“...it's clear the final product needs some refinement.”
- Attractive interface and styling; robust POI database; accurate GPS performance
- Nonfunctional Bluetooth; unintuitive destination entry; poor speaker performance
Navigon’s attempt to crack into the exclusive premium GPS club starts off well with an attractive case, solid mount and modern-looking interface, but falls apart with further usage. Some features like 3D buildings fail to deliver much sizzle, while others, like Reality View Pro, churn out directions that are downright wrong. When coupled with an awful speaker, monotonous interface and hands-free Bluetooth functionality that we couldn’t get to work at all, we can’t find a lot to recommend about this player above and beyond its basic GPS functionality and free-for-life traffic updates.
Features and Design
Like Garmin’s Nuvi 760, Magellan’s Maestro 4350, and TomTom’s GO 930, the Navigon 7200T competes at the $500 price point where manufacturers must pile on the features thick and gloss up their devices as much as possible to justify the expense over budget models. In other words, there aren’t a whole lot of things the 7200T won’t do.
Besides its standard GPS navigation features, 4.3-inch screen, and text-to speech for reading street names, the 7200T comes swathed in extras. Landmark View 3D adds three-dimensional buildings to metropolitan areas, voice destination entry allows drivers to pull up locations merely by speaking to the unit, and Reality View Pro augments the standard overheard view with specific lane instructions and like-real traffic signs. There’s also a Bluetooth radio for interacting with phones, and ZAGAT ratings for some included points of interest.
While Navigon isn’t alone in offering real-time traffic updates for its GPS systems, it’s one the few manufacturers, besides Garmin, to offer free service included in the purchase price of the unit. Considering that many other traffic plans will run about $100 a year, that can add up to some significant savings over the life of the unit.
The only feature notably missing from the 7200T that appears on many competing units in its price range would be a built-in media player to show photos, play music, and view movies.
Aesthetics and Build Quality
Though Navigon’s 7200T doesn’t immediately stand out from the crowded variety of other 4.3-inch GPS systems out there, the company did a respectable job modernizing the look of its flagship GPS device. Rather than getting a wraparound plastic bezel, the face of the 7200T runs completely flat from corner to corner, with the LCD set flush beneath the screen surface and surrounded by a slim margin of piano black. On the back, its matte black plastic shell has been spiced up with a carved-line pattern.
The bundle on the 7200T includes a suction cup car mount, plastic disc for dash mounting, car charger, and of course, a bundle of documentation.
Though most windshield mounts give us the impression they’re meant to be taken up and down, Navigon’s actually seemed intended to stay up all the time, and it’s sturdy enough to pull it off. The suction cup is the thickest and most durable we’ve seen, and it bites onto the windshield with barely any play. More interestingly, both pivot points on the mount actually lock with thumb screws, making the whole arm seem like a solid extension out of the windshield after you set it up. We actually liked this configuration for leaving it permanently mounted, but if you’re wary about making your car a theft magnet and want to put it away when you leave your car, it will need to be positioned exactly the same unless you want to unlock all the joints and reposition it again.
Navigon chose to build the antenna for the unit’s traffic system directly into the car charger cable, which eliminates the need for separate and ugly windshield antenna, but also creates some compatibility issues. Attempting to plug the 7200T into any mini-USB charger other than the one that came with it will display a computer connectivity screen on the device, rendering it useless until you unplug it. This essentially ropes users into Navigon for buying chargers, and means the 7200T won’t be able to share the common plug with other devices.
Image Courtesy of Navigon
Though the 7200T’s initial start-up seems to drag by, putting it into standby instead of powering it off will skip the lengthy boot up process, so you shouldn’t have to deal with it often if you can keep the unit charged between starts. The SirfStarInstantFix II chip inside did a respectable job fixing its location quickly when in full view of many satellites, but took over two minutes with a lower signal, so results will certainly vary.
We liked the look of Navigon’s interface: It’s clean, modern, and the dark theme matches the rest of the unit very well. Maps look smoothed and anti-aliased, and Navigon’s visual niceties like store icons that crop up on the map along your route really lend it a refined feel. But performing different functions with it isn’t as intuitive as we’ve come to expect.
