June 23, 2008

Navigon 2100 MAX Full Review


The Navigon 2100 MAX is is a widescreen entry level GPS that adds might to the value end of the Navigon offerings. The GPS market is getting crowded in the value end, as more competitors come to the market, while the big guys continue to innovate in this arena to stay competitive. The 2100 MAX is of course the follow-up to the blitzing Navigon 2100 (See my Navigon 2100 Full Review) that vaulted onto the market in the holiday period with $99 sales and lifetime traffic deals. The standard screen (3.5-inch) Navigon 2100 did well, and got a lot of attention for its innovative interface design and their overall design aesthetic. They also got some unwanted attention for some rough spots on their interface and what I would call "Cultural Adaptations" that didn't translate from the native German design to the American expectations. Navigon showed that they were in the game in a serious way and have brought software updates and launched the FreshMaps (after market map subscription), which shows that they are serious about the US market.

The Navigon 2100 MAX adds the 4.3-inch screen to the entry level where a lot of people are interested in a sub-$250 widescreen unit. The Navigon 2100 comes with 48-state maps, Text-to-Speech, and the ability to create multi-destination routes. With a fairly robust POI database, and branded POI listings, how's the new widescreen from Navigon do?

The Navigon 2100 MAX is easily recognizable as a Navigon, with a piano black finish and a dual texture edge that creates a higher end look and feel. Simple and thin, the Navigon 2100 MAX has the mini-USB power on the bottom, a smallish and flush mounted power button on the top-right, and the SD card slot where the Navigon 48-state maps SD card lives. The mount carries over from the Navigon 2100 and is minimalistic in design. Getting the GPS on the mount can take a bit of concentration as the nubs on the mount are small, and finding their home on the GPS takes a bit. The good news is that since you are going to be taking the suction cup mount on and off the windshield (and not the GPS on and off the mount), the ease of use of the Navigon suction cup/cam lever mount comes through.


Navigon Interface
To my eye, the interface hasn't changed dramatically since I reviewed the Navigon 2100, and still offers a plethora of options and icons. I will admit that this isn't always good, as the screen can be crowded and icons can seem to mean different things: Magnifying glass for a search button vs. a magnifying glass with a "+" sign in it for zoom in on the map. You are in charge of adding data to the screen, so it can be anything from scarce to crowded, depending on your likes. Beyond the usual 2D/3D selection, you get the ability to show or not show street names in 2D and/or 3D, as well as display direction of travel, altitude, speed, duration of trip, arrival time, speed limits (on highways), and coordinates.

Navigon2100MAXDataEntry.jpgOne thing that is better with the Navigon 2100 MAX versus the regular screen (3.5-inch) Navigon 2100 is data entry. On the standard screen Navigon 2100, the letters were so small when typing in a destination, that is was really hard to get the right letter hit. The extra real estate on the 2100 MAX makes things feel better. I would always take more room, as Navigon's interface limits the keypad to the right half of the screen when entering names of towns, etc. but the widescreen enters the realm of acceptable. On the bright side here is the inclusion of branded icons for POI, which are a great little diversion. navigon2100maxbrandedicons.jpgNot all POI categories are included, but just the ones you want seen (out of 26 categories) that you can designate in the Settings menu. Both fun and helpful, without being cluttered while driving through a densely POI populated area. So while McDonalds, Mobil gas stations and Burger King have their icons on there, my local brew pub was just listed with a name.

The directions and navigation with the 2100 MAX are pretty good overall. The speaker is a little taxed when turned all the way up, resulting in some garbled phrases. The text-to-speech is not as good as TomTom's but is certainly understandable, albeit a little computerized. Some pronunciations solicited giggles from the back seat as we passed some particularly tough road names that are based on Native American names. Satellite lock times are fast and reasonable, not creating any issues for me. When turned on the first time, the unit grabbed a signal in my kitchen, which I think is a pretty good indication of its ability to grab weak satellite signals. Entering an address is going to be a pretty basic activity that works well - tap the return or Left arrow on the main screen and tap "New Destination". Navigon2100MAXDirectAccess.jpgYou now have some shortcuts here and can get "Direct Access" to 3 customizable POI categories. Default is Parking, Gas and Restaurants. Tap one of these buttons and you can bring up a list of locations near you. Pretty straightforward. From "Enter Address" you get to choose Street First or City First; nicely enough the Navigon 2100 MAX remembers the last state you searched in so you don't have to worry about that. As you type in a name, the list of possibilities show up on the side, narrowing down so that you can see what the choices are and maybe stop before you need to type out the entire address. Once you start navigating, you will get a box on the lower left side of the screen that shows travel time information. This box is customizable.

With one destination programed into the Navigon 2100 MAX, you can now add new destinations to build a route. You can add destinations to the route list and then navigate the whole thing in the order you set. The Navigon 2100 MAX does not optimize the route for you. The Navigon 2100 MAX does offer a nice layout of the route on the map, labeling each segment with a number and a travel time of that segment. When navigating, you get a data box that has "Total" trip information, mileage, duration and arrival time, with a "Next" box below it describing the same data for your trip to the next segment.

Like the 2100, the 2100 MAX has a lot of customization. The Navigon 2100 MAX has a few route profile settings that allow you to customize the type of route that they unit sets up for you. The settings include Fastest, Optimized, short and scenic. On top of this, you can also select what vehicle you will be using, like a car, a bike or walking on foot. The unit came with a setting of Fastest as the default, which honestly gave me some whacky results. I ran into some odd routes with Fastest, so I would recommend Optimum. Fastest seems to be "Prefer Highways" which isn't always good when you are navigating around and local roads really are best. Not sure what's up with "Fastest", but the "Optimum" setting gave me pretty good directions. When using "Optimum" it gave me solid directions on the run back up the same stretch, not trying to bring me a couple of miles out of the way. You can also allow, avoid and forbid highways, toll roads and ferries, and not allow U-Turns (my default).

Review Summary

The Navigaon 2100 MAX certainly steps up where the standard screen 2100 could not in the area of screen real estate. The extra width of the screen offers more space to tap letters for data entry and see information as you are on the road. The data entry screens could still use some extra real estate as you tap instead of giving up the side of the screen to names. The navigation is reasonable, and weighted a little bit towards more major roads, making some decisions to route me onto state roads versus keeping me on a local road; not an issue in unfamiliar areas and can be an asset in those situations. The data entry can be trying sometimes as I still felt that I could tap letters faster than the unit could take the input, creating an odd lag time that had me thinking I missed the letter.

More information at Navigon Website

At Amazon the Navigon 2100 MAX

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Posted by Scott Martin at June 23, 2008 8:46 AM

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