January 24, 2007

Review: Bushnell NAV-500 Review by GPSLodge

I have been navigating around New England with the help of the Bushnell NAV 500, and it’s high time that I navigated to my computer to tell you about it. I’ve taken it on road trips over the holidays as well as some local shopping to fill the space under the now long gone Christmas Tree.

The Bushnell Nav500 is solidly in the mid-tier for GPS navigation units, and comes with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, pre-loaded maps of North America, and is driven by the SiRF star III chipset. The unit offers turn-by-turn spoken directions, but not text to speech directions that tell you the name of the street to turn onto. The unit comes with its entire back clad in nicely rubberized for a high quality feel that also inspires a bit of confidence when handling it. The feel is solid throughout, and the unit is well built. The underlying software is from Smart2Go, which is based in Europe, and has a little Americanization to be done to make it feel like it’s, mine, but otherwise the unit is good.

Bushnell Nav500 Design
As already mentioned the unit comes with a rubberized back, and it has a flip up antenna in the back to make sure it has a good view of the sky. The SiRF star III chipset will make sure that you are locked onto the satellites almost wherever you go. I had no issues with reception for the entire length of its visit to the GPS Lodge. Up the right side of the unit it has several buttons that can help you move around the interface with relative ease, as long as you are right handed. The one sided controls must make it hard for lefties. The bottom two buttons zoom out and into maps, the middle button is a rocker style button to move around the screen; although I typically used the touchscreen instead of this. Moving up, you also have the “NAV” button that takes you into the Navigation program (if you are out in the shell) and then into a “Choose Destination” dialog once in the navigation application.

The top button takes you “Home” to the main menu on the software system, popping you outside the Navigation application. Here you can access music, photos or main set-up. You are able to set the master volume, the clock, screen attributes (brightness, etc), and the language. Unfortunately the unit ships with one English voice; and that’s British English. The accent is nice, but the navigation commands take a little getting used to.

Now I’ve been to England, and enjoyed myself quite a bit; loved those trips as I even got pretty good at driving on the left and shifting gears with my left hand too. You pick up the local terminology pretty quickly, French Fries are “Chips”, Potato Chips are “Crisps”, and the thing in the back of the car to haul the suitcases are called “Boots”. So, here we get to hear that we need to “Change the Highway” when we exit one highway onto another, we “Follow the course of the road for a while” when we need to go straight, and we “Take a left at the next possibility” when we need to take the next left. The voice commands are not culturally adapted, and give you pause for a while, but in the end is perfectly fine, making absolute sense.

The one thing that may be a cultural adaptation is about the Bushnell NAV 500 screen colors. They are a bit washed out and drab. That doesn’t help when the sunlight is bright and right on the screen; you can lose what’s on the screen. This may be another case of cultural adaptation that could go on in bringing the underlying software engine to the US. I have read reviews of Garmin’s interface written up by European GPS sites where they describe the opposite problem, of Garmin being too cartoonish, and garish. I might call that bright; so you get my point.

Navigation with the Bushnell NAV 500
Navigation with the Bushnell NAV-500 starts out with a tap of the “NAV” button, where you get the choice of several options:

  • Home
  • Address
  • Bookmarks
  • My work
  • Recent (locations you have navigated to)
  • Map (for tapping on where you want to navigate to), and
  • POI (Points of Interest)

    These buttons can make quick work of navigating to a location. Tap “Home” or “Work”, and you get a route straight to these locations. “Recent locations” is almost as easy, as the NAV 500 provides a quick list of the last locations that you have gone to. You can scroll down the list and tap once to navigate to a location. Navigating the POI menu isn’t bad either, and it is broken down into logical groups. Pulling up a list of all locations to eat at can take a while, presumably as it cranks through the many thousands of POI to come up with the list. One aspect of scrolling long lists that I would like to see improved is that when you tap below the marker bar, you snap to that place in the list, unlike the MS Windows convention of snapping down one page. For me, this made scrolling lists a little troublesome. The list of POI seems to be reasonably up to date, and reliable to get to locations around me. You can navigate to POI very easily, and also save a destination as a “Bookmark” to quickly navigate back to it.