Say you’re looking for a Safeway supermarket near you. Rather than being able to click a destination button and immediately plugging in the name, Navigon will first prompt you for whether you want to find one near you, in a city, or in a state. Fine, one click. Next, it will ask for a category. Another click. Expecting a keyboard and an entry window? Not so fast. You get a list of nearby locations sorted by distance away from you. If you want to search for one, you’ll need to click yet again on a less-than-obvious button that looks like a document. When the keyboard finally does come up, it will grey out keys as you enter a word if it doesn’t have an item in the library with that combination of letters. While this makes sense, it’s also distracting to type on a constantly shifting keyboard. Even after adjusting to the rigmarole, we found ourselves yearning for the simpler input systems of other GPS units when looking for destinations. On the up side, though, Navigon does provide a comprehensive set of POIs, and we liked having extra information, such as ZAGAT ratings, available for certain destinations.
Voice Commands and Speaker Quality
Entering destinations by voice, while a novel option, isn’t quite fluid enough to use on a day-to-day basis. The unit did a respectable job interpreting addresses, but the prompts to enter different bits of data are spaced so far apart, it takes nearly twice as long to enter them versus typing. And in the event the system gets one wrong, which isn’t rare, editing the information vocally is like walking your grandma through checking her e-mail. Bottom line: Dealing with a finicky voice system might be more distracting than simply keying in a few details at a traffic light, or pulling over for 20 seconds.
The unit’s text-to-speech system, as expected, performed inconsistently. While it occasionally surprised us by pronouncing complex street names properly, it would commonly butcher easier items, like pronouncing “avenue” closer to “avernue.” For the most part, though, it succeeds in allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road instead of reading street names off the unit, even if it does take some interpretation.
The speaker on the Navigon performed as poorly as the ultra-budget Nextar I4-BC, which is to say that passengers will be begging for mercy as the computer’s robotic voice shrieks out crackly instructions every time you turn. Not a good sign for a $500 navigator.
We loved the idea of having 3D landmarks to navigate by, but Navigon disappointed us with an exceptionally sparse scattering of buildings in our own fair city of Portland. Demo drives of Seattle and Chicago weren’t much better, though, and oddly enough, in Manhattan, none showed up at all.
Reality View Pro
Reality View Pro initially impressed us with its renderings of a handful of highway splits and merges, but our enthusiasm faded after watching it illustrate some terribly confusing directions. At one point, for instance, the highway widened by one lane on the right for trucks. The 7200T not only mysteriously demanded that we use the truck lane, it also illustrated the “junction” as an exit ramp we were supposed to take, when in fact all we had to do was move over a lane.
Since we didn’t have to sign up for anything or enter any activation codes to get traffic data, and the 7200T’s antenna is built right into its charger cable, it was by far the easiest GPS we’ve used to get traffic updates with. Right out of the box, clicking on the “Traffic” button will reliably bring up a list of traffic events when connected to the charger. We still managed to get wedged in traffic without the unit knowing or alerting us, though, and the interface for displaying traffic leaves much to the imagination. It’s nowhere near what you would get from the Dash Express, for example, which actually colors roads based on traffic, rather than dotting the map with vague indicators.
Image Courtesy of Navigon
Though we regularly find devices that are so painful to use with Bluetooth that we would never actually use them in day-to-day life due to the hassle, the 7200T must be the first that was so bad we were literally unable to get it to work once, after attempting with three different phones. It paired, exchanged phonebooks and even accepted calls, but never produced any audio, transmitted any audio, or allowed us to dial out from it. Even the basic pairing turned out to be a buggy process: after doing it once, retrying would spit out an error message instructing us to turn on Bluetooth under settings, even though it was already on. We had to turn it off and on again manually to get it to pair, every single time. Despite several rereads of the manual and hours wasted trying, we’re declaring Bluetooth nonfunctional on this device. Scratch it off the feature list because it doesn’t work.
Navigon has made a valiant effort to produce a navigator that will roll with the big boys in the high-end category, but it falls well short of King of The Hill when compared to established competitors. We could give the 7200T more credit if it managed to execute the features listed on the box with some gusto, but with a speaker that sounds like a Fisher-Price See ‘n Say, a “reality view” mode that tells you to take phantom exits, and Bluetooth that just plain doesn’t work, it’s clear the final product needs some refinement. We do give Navigon credit for its forward-thinking free traffic program, though, and the physical fit and finish of the unit.
• Attractive interface and styling
• Robust POI database
• Very solid window mount
• Quick, accurate GPS performance
• Free traffic updates
• Nonfunctional Bluetooth
• Unintuitive destination entry
• Poor speaker performance
• Reality View Pro misleading
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