May 18, 2007

Magellan RoadMate 2000 Review


So while Magellan has released their Maestro line, I had the opportunity to take a look at the Magellan RoadMate 2000 for a few weeks and I thought that it was still worth taking a look at the not terribly old RoadMate 2000 that is still kicking around at some bargain prices, vying for your business. It’s well known that Magellan is one of the pioneers in the GPS arena and while they hit some low points while under the ownership of Thales, they are under new management and seem to be on a resurgence. The RoadMate 2000 was released in September 2006 as an update to the well-known RoadMate line. The RoadMate 2000 series had some good things going for it, SiRF star III chipset and a flat form factor. Not exactly pocketable, but certainly a smaller footprint to allow for easy storage. After using the RoadMate 2000 for two weeks, and many trips, I can say there are some bright spots still in there signaling a whole lot of quality design experience, but that the unit is unfortunately saddled by a cartoonish interface and tough set of menus that make it a hard unit to appreciate the quality thinking underneath.

The Magellan RoadMate 2000 is a flat form factor with the industry standard size 3.5-inch touchscreen and a fairly clean overall design. Down the right side there is the power button, and covered by a rubber flap are a mini-USB plug, a headphone jack and a power inlet. The flap is more of a dust cover and NOT a water resistant seal. On the left side there is a similar rubber dust that houses an SD slot, a reset button and a “hold” button to put the unit to sleep. There is a speaker on the back that is better than average for fidelity.

The windshield mount is fairly substantial, and it is easy to mount the unit on the platform. It can be a bit tough to dismount with one hand, which is something I look for and appreciate when I mount and dismount the unit several times per day. The unit has some vibration at higher speed, but arranging it so that it sits on the dash alleviates the issue. The power cord is arranged to come out the side, so that you can have the unit sit snugly on the dash without issue.

The Magellan RoadMate 2000 was able to grab satellites quickly and reliably in my testing, which is the first glimpse of excellence. This gets you underway quickly. The real issue that brings the unit back to earth is the interface that has certain signs of age. The Main Menu offers you “Map”, Street Address”, “POI”, “[navigate to your] Home”, “Address Book”, “Intersection”, “Trip Computer”, “Trip Planner”, “Options”, and “System” “Settings”.

I like the ability to navigate to my home quickly, as this is going to be used quite a bit, but when you drill down to select other places to go, the hierarchy of picking can take a while. For instance, selecting “Address”, gets you into searching by City, ZipCode, or Previous City. Some quicker methods on other GPS units are to pre-select the state for you either related to the one you are in presently or the one you last searched in. Instead if you start to type in “Westwood”, you get a list of ten options that are all over the country. Not so convenient if I almost always want to one 8 miles away. The Magellan trademarked “QuickSpell” capability helps make the process quicker, as it highlights only the letters that can logically come next when tapping out a town or a street name.

RM2000POIMenu.jpgSearching for a Point of Interest – the slightly laborious process continues if you are to look for a POI. Tapping the POI button gives you the option of “Basic POI” and “POI around Exit”. Around the exit is an interesting option that could help on a road trip where you need to look ahead across the next several exits to see what’s coming. The display offers you several icons that tell you that food, hotels and gas stations are available, for instance. I like it.

Searching Basic POI gets you a search by name or search by nearest POI choice. Search by names leads you to a list of nearby current position, nearby city center, nearby airport, nearby address, and if you pick nearby current position, you then get to choose from a list of several categories of POI…. I mean can you see what I am talking about here? More efficient search menu set-ups eliminate that middle choice set and have it as an option, always assuming that you want to search around your current position, which for me is what I want to do at least half the time. If you want to search around a different location, you can elect to do that by hitting an options button, electing to search around a different town or similar, and then dig through the POI search strings.

The POI listing is fairly complete, but a bit out of date. There is an old hospital near me that went out of business long ago, but the Magellan lists it as still there. Taking a quick look at a Garmin Nuvi does not have the Hospital there. Both use NAVTEQ as the map and POI supplier, so I am not sure why this miss is there. The Magellan RoadMate doesn’t have a “Shopping” category that I always think is helpful. It’s not like I shop all the time, but trying to find a certain shop when out on the road is a big thing. When I travel for business, I want to be able to find Kinkos, grocery stores, and sometimes a drug store if I have a cold. Much easier with a “Shopping” category.

I did do my torture test route calculation from my house in Massachusetts to Dodger stadium in Los Angeles, and it was very fast, beating out most other GPS units. I think it is more evidence that the Magellan units have some great capabilities, mixed in with a middling interface.

When navigating a route, there are some hints of excellence again that shine through. I already covered the quick acquisition of satellites, and the RoadMate 200 holds on tight too. The display is a little “old” and Atari-like, as lines get pixelated and the buttons aren’t a crisp looking icon. When navigating, the unit displays distance to next turn and has a nice and accurate representation of where you are. The RoadMate 200 warns you verbally about a mile before your turn about it, with a clean articulate voice. The screen also flips over to a black screen that shows an arrow turning in the direction that you need to go. This screen seems to stick around for a while, but just before you might think that it will stay there forever, it flips back to the maps screen that then shows you the road again and exactly what street you need to turn onto. At first, I thought this black screen would hang out forever, but then I realized that it was a welcome indication of what I needed to do. Not exactly the implementation that I want long term, but the idea of offering visual and verbal cues is a useful thing.

The navigation screen is loaded up with some quick tap icons and menus, like a “mute” button, zooming “ ” and “-“ buttons, and by tapping the top menu bar, you get into a screen that lists some nice attributes of your location: address, latitude, longitude, your direction of travel on a compass face, your speed, and the ability to save the location too.

Finally, one feature that is worth mentioning is that the unit has a trip planning feature. This allows you to set up a multi-destination trip ahead of time to route to. This can help you plan out several stops and route in the prescribed order. You’ll need to do this through the multiple layers of menus that I talked about above; POIs and addresses. It does not plan the most efficient route for you. The feature is nice, and I wish it was on more GPS units in this range. I would like to see more information about the entire trip and see what the travel time estimate is.

Review Summary
The Magellan RoadMate 2000 is a model that appears to have a limited time on the shelves, despite its relative young age. The Maestro line is coming out in force, with a cleaner design and an updated interface. Recently the Maestro 3100 was on special for $199, or about the price of the RoadMate 2000 in many stores. At the $200 level, you are going to make some sacrifices, and with the RoadMate 2000, those will be with the interface that is a bit dated which has some menu layouts that take longer to get through. You won’t sacrifice ability to grab satellite signals, and you won’t sacrifice the quality of the directions. I know this might fly in the face of my criticism of the non-intuitive menu layout, but the verbal and non-verbal directions are intuitive. Magellan does well with this area and will get you there with intuitive voice and visual prompts and well laid out direction sets.

RoadMate 2000 at Amazon

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Posted by Scott Martin at May 18, 2007 6:51 AM

Recent Comments

I have a Magellan Roadmate 2000 but do not have an instruction booklet. I can't figure out how to work it properly. How can I get a book?

Posted by: Larry Green at January 30, 2009 5:05 PM
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