Magellan Maestro 3100/3140 Full Review
The Magellan Maestro 3100 and 4100 series was introduced a while ago and in the meantime the Magellan 3200/4200 series has been introduced, bringing a fresh face and a few more features to make the line more enticing. A lot of readers have asked for a first hand review of the Magellan 3100 series from me, as they are showing up in increasing numbers at great prices and ahead of the holiday shopping season, I thought I would get some thoughts down to help people decide what to buy in this complex market.
The maestro 3100 has 48 state maps and has verbal instructions, as well as 750 thousand POI (NOT a lot), and some basic features that come on Magellan units these days like QuickSpell. The unit is based on the SiRF star III chipset and a 3.5-inch screen. I picked the Maestro 3140, which adds North American NAVTEQ-based Maps, has 4.5 million POI, Bluetooth, “AAA” Points of Interest information and Text-to-speech. The units are not tiny but small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, as they have a compact flat form factor. The units are touch screen based, and have no external buttons except for the power switch and a reset button. The Maestro 3100, and 3140 are coming in at some pretty compelling prices, so, are they worth it, and will they get you from here to there with ease and confidence? I was not overly impressed with the previous incarnation of Magellan’s flat form factor product, the RoadMate 2000 unit, and thought it was dated in its interface’s design components. The Maestro has a lot of improved features, so let’s check things out.
The Magellan Maestro 3100/3140 is a fairly simple design and as I mentioned comes with one side mounted power button on the right side that sits above a mini-USB plug, the power input and a headphone jack. On the left side, there is an SD card slot and a pin-holed reset button. The back of the unit has a single rear firing speaker that seems adequate and slots for the mount.
The mount is marginal in design, and it’s not always easy to get the unit onto it. The suction cup itself is a cam lever style, and has a couple of stubs that fit into slots in the back of the Maestro 3100/3140. With this design, you will be taking the whole thing off the windshield when you remove it, and you will need to pay attention when you take the Maestro off the mount or put it on; not something you’ll do when driving down the road. The power input is on the side, which is a good thing so that it can sit snugly onto the dash if needed. The battery life on the unit is acceptable, and is rated for up to about 3 hours. I got more like 2, barely; and I have to say that once I drained the battery, it took a while to get it charged up again, despite having it just ride shotgun in the off position charging away.
Text-to-Speech - Maestro 3140 Only
The Maestro 3140 comes with a text-to-speech engine that reads street names off which can be helpful when navigating. This is a major feature that is distinctive versus the Maestro 3100, so you need to ask yourself if it’s worth the extra money to get this unit over the Maestro 3100.
More and more entry-level units are going text-to-speech, and I think that it’s a great trend. That’s a good thing in my mind, as I think that by having the street name read aloud, it makes things easier on you, the driver, when navigating in unfamiliar territory where streets come one after another.
The performance is the Text-to-speech engine in the Maestro is good, but has one flaw that makes it an aggravation; small and annoying, not un-functional. The good news is that the voice is clear and fairly accurate in reading a lot of road names. When announcing turns the unit uses the non-text-to-speech phrases then tacks on the street name at the end, in a different voice. So you get:
Voice One: “Turn in 400 yards”
Voice Two: “Spring Street”
Sometimes that phrasing is hardly separated and sometimes that phrasing is separated by enough of a pause to think that the GPS had to turn the page on an imaginary script to read the next word. Unfortunate mis-step here.
Magellan Maestro 3100 vs. 3140
The differences between the Magellan 3100 line is pretty straightforward. All come with the NAVTEQ maps, and basic design elements, SiRF star III chipset, QuickSpell capability, etc. Here are the differences:
Maestro 3100 – Basic model, with voice commands, but not Text-to-speech; 48 state maps, 750,000 POI.
Maestro 3140 – Adds Text-to-speech, AAA Info and Bluetooth handsfree capability, North America, 4.5 million POI.
The bottom line here is that the Maestro 3140 gets you there and back; it’s just a bit taxing to deal with the interface.
When looking to go somewhere you can access routing via a few modes, including entering an address, finding a Point of Interest and hitting special buttons like the HOME button or the help button. Let’s look at the address entry sequence, as that is going to be one that you use frequently.
Entering an address gives you a few options including entering via city, zip code, or a list of previous cities. By going through the “City” option, you enter the name of the city, but there is no state stipulated, so you end up with a situation where you may be scrolling through all cities by that name in the whole US; kills me. About 99% of the time I would be looking for the city by that name that is close to me, not half way across the country. TomTom, the Netherlands based company solve this issue in their recent release of NavCore ver. 7 software for most units. I would like to see this dealt with in the Magellan shop too.
The QuickSpell capability highlights only those letters that can come next and allow you to type faster. This definitely makes data entry easier. It works better on streets than it does cities. If you are typing in a city name that is at all common, you get to scroll through all of the cities in the US that are close to the city that you are looking for; that can be a lot!
