Recently we saw TomTom’s new One GPS and were very impressed. This month we have Navman’s new budget competitor, the F20.
Whereas the TomTom One has a 3.5-inch square screen with a thin bezel the F20 sports a 3.5-inch widescreen. It also sports four buttons to the right. The top two point you quickly towards the nearest ‘gas’ station and car park, the menu button always takes you to the main menu and the bottom one takes you to the main map. We found the latter two particularly useful when buried in sub-menus.
GPS systems live and die by their software and Navman uses the latest, 2006 version of SmartST in the F20. We’ve praised SmartST before for its clarity when in open country. Forested areas have green ‘tree’ symbols which give you a good appreciation of the surrounding relief. The directional map symbols and arrows in 3D mode are generally easy to follow, though in crowded city environments we relied heavily on the ‘next turn’ icon in the top left of the screen. Indeed, whereas TomTom excels at following closely behind your ‘car’ in the onscreen display, Navman’s point of view is further behind. Consequently if you have many roads, road names and point of interest (POI) icons showing, it becomes difficult to see where you’re going at a glance.
Jabbing the screen when driving takes you to an ‘actions’ menu which lets you adjust brightness, change to night colours, cancel or pause the route and save a location as a favourite. A notable absentee is an ‘alternative route’ button, but at least going off route doesn’t result in a pause that’s too lengthy. The main menu gives far fewer options than the TomTom. Dedicated buttons make it easy to travel to your home, a recent address or a favourite. Picking a new address isn’t too laborious and mercifully you don’t have to enter a street if you don’t want to – you can navigate to the centre of a town. However, you can’t create an itinerary as with TomTom.
The Australian version has 256MB of built-in memory to contain all Australian maps and an SD/MMC slot for additional maps. An Intel PXA 255MHz processor keeps everything running smoothly enough.
The old GPS problem still exists in that Australian localisation is something of an afterthought. POI accuracy is very hit and miss which immediately limits the usefulness of the ‘Gas’ and ‘Parking’ buttons – too many locations were missing from the database.
It also affects navigation which can be painful. We tested it around central Sydney and extensively up in Northern Queensland. Here we were told that getting from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation was a 2000km inland journey (or that it wasn’t possible at all from some surrounding areas) simply because it didn’t know about the long-established Daintree Ferry (despite the fact ferries are supposed to be listed). This severely limited its usability on our trip as all routes use this road.
But it’s not the killer blow. This comes from TomTom’s One which offers far more at the same price including: PC software to let you plan routes from home (an optional accessory with Navman), itinerary planning, speed camera locations with TomTom PLUS updates (the F20 requires a bolt-on traffic option). The One also has a superior speaker (we had trouble hearing the F20 when things got noisy) and shows more information on the map screen (the F20 can only show one of ‘distance to go’, ETA, bearing, speed or time). As such we can’t recommend the F20.
By Nick Ross
Jan 8, 2007 2:35PM
Jan 8, 2007 2:35PM