Sunday, March 18, 2012

Magellan SmartGPS review

Magellan SmartGPS reviewHands on Magellan SmartGPS review

The Magellan SmartGPS is a forthcoming connected auto navigator that brings in additional information via a Bluetooth-connected smartphone or WiFi.

I’m of a mixed mind on this device. On the one hand it’s one of the best navigators Magellan has ever made. It is very intuitive and has a well thought out interface (including the innovative virtual scroll wheel, shown above at the top of the screen). The mount is one of the most secure I’ve ever used and the device offers some very nice features (besides the connectivity) like highly customizable speed limit warnings. And a specialty grocery store that had only been open for a month showed up in a POI search — I’ve never seen that before on a dedicated GPS!

On the other hand, it felt like I was constantly seeing advertisements on my screen (note that the “squares” can be set to not show). And while they aren’t paid ads they sure felt like it. They are also a significant source of distraction  Yes, it’s nice to have gas prices, safety camera alerts and weather, but I’m just not sure of the use case for a device like this, which is clearly targeted to smartphone owners. Garmin’s Smartphone Link app appears to be a more reasoned approach.

Connected features

  • Yelp
  • Foursquare
  • Fuel prices
  • Weather
  • Phantom Alerts red light camera and school zone warnings (free for one year)
  • Real time traffic

Rather than go into all the details, I’m going to jump straight to the pros and cons:

Magellan SmartGPS pros

  • Very intuitive interface
  • Capacitive touchscreen
  • Well thought out search tabs interface (nearby, along route, near destination)
  • Nearly live gas prices (updated every four hours)
  • Customizable speed limit warnings in 1 MPH increments (-15MPH to +15MPH); audible and visual warnings available
  • Connectivity improves POI accuracy in terms of newly opened businesses
  • Suction cup mount seemed very secure
  • Slides onto mount easily
  • Audio out jack
  • AV input for Magellan wireless backup camera
  • Landmark Guidance can be disabled
  • Excelled at rerouting; when I took an alternate route it figured out what I was trying to do immediately and didn’t try to direct me back to the original route

Magellan SmartGPS cons

  • “Squares” feel like continuously running ads
  • The big bezel is a turn off (see image at top)
  • Cannot keep current speed and ETA both showing on map screen
  • Map screen vanishes briefly (for a second or so) when “reloading” after receiving an update via Bluetooth or WiFi
  • Mount is too high profile when used with universal friction mount
  • Short battery life
  • I saw one spontaneous reboot
  • I noticed one routing error (the device sent me up the road to do a u-turn rather than turn left to reach a destination on an undivided four-lane city street)

More Magellan SmartGPS reviews


The Magellan SmartGPS is expected to be available from around the end of April.

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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