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A while back I visited the world of satellite navigation, which meant that I no longer needed to carry a lot of maps around with me. I started off with a simple device which basically helped me get from A to Z without having to go through L and back.
So the other month when a friend of mine gave me his old sat nav I gave it a test run straight away, soon realising that it made the one that I was using in my car seem like I was still using an A-Z of Manchester, flipping through the pages in order to find Corporation street.
This sat nav that I had my hands on was one with a well known name, no, not tomtom, but Garmin, who, as we all know, love to help people get around places without getting lost.
The Germin satnav that I am talking about is called the Zumo 660lm, which, seemed at first to be like any other satnavs, only this one had a couple of extra little bits on offers.
Firstly, when I was given this and I opened the box, I was a little confused as to all the things in there, those being a couple of mounting brackets, a dashboard disk, a suction pad and a few power cables. Most of the things were straight forward to understand what they were supposed to be for but it was the mounting brackets that I had to check out why there were more than one of them.
But once I knew what they were for I understood exactly how they were supposed to work.
* Now, allow me to give you a brief description of what this satnav actually looks like, before I tell you about how it works...
It's a normal looking satnav, a wide screen one, with a rectangular shape and not a square one as some satnavs are.
On the front there is the touch screen, which is a goof 4.3inch from corner to corner, with the entire unit itself being about 100mm wide by 60mm high by a mere 25mm thick, weighing in at a mere 270grams
On the left side, as you look at the screen, there is a little rubber flap which, when pulled up, reveals the headphone/audio jack, plus an aerial socket below that.
When you turn this around, on the back, there is a micro USB slot and a microSD slot, which are on the same side as the removable battery.
Also on the rear there is a speaker and the connection ports which connects to the stand.
On the bottom, if you turn it upside down, you'll see a little slider which, when slid, will release the battery cover for you to get at the battery.
So that's what it looks like, although
It does claim that the casing is water proof but I wouldn't risk dropping it in the bath, although why you'd have it in the bath I don't know.
* What about the mounting brackets that came in the box and confused me a little..?
There are two mounting brackets that comes with this satnav, one for when you're travelling in a car, which I use the most, in fact, I use this 99% of the time really.
This one has a sucker pad on one end and a ball joint on the other. The sucker pad is in two parts, one on top of each other, with the top one having a lever on it that, when pressed down, takes any air that is left in between the pad and the windscreen so that the pad sticks properly to the glass. Then, to take it off, you lift the lever to open the vacuum, relaxing the suction of the pad to the glass.
The other end is the ball joint which the charging cradle slots over and allows the cradle to be moved around so that you can get that perfect visual position.
As for the other mounting bracket, this is for when you want to use this on a motorbike or a bicycle. This bracket is a straight piece of metal that also has a ball joint on one end, which the ball joint works in the same way as the other bracket.
But to attach this bracket there is no suction pad, there's only a curved metal rod, in the shape of a horse shoe, that had a thread on both ends. This goes around the handle bars of the two wheel vehicle and the ends slide through the two holes on the metal rod with the ball joint. Then you simply place the little nuts onto the threads and tighten them up as tight as you can, but not too tight. Finally, you have to add another piece in between this bracket and the cradle, this is a straight piece made up of what looks like two pieces that are kept together with a large tap type screw.
You have to add another bracket with a ball joint onto the cradle so that you can then attach both cradle and bracket together using the straight piece.
This may sound complicated but it is pretty straight forward really and, as the central straight piece can be mover around on the two ball joints it is ideal for any positions when riding a bike.
So now you've got the brackets in place and pushed the cradle onto the ball joint, it's now simple matter of pushing in the satnav itself, which goes in easier if you put the bottom in first and then push in the top part, clicking the lot into place.
Job done. You're ready to find places that you never knew existed without getting too lost.
* How do we get the power to the satnav..?
The thing that was different about this satnav, compared to others I have used, is that the power cable actually slots into the cradle, rather than the actual satnav. So you need the cradle in order to power the device up. Which can be a pain in the watsits sometimes as you have to take off the cradle each time you want to charge it when you're not in your vehicle.
* So how about the charging then..?
You simply slot in the power lead, be that from the mains supply or the vehicle you're in.
It takes about 12 hours to get a full charge from an electricity supply, but longer from the car battery supply, especially if the satnav is switched on. But once charged it should last a good 5 hours of travel time without being plugged into the power point of you car.
Once charged up you can use it without the cable attached to it, which is ideal for when you're walking about, but it does discharge, obviously.
* So what does this satnav offer..?
Out of the box, so to speak, it has a selection of pre-loaded maps covering Europe, with the opportunity of downloading and installing more maps from the website.
