GPS Reviews

January 11, 2011

Garmin StreetPilot iPhone App Update - Upgrade Now! Ver 6.5.3

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Wow, that was the fastest App upgrade I have ever seen; Garmin released a new version of their StreetPilot App for the iPhone addressing two large concerns that I surfaced in my review of the StreetPilot App and numerous other consumers voiced as feedback for the App.

The Voice is now clearer and a lot less garbled when giving directions on my iPhone 4; seems like a quick adjustment and things are a lot better.

The Map Downloads are to be faster too, and a lot less blotchy. I panned the map tonight looking at the area around Boston and noticed that Garmin now downloads maps more quickly, and in bigger blocks. See the images below; on the left is the original Version launched last week with smaller map segments, and what can't be shown here is the overall slowness of the download. On the right, the map for the same Target store is downloaded much more quickly, but in larger map block sizes.

Garmin claims that the "Map Storage [is] increased - Browse even more maps offline you've previously downloaded" on the App store indicating to me that there were some adjustments made to help remedy the situation. The App size is now 8.4MB (still tiny), versus <8MB for the last version.

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Finally, Garmin also added a volume control to the iPod playback capability. Now the iPod volume controls are offered through the Navigation menu that comes up through the "Page Curl" on the map page. Nice addition.

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Available in the iTunes Store and is still $39.
Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

January 7, 2011

Review: Garmin StreetPilot App First Impressions

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UPDATE: New Version available of the Garmin StreetPilot App to fix issues with Garbled Voice and slow map downloads - read more!

Garmin announced their StreetPilot App for the iPhone this week at CES, and I wanted to take the opportunity to gather some first impressions of their initial App effort.

It's well known that they are late to the iPhone game given their drive into the Nuvifone strategy that didn't receive the market welcome that they had originally thought it would. Given that failed attempt, it was prudent to get a hold in the marketplace in Smartphones as they continue to be the go-to personal device. I read this morning that Smart Phones are expected to surpass computers in overall numbers in the US within a year or two; simply amazing. With that portable and very personal computing power, people are going to rely on and want to rely on that device for more and more integrated capabilities. It is imperative to play in this area.

Garmin StreetPilot already a Contender

Overall, the Garmin StreetPilot App is a reasonable choice, with some strengths and a few weaknesses that while good enough, represent areas of vulnerability for Garmin. They will need to jump on these to 1) Keep any momentum coming out of their CES launch announcement and 2) Build a superior product. For years, Garmin has had an easy to use interface that continues to grow and evolve; it makes its way to the StreetPilot App. Navigation continues to be solid, with some features that make the StreetPilot App more full-featured than other navigation Apps when they were launched well over a year ago. It of course melds well with the iPhone capabilities - navigating from portrait and landscape modes and navigating to contacts from within the App. So while the weaknesses don't make it superior in the market the $39 price point and the expectation for improvements make it a contender in the App world.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (5) | social bookmarking

November 19, 2010

Review: Garmin Nuvi 3790T/3790LMT Review - Impressive Next Generation of GPS Units


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The Garmin Nuvi 3790T brings a fresh physical and interface design to the GPS category that makes using the navigator a pleasure; not overly touted as a major improvement, but clearly tipping the awesomeness scale is the quality of the screen. The new 800x480 pixel WVGA display makes the screen pop that, combined with the 3-D shaded map, make for a richer overall experience. This is the gold standard against which other GPS units will be compared.


I used the Nuvi 3790T across several weeks, on two long trips to the White Mountains, NYC and upstate NY from our house near Boston, and logged a lot of local miles while testing the unit out for over several weeks' time. The navigation is typical Garmin (very good), the overall experience of using the GPS is impressive. It's the best looking, and most refined GPS I have used.


The product design changes that make the difference on the Nuvi 3790T are:

  • Rich multi-touch display - beautiful colors and brightness, with easy zooming and menu navigation
  • Portrait or Landscape orientation - auto-rotating makes use of the Nuvi easy
  • Mount-based amplified speaker - super loud directions with windows down on the highway
  • Super thin design - nice to look at, easy to store

More after the jump....

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (4) | social bookmarking

August 22, 2010

Garmin Nuvi 3790T - Arrives for Review; Unboxing Video

GarminNuvi3750.jpg The Garmin Nuvi 3790T was part of the 3700 series announcement back in the spring, and sits prominently at the top of the Garmin Nuvi line. The Nuvi 3790T offers all of the features you'd expect to have at the top of a GPS line including traffic, text to speech, Bluetooth handsfree capability, advanced lane guidance, as well as a new feature that offers to learn your driving habits to locations you frequent.

The MyTrends feature starts to learn your shortcuts and driving routes so that the Nuvi 3790T becomes smarter the more you drive with it. We'll be testing it out over the coming weeks and get a full review up soon.

