December 15, 2008

Navigon 2200T Full Review

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Navigon just recently launched the Navigon 2200T, an entry level unit with some pretty un-entry level set of features, like lifetime traffic, text to speech and lane assist, a way to see which lane to be in as you navigate through those complex intersections. Navigon has been on the market elsewhere for a while, but really made their mark about a year ago in the US, where they rocketed onto the market with their Navigon 2100, an earlier entry level model.

The 2200T at its base is a standard screen 3.5-inch unit that offers real time traffic through a TMC traffic receiver that has its antenna built right into unit - something that makes the unit a lot easier to deal with instead of an extra cord dangling from the unit. The unit offers some advanced guidance capabilities like Lane Assist that shows you where to go in a small schematic on what lane you need to be in coming up to an intersection. If that's not enough, you get reality view, a 3-D view, a way to see how you should drive; just like you were flying through the intersection before you drive it. Text to Speech rounds out this list of features before we go and try this unit out.

Design

The Navigon 2200T keeps the brand iconically designed around its piano black, thin design school adding a chrome accent to frame the front of the unit. On the rear, your Navigon focuses the eye on the brand name with a small rear-firing speaker on the upper left. There are not controls on the outside of the unit, except for the on/off button on the upper right edge. The Navigon 2200T has its maps of the 48 states loaded internally, leaving open the micro-SD slot on the side for future additions of map data.

The mount is an aesthetically pleasing, mostly functional mount. It is a cam style suction cup, which works well, and the arms are tightened via screws, which can sometimes be frustrating to adjust. The mount includes a C-shaped tray to accept the Navigon 2200T, grabbing it on the top and bottom of the unit. It's not a cinch putting the unit on and off the C-shaped cradle, but most will be taking the entire suction cup off the windshield anyway - or at least you should be to avoid getting the unit stolen.

Interface

The Interface on the Navigon 2200T is very detailed, and customizable. This must be a German thing (Navigon is from Germany), where exacting control is desired. The interface is not spartan, and can get overwhelmingly cluttered if you start to turn on all the options. Not to worry, the menus are more straightforward allowing you to tap through and select some very logical options. When you tap into the Settings menu, you are given the option of four areas to change: Navigation, Route Profiles, Map Display, and General. Each of these Menus offer a page or two of options that you can configure to customize the layout as you wish. You can elect to show speed limits, warn when exceeding speed limits, show the reality view, 2D Maps with street names, etc. There are 32 individual settings here - that's a lot. I would recommend walking through them all at first to get to know them so that you are familiar with the options. It would be harder to hunt for that one setting that annoys you, versus knowing that something is configurable.

You won't have to dig into the Menu every time you want to configure something - a quick tap in the middle of the map screen brings you to a very basic action screen - 2D/3D, Day Display/Night Display, Set an Interim Destination, Skip a Route Point, Block, or find a Point of Interest along a route. That last one is a great addition when on a road trip and you need food or gas.

Finally, the Navigon 2200T has something that I am increasingly liking these days in a GPS - branded icons. You can turn on and turn off what types of POI categories you want displayed on the map when driving (Options --> Settings--> Map Display --> "Categories Shown") - there are 26 possible categories to show or not show. Once something is "shown", there is an ample set of branded icons available in the unit that makes recognition of those locations easier.

Navigation

Getting to where you want to go is the main job of the GPS, and the Navigon does a good job here. The 2200T has an improved interface versus the Navigon 2100 that blasted onto shelves last year during the holiday season, and it makes a big difference. Overall I would say that the Navigon interface is much improved and is reasonably good, but sags just a bit from some complexity that makes things less than straightforward.

The Main Menu has four options - New Destination, My Destinations, Take Me Home, and Show Map - easy to understand and moves you readily into key functions.

New Destination - allows you to enter an address or search for a Point of Interest (POI), as well as offer three direct access options that you can set - I like Gas, and food. By entering the addressing mode, you are helped along by the 2200T remembering the state and offering the town that you last searched for. By tapping out the town, then street, on a full sized "ABC" style keyboard, you can take advantage of the whole screen, something that wasn't true for the 2100 last year which was a big drawback. The 2200T thinks ahead in two ways - 1) Offering only those letters on the keyboard that make sense (lights up the letters that can come next in the word), so that you eliminate mis-typed letters and offer a faster entry, and 2) Offers street names for you as you type hoping to eliminate finger taps for you. These items certainly help speed the data entry. As you move through the addressing dialog, you move from left to right across the top of the screen in a tabbed format. This allows you to see the progress and to go back to a previous step if you want. Once you have a full address in you get the options to get info on that location, to see it on the map, or navigate to it, as your main buttons, with more options under the "Options Tab", which allow you to save the destination, or add it to a multi-point route (more later). Powerful? Yes. Confusing? Maybe.

