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~ ~ Ive been contemplating buying an in-car satellite navigation system for ages, but to be honest the main thing stopping me was the very high initial cost of the purchase. They all seemed to be priced somewhere in the 350 to 600 plus bracket, and I found it very hard to justify this fairly large outlay for a system that I would only probably use a few times a week. (If that)
As a taxi driver of some years standing here in Dublin, Ireland, I already possess a fairly comprehensive (if not encyclopaedic) knowledge of the city and its immediate environs. In any case, I already have my trusty A to Z map book for the odd occasion Id be caught out.
But even though it couldnt be classed as an essential purchase, it still doesnt stop you *WANTING* something, now does it? You know us boys and our toys!
So after much investigation on the Web, and after reading a few highly complimentary reviews about car Sat-Navs here at dooyoo, I decided that my budget could probably stretch to an entry-level system.
~ ~ The next step was to trawl through the eBay listings in order to obtain the best possible system for the least amount of readies. The choice really came down to three manufacturers; Tom Tom, Navman, and Garmin Streetpilot. I eventually plumped for a Navman system, if for no better reason than they were the least expensive for a basic entry-level system. (Which is all I wanted)
I preferred a new system, so was prepared to pay slightly more than you would for a second-hand unit, and eventually picked up the Navman ICN 320, including a UK and Ireland memory card, for £125 plus £17 postage and packing. At £142 in total it wasnt that great a bargain to be honest, when compared to the new price from various online retailers like Amazon and the like, where it varied in price from about £135 to about £200. But it got me a wee bit more positive feedback on my eBay account, which is always a good thing. (Heh, heh)
WHAT YOU GET FOR YOUR MONEY
~ ~ Obviously you get the main Navman unit itself, which is small and compact, contrasting dark and light grey in colour, and measures approximately 5 inches long by 3 inches deep. Your main controls for scrolling through the various menus are situated to the right hand side of the small screen, which measures about two and a half inches by 2 inches. Also included is a suction mounted holder which you attach to your windscreen, and a cigarette lighter charger. You get a memory card holding all the navigation info for the UK and Ireland. And last but not least is the fairly clear instruction manual, which comes in all the major European languages.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
~ ~ Well, as my title for this review implies, there are some things about the ICN 320 that I think are good, others which I think are bad, and yet more to which Id be totally indifferent.
The idea is simple enough, and obviously the concept is sheer brilliance. You pop up the small built-in receiver on the back of the unit and power it up, and straight away it begins to seek out satellites to triangulate exactly where on the planet youre located. This can take anything from a few seconds to a few minutes depending on a variety of factors like where youre located in relation to the satellites and the weather conditions at the time. You need to pick up three satellites before it can operate properly. Seemingly, it wont work at all if its snowing heavily, which might be a wee bit of a drawback if you were lost in blizzard conditions, but thats not likely to happen too often here in the Republic of Ireland. Occasionally youll have to purchase a separate outside antenna if you have difficulty picking up a satellite signal, which can sometimes happen with certain types of modern heated windscreens. (It works OK on my old BMW)
I didnt like the suction cup holder. For starters, when you fix it to the inside of your windscreen it means the already small unit is quite a distance from you, which makes it extremely difficult to read. Also, when youre pressing the buttons to navigate through the menus, it has an extremely annoying habit of coming unstuck, which means your unit clatters around on the dashboard or slides to the floor. (Not good if youre moving at the time!) I ended up detaching the actual clip- holder from the suction cup, and fixing it permanently in position at the front of my dashboard with a couple of self-tapping screws.
~ ~ I wont bore the pants off you by going through all the different menus in minute detail. Suffice to say that if youre used to using a mobile phone, then youll have no problem at all with using the Navman. The menu system is very similar, and I had the knack of it within 5 minutes.
Basically you have a choice of the way you search for a location you want to go to. You can type in the town or city, search by using the postcode, or look for a specific street or address. There are also pre-set POIs (Points Of Interest) such as airports, ferry terminals, petrol stations, etc and an area where you can save addresses or locations as Favourites so you can access them more easily in the future. You can also save an address as your home location, so its easy to scroll to this to guide you home if you get yourself lost.
The town and address facility is predictive, so once you input the first few letters it will give you a choice of locations you can then scroll through to find the one you want. You can also choose an actual address, or to be guided to the centre of a street or to an intersection.
~ ~ Once Id moved the unit to the front of my dashboard it was easy enough to read and understand the rather small viewing screen. Information is given to you in a number of different ways. You have a choice of two maps, a detailed one showing where you actually are and guiding you towards your next turn, or an overview of your whole journey route. On the left of the screen theres a series of small pointers which show you graphically where you make your next turn. Theres also an instruction list screen, which will tell you using text the turns and roads you have to take. However, the most useful feature is the voice instruction. You have a choice of either a female or male voice in either US English or UK English, and this will tell you when and where to make your next manoeuvre. Theres also a choice of various other European languages. The unit has an integrated speaker built in to the back, and Ive had no problem with either the volume or the clarity of the instructions. Its just a pity that both the female and male voices sound as if they are re-employed robots from an old science fiction series! This can grate on your nerves after a while, and it would be nice to be able to download different voices (such as John Cleese, Ozzy Osbourne, etc) as you can with the Tom Tom unit.
