October 28, 2007

Nextar C-3 Full Review

NextarC3Front.jpg
The Nextar C-3 is an entry level GPS that has a basic feature set and older design features that underline its low price. The unit can be had for some of the best prices around on a GPS, and I got this one for the purposes of this review at about $50 less than a TomTom ONE. The Nextar C-3 has a 3.5-inch screen, a flip up antenna and a forward firing speaker that is reminiscent of the rocker switch on the old Magellan RoadMate 800 series. The Nextar C-3 uses a SiRF star III chipset , Windows CE as an operating system, voice prompted turn indicators (Not Text-to-Speech) and a flip up antenna.

Overall, the unit navigates well; most GPS units do, but the operating system is not the easiest to navigate, making it a rough overall experience. The concern here is that the operating system is basically ported over to the other Nextar units like the Nextar X3-02, and the Nextar X4B, making me concerned that the line is and will be an issue for many who buy them.

Design
The Nextar C-3 is a familiar shape, but with a front firing speaker where Magellan’s rocker switch used to be. Touchscreens are in, so rocker switches are out, and the Nextar C-3 has a decent touchscreen with sufficient brightness not to cause concern. Not the brightest screen, but at this price, I didn’t expect it to be blindingly bright. Two buttons adorn the front right side; a boon for right handers, tough for lefties. The power switch is on the bottom, and the “Menu” button is on top. Down the right side there is a volume dial, earphone out jack, and a power inlet. Down the left, an SD card slot, and a mini-USB plug. The back features an on/off locking switch and the flip up antenna.

NextarC3Mount.jpg
The mount; oh, the mount. Loyal GPSLodge readers know that mounts are always a part of my evaluation, and while they are probably an afterthought for designers, they are always of interest to me. When you need to take this on and off the windshield a few times a day, you can really learn to love or hate a mount. This one, I don’t love. To start, let’s look at the good side; it’s a cam lever action mount, which is a good thing, but it ends there. The adjustments are tough, as the adjustments are a ball socket action that you have to twist a nut to tighten and keep in place. It’s hard to determine what the nut is, tactilely, which is really hard to adjust while on the windshield and then re-tighten (See arrow in picture). The mount isn’t anchored off the middle on the back of the GPS, which results in the GPS wanting to sag on the left side if the nut on the back of the mount is loose. Finally, the unit vibrates in the socket, which only exacerbates the whole sagging issue, and drives you nuts at highway speeds when you are trying to read the map.

The Nextar C-3 has an internal battery that will carry you for a while, but don’t get too far from the power cord or a 12V outlet, as the battery life is pretty short.

Navigation

Overall navigation to locations is similar to other units in that you can pick addresses, intersections, Points of Interest (POI), City Centers, as well as recent destinations, and favorites.

When selecting addresses the state is assumed, and you are given the option of “City First” or “Street First”, which may allow you to head to an address in the top down hierarchy like you address a letter, but it seems to me that you would do an awful lot of sorting through things if you had to enter a fairly common street, i.e. Main Street. NextarC3Buttons.jpg
If you elect “City First” you get a typical entry method that allows you to tap out the name on a decently responsive “ABC” keyboard. Once you tap in the street address and the house number, you find yourself presented with the options of “Nav”, “Fav”, “Map” – which is a decent illustration of some of the slightly odd choices that this interface uses. Instead of “Nav”, other GPS units would offer you the “Go!” button, which is just a bit more clear and easy to use right out of the box. “Fav”? Yes, that’s “Add to Favorites” for the rest of us. “Map” – pretty easy; a view of the map with the destination on it.

Navigating with the unit, is clear and the direction sets were accurate, although I noticed that the unit tends to keep you on main roads a little bit more than others I have used. Typically navigation will rely on the underlying map set for road classification and speeds on those roads, so the mapset can drive the selections of the routes a bit. However, in a direct comparison to brands with NAVTEQ, the Nextar still had a stronger weighting for main roads, leaving me scratching my head as to why it wouldn’t take a short side street that cuts a mile off the route when others do. The answer lies in how the GPS maker’s algorithms manage the map data. So while the map data may give speed limit and road classification types, it’s up to the GPS maker to weight certain roadways in its calculation of travel time and which would be fastest, etc.

The Nextar C3 has a few setting to help you decide what types of routes to choose. Those route options include Quickest (the default setting I was using in the above example), Major, Shortest, and Local. On top of Quickest, etc., you can also choose to include or exclude Ferries, Toll Roads and Carpool lanes. The last is a big plus, as I have had a lot of readers voice frustration when their unit can or can’t route them into a carpool lane, especially when those carpool/express lanes exclude exits that may be important. Good addition here.

There is a shortcut menu that gets you immediate navigation to several Points of Interest, as well as your “Home”. I like the fact that there is a “Set Home” button right there next to the “Go Home” button to let you set or reset the home button. The first time you tap the Go Home button you go through a dialogue that has you set the home button anyway, but a lot of readers use their GPS to travel, and when on the road for a few weeks or months, your “Home” can change. I like the easy re-set feature that doesn’t have you digging through the set-up menu to alter the Home address.

