Review: Magellan Roadmate
Magellan Roadmate 2010 North America, by MiTAC Digital
- Programmable one touch buttons
- Great voice directions
- Good menu
- Speed estimates not correct
- Maps seemed to slow down at times
Over the next few days (or so) I am going to be continuing the line of reviewing GPS turn by turn apps. Some of these have been obtained via a promo code, some of them have been obtained via purchase. Many of the previously reviews GPS turn by turn apps have had updates, features added, making them all extremely competitive. What I will do with these reviews is highlight overall usability, and point out some features or problems that may influence your decision to purchase the apps.
Magellan Roadmate enters the GPS TBT app field as an automatic contender due to it’s name recognition and strength of it’s stand alone GPS units. It has some nice features, but also a few flaws. Like most of the apps, Magellan chose to put the maps on the iPhone, meaning you need to have a substantial amount of free space. If you like over the air mapping, this app is not for you, but if you like a dedicated unit that doesn’t require a data connection, read on.
The Magellan Roadmate GPS app is a strong contender in the GPS app field. It offers many features and functions that make it easy to use (and easy to get directions), but there are also some flaws. When using the app, I had some problems with losing the GPS signal. In fairness, I don’t know if this happened a lot with other apps, but the Magellan app would inform me when the signal was lost. Unfortunately, it would not inform me when the signal was picked up again, so if I lost a signal right around when I was going to make a turn or something, I was concerned that I would miss the turn. It would be nice to see a “signal gained” announcement when the signal is picked up.
Another issue I had was when the app was judging my speed. It literally was estimating my driving speed at about 20 to 30 miles slower than I was actually driving! Now, you should never use a GPS app as a speedometer, and it seemed like the ETA estimates were reasonable, but I am not sure why the app would do this. I checked with other apps, which were accurate, so it did not appear to be a problem with my phone.
One thing I really liked about this app was when it gave a voice direction. It had, simply enough, the most “complete” directions of any app I have tried. Some apps indicate a turn is coming up. Some say the road name. Some give an exit. Some tell you how far. Magellan does it all - “Turn left in point five miles at exit 3 onto state highway 32”. This is great – there is very little room for confusion when you don’t have a chance to look at the app to confirm a road change.
It also has customizable “one touch” buttons for quick access to thinks like POIs, frequently used addresses, and searches. You can create 24 of these buttons, so there is no need to type in “nearest gas station” or your home address. Most apps have a “recent” list, but this takes it one step farther and allows you to create a “most used” list.
The menu in the app is large and easy to use, which I consider a key feature. I don’t want to worry about hitting the wrong button. It features 6 options on the screen, with the typical functions of a GPS app (POI, Address, previous destinations, etc). The settings screen is a little more compressed (without the graphical buttons) but you can set the various options (speed warning, languages, navigation preferences, etc) here as well. One thing I would have liked to have seen was the ability to control the on-map information – speed, ETA, distance left, etc. I was happy to see the app has lane assist. I will be honest – at first I thought lane assist was a little bit of a fluff piece – visually nice, but little value. However, driving on unknown highways, lane assist was a valuable tool to make sure I was using the correct turns (especially in Boston, where lanes were basically piled on top of each other).
When entering address, there is a predictive entry feature that tries to guess what you are entering. This makes it a little easier to enter certain locations. My “secret location” of Terlingua Texas was located in the maps, and the point of interest database seems relatively robust. Unfortunately, while the app did have a turn list overview features; I couldn’t find any graphical summary of the routes, which is a nice way to see if they are taking a route you want. Along those same lines, there was no option to recalculate a route using different directions – I am still waiting for the ability to define “preferred roads”, or roads you want to avoid. The app did seem to “lag” a little bit at times, which I haven’t seen in other GPS apps as much. Running a iPhone 3Gs, I have to think this was more due to the app than problems with the phone.
All in all, Magellan Roadmate comes in with a nice entry to the crowded GPS TBT app field. Some nice features (like the user defined one touch buttons) and very thorough voice directions make it a solid contender in the field. However, some basic problems like signal loss and occasionally slow downs mean that it isn’t perfect. However, at the price ($79.99) it is competitive with the other apps, and people used to the Magellan interface and features will really like the app. Four out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.