Sunday, March 18, 2012

Navigon 7200T review

Navigon 7200T review

NOTE: Navigon has pulled out of the U.S. market and we are no longer recommending their receivers. Check out our auto GPS buyers guide for our current recommendations.

The Navigon 7200T updates the Navigon 7100, adding 3-D buildings and a new interface. The 4.3″ wide screen navigator comes loaded with maps of the U.S. and Canada, and has text-to-speech, so you’ll hear “in one mile, turn right onto Maple Street” instead of just “in one mile, turn right.” Other features include Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone use, lifetime traffic, voice destination entry, Reality View Pro, Lane Assist Pro, Zagat® ratings and reviews, Exit Guide and DirectHelp. Whew; this thing is loaded! But the question is, how well does it do all that? I’ll dig into those features in more detail shortly. First, let’s look at how it compares to other units in the Navigon family.

Step up to the Navigon 8100T
to get 3-D terrain views and a 4.8″ screen, on top of the features found on the 7200T. Going the other direction, dropping down to the 2200T, you only get maps of the 48 contiguous United States, and you lose the Bluetooth, Zagat ratings, Exit Guide and voice destination entry. Plus, you’ll drop down to a 3.5″ screen.

Navigon 7200T interface

The Navigon 7200T interface allows for a good degree of customization. One example is that you can select three POI categories that will be available for quick access upon selecting “New Destination” from the main window.

Navigon main menu

A smart spell keypad screen speeds entry, allowing you to enter only valid characters, graying out other letters when doing searches. Recent cities come up quickly when you type them into search fields. For example, when I typed “C”, Charlotte appeared in the search field since it was the last city beginning with a C that I had searched for.

Compare prices on the Navigon 7200T

Upon choosing a destination, a route preview screen opens. You can tap “Start Navigation” or just begin driving and the unit will start navigating and switch back to the map screen.

As with many GPS navigators these days, speed limits are displayed, but here they come with a twist — the Navigon can take into account special speed (e.g., school) zones, though it always drops the speed in these zones rather than just during certain hours. I wonder how long till we get a GPS capable of being time-sensitive about school zones — wouldn’t that be cool?


A speeding warning can be tied to how fast you are going over the speed limit, and can be set separately for highways and urban driving (in 5 MPH increments). When you exceed the setting, the device says “caution” and a triangle with an exclamation mark appears by the speed limit icon. I found this quite helpful, especially in town where I couldn’t use my cruise control.

Also of note, you can access volume controls directly from the map screen.

These are all nice aspects of the interface, and though attractive and generally intuitive, I found it to be a bit cluttered.

This wouldn’t be too bad (I do appreciate feature-laden and customizable GPS receivers) except for the fact that the touch screen is not always responsive. I frequently found myself tapping multiple times to get anything to happen. It seems almost as if you need to hit the center of a button for it to work, and I often resorted to “fingernail taps” as a result.

Occasionally, I even experienced a full lockup. Such problems are one of worst things to have happen with a GPS navigator. You have to keep tapping the screen; you don’t know if it locked up, if you missed the spot to tap, if the processor is just taking its time, or what. I found myself in this situation too many times with this unit.

While there are lots of options and functionality, it can take some time to get to know the interface. Reading the manual is definitely necessary with a unit like this.

There are several areas where the interface is weak. For example, favorite destinations can only be viewed alphabetically and not by proximity. Also, you can’t search near your destination (though you can search near a point on the map or an address). And when you plow through search menus, there is no quick way back to the map or main menu. You just have to keep backing out of menus.

There are symbols in the upper left hand corner of the map screen that
show GPS, power, traffic and Bluetooth status, but they are very small and quite difficult to see.

Navigon 7200T map

While you can get te 7200T to display your current speed, you have to display your elevation at the same time. And though I like seeing elevation on the screen, I’m not sure how many other people do; it’s really just another thing to clutter up the interface (the current speed/elevation field can be disabled though).