The Nextar C3 has decent voice prompts, with a female voice that has a slight Irish accent. The directions are clear, but I would like to change the warning tone timing. Other GPS units give you a warning tone right before the main verbal prompt, let’s say a mile from your turn on the highway, “BONG; turn right in one mile.” They may not give the tone again despite giving you verbal directions to “Turn here”. The Nextar does it the other way around, giving you verbal directions up to the turn and then a tone right at the turn. I have to say that there were a few times when at higher speeds I didn’t hear the verbal prompts but heard the tone as I was nearly at the exit. Luckily I knew where I was going; I am glad I wasn’t in a different city; I would have missed the turn.

Review Summary
The Nextar C-3 has an enticing price, and is a capable navigator that has some issues that make using it harder than it should be. While the mount issues are an outward reminder of these flaws, I am more concerned with the interface and routing/navigation attributes that are not as intuitive as I want or expect in a mainstream GPS. While it’s a bit of a leap, the issues also carry over to their other units that use the same interface.

It’s easy to say that the Nextar interface is not on the same level as Garmin and TomTom, and in many respects it’s not on the same level as Magellan or Mio’s operating system. While the Mio Map takes some time to get used to, I still see it as a better play than this Nextar. If you are considering the Nextar C-3 versus another entry-level unit, consider moving to a Mio or even a Garmin or TomTom. The extra money on any of these brands would be money well spent. Specifically, check out a full list of my reviews and see the entry level units there.


The Nextar C-3 is available at Amazon, but I can't recommend you buy it.

Specifically, check out a full list of my reviews and see the entry level units there.

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Posted by Scott Martin at October 28, 2007 6:21 PM

Recent Comments

Mitch,

The difference between the shortest and fasted ways is that the fastest way not might always be the shortest becasue speeds are taken into considerence. Fastest way will more then likly take the freeways where as the shortest will take the "back roads" slower speed, shorter distence = more time to get to point B.


Posted by: Jake at July 13, 2009 1:46 PM

Scott,

I have to disagree. For around $150, you can get a TomTom ONE or a Garmin Nuvi 200 - both far superior devices to the Nextar units I have used. I am citing online prices (Consider Amazon); bricks and mortar are more expensive generally, and won't be close to the price you mention for the Nextar.

-Scott


Posted by: Scott Martin at May 26, 2008 3:35 PM

Refering to this Nextar model and saying it is comparable to the S3 is not very fair. The mounts are quite different, the style is different, and the navigation system itself is different.

No one is going ot say that the Nextar S3 is quite the quality of your brand name GPS systems, but for the price, I think it is worth the try. I am not sure what mine was had for, but I am seeing an avg of around $129 to $149. That is hardly expensive at all for a GPS. I got mine for Christmas (I didnt even ask for one, but I am guessing the price was too much to pass).

I was reluctant at first, assuming because I had never heard of it, it was probably junk. Plus, I didn't even want a GPS. I had road maps. But, I figured, why not use one now that I have one.

The menu and overall operation of the device can be a little sluggish, but I have hardly had to wait more than 30 seconds for anything. I am guessing the antenna is a little weak too, as it loses signal in any building. Not sure if this is typical or not.

However, the actual navigation and overall performacen is surprisingly quite nice. I have always left it default to quickest instead of shortest route. I am not sure why there would be a difference, they sound on and the same. But it does not seem to like side roads and stuff like that, however, will adjust itself quickly if I decide to take a side road, leaving me wondering why it did not suggest the route int he first place. I will have to play around with these functions.

Although, the first time I used it, it tried to suggest for me to go what is known around here as a "back way" which really surprised me.

Honestly, if you are willing to spend an extra $100 for a nicer, brand name GPS, so be it. But if you only have around $150, dont be afraid to give the S3 a try.


Posted by: Scott at May 23, 2008 11:47 AM

I am inclined to disagree with you about the nextar.I own a Nextar S3 and for starters the mount is easy to use and there is no bounce to the unit while traveling.I work for Dish Network so I end up driving down alot of non paved roads.The S3 tends to stick with the quickest route setting I have it set for so, it will take short cuts and side roads.I have tested the accuracy of my unit and found that it is within 15 feet of being on target.The few times that it has been off is due to the 911 address rerouting that the state did.All in all I would personally recommend this unit to anyone.The battery life depends on my settings for the backlight and I typically get 6 hours of use per charge due to the backlight being set to the highest settings.The unit cost $140.00 and was well worth it.


Posted by: mitch at February 19, 2008 11:45 AM

do you use the pointer to switch on & off


Posted by: paul at January 3, 2008 1:27 PM

I would watch out when thinking of buying Nextar or the refurbished TomTom 510. My home street was in wrong place on both units, so I brought the Nextar back and got the 510. I live 9 miles from the Walmart in Sumter, SC, but the TomTom 510 tried to send me home the 12 mile way. Even when I reached 4/10 mile from my home, I was told to make a U-turn and go back and take their route. When I ignored that, I parked at my home and the GPS told me I was at the wrong street.


Posted by: Ron Feilen at November 22, 2007 12:11 AM
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