The multi-touch screen allows you to zoom and pan like you do on an iPhone, you can name your Nuvi so it will recognize when you are talking to it and issuing a few voice commands, and it will auto-switch from portrait to landscape view depending on your preference. The Nuvi Mount also has an internal amplified speaker to give you louder and clearer commands while driving.

In the meantime, check out our unboxing video for a look at the device and some of the features too.


The Garmin 3700 series is now shipping at Amazon:

More Garmin Nuvi 3700 Series Information

For More Information see the Garmin Nuvi 3700 series mini-site or the compare the Garmin Nuvi 3700 Series at the Garmin website.

Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

February 15, 2010

TomTom Ease Full Review

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TomTom announced the TomTom Ease for the US market last month at the CES 2010 show; it's a US version of the Euro based TomTom Start, announced last year. The entry level devices are targeted at ease of use with a simplified menu, and some features that make it very competitive as an entry level device like Text to Speech spoken street name direction. The standard sized screen (3.5-inch), and simple EasyPort mount offer quick stowage in tight places, while the changeable backplates make for a potentially fun accessory play later to personalize the unit.

I picked up a TomTom EASE at Amazon for around $100 for the purposes of this review, and have been testing it out around town for almost a couple of weeks now. My concerns were around quality of the fit and finish - did TomTom cut too many corners, is the menu system easier to use, and does the performance stack up against other entry level devices.
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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

December 21, 2009

TomTom iPhone Navigation App Update 1.2 - Full Review

I recently reviewed the TomTom iPhone Navigation App, and called it, "a solid first step platform onto which TomTom can build a world-class navigation product. I do want to see further enhancements for the product, including Text to Speech, lane guidance and live traffic feeds, but I anticipate that this is right around the corner, and can successfully be build on top of the existing platform."

Well, we appear to be just around the corner, and TomTom has offered us the version 1.2 to their application for free with a nice list of additional features that make their Navigation app a very respectable player in the space including:

  • Text to Speech
  • Updated Maps and Points of Interest
  • IQ Routes - a way for the TomTom to benefit from actual drive times collected by users anonymously reporting back their speed along roads.
  • Advanced Lane Guidance - shows you what lane to be in while approaching complex highway intersections
  • Added iPod player support - some limited support for the iPod within the App itself

To some extent this closes the gap with competition that TomTom has with the navigation App, but I give them credit for getting out there with an App early and then iterating quickly to build on success. It's already one of the top grossing Apps in the iTunes App store. I would expect that they will add a for an incremental fee, traffic service onto the App sometime soon. No insider info here, but it's the next logical step in the development pipeline, and they already have the capability to sign people up for live traffic feeds through their standalone platform.

So, the improvements are helpful and certainly worth the free upgrade price. While there have been some issues installing the upgrade, I simply ended up deleting my ver 1.1 on my phone and installing my 1.2 on the iPhone. It just made things easier as I am maxing out the memory with apps, and other junk on there.

Text to Speech

I did not have an issue hearing the iPhone, even at highway speeds, and the text to speech is a nice addition. I have always recommended text to speech if you can afford it as it makes navigating in urban and suburban areas a lot easier when you can hear the road name and then look for the street sign. It inspires a lot more confidence and the added feature performs well. There are all kinds of recorded voices in different languages, but only one "Computer" voice that offers text to speech in the North American version - it's "Samantha"

IQ Routes

The IQ Routes system with your permission, collected actual travel time as stand alone GPS units traveled the highways and byways of the land, in effect correcting their assumptions on travel times on specific roadways. It's a sort of historical average speed across a road with thousands of trips in the database. They might originally think that a road can be traveled at its speed limit, but in fact with two lights and a lot of people turning, the effective time to travel on a road might be 10% slower. You are able to shut off the IQ route capability to test the difference in predicted travel times. In my use, I could see a difference in planning routes, but the difference was minimal in a lot of instances.

Advanced Lane Guidance

I like lane guidance images and use them when available on my GPS navigators. The TomTom App gives you the opportunity to turn it off if you want - Settings--> Advanced--> Lane Images. Often times this feature is reserved for some of the higher end devices, but is finding its way down the product line. It's something I would expect to see in an iPhone App which should be able to support higher end features.


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iPod Support

the iPod support can be had by tapping the bottom boarder of the map, and a slider comes up showing a music note and a voice icon. Tap the music note and a Rewind, Play, Fast Forward bar slides out to offer you the opportunity to play whatever is queued up in your iPod function. You are able to start a song or album before launching the TomTom App, and continue to control it from inside the App. You don't have full browse capability or album picking but it's a good start. The image below shows you the bottom of the (portrait layout) screen with the iPod controls.


