Magellan GPS Navigation Premium Car Kit Pre-Release Review
Well, as many of you may or may not know, I recently received a pre-release Magellan Premium Car Kit for iPhone 3G/3GS or iPod Touch 2G to test and review. In this review, I will try and address everything I can possibly think of, but inevitably I am bound to miss something. If you come across something that I missed, that you would like me to cover, please feel free to post up and I will try and address it as quickly and accurately as possible. Please keep in mind that my focus is on the Magellan Premium Car Kit, and not the actual navigation app being used. However, just for reference sake, I am currently using the Magellan RoadMate app, so if you have questions regarding the apps functions relating to the actual cradle itself please feel free to ask.
Because I often place my iPhone 3GS (32GB) on my lap, only to glance down every so often, this dash mount setup was a welcome addition to my navigating experience. Not only is this kit a sturdy means of holding my iPhone (WITH my iSkin Solo FX case on) while driving, but it doubles as a charger, Bluetooth speakerphone, and even enhances my GPS signal.
After using this unit for a couple days, I have been able to put this kit through the ringer, and hopefully provide the feedback needed to help you guys make a decision in the future.
If I were to judge this book by it’s cover, I would never have thought that so many useful/innovative features could be packed into such a simple/streamlined looking device. After delving in and examining the kit more thoroughly, various ingenious design elements started jumping out at me.
The first thing I noticed was the “retaining arm”, which raises and lowers to accommodate a wide range of case/skin sizes. It doesn’t stop there though, there are 2 other component that bring this whole “mad scientist” scheme together, to work in complete concert and harmony. The rubber “back support adjustment block” could easily go unnoticed, but this piece makes it a cinch to adjust the gap between the iPhone or iPod Touch and the back of the Premium Car Kit cradle. However, the most important and safety oriented piece of this equation would have to go to the pivoting dock connector. This allows for an effortless and completely safe device insertion and removal, without the risk of breaking the dock connector on either the iPhone/iPod, or the car kit itself. Once mounted, the mount can be rotated for both portrait and lanscape use. After reading several reviews on the TomTom Car Kit, I am lead to believe that this car kit addresses several issues that the TomTom kit is plagued with. Most noteably, this kit has predetermined locations that it clicks into for portrait and landscape viewing. This prevents the unintentional rotation of the iPhone/iPod from a speed bump, pot hole, or turn. Kudos on a superbly designed cradle Magellan.
After getting over the awe of the actual mounting aspect of the cradle, I noticed several other nifty, but more simplistic features of this kit, including; a 3.5mm audio auxillary output jack, and a Mini-USB power plug for the supplied 12-volt car charger on the right side of the unit, as well as a volume control wheel (for Bluetooth and navigation prompts) on the left side.
The cradle attaches easily to a suction cup cradle holder, that can either be utilized on it’s own for non-porous surface mounting (i.e. windshields, etc.), or used in conjunction with the ashesive disc for mounting on nearly any flat surface, porous or not (dash board, console, etc.). I did get a chance to try out both methods, but because I live in California and mounting objects to the windshield is illegal, I chose to mount the unit on my dash. The dash mount seems VERY sturdy, and there is absolutely no worry of the mount going anywhere.
Now onto the “unseen”, but arguably most important features, including GPS, Bluetooth and power. The reason I say most important, is because at the current price point ($129.99), there has to be compelling reasons why a consumer should consider anteing up for this kit.
First and foremost, the integrated SiRF Star GPS receiver will not only improve your satellite signal on your iPhone (I tested this), it will add GPS capability to 2G iPod Touch’s. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me. You can own a multimedia player, and have satellite navigation on the same device. We truly are in a digital age.
Although I couldn’t get any exact improvement figures on the GPS signal strength, I was able to test it through various navigation apps which provided a clear indication that a decent enhancement was present. On various occasions, I cradled and uncradled my iPhone, and signal bars were lost and gained everytime. With the iPhone docked in the cradle, I never lost a GPS lock, whereas outside the cradle the “GPS Signal Lost” message would chime in on rare occasions (picking back up almost instantly).
Bluetooth hands-free calling is pretty much expected with car kits, but Magellan upped the ante with this kit. They have added a full duplex noise cancelling speakerphone, and the ablility to speak wirelessly via Bluetooth connection WITHOUT having the phone docked in the cradle. This means that you can utilize this device with multiple phones, not just iPhone’s or iPod Touch’s. With TomTom’s kit, the only way to utilize the Bluetooth is when a device is actually docked in the unit. Additionally, I came across a button on the backside of the cradle, which is referred to by Magellan as a “multi-function” Bluetooth control switch. This button offers the user the convenience of answering calls, rejecting calls, redialing the last number called, activating the voice command feature on the iPhone, and even connecting the Bluetooth to your phone if it’s not already automatically paired. Pairing is extremely simple. As a matter of fact, when you first plug the car kit in it is automatically placed in discovery mode, and it’s just a matter of connecting to “Magellan Car Kit” in the iPhone/iPod’s Settings Menu. It’s that simple.
The dicreetly placed amplified speaker (located on the bottom of the unit) provides loud and clear sound, not only for calls made via Bluetooth, but for voice guidance as well. Although the sound could stand to be a fraction louder, it is miles above what was being fed to me through my iPhones speaker, and holds it own when dealing with in-car road noise. When listening to music through the built-in iPod entegration, the music is muted and guidance is given, a very nice touch. However, when I pair my phone to my cars integrated Microsoft SYNC system, music pauses/voice guidance can be rather abrupt and jarring. A nice fade-out and fade-in would be a very welcome change for the next update.
Almost out of necessity the Magellan Premium Car Kit simultaneously charges your device (while docked). Anybody who owns an iPhone with a navigation app will know what I am talking about here, but for those of you who don’t know, using GPS and/or a turn-by-turn app will absolutely decimate your battery life if it’s not constantly plugged in via 12-volt. Prior to this kit, I was utilitzing the built in USB plug in my vehicle, and the battery life on my iPhone would still go down when using my navigation, so the in-car charging is a welcome addition to this kit.
Lastly, although I am currently using this kit with the Magellan RoadMate for iPhone app, this particular unit can be used with ANY GPS navigation or location based app out there. This is an extremely nice added benefit since many people use various location based apps for numerous purposes. Or even for those navi-holics who have almost every navigation app on the app store.
All in all, I would say this car kit is far and away the best option for any iPhone/iPod Touch owner who is looking to consolidate their smartphone with their PND, ESPECIALLY if you have a case or skin.
According to Magellan, the Premium Car Kit is compatible with any iPhone 3G/3GS or 2G iPod Touch. However, rumor has it that the first generation iPhone is also compatible. I will try and get my hands on a first gen iPhone to confirm or deny said claims. ;-)
This kit is scheduled to be released on January 7th, 2010.
If you haven't seen my "unboxing" video yet, check it out...
Link: Magellan GPS Navigation Premium Car Kit Pre-Release Unboxing *VIDEO*
Product Number: AP0300SGXXX
UPC code: 763357123760
Package Contents: Premium GPS Car Kit
Vehicle Power Adapter
Getting Started Guide
Compatible Units: iPhone 3G. 3GS, iPod Touch 2G
(Requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later)
Warranty: 12 months from purchase date
GPS Accuracy: 10-15 feet (3-5 meters)
Weight: .8 lbs
Size: 6.1"H x 5.8"W x 2.8"D