Street smart solution
Satnavs do a lot more than a map does, writes PETER FAMILARI
SATNAV systems are fast-tracking the humble street directory towards the history books. When the mapping is accurate and it’s used with common sense, especially in an unfamiliar city or country, a satnav strapped to the windscreen can save you from all sorts of dramas.
But even with the best mapping there is potential for GPS systems to go pear-shaped.
If you believe what you hear, you’ll like the story about the bloke who ignored the road signs and followed his satnav into (a) a river (b) a brick wall or (c) to the edge of a cliff.
So, how do some of the most popular units sold in Australia rate?
Pioneer’s $1199 AVIC-F310BT gets a big thumbs up.
I used it happily for a couple of weeks, programming a few dozen routes for a variety of trips, and there were no glitches.
The new unit has doubled in size to fit the oversized sound-system holes in the latest dashboards. It’s built like a Rolex watch and loaded with features you’ll really want to use.
As well as offering crystal-clear and — to now — accurate route guidance, the new Pioneer is a communication and music centre. It’s fitted with a 4.3-inch touchscreen, has Bluetooth for hands-free mobile phone calls, a CD player and a built-in audiophile-quality four-channel Mosfet amplifier that’s rated at 50 watts a channel.
A PC application can download local information and contacts from your PC directly to the unit and a text-to-speech voice guidance gives drivers verbal prompts and specific street names.
Here’s the clincher: Pioneer pointy-heads have come up with a detachable screen to deter thieves. So you can easily detach the head unit and take it with you.
Installation in most cars is straightforward, takes about an hour and shouldn’t cost more than $150.
TomTom, Australia’s most popular portable satnav brand, has unveiled two new models. They are the nicely priced $349 One 140 and the $449 XL340.
Each has a feature called Advance Lane Guidance that shows which lane to move into at busy junctions.
And each has the TomTom IQ Routes mode, which works out the fastest route by calculating actual speeds recorded on real roads.
The One 140 is an entry-level model with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, text-to-speech voice guidance and 2GB of onboard storage, but no SD or MicroSD card slot.
The dearer XL340 has a 4.3-inch touchscreen, the same amount of storage and safety camera alerts, and crunches data faster.
When it comes to other in-car technology, BlueAnt’s speaker-phones are the ones to beat.
The S1 is a $109 model that uses Bluetooth, attaches to a sun visor and lets you use your mobile phone safely while driving.
Answering a call is as easy as saying the word ‘‘Answer’’. And you can make calls using your voice as well. The S1 connects wirelessly to two phones and offers up to 15 hours of talk time and 800 hours of standby.