Entering by zip code can shortcut all of this nonsense related to the long list of cities across the US. The list of previous cities is short, and can certainly help when navigating back to a frequently used city.
Once you get the location entered, you get a choice between fastest, shortest, least use of freeways, and most use of freeways.
The routing is good on the Magellan Maestro, but getting the address in can be tough. I was sad to see the recent destination folder is buried a few layers deep so it’s a pain to get to. Worth noting is the availability of the split screen that pops up when approaching a turn. On the left will be a turn indicator with the basic outline of the intersection while on the right you maintain the map. I found that in 2-D mode, things are great, but in 3-D mode, the loss of half the screen and the general odd look of the 3-D point of view presents a challenge when getting to tough intersections where things are not as easy as a highway interchange or a simple crossroad. Let’s face it that accounts for about half of the intersections in New England, so you can imagine how this affected my impression of this feature. Unlike some other units, once you are done following a route, you can easily cancel that route by going to the first menu screen and tapping “Cancel Route”; it’s not buried, it’s easy to do.
The Maestro has another feature that is a good little feature that is present in devices that are present in others that are twice the money or more and that is multi-point routing with route optimization. Adding points to the route goes along the lines of entering an address of POI, and through a series of "add" steps, you get your list of destinations. You can then optimize the route, and in my basic testing of a couple of scenarios, the device did alright, offering a reasonable route to a series of stops.
Points of Interest (POI) Data
The POI data has 4.5 million entries; a solid number of POI that will get you most of what you need for the Maestro 3140. The Maestro 3100 only has 750,000 POI which is NOT a lot and is a little concerning. See more on POI and how many is enough.
Unfortunately the POI data is not linked to the AAA information directly, and the AAA information is accessed through another part of the interface. I would like this information interlaced so that I can search for POI and then see the ones that have the AAA information available. It makes for an odd search routine that has you searching in both places if you can’t find what you need in the first.
AAA data - Maestro 3140 Only
The AAA information is organized into several categories that can be helpful; TourBook info, Show your Card and Save, Approved Auto Repairs, AAA Branch Offices, and Campgrounds. I found the information fairly complete and helpful; so you don’t have to head out on a road trip to need this information. You can be a few towns away looking for a place to eat. A restaurant listing will have a price and diamond rating, as well as a short description and information on the phone number, the address, parking, hours and credit cards accepted. A typical restaurant description is fairly complete. Here’s an example for a Bertucci’s near Boston:
“This popular chain is known for their signature brick oven cooking which creates the distinctive flavors you’ll taste in the fresh roasted vegetables, the seafood and entrée specialties, and of course the restaurant’s top notch pizza. Every dish is made to order and all breads are made from scratch throughout the day. A sample meal may include pasta with the rich flavors of fresh garlic, basil and oven roasted tomatoes, and for dessert a divine lemon cream dessert with berries.”
I like the information and found it helpful on a few occasions when I was searching for places to eat. Magellan has hit on something here by getting the AAA data integrated into the GPS. Navigon has the Zagat review information on its 5100, 7100 and optionally on its 2100 models. As navigation units evolve, they will need to offer more information on destinations. The end run here might just be the Dash Express that is connected to the web, offering a wealth of information. The issue may just be concise offering of that information, artfully woven into the navigation experience, and even with the AAA data, Magellan needs some work here.
Overall, the Magellan Maestro 3100/3140 product is a bit of a disappointment; admittedly I had high hopes for this major re-design. The 3140 unit has the features; Text to speech, AAA information, broad map coverage, and some features like QuickSpell that help you along the way. However, the unit has some interface trouble that creates a drag on the user experience. I had hoped that the unit’s performance and interface would put it in the same class as TomTom and Garmin, but it’s not.
Subtle things that were incorporated long ago on the Garmin units and even recently fixed on TomTom still nag the Maestro 3140, like not having a state oriented city search system in the address entry field. While the unit has Text-to-speech, its performance is not smooth and is a bit annoying with the gaps between the two different voices.
Nicely, the navigation is strong and it does a good job of getting you from here to there. The maps are fairly up-to-date, but I worry about how fast the unit will need an upgrade, as you are not only needing map updates but also AAA data updates like hours of operation on a place to eat and coupons/discounts for your AAA card. Know that if you are enticed by the features, you will not have the perfect interface to go along with it. Pricing is always a factor here, and if you are on a tight budget, consider the 3100, but I would recommend a tough look at the Maestro 3140 with text-to-speech for those folks who are navigating on surface roads in urban and suburban areas where streets are close; it gives you a lot more confidence in knowing which road to turn onto.
*This Review is a GPSLodge.com Review*
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Posted by Scott Martin at November 18, 2007 11:49 AM