While name-brand GPS manufacturers like Garmin and Magellan duke it out in the high-end GPS market by piling on extra features like media players, relative newcomer Navigon has set out to distinguish itself with something new entirely. Its fresh flagship model, the Navigon 8100T, features fully 3D-mapped terrain, which shows everything from mountain tops to valleys in vivid, life-like detail. After our misgivings from Navigon’s earlier effort, the 7200T, we set out to see whether Navigon had pulled its act together for its magnum opus – and we came away pleasantly surprised.
Features and Design
Besides its distinguishing 3D view mode (which Navigon calls Panorama View 3D), the 8100T comes stacked with just about every other high-end GPS feature available, from a text-to-speech engine that pronounces street names and directions aloud, to Lane Assistant Pro, which tells drivers exactly which lane to get in, and Reality View Pro, which shows a life-like representation of complex highway intersections. Curiously, though, Navigon has dumped the Landmark View 3D feature, which shows major urban buildings in 3D, from its lower-end 7200T in the 8100T. We weren’t too disappointed – if anything, it might be a testament to its throwaway novelty value.
Two other major features push the Navigon out from similarly priced competitors: its extra-large screen and free real-time traffic updates. At 4.8 inches across, the 8100T’s screen is a full half-inch larger than almost all competitors. And of the many GPS companies out there, only Garmin matches Navigon in offering free traffic updates for like included in the price of the unit.
From the outside, the Navigon is easily one of the more impressive car GPS units we’ve handled. From its hefty weight, to the sturdy brushed-aluminum bezel that feels like it belongs on the grille of an Aston Martin, Navigon’s hasn’t skimped much on built materials or design. This is one attractive and well-built nav unit.
The quality of a mount can make or break (in some cases, literally) a good navigation unit. In the case of the 8100T, the mount follows the lead of device itself in going big. Really big. Upon removing it from the package, we almost thought someone had replaced the usual skeletal-looking mount with some sort of showerhead or handheld self-defense device. It looks like a curved piece of modern art that extends the GPS unit out from the windshield to the driver, as if on a pedestal. Besides this decidedly upscale feel, it’s also unique because the car charger powers the stem, then the GPS itself through a series of gold contacts that close when you clip the unit onto the stem. It’s all very elaborate, and seemingly unnecessary, but it contributes to the 8100T’s solid feel. You might have issues finding somewhere to stash it if you like to take it down when you leave the car, though, and its physical size also makes it more of an eyesore and obstruction without the GPS attached.
Other accessories include a car charger that also works as an FM antenna for TMC traffic signals via its cabling, a USB cable for connecting the unit to a computer, a soft bag for the nav unit, an SD card with mapping information for North America and Canada, and an adhesive plastic disk for adapting the mount to a dashboard. Unlike the 7200T, which freaked out when we connected to chargers besides its own, the 8100T will work just fine, minus its traffic abilities. Somewhat nonsensically, though, the car charger does not seem to work when plugged directly into the unit, only the window mount, which can cause for some majorly frustrating setup issues.
Image Courtesy of Navigon
No Media Machine
We should note that the 8100T, though it has an SD slot, does not actually play media files as you might expect. For a lot of people, this won’t be an issue, but many competing players offer this (and sometimes even an FM transmitter to broadcast the music to your car radio) built right in.
Image Courtesy of Navigon
We harshly criticized the 7200T for its dismal speaker quality that actually got be very abrasive at high volume, but Navigon has gotten its act together on the 8100T, outfitting it with a speaker that actually pushes out some volume without grating eardrums. Even with car noise, it’s very functional.
After trying to use no less than three phones with the 7200T and declaring its Bluetooth ability worthless when not a single one, worked, we’re happy to report that the firmware on the 8100T seems to have fixed the issue. The very first phone paired easily and made calls without any of the same issues we experienced the first time around. Unfortunately, call quality was very poor, with parties on the other end reporting severe echoes and sporadic cut-outs during calls, making us think that Navigon still hasn’t invested quite enough time in fine-tuning this capability.
With the 8100T, Navigon has fixed many of the issues that plagued its’ frustrating old 7200T, making it a quantum leap ahead. We’re still not in love with some aspects of the interface, and routing could be better, but on the whole we think the 8100T more than justified the $150 premium it carries over the lower model. Yes, $599 is a lot for a nav system, but if you’ve decided to go premium, the 8100T should definitely be on your radar for its superior 3D rendering capabilities, free real-time traffic, and exceptionally swank design.
• Beautiful 3D maps
• Solid mount
• Premium-feeling case
• Free real-time traffic
• Attractive interface
• Poor Bluetooth speakerphone quality
• Unintuitive POI entry
• Occasionally nonsensical routing