Disclosure: Navigon loaned me a sat nav at no cost for the purpose of this review. I received no payment and was not required to write a positive review.
The Navigon 70 Premium sits almost at the top of Navigon’s range of car sat navs – only the 70 Premium Live and 70 Premium Caravan & Truck models cost more and offer additional functionality.
The 70 Premium boasts a 5″ widescreen and a range of features that qualify it for its range-topping position. Some of the main functions are:
- Motion Sensor – when navigating, menus automatically hide until you wave your hand near the screen, increasing map display
- Active Lane Assistant – on multi-lane roads, the screen shows an overview of the lanes and indicates which one you should be driving in
- 3D mapping in some towns and cities
- Voice commands for navigation, destination entry and hands-free telephone operation
- Two Bluetooth telephones can be connected at the same time to allow the driver to switch between work and personal phones
- Traffic Message Channel (TMC) reception and alternative routing suggestions based on traffic
- Text-to-speech – street names are read out loud, making it easier to navigate without looking at the screen
- Clever Parking – display the nearest parking options before you get there and offer ‘last mile’ navigation on foot if you cannot park by your destination
- Speed Assistant and Safety Camera – display the current speed limit, warn when speeding and alert you to permanent speed cameras in the area
- Automatically switches between day and night mode to avoid dazzling the driver
- Mapping for 44 European countries (some countries have limited coverage)
Looks & Build Quality
The 70 Premium looks and feels well made. The chrome trim around the 5″ screen and the mixture of matt and gloss black finish work well and give it a sophisticated and attractive feel. The windscreen mounting feels fairly solid and is easy to fix in place and adjust to the required angle.
I am not a regular sat nav user but I had no problem working out how to use the 70 Premium without resorting to the instruction manual (which is loaded into the sat nav’s memory to be viewed onscreen). The large 5″ screen is fantastic – if you are buying a sat nav, I think it is worth paying for a bigger screen than you get on the cheapest models, even if the extra features don’t interest you.
Entering a destination, choosing a route, setting up the options and using voice navigation should be fairly intuitive for anyone used to using mobile phones and the internet. The Smart Speller function means that only letter combinations that actually exist are highlighted, enabling you to enter a full address suprisingly quickly.
The Voice Command function for entering a new destination is probably worthy of a brief comment. I found this worked well and understood my voice pretty accurately. On experimenting with it, however, we did find that it is quite direction-sensitive – the microphone is on the right-hand side of the unit and when my passenger tried to use it, even leaning forwards, she was not heard correctly until she twisted it around towards her. Clear and correct pronounciation is also important, as you might expect.
I found the screen and the voice instructions very clear and easy to follow. Most of the time I did not bother looking at the screen but could just follow the voice instructions. Thanks to the text-to-speech feature, which reads out street names, the directions from the Navigon were nearly on a level with those that a good human navigator could provide and timing was usually good.
We took in a mixture of town driving and rural roads and also attempted some rerouting, to see how the Navigon would cope. Our first attempt at rerouting took some time, as the 70 Premium came up with ever more cunning routes through residential streets to try to get us back on our original road. However, it did pick up on the new route eventually and at other times was much quicker to reroute. In all cases, the routes were accurate and appropriate.
The 70 Premium uses Navigon’s MyRoutes technology to calculate a route that is “adapted for your personal driving style as well as the time and day of the week.” We were testing the unit on a Saturday and traffic was not an issue, but we did (mostly) prefer the MyRoutes choices over the alternatives.
The onscreen display provides a useful mixture of information, including:
- 3 nearby POIs (configurable, but these default to fuel, parking and restaurants)
- Your current and next roads
- A graphic showing the distance to and direction of your next turning
- Speed reading with estimated time of arrival/remaining journey time
Update 31/01/11: Having now used the Navigon for a 200 mile round trip including several motorways, I’ve had a chance to see Active Lane Assistant and Lane Assistant Pro in action. They work well when you are on a major motorway/dual carriageway, although more guidance as to which lane you