 price?  I don’t think so.  It does its job, but it tries to do too many things.  The backup camera is a excellent idea and one I would like to see on more GPS navigation units.  However, I would rather they had left off the MP3 player and photoviewer as neither are all that great.  There are better ways to play music and view photos.  So don’t let these features dazzle you when you see it in the store.  They kind of suck to the point where I was wondering”why did they even try?”

Finally, because this unit is based on the Windows CE 5.0, I had to wonder why it couldn’t multitask anything?  It seems like you should be able, at the very least, to have music on at the same time the device is navigating.  If I am to use the MP3 Player, then that would be the most likely situation when I would want to use it.  The reason being that is in the car, I don’t need a fancy MP3 player. I want to just hit play and get some tunes going while I try and find the place I want to go.  If I need to navigate using the GPS, then it’s impossible to use the MP3 player, and that’s a failure in the software design in my opinion.  It may have been done for safety, but if they were truly worried about that, then why include the ability to play music at all?

With that said, if it were on sale, I would go for the Nextar.  The backup camera works well and helps when you’re using it with large vehicles.  If it’s the full price, I would pass and get the more capable (and cheaper!) Magellan or Tom Tom.

The Nextar I4-BC is available at for $226.86 and at JCPenny for $299

What I liked: POI push pins being displayed along the route.  I also liked the Speed Alert, the status line across the bottom and the backup camera.  It was also smaller than my Dash which makes it easy to stow in my pocket.

What I didn’t Care for: The price and the fact that you could not multitask any of its features.

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2 replies

  1. I agree this PNA (personal navigation assistant) unit (as opposed to a GPS receiver-only) isn’t terribly impressive for the price. I’ve never been a big fan of the Intellinav software either.

    What’s interesting is the map innacuracies you mention. Intellinav generally uses Navteq maps which, in the U.S. are generally considered to be more accurate than TeleAtlas maps (which are generally considered more accurate in Europe). I’ve just started working with OCN8 which uses TeleAtlas maps and some of the old innacuracies are still there.

    Address innacuracies happen because roads and address blocks are stored by road segment. Most software divides the addresses (in most cases) evenly across the road segment. That way the sotrage of address dara takes up less space. You’re right, though – even the online maps line up things incorrectly. I don’t think this will get resolved anytime soon since it would mean storing exact locations for millions of addresses. Can you imagine what that would do to map size? i gue4ss they figure if they can get you on the right block you should be good to go.

  2. Interesting. Learn something new everyday! 😀

    Actually, it COULD be done. I don’t think it would be THAT big of an increase to the map size. It all should

    The Netropa software just isn’t my cup of tea. I MUCH prefer Garmin and the Dash maps.

    Plus, at this price point, there are much better Sat Nav’s out there.