~ ~ Overall you cant really fault the ICN 320. It does what its supposed to do, and guides you from point A to point B. But it does have its limitations.
The first time I used the unit in earnest I had a fare from the airport to a very large housing estate. The girl was a visitor, and hence didnt have a clue where she was going. I knew the estate OK, but not the exact location of the address she wanted. So I drove to the outskirts of the estate, and imputed the street I wanted onto the Navman. Bingo, within 10 seconds or so it had told me precisely what turns to make. Ten out of ten!
Next scenario. I get a fare to the main greyhound stadium from an outlying suburb during the Friday night rush-hour period. Now, to be honest, I already knew the location and the exact route I would be taking. But I imputed it into the Navman anyway to see what it would come up with.
Bad; VERY bad! The unit wanted to route me through the centre of town, and down some of the busiest and most congested streets in the city. Had I used the suggested route the fare would have taken three times as long, and have been three times more expensive for my customer. So instead I used my own local knowledge, and took my own route. In fairness, you couldnt really fault the Navman in as much as it HAD picked out the most obvious and shortest route to the location in terms of miles. But NOT in terms of speed and efficiency! The route it chose would have been fine for a visitor to the city who didnt have a clue where they were going, but not for someone with local knowledge. If Id taken the suggested route my customer (a local) would probably have lynched me on the spot before reporting me to the Carriage Office for trying to fleece him on the fare!
Another flaw is that the Navman seems to use central points as a reference for certain areas or addresses. For example, theres a massive roundabout just about 500 yards from my front door. Its one of the worst in the city both in terms of congestion and danger, as there are no fewer than six exits, which means traffic is coming at you from every which direction! I knew people that will go two miles out of their way simply to avoid negotiating this particular roundabout! Whenever I input my home address into the Navman, from whatever location in the city, it immediately wants to guide me directly to this roundabout, even when there are more favourable routes. Of course, I simply ignore it, but it does go to show its limitations!
~ ~ Next is a more serious flaw concerning both its map and voice instructions. The speed at which the Navman gives you instructions seems to be pre-set at a staggering 62mph. Now this might be OK if youre on a long trip from town to town down a motorway, (even then its a bit fast!) but not if youre crawling along in city traffic. This means that the Navman is always getting way ahead of you. In other words, its telling you to take a turn that may well still be a half-an-hour drive from your current location. The same thing applies with the instruction list directions. Once the Navman assumes youve made the turn, the instruction list moves on, and you cant scroll back to review it.
As far as I can make out there doesnt seem to be a way to re-set the speed, and thus the only way you can go back is to cancel the current route by scrolling back through the menu, and imputing it again from your recent trips list. This takes you back to your current position, and recalculates your route, but its damned annoying to say the least, and potentially dangerous if youre attempting to access the menus while actually driving in traffic.
~ ~ Next up is the Favourites section. You can save any address or location in your favourites folder (up to a total of 50) for ease of access the next time you want to locate it. This feature is excellent. For example, I recently had a fare to a hotel called the Paramount here in Dublin. (An English businessman) To be honest, Id never even heard of it, far less where it was located. The customer had no actual address, so no street names to help me, but knew roughly the area of the city it was located in. (Near Temple Bar) A short cruise of the area produced no success, at which point I turned of the meter (I dont fleece my customers) and sought out the main taxi rank in the area to see if any other drivers knew the location of the hotel. Nobodys heard of it! So I get the telephone number from directory enquires, and ring the hotel for directions. Its located in a rather obscure little laneway, and had I not rang the hotel I could be looking for it still!
So once Id dropped off my passenger I immediately took a note of the exact location and imputed it into my favourites folder of the Navman, so if Im asked for the same hotel sometime in the future it will be a breeze to locate it. Youre also able to list the entry under your preferred title, in this instance the Paramount Hotel. A really useful feature, my only complaint being that I would like to be able to save more than 50 locations.
~ ~ I like the POI (Points Of Interest) folder. This has lots of useful info listed, as well as the obvious ones like airports and ferry ports. For example, you can find the nearest ATM machine, which is something us taxi drivers are often asked for. The nearest filling station is also listed.
But yet again it has its limitations. One of the main attractions of the Navman (for me) was the listing of speed camera locations. These are listed for the UK, and the Navman will give you a voice warning well in advance when youre coming up to one. But theyre NOT currently listed for the Republic of Ireland. Now, in fairness, we currently only have about three or four fixed speed cameras (sorry, SAFETY cameras!) here in Dublin, and everyone knows exactly where they are. But this is about to change in the near future, as the Government (in their wisdom!) have recently brought in an outside company to manage this for them, and we are now going to be hit with 100s of new safety cameras which will exponentially increase the risk of picking up the dreaded penalty points on your licence. I already have a speed camera detector, but this is illegal to use (not to own, funnily enough!) and youll get it confiscated if the police spot it and pick up penalty points for using it, which kind of defeats the purpose!