Firstly, it offer a few methods of navigation, in a way, asking if you want to use it for particular journey, be that on a motorbike, bicycle or even walking. This is so the satnav can adjust the settings in order to help your journey.
This confused me at first, basically as I though no matter what I was driving, riding, or even walking, then the destination is still going to be in the same place at the end of the day.
However, these settings do make a difference after all. For example, if you're in a car it shows the best routes for that vehicle as if you're on a bicycles of motorbike then there may be narrower roads that your bike can get down where as a car won't. then there's the walking option which takes you down roads that a car would never get down, or maybe one way systems which a pedestrian can walk down but a car has to go the other way.
You get the point, so pressing the right option does make a difference after all.
Plus, when you put this in a cradle that is not the cradle that your options have chosen, it asks if you want to change you mind.... It's that clever.
But once set up and navigating it shows you where you are and where you need to go by the wonderful clear 3D type mapping image on the screen, although this can be changed from 3D to 2D or even a straight forward style map. Then, it also talks to you to let you know when and where the next junction, or turning, is coming up, giving you a countdown in either miles, kilometres or even metres, so you can't really miss the turning you need.
It also has a few other built in technology, such as a speed limit warning system that tells you the speed restrictions in certain places. Then there's a vast amount of pre installed points of interest, (or POI as it's called on here), with the opportunity of downloading more, which can be stored on the microSD card so you can download them onto your PC, transfer them to the microSD card, then slot the card into the satnav. This saves plugging the satnav into your PC.
Plus, other sort of useful things such as a clock, calculator, converter, image viewer, audio book player and music player
* Is it easy to use..?
Simple. In fact, if you've used a satnav before then this is more or less the same to use.
Briefly though you simply switch the unit on and you'll be presented with the menu screen. Along the top you'll see the signal strength, Bluetooth activated or not, mode selection, that being car, bike or foot. Then there's the battery power and then the clock.
Below these settings there is a blue icon, resembling a magnifying glass, which, when touched, takes you to the options to input the place where you want to go. Anyway, also on this menu screen, there is three more touch buttons, those being the Bluetooth call option, volume control and the settings themselves, or tools as they are called on this satnav, but it all means the same.
So to choose a destination you press the magnifying glass, then you'll see the destination screen where you input the destination, which can be selected using either a postcode, street name or town... I tend to use the post code as it is easier to input, but it does take you to the centre of that postcode area which can be a little out of the destination you really want, but not that far off.
Once this is done you can then choose whether you want to avoid certain roads, such as motorways, or even back streets that might take you down a dirt track that only camels should be riding down.
Then you just press the green button on the next screen and the satnav will then begin searching for the best route to where ever it is you want to go.
This process usually takes a few seconds, although it depends on whether you have a good view of the skies as this is where they hide the statalites....
Inputting the addresses is done using the on screen qwerty keyboard that pops up when you press the search key. You then use the keyboard as you would a normal one, pushing the letters and numbers as you go.
The satnav's voice will speak out the letters and numbers as you press them, letting you know what you've pressed.
* Is it easy to program..?
Here's another big yes. You don't need a HND in computer programming, nor do you need to have the latest computer program that can hack into the pentagon military files storage system.
All you need to have is a finger to poke at the screen and a list of postcodes so you know where you're going. Or a few addresses, street names, town centres or anything really.
And what's more... I think I mentioned that you can have a route within a route, so to speak, where you input more than one destination in a certain order. This is ideal if you're a delivery driver or such like. This does come in handy for me sometimes and as it is easy to set up I tend to use it more than I should do really.
You simply touch the 'add via point' before you touch your final destination and input the 'via point' targets in the order you want to visit them. Then you input your final destination.
You will then be directed to each 'point' in the list with each one finishing when you reach it.
Simple as that really.
You can set up a list of destinations that you use regularly, putting them in what is called the 'favourite' files. This saves time when you want to visit somewhere that you're always going to. Although I do find that the more you go to somewhere the easier it is to find without the aid of the satnav, but it's nice to have as a back up in case you forget which way you're going.
* Is the map easy to follow..?
Yes, especially when it's in the 3D mode as it really does look like it's in 3D, (that sounds obvious but I have used some satnavs in 3D mode that wouldn't have looked out of place in a Scooby Doo mission to catch the ghost, who always turned out to be a scientist in a costume or an old lady flying through the air on a piece of string).
Anyway, you are represented on the screen by a little icon, be that a car, bike or a person, which sits in the road area that the satnav thinks you're on.
Then, as you travel along, with the satnav telling you which way to turn, the icon follows the road, indicating where you are heading, with all the other roads, buildings, rivers and everything all around you as you go.