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Summary

Net, I think that these additions are a good next step for TomTom, and they offer a quality set of features built on top of a quality navigation product. I do expect to see traffic enabled soon, and continued development of the navigation capabilities and maps.

Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

October 19, 2009

TomTom iPhone App Full Review


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The TomTom App for the iPhone icon was one of the early Apps for the iPhone from a major GPS manufacturer and easily emulates their standalone models in functionality and quality. Navigating with the iPhone has been an unmet promise since the iPhone launched with its teaser GPS capability, which until its update this summer would not allow turn by turn direction Apps on the device.

TomTom's iPhone App is a straight forward navigator, not really utilizing the extensive connectivity to perform back flips in the navigation world, but instead elects to put its energy into making a high quality experience for users in a simple interface. This sometimes limiting simplicity offers entry level capabilities in a trustworthy wrapper that I think is surprisingly good. What I cannot capture properly in words is the simple convenience of having a capable navigation device in your pocket wherever you go. There is no wondering if you left your GPS in the other car, no wondering if you left it at home while on a business trip (happened to me recently and it was a miserable experience - tried to navigate with built in Google maps while someone else drove; never again), and no wondering if you will get to your destination; your GPS is already in your pocket.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

July 12, 2009

TomTom GO 740 LIVE Full Review

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The TomTom GO 740 LIVE marks the first entry to the US market of a connected service by TomTom, one of the top names in personal navigation devices, making a strong step into the next generation of devices with its access to better traffic alerts, Google Search, gas prices and more. At the base, the TomTom 740 is a fully functional navigation unit offering a top of the line approach to TomTom's version of features, **lane assist, Bluetooth handsfree capability, Help Me!, MapShare, and IQ Routes - a way of learning about travel times based on other people's read world experience.

With a strong base, the TomTom GO 740 LIVE adds on a nice set of features allowing the connected device to help make your commute easier, a search for a destination more straightforward and and overall more informed traveler when you decide to use the connected features as part of your planning process. The ability doesn't come free through, as the connected plan essentially has you paying about $10 per month for the connected services. Don't want to pay the fees? The GO 740 LIVE becomes a regular old GPS, that still allows you to navigate to an on-board set of POI's, with a strong feature set and solid navigation. If you are not in the market for the LIVE connected capabilities, look elsewhere, as there are cheaper ways even within the TomTom line to get a full complement of features without paying for the LIVE capabilities that TomTom includes. As I came into the testing of the TomTom GO 740 LIVE for this review, key in my mind were the question son how well do the connected features work, how are they integrated into the regular GPS navigation capabilities and the bottom line or is it all worth the extra $10 a month for the subscription.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

March 23, 2009

TeleNav Shotgun Connected GPS Full Review

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The TeleNav Shotgun is a the latest internet connected GPS that adds a lot of capabilities to the standard GPS by having a realtime full data connection to the internet over the cellular network. The Shotgun has internet search functions for Points of Interest, gas station searches that include gas price data, a big plus these days. The TeleNav Shotgun adds a conservative number of functions to the featureset, stopping short of some of the far reaching capabilities of the Dash Navigation folks when they launched the first connected GPS early last year.

With the fatter data pipe that the cellular network offers, more granular traffic information can be sent to the device, offering you a more accurate view of what lies ahead. The Telenav Shotgun is targeted at the business travelers who are generally out in the traffic on a regular basis, so the better detail and capabilities should be welcome. Speaking of business travelers, the Shotgun also captures your mileage, offering the easy ability to capture trip distances for mileage reimbursement.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

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.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

November 23, 2008

TomTom ONE 125 Full Review

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The new TomTom ONE 125 comes to the market at a time of intense competition and high expectations for the major GPS makers as they vie to marketshare and the attention of the millions of shoppers who are discovering the wonders of not getting lost and actually getting to where you want to go without stopping, backtracking or imagine that, asking for directions at a gas station. It also comes to market at a time when shoppers are starting to parade out to stores with cash in hand for holiday shopping.

TomTom ONE 125 vs. ONE 130

The TomTom ONE 125 brings a special edition that may or may not be around after the holiday push. The only difference between the TomTom ONE 130 and the TomTom ONE 125 is that the TomTom ONE 125 has US maps, and not the full North American maps like the TomTom ONE 130. Not a big sacrifice for people who may never venture north to Canada. I predict that it will be a big seller for Black Friday - If you want more info on Black Friday 2008 see all of the Black Friday GPS deals. The TomTom ONE 125 continues the slimmed down design with an ultra thin look, and an innovative mount, dubbed the EasyPort. Fold flat profile and a twist to adhere suction mount make the EasyPort different in the GPS world.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (4) | social bookmarking

November 19, 2008

Alpine PND-K3 Review

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Not well known for their GPS products, Alpine is known for their quality car electronics. Their PND-K3 GPS is a widescreen (4.3-inch) gps that comes with US and Canada NAVTEQ maps preloaded, Bluetooth handsfree calling, with text to speech capabilities. The unit features a new interface that was not carried over from its older models. The K3 also comes with advanced positioning that allows the unit to maintain its approximate location when it goes through tunnels. This is type of capability was also debuted on the TomTom GO 920. I found it effective driving through Boston's Big Dig tunnels. The Alpine PND-K3 offers a split screen view when you are heading through difficult intersections on the highways. As one would expect from Alpine, they offer music player functionality that will accommodate MP3 and WMV files. Load your songs on an SD Card (up to 4GB) and supports decent functionality including playlist creation.

CNet recently put up their review of the Alpine PND-K3 and rated it middle of the road. It offered decent navigation, and quick route recalculations when a turn was missed, but they didn't always agree with the routes picked as the best way to get to their destination. Battery life, rated for 2 hours, barely met that hurdle. The price can be steep, but the interface is much improved.

Read More on the Alpine PND- K3 at CNet

At Amazon - the Alpine PND-K3 GPS

Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

November 16, 2008

Garmin Nuvi 205/255 Full Review

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The Garmin Nuvi 205/255 were announced earlier this year and are quickly taking their place as solid entry level units in the Garmin line-up. The Nuvi 205/255 offer a series of new features and upgrades that improve on an already top notch interface, making the Nuvi 205/255 my pick for Best Entry Level GPS Navigators. I would urge you to upgrade to the Nuvi 255 for its text to speech (TTS) capabilities, as I feel TTS is one of the best investments to make when purchasing a GPS - it makes the navigation simpler and easier to follow in an ever more complex world of driving.

The Nuvi 205/255 feature several upgraded features:

  • New faster processor, making for a faster routing and map drawing.
  • New shaded elevation maps.
  • Now compatible with optional TMC traffic receivers, or MSN Direct service (Gas prices, traffic, local events, stocks, news, and weather.
  • Garmin HotFix capability to automatically calculate and store satellite locations so that you will be able to turn the unit on and go a lot faster greatly reducing satellite acquisition time.
  • Geolocated Picture capability - Download geotagged photos to the Garmin to be able to navigate to a loaded picture; works with Google's Panoramio photo sharing community and Garmin Connect Photos website.

The subtle changes don't sell themselves in any huge way as breakthrough innovations, but these changes add up to a whole lot more in use than the quick read might lead you to believe. Garmin clearly did some work here to make the interface better and easier to understand. The tweaks are another step on their continuous line of interface changes that make the units simple enough for all to use.

Let's take a look at what's inside and why these are worth the upgrade.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (6) | social bookmarking

November 9, 2008

Insignia CNV10/CNV20 Full Review

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Update: The CNV-10 and CNV-20 are on sale for $99 and $149 respectively; are they worth it? Maybe.......

BestBuy brought the Insignia CNV10/CNV-20 Internet Connected GPS to the market a few weeks ago as the second Internet connected GPS to hit the US market. There are others out there, the first one being the Dash Express, an internet connected GPS that also connects via WiFi to utilize the cheaper and high bandwidth to update maps while sitting in your garage. Magellan has talked for almost a year about having the Magellan 5340+GPRS come to market (and recently announced that they are suspending development on it), as has Garmin with their Nuvifone. Finally, TomTom has hit the market in Europe with their HD designated units that have a SIM chip in the power cord, connecting their units to the internet; if we're lucky, it might even hit the shelves in the US. OK - you get the picture, everyone is thinking about one, but in the end, Dash was here and now Insignia, but not all the others.

The Insignia CNV10 is the standard screen unit (3.5-inch) while the CNV20 is the widescreen unit on the market that offers the ability to search via Google (nearly infinite Points of Interest as a result, right?), send an address to your unit over the airwaves from Google Maps, but most importantly get high quality, high definition traffic updates to the unit. The higher bandwidth allows for a finer resolution in theory of the current traffic situations versus the low bandwidth TMC system that goes over the FM airwaves. Dash takes this to the next level by making the units separate traffic probes, reporting back the situation that you are in, and if you are stuck, it will warn other Dash units that the traffic is bad at your current position.

The Insignia CNV10/CNV20 units come with a 1-year subscription to the cellular network, which gives you an answer to why the fairly basic 3.5-inch screened unit costs $399; a similar, non-connected Garmin costs under $200, while the Dash Express costs $299 + the cellular plan of about $12 per month. See my Unboxing of the Insignia CNV10 for more product shots.

So, doe the Insignia CNV10/CNV20 offer these advanced features in an easy to use format? Did it keep me out of the traffic commuting around Boston? Read on......

See our Unboxing of the CNV-10 for more information and pictures on the unit.

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Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (19) | social bookmarking

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