The attraction of the Navman is that its legal, and the police cant do a damned thing about it warning you about the dreaded money-making cameras. I can obviously input the location of any new cameras as and when they become operational. Problem is, this may well be AFTER Ive picked up some penalty points, and even when they are saved in my POI folder, I cant programme the Navman to give me advance voice warning when Im approaching one of them. To do this, Ill have to purchase an expensive new memory card, which leads me nicely to another wee gripe I have about the Navman.
~ ~ With other rival Sat Nav units (such as the Tom Tom) you can plug it into your computer and download updated information. You cant do this with the Navman, which means that every so often youre going to have to buy a brand new memory card if you want to stay current!
Were off to the Lake Garda district of Northern Italy next month on our annual holiday. Its an area of Italy we havent visited before, and we intend to take in visits to both Milan and Venice while we are there. I thought that all Id have to do is log onto a P2P file sharing site such as Bearshare or 360 Share and download the Italian map for the Navman, which I could then burn onto a relatively inexpensive memory card. Wrong! You dont seem to be able to do this with the Navman. Instead, Ill have to purchase the memory card for Italy separately, and the best price Ive been able to find (so far) is a mind-boggling 152. This is more than I paid for the unit itself! Even if you do manage to find a download and burn it onto a memory card, then it would appear from info Ive garnished from some chat sites that the Navman has some sort of security facility that will reject any card not supplied by the manufacturer. It may be possible to overcome this, and Im currently talking to my wifes nephew (who has a degree in Computer Science) to see if this is possible. But at the moment it would seem I have no alternative to buy a complete new memory card. So far, Ive been unable to locate a cheaper one on eBay, and this is annoying the hell out of me!
~ ~ Its over a fortnight since I first started to write this review. In the intervening period I have had occasion to visit my home country of Scotland for a couple of days for a family funeral. I was staying in Edinburgh, but flew into Prestwick Airport on the west coast of Scotland to avail of a cheap fare from Ryanair, then rented a car for the duration of my visit. I didnt really need to use the Navman whilst in Edinburgh, as despite the many structural changes to the city since I last visited I was still able to find my way around with relative ease. (I was also amazed by the light traffic levels when compared to Dublin, but thats another story!)
Where the Navman came into its own was on the return leg of the journey to the airport in Prestwick. Any time Ive flown to Prestwick in the past Ive always used the train service into Glasgow, with the result Im not really that familiar with the airports actual location. On the way over to Edinburgh I simply followed the road signs for Glasgow, and eventually picked up the M8 motorway. (Job done!) However, on the return leg of the journey any road signs indicating the location of the airport were distinctly lacking. Id been advised by a friend that the quickest route was to take the M74 motorway towards Carlisle, and this is what I did. Unfortunately, due to the lack of signage for the airport, I missed the turn I should have taken, and when I eventually decided Id gone too far and turned off the motorway, I found myself totally lost in the wilds of rural Ayrshire, surrounded by tiny villages, sheep, and lakes and hills.
So out with the Navman, and almost instantaneously it had given me a route to follow to the airport. I must admit that I was extremely dubious! Within 5 minutes or so it had directed me onto what could only be described as a glorified dirt track; single lane, and with grass growing freely from the many cracks in the road surface. Turn right, turn left, go straight for 4 miles, etc, and all I seemed to be doing was getting deeper and deeper into the Ayrshire hills. Oh yea of little faith! Within 15 minutes the Navman had me back on a main road, and shortly thereafter I spotted my first road sign for Prestwick Airport since leaving Edinburgh. The end result was that I managed to catch my flight with time to spare, and save myself a fair few quid in the process, as if Id missed it it would have meant an overnight stop at the airport (it was the last Dublin flight of the day) and the resulting cost of a hotel and a new flight the next day.
Ten out of ten for the Navman on this occasion!
~ ~ So would I recommend the Navman iCN 320? Overall, yes I would, and would give it a rating of about 7 out of 10. It has many good and useful features, but also some limitations. That said, you have to remember that this *IS* an entry-level Satnav system, which costs relatively little when compared to some of its far more expensive competitors.
I would say that its well worth the £142 I paid for it.
© KenJ May 2006
A lightweight portable design and a built-in rechargeable battery allow you to use it in any vehicle, or even outside the car as a handheld device. With the iCN 320 you not only receive advanced distance warning to your next turn, you also have the reassuring Back-On-Track? function returning you to your original course if you make a wrong turn. The iCN 320 provides important data on its high definition, anti-glare colour screen, as well as clear voice directions, allowing you to focus on your driving.