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Navman SmartGPS review

Posted on 7-Aug-2014 14:53 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

I had the Navman SmartGPS for a few weeks now for this review. Used it around the Wellingon region and have to say it's a very capable in-car navigation system with interesting features.

The unit itself is no different in size than other GPS devices you might be used to. What's interesting is the number of services available direct on this device and some of the featrures.

For starters the Navman SmartGPS runs on an Android platfom. It doesn't mean you have direct access to the Android menus and apps here, but it means Navman can more easily develop features to enhance the unit.

The first feature that comes to mind is right in front of you in the user interface: access to all functionality is through a soft key on the top left that acts like a "Home" button. On top of the screen you will see a "wheel" and you can slide it left or right to increase the on-screen map size, or to show more of its "cards".

These cards show a variety of information, from weather information to delays and traffic events in your route or close to the set destination.

It also shows cards for businesses around you, thanks to data from FourSquare and MenuMania (a New Zealand restaurante review website recently acquired by Zomato). There is a card for petrol prices as well but this is only available in Australia.

You can obviously tap a card and have the route to this destination automatically calculated for you. Handy when traveling through new places and you need suggestions for places to eat or stay for example.

The unit comes with a windshield suction cup meet charger adapter. It's preety weel designed and you can single handedly slip the Navman SmartGPS in out of this holder with no trouble. The power cord doubles up as the aerial for the built-in radio that receives traffic data from the SUNA service.

The SUNA service is available in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch. It basically broadcasts traffic information to GPS and mobile apps that use this information in their routing planning. In case a delay is expected in your route you are offered the option of having a new route recalculated and you can then bypass this delay.

You can get data to your Navman SmartGPS in a variety of ways. You can login to a website to enter your phonebook, favourite destinations and even calculate routes and then transfer this information to your device via USB. It will also transfer updated FourSquare and MenuMania information around your location, routes and favourites so you have this handy when driving.

While connected you can also check for map and system updates. Street and landmark information is supplied by Navman's map partner Here Maps (a Nokia coimpany) and you get map updates for the life of the device!

Alternatively your Navman SmartGPS can connect to a WiFi network and access this information via wireless. And last you can pair it to a smartphone via Bluetooth and do clever things such as find address on your mobile device and sync this to your GPS unit.

Unfortunately I couldn't get the Navman GPS app working since it fails to run on devices running Android 4.4 or newer. A shame because I can see this as a handy help when a passenger could do the searches using the phone and the push it to the device. Still waiting for an updated app to try this again.

The Navman SmartGPS comes with the Android stock browser so you can easily access information while on the go. And while connected via Bluetooth it can also be used as a speakerphone for your mobile.

Once you have a route established you can change the map size to show more or less cards (or none at all) as you wish.

Signal acquisition time is exceptionally low, with almost instant location as soon as you turn the GPS on. You don't actually turn the unit off that much really anyway. As soon as you remove a power source it will ask if you want it to go to sleep to save energy, which allows for instant start. Even during this sleep it continues to update its data via WiFi at intervals - at least it tells me it's been updated with new information when I take it to the car.

Battery use seems normal for a smart device - a few days with WiFi connection but no use, to a few hours (around four to five) with continuous display. Since it's been used in the car most of the times it will be in the windshield mount with the power cable anyway, so not a big problem.

Voice guidance is a standard feature in most GPS but this one gets a step ahead by using landmarks, such as "after the petrol station" when giving you instructions. It also shows on screen lane directions when you need some guidance, such as an off ramp exit on a three or four lane motorway, showing exactly where you should be when getting to important points in your journey.

The website usability is a bit strange. For example if I look at my profile it says "Visit if you wish to make changes to your account information" but when visiting this other site there's nowhere to login to change my profile. I contacted support who confirmed this and replied saying if I wanted any information updated I needed just to email then.

Because this is a highly specialised unit, with location-based cards that are tightly coupled to our market, it is a device for the Australian and New Zealand market only. If you need to buy maps for other countries you would then need to check some of the other Navman models.

Overall a very capable device, with an interesting feature set, good map support and live traffic updates. Recommended for anyone looking for an in-car GPS device in Australia and New Zealand thanks to its location aware cards.

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