    The NAV500 can plan and navigate routes of multiple destinations, which is a nice feature. The interface to go through that work is easy to understand, and has you picking destinations off of the familiar “Navigation” page; picking by address, recent, POI, etc. This allows you to pop them onto a list, and you will then be able to navigate to the locations in sequence. It does not optimize the routes for most efficient order of destinations like some higher end GPS units.

    The NAV500 has a lot of flexibility as to how you should set up the routes. The usual fastest, shortest is in there, but also you can pick your vehicle, like faster car, slower car, on foot, on bicycle, etc.

    While on the road, and navigating, the voice prompts were clear, and surprisingly loud. I needed to turn the unit down to keep it from blowing the doors off. Not bad if you are cranking the music on your stereo, or driving with the windows down. The volume can be adjusted quickly by tapping the screen and going into settings. The setting stayed at that level even after I shut the unit off and turned it back on. I did find however that the information about my route was small down the bottom of the screen; displaying my speed to the thousandths place, “65.71 MPH”, and time to destination. I would have liked the data a little larger, and a little more defined in the screen space. Small issue, not critical.

    Rounding out the Design
    The Bushnell NAV500 has a small stylus down the right side of the unit, then the power input, a small USB connection, and then an external antenna connection. Across the top, the unit has the SD card slot and a headphone jack. The left side has the power button. There is a soft reset button and a hard reset slider. It’s running MS WIN CE 4.2 as its operating system, so you might need it someday, but I had no lock-ups, hang-ups or freezes.

    Music and Photos
    You need to load music and photos onto the SD card, and stick it in the slot; which unfortunately is the same SD card that holds your map data. So, you’ll need to go through some hoops to get the files loaded. You can connect the unit to your computer via ActivSync to load files onto the SD card. Playback was reasonable through the speaker, but the unit does not have an FM modulator to play through your stereo.
    You wouldn’t buy any GPS for its music playing ability, and this keeps with that trend. It works, but it’s no iPod. In connecting the unit to your computer, you can charge the unit with the included USB cable.

    The Mount is a gooseneck style mount that is easy to put on the windshield and take off with a quick action lever. The unit fits nicely into the cradle, and is fairly easy to take off and put back on again. The gooseneck style mounts do have a tendency to vibrate a bit on the highway, so having it rest on the dashboard, helps. The power cord comes out the side so resting the bottom of the GPS right on the dash is not an issue.

    Review Summary
    The Bushnell NAV 500 started out a bit foreign for me, but I warmed to it as I realized what its capabilities were. Early frustrations gave way to understanding a fairly simple user interface. I like the route planning and the reasonably easy navigation of the user interface. The maps are from TeleAtlas, which at this writing has recently upgraded the maps significantly in their release to GPS manufacturers. No official word from Bushnell about their map upgrades as of yet. I would want a map upgrade in the near future to solve some long standing data gaps on the TeleAtlas side. The navigation was good on the unit, and got me from point A to point B quite well. Once learned, the icons and layout are easy to understand and was good at getting me where I wanted to go. I would love to see some cultural adaptation go on with the interface, namely true American voice prompts, but it’s not an issue for usage.

    Read More in: Bushnell GPS Review & News | GPS Reviews

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    Posted by Scott Martin at January 24, 2007 11:37 AM
  • Recent Comments

    Contacted Bushnell by phone (800-423-3537). Asked if they had any option to change voice prompts to "American" english. They said what is on the unit is all that is available. Have not purchased a unit as of now. Hear enough English lads doing TV adds, don't really need one telling me where to go. Even though I located this unit for an exceptional price, I will pass.

    Posted by: John at February 22, 2008 4:26 PM

    Bushnell continues to ignore requests for map and/or software upgrades for their NAV 500. They never respond to e-mails, and telephone support is useless. If I had known this prior to purchasing the unit, the transaction would have never taken place. For a company as distinguished as Bushnell not to provide adequate support is unexcusable. I have purchased my last Bushnell product, and forewarn anyone who is considering same.

    Posted by: Al at February 15, 2008 2:11 PM
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