Navigation

Navigation was a mixed bag as well. The unit typically functioned fine, with fast recalculations as necessary. I liked the fact that a second turn indicator appears on the left side of the map screen when two turns are in close proximity. As you near your destination, the next turn indicator shows a checkered flag and indicates which side of the road your destination is on.

Estimated time of arrival was generally very accurate. The unit handles multi-destination routing, automatically advancing to the next destination as your trip progresses. There is no route optimization feature associated with multi-destination routing however. The map screen gets fairly cluttered when navigating a multi-destination route. An additional box comes up on the right side of the screen, giving you a total of six data fields there if you have it set to display your current speed.

I did witness some navigation problems during my testing. Sitting in a parking lot just off a road, you cannot preview a turn list until you are navigating on the route itself. Also, there were times when the voice prompts and next turn indicator were not in agreement.  I noticed local names coming up for streets (N. Chester St.) rather than more familiar highway numbers (U.S. 321). The worst navigation failure I experienced was in Charlotte, when it routed me down a city street with stoplights for four miles, rather than take an obvious route down an Interstate.

Bluetooth

On the first attempt, my phone, an LG VX8300, seemed to connect with the Navigon, but not vice versa. On the second try, both seemed to connect, but the Navigon locked up. I was not able to get my phone to function with the unit.

I had a little more luck with my wife’s Motorola V325i. The Navigon paired with it, and retrieved the phone book and recent calls, though I had to manually redo the connection each time the Navigon was powered off. Sound quality was okay, but not great, and the volume was low for the person on the other end of the call. Sometimes the Navigon would not dial, from either recent calls or the phone book.

Lifetime traffic

There is no FM TMC traffic coverage in the region where I live, but I did  receive traffic data for an area 100 miles away. That is definitely the best signal reception I’ve seen here from any device.

I took the Navigon on a brief trip to Charlotte, where it was quite helpful in navigating around traffic. It performed much better than an Insignia NS-CNV10 that I tested at the same time.

Voice Destination Entry

The NAVIGON 7200T voice destination feature requires a one time training period of a minute or so. According to the manual, the system ‘learns’ “from previous commands, returning correct destinations becomes faster and easier over time.” Unfortunately, voice entry can only be used for addresses, and not for POIs, so it seems more of a novelty than anything useful.

Reality ViewTM Pro

I was pleased to see Reality ViewTM Pro screens on the Interstates around  Asheville, NC, a city of 70,000 (400,000 in the four county metro area). I have not seen any other GPS units offering such a feature for this small of a city. I was surprised too, that it had relatively minor exits, but missed what is probably the busiest junction in town. I did find road sign imagery to be less true to the real world than those on the Garmin nuvi 755T that I recently tested. The static Reality View stays up too long, in my opinion, but a simple tap of the screen dismisses it and returns you to real-time navigation.

Reality View

Lane Assist Pro

Lane Assist Pro provides guidance on which lanes to be in for upcoming turns. It also showed up here in our small city. I found it quite helpful during my trip to Charlotte, which has grown a lot since I last spent much time there.

Zagat® ratings and reviews

I really love this feature, especially the restaurant reviews and ratings. Zagat-rated businesses did not come when searching nearby, only when searching for a city by name.

Exit Guide

This feature gives quick access to POIs for the next five exits.

DirectHelpSM

The DirectHelpSM menu, pictured below, offers information about your current location and quick access to key emergency POIs.

Navigon 7200T DirectHelp

3-D buildings

A limited number of buildings and landmarks are available in 3D in larger cities. I saw some of these show up in Charlotte.

Navigon 7200T Tips

  • To save your current position, press Options > GPS > Save Position
  • To fully power down and not go into standby mode, hold down the power button for at least eight seconds; this will help preserve battery life

Conclusion

The Navigon 7200T is visually attractive and offers lots of options and features for a unit in this price range. Nevertheless, the 7200T needs some additional fine-tuning and I hope that Navigon will be working on firmware upgrades for some of the issues I experienced.

More Navigon 7200T reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…


Other Navigon 7200T resources

Compare prices on the Navigon 7200T at these merchants:

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About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

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