September 5, 2006

Review: Averatec Voya 350


You may not have heard of the name Averatec in the GPS realm, but they are an interesting new entry in the field of GPS systems that sets a new benchmark for affordability in a basic GPS. (They are running a rebate right now for purchases through the end of 2006 reducing the price down to around $350.) The Averatec Voya 350 is a basic GPS system that has pre-loaded maps of the US and Canada, and a POI database. A recent review online indicates that it’s fairly solid, but has a few interface and design quirks that take some getting use to; I think most new tech toys do anyway, and it’s only if those things annoy you 2 months later do they really take their toll.

Basic Features of the Averatec Voya 350
The Averatec Voya 350 is a compact, flat, pocketable style GPS device, in the same genre as the Garmin Nuvi, Mio C310 or the New TomTom ONE. I think that it’s the form factor that everyone needs to be in, so I am happy to see more momentum here. So, this slim form factor (4.5 by 2.9 by 0.7 inches and 6 ounces) allows for some easy portability, or easy storage when you aren’t driving. It has a 3.5-inch touch screen that is about the minimum for a touchscreen input device. Any smaller and you can’t really fit the buttons required to type. The Voya 350 also comes with a stylus, which snaps into the top of the device and is reportedly needed sometimes when the keyboard gets cramped.

The unit comes equipped with the SiRF star III chipset which is more and more standard these days and will give you solid locks on satellites in tough situations. The interesting feature (some might say annoying) on the unit is that it has a helix antenna sticking out of the top of the unit. Not really sure that this is needed considering that the Mio C310 did just fine in our use for our review with a minimal hump on the topside of it. Guidance sounds solid with voice driven directions – not text to speech, so it will tell you to turn, it just won’t tell you the name of the street to turn onto. It includes automatic route recalculation when you miss a turn, and a points-of-interest (POI) database. You can search for destinations by specific address, intersection, or city center. The City Center feature is nice and something that I would like to see more. If you need to get to a certain location that you know by heart and not by address, just getting to the center of town can suffice; this feature makes life a lot easier. You can also select a place from your Favorites list, recently visited locations, or POI. You can also view maps in 2D and 3D.

As with may GPS systems, you can customize how you calculate routes: Shortest, Fastest, etc. I recently used a Navigation system in a Toyota Camry and they eliminated this setting by giving you different route options every time it calculated routes. So, you get an overview map with color coded routes displayed on the map, with an option to select which you want “Quick1”, “Quick2” or Shortest” with estimates for time and distance on each. I think I would rather see this type of system selectable in the options screen instead of locking into one specific type. In the online review of the Averatec Voya 350, they said of the options menu, “It can be a bit confusing, since each Settings page contains about four to five categories, then beneath each of those are a series of buttons for all the various functions. It's overwhelming at first glance, but you get accustomed to it after a couple of tries.”

One obvious thing about the Averatec Voya 350 is the ability to use buttons that are prominently mounted on the front of the unit. They are power on/off, a Main Menu button, Zoom In and Out keys, and a five-way navigation toggle. Now in use, this five-way navigation toggle isn’t a directional keypad to allow you to scroll around the maps. It’s actually more of a set of buttons that are related. So pressing up toggles between North Up and Direction up navigation, while Down toggles between 2D and 3D options. Left and right buttons cycle between several items: map views, GPS setting, trip info, etc. In the review from CNet they said that these buttons “take a little getting used to, but we eventually warmed up to them and found some of the information to be quite useful. For example, the Current Location page will tell you which side of the street odd-numbered and even-numbered addresses are on. The control itself is a bit wobbly and doesn't always work properly. After a while, we found it best to just nudge the outer edges, rather than pressing the button directly.”

Overall, CNet rated the Averatec Voya 350 “Good” with a 6.3 out of 10 rating and said:

The good: The Averatec Voya 350 offers accurate text- and voice-guided directions and has a travel-friendly form factor.

The bad: The Averatec Voya 350's antenna adds some unwanted bulk, and the interface is a bit confusing at first.

The bottom line: The Averatec Voya 350 offers a nice basic navigation system for an affordable price, but its design and interface need some fine-tuning before it can compete with the big boys.

Read More at CNet for their full review

Read More in: Automotive GPS | GPS News | GPS Reviews

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Posted by Scott Martin at September 5, 2006 9:08 AM

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