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I often have to drive long distances as part of my job so a sat nav has become an essential item for me and is particularly useful when navigating unfamiliar towns and cities. This Navman S50 (3D) is the second satellite navigation system I have owned and was purchased back in 2009. I paid just £70 for this from, rather randomly, Morrisons thanks to a promotion they were running at the time.
Despite its age, the Navman S50 looks remarkably stylish and modern. It has an attractive predominantly silver and black surround and the decent quality widescreen gives it the appearance of being far more expensive than it ever actually was. This large 4.3 inch screen size offers a clear view of the journey ahead and makes it easy to keep track of turns and junctions ahead. Despite its generous screen size, the unit itself is fairly unobtrusive and its slimline design doesn't obstruct my vision at all.
Like many people, when I first bought this I gave just a cursory glance through the 'Quick Start Guide' enclosed and set about playing with my new 'toy' pretty much straight away. Initial set-up was pretty straightforward, with the only real difficulty involving actually fitting the system into the cradle, as the pin which connects the sat nav to the charging lead takes some force to fit into position. Once in place, however, there is no likelihood of it working its way loose. My set is permanently encased in its cradle, whether in use or not, and just needs mounting on to the interior windscreen using the rubber suction pad. Like the sat nav as a whole, the suction is strong and sturdy and the cradle remains in position throughout the journey. The sat nav receives its power via the cigarette lighter in the car and, for convenience, I leave it charging throughout my journey without any ill effects.
For anybody with any prior experience of using a sat nav, operation is fairly straightforward and intuitive, although certain aspects of accessing the menu options do seem a little cumbersome and long winded. The sat nav comes pre-loaded with UK only map data. Destinations can be located using either postcodes (which is always reasonably accurate) street names or even areas. The postcode (or other details) are entered using a touchscreen keypad. I find this easy to use although the keys are a little small (even for my slim fingers) and I often end up typing the wrong digit, which can be frustrating if I'm in a rush.
Once the journey has been calculated, the route ahead can be viewed in different formats, as well as viewing the distance remaining and the estimated time of journey - which I find is usually on the optimistic side. I tend to use the '3d' display - although that is not quite as fancy as the name suggests - but it does give a clear view of the route immediately ahead, as well as indicating the next turn ahead. I have always (touch wood) been taken to my required destination although I'm not always convinced that I've travelled a particularly logical or direct route. Part of the reason for the variation in routes is that the system offers a number of choices to decide which route to take. There are scales to choose from on options such as 'fastest route' or 'shortest distance' as well as the options to use motorways 'more or less often.' I find these scales a little confusing for some journeys as, in all honesty, I kind of want both - I want to get to my destination in as little time as possible, without going miles out of my way. Selecting the middle option in both settings is not always the logical answer, however, as this can often result in being sent on a long-winded route involving a motorway, when common sense would never have chosen a motorway for that particular route. Telling it to avoid motorways often results in trips down roads and lanes that were last travelled by a horse and cart!
On many occasions, I do like to ignore my sat nav and listen to the usually calm voice telling me repeatedly to 'perform a U-turn when possible.' This one of the weaknesses in this system, as it can take quite a while to come up with an alternative route, should you deviate from the directions (whether accidentally or deliberately.) Fortunately,the voice controls are relatively pleasant with the clear neutral tones of a female voice giving out confident instructions. There is also a volume control should the nagging get out of control! One of the most irritating (but potentially useful) features is the constant 'pinging' to indicate approaching speed cameras. I have managed to switch that feature off but can't, however, switch off the noise which indicates that I am exceeding the speed limit!
The unit offers quite a few additional features that I've never personally needed to use. It can even be linked up to a mobile phone (via Bluetooth) to function as a hands-free set (which I could imagine would be useful for many people.) It also has built in directories that can be accessed to find useful facilities such as petrol stations or car parks. What it does lack (and is often found on newer and more expensive models) is lane indication - a feature that I would personally find really useful navigating large roundabouts in unfamiliar locations.
I must admit that I have never got around to updating the maps and software that comes pre-programmed into the set so, as time has gone on, I do find more and more differences between where the sat nav seems to want me to go and where the actual road layout means I actually have to go! There have been times when the sat nav believes I have been driving on a field rather than on a road and, just the other week, it sent my husband into a multi-storey car park in Chesterfield rather than on to a dual carriage way (thanks to recent road changes.) This is, obviously, an issue with the software rather than the actual unit. The sat nav does come provided with a disc which contains map data so, sooner or later, I really need to upload this and check for software updates as I have never got round to using it.
As well as looking good and being easy to use, the build quality and reliability of this set has also proven itself well over the past couple of years, giving me great confidence in the Navman brand as a whole. My previous sat nav (a Garmin) suffered with a faulty charging pin/cable after just eighteen months of sporadic use - halfway to my 'destination'! Fortunately, as yet, the S20 has proven to be pretty robust and resilient. Between uses, this tends to get stashed in various places, from the obvious glove box to kitchen shelves and the back of a cupboard and isn't always treated with kid gloves. It has even been mauled by a curious toddler without suffering any ill effects.
Obviously, there are many more up-to-date models available nowadays but, for the most part, this has proven to be £70 well spent. Second hand and refurbished models are still available on Amazon for the £50 mark. Despite its age, the system still looks stylish and manages to perform its functions reliably and efficiently so comes highly recommended by me.