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Navigating to a POI is similar to the addressing function; letting the 2200T know that you want to search near your current location or in a specific town. When searching for you it is an easy process, and searching for a POI in a specific city is similar to entering an address, adding layers of information like the city, then the POI category, and finally finding the POI that is reasonable to head to. The POI's are categorized into about 20 easily recognizable categories. The NAVIGON 2200T eliminates POI categories if none exist in that town - so it there's no airport in that town, you won't see an Airport category. Thinking ahead for you - good stuff.

My Destinations - This is a good place to grab favorite locations. Your "Last Destinations" are here as well as the locations that you saved to memory.

Take Me Home - as you would imagine, a place you will navigate to a lot, and walks you through a process to enter your address. Easy and something you should do on day 1; you'll use it.

Show Map - shows a big old map where you can zoom in and find a spot to navigate too. Since it starts with the whole US on the screen, so zooming and re-centering can take a while to do. It's a good option to have, but it's never been an elegant solution in my mind on any device.

When you are out on the road, the Navigon 2200T offers good solid directions, and a couple of options for getting from A to B. Like most, the Navigon offers a shortest, and fastest as well as the additional "optimized". The first to are fairly obvious, while the optimized is a blend that seems to work best for me, taking a balance of some side streets that may in fact get you fastest.

The text to speech capabilities are good, not luxurious, and the 2200T comes with two voices. The Navigon 2200T also has multi-point routing that helps if you are going from one place to another. You can start by adding a destination to a route, and then continuing to add stops. It's as easy as adding any destination, a useful feature that can help when you are on the road for a while.

Lane Assist/Reality View

What can I say, these are good features. I like the Reality view that offers a look at what side of the highway or what ramp you need to be on. About a half a minute before the turn an image comes up on the screen showing you the lanes ahead, a realistic sign above the road, with arrows on the lane(s) you need to be in. The unit works well and offers some extra confidence with the Reality View. Reality view pops up when you are on highways and have a major interchange coming up. The Lane Assist is less awe inspiring and offers a small icon indicating a few lanes with an arrow that points down the multiple lanes helping to guide you on a regular basis. Always good to have the help.

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Reality View telling me which lane to be in as I headed home.


Traffic

The Navigon 2200T comes with built in lifetime traffic capabilities, which is a plus in my mind. The TMC traffic capabilities on all GPS units are not perfect, due in part to the lack of bandwidth to the GPS across the FM airwaves (See TMC City Coverage). This results in some misses and some less than detailed data being fed to the units. This may be true, but I look at the current capabilities as a good step in helping users to deal with traffic jams and back-ups. So for me, a good estimate of travel times, and decent weighing of options helps me deal with daily back-ups.

In practice, the Navigon 2200T does well picking up signals and alerting you to the issues. With the red alert popping up on the screen, you can see the concern areas by tapping the alert icon. That action rings up short road segments with quick descriptions of the traffic issue. The short detail is a factor of the TMC technology and not a limitation of the Navigon. I found that the travel time estimates were a little closer to reality driving though traffic versus a non-traffic model, but was short versus actual travel times. My typical commute into Boston is about 35 miles, 35 minutes without traffic and takes 55 - 70 minutes through normal rush hour traffic. On one day, the Navigon recognized the traffic issues, and estimated about 47 minutes, while the actual trip took about 55 minutes, a slight miss.

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"Slow Traffic" ahead at exit 15

One challenge is getting a clear picture of where the traffic is and how bad the traffic is, graphically. While the text data comes up with information, it's always good to see a graphical representation at two times: 1) When you first see an alert, you want a traffic overview of your traffic route, and 2) When you are driving, you could use graphical cues to alert you to the traffic as you approach it.

The Navigon does alert you to traffic issues, and allows you to route around them, offering alternate routes that are reasonably good. These routes may be on roads that do not have traffic coverage, which is a blind bet that you'll be OK on those roads. I would like to see continued improvement in the overall traffic area and on balance it is better to have the capability than not. To be clear, I am not down on the Navigon 2200T, as it gives a reasonable expectation of the traffic delays, and alerts you to traffic issues within a short time of starting up.

Review Summary

Navigon has come a long way with their interface in a year since they burst onto the US market. The improvements come in the usability area allowing for easier inputs and typing on the standard 3.5-inch screen. The Navigon 2200T has a lot of capabilities including Text to Speech, a robust set of Points of Interest, assistance in which lane to be in while navigating those tough highway interchanges. The cost of the Navigon 2200T is relatively low, which continues to make it an attractive device on the very competitive market. The only knock that I can offer is that the interface is still not as straightforward as the best in class, instead choosing to offer detailed sets of information and extra choices that can offer powerful options but also cloud the simple tasks. The value of the unit is a powerful persuasion and one that can be tough to resist, especially if you have the ability to master its capabilities.

Available at Amazon - Navigon 2200T

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Posted by Scott Martin at December 15, 2008 9:00 AM

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