It may sound daft, or even a little complicated, but it's not. If you think of a little monopoly car being pushed along a map that is actually in 3D then you get the idea.
There are other ways for the satnav to give you a visual image of the road and the directions you need to take, but the 3D on is without doubt the best option.
* Is there anything else this satnav can do..?
There is in fact. It can link your phone up to it using the old fashioned Bluetooth system. This is done by initially linking your phone with the satnav, following the on screen instructions. Then, once done, you can answer or make calls using this devices touch screen system, pressing the appropriate areas on the screen when they appear.
For example, when a call comes in the call will appear on the screen, you then touch the answer logo and your call will answer, or, if you don't want to speak to that person, maybe the wife, then you can just press the ignore logo... simple really
The good thing about this is that this satnav automatically uploads your phonebook into its memory so that you can then use it to make a call using your contacts.
You can also play music through this satnav, although I don't tend to do that, but I have tested it out and it's not that bad, but it's no 'boom box'.
* So what do I think of this satnav then..?
This is a good all round satnav at the end of the day, making my journey a lot more hassles than it used to be.
It is straight forward to use, made even easier if you've used a satnav before, and is just a matter of touching the screen as the 'instructions' come up.
The screen is nice and clear, being widescreen, giving more to see than a standard viewing square screen. It is one of those 'anti glare' covers which is supposed to stop the sun from glaring onto it and help you see the directions on the map clearer
The 3D routings are unbelievably easy to understand, especially with the lane assist function which shows up well in time to let you know which lane you should be in in order to continue your journey, an arrow showing you the way you have to go. (Although please note that this function does not work all the time, only where it is available, what ever that really means).
The speed of the touch screen is pretty fast too, blasting from one screen to another on the touch of your fingers, making the set up take seconds rather than minutes.
The speaker is pretty clear and load, although when I have music on in the car I can struggle to hear the directions coming from the satnav. But this isn't too bad as the on screen image makes up for that, warning me about upcoming changes of direction, so that I know to turn my music down so I can hear the voice of the satnav.
There are quite a few things on this satnav that I like, such as the options to select what type of route you want to take, be that direct, shortest or avoiding certain 'busy' roads. This gives me more of a choice in how I want to get to my destination, which is nice.
Another thing I like about this is the way that it actually tells you were you are and where you should be going. What I mean by that is that unlike the satnav I had, which spoke basic instructions, such as "turn right in 100 metres", or "straight ahead", this one actually tells me the names of the places and roads that I am passing, such as "turn left onto scumbag road", or "straight ahead along chavington place", or even "drive around the dead hedgehog on McDonalds view and then straight on along Horsemeat avenue", although that last one may not quite be real but you get the meaning.
It's great that you can set a number of trips in one session, up to 20 trips in fact, which comes in handy if you are visiting a few places in one day and haven't really got the time to keep adding the postcodes and addresses between each journey.
And another really fine point of this satnav is that it give a life time free map updates which not many other satnavs offer for free. Many I have used ask for a fee in order to update the maps every so often.
Then there's the Bluetooth system which helps keep you safe whilst driving as you don't have to have your hand attached to your ear when you get a call from the boss, or wife, (or both).
Plus, you can even download new voices so that you don't have to keep listening to the same boring voices that come pre-installed. Although I'm sort of used to the voice that's comes out of the speakers so u haven't tried any of the others.
* What more can I say about this satnav..?
There's a lot I could go into about this satnav, telling you about all its functions and how to go through them all, but that would take up more space and you'd no doubt get so bored you may fall asleep at the wheel, next week sometimes.
So I'll just say that this offers an easy to see and an delight to listen to form of way to find somewhere that you want to get too.
It is easy to use with the touch of a screen and the maps on it are clearer than a brand new pane in a window.
* So how much does this SatNav cost then..?
This satnav isn't cheap. Far from it, which is why I'm glad that I acquired it for nothing really as it usually sells for about £400.
As I said, it's not cheap
* Would I recommend this one..?
This is a tricky question indeed. I mean, it is a cracking satnav and offers a great deall more thatn just a map that tells you were to go. So for that I'd have to say yes.
But, for the hefty price tag I'd have to say no, I mean, £400 quid is a lot of money for a satnav these days, even if it has got a lot on it and can offer more than some others.
There are cheaper satnavs out there which do the job of getting you from one place to another, these selling for the £100 - £150 mark, or even cheaper, so going for this one is something that you really have to think about.
If you can get this a lot cheaper than the high price, maybe for about £200 - £250, then it may be worth seriously thinking about. So do shop around as there is always a bargain to be had out there.