Didn’t get the GPS you wished for during the holidays? Best Buy’s private-label Insignia brand might not be top of mind when you go shopping, but its Insignia NS-CNV43 GPS navigation system is definitely worthy of consideration. It boasts a strong feature set, including a 4.3-inch touchscreen; Bluetooth connectivity; real-time traffic and weather conditions; Google search access; retail gasoline prices; and even automatic Twitter updates. If you like the Internet- and cellular-based features, you’ll need to sign up for a paid service plan after 90 days, though, with plans ranging from $5 for three days service to $99 for a full year.
The NS-CNV43 is designed more for use in your car than toting with you on a downtown stroll or (ahem) a trek along the Appalachian Trail; but being only slightly larger than a smartphone, it fits easily inside a jacket pocket or a purse (the device measures 3.2 inches high, 4.8 inches wide, and 0.7 inches thick). The GPS comes with a suction-cup windshield mount, a car charger (with a five-foot straight-wired cable), and a USB cable (which provides an alternative means of charging the battery, but doesn’t allow you to download data from a PC).
The pre-loaded base map, provided by Navteq, is limited to the United States. Many GPS devices also include maps for Canada and Puerto Rico, which makes them useful if you happen to be vacationing in those regions. Maps and voice data are stored on a removable 2GB Micro-SD card. The Bluetooth feature enables you to pair the GPS to your cell phone and use the touchscreen QWERTY keyboard to make, receive, and manage calls.
The Insignia has a bright and easy-to-read 4.3-inch backlit LCD, which you use to control everything except volume; it does not recognize voice commands. Volume control is handled with a simple rocker wheel on the right-hand side (pushing the thumbwheel in mutes the volume). The power button on top, mini USB port on the right-hand side, and the rear-firing speaker are the only other external features, which makes for a very clean design even when the snap-on mounting cradle is attached.
The NS-CN43 GPS supports text-to-speech conversion, so it’s able to read street names aloud; but there are only two voices, female (one is English, the other Spanish). There’s no option for downloading celebrity voices, as is offered on some competing GPS devices. Spoken directions are preceded by an electronic tone, but the ping doesn’t occur earlier enough to direct your attention (or to shush any passengers traveling with you), so its usefulness is limited. We eventually turned the ping off because it’s rather annoying. It’s unfortunate that the device doesn’t use your Bluetooth connection to speak directions directly into your ear.
The GPS typically provides three route choices for most trips (prioritized as A, B, and C based on estimated travel time). You’ll find a number of other routing features, too, including the ability to avoid highways, tolls, and ferries; highlight points of interest; and add waypoints along your route.
Real-time information included in the subscription service includes traffic updates from Navteq, weather updates from AccuWeather.com, gas prices from GasBuddy.com, and movie listings from Hollywood.com. You can search movie listings by title or by location, and the GPS will report not only which movies are playing at which theaters at which times, but a short plot summary of each film. Twitter fanatics can even configure the GPS to tweet their departure and estimated arrival times, complete with status updates at regular intervals. Reply tweets are displayed on the GPS.
The device will memorize your home address, so you can get directions home from wherever you happen to be by pressing the “Go Home” button, which is one screen away from the primary menu. Recent routes are automatically stored in a queue, and you can store additional routes in a Favorites folder for easy recall. You can also browse for nearby services and points of interest, such as ATMs, parking facilities, hotels, hospitals, convenience stores, tourist attractions, and restaurants. If you’d like to search for something more specific—local Chinese restaurants, for example—you can use Google Search. This feature would be even stronger if it had a connection to a restaurant review site, such as Yelp or Chow. You can also look up destinations using Google Maps on your PC and email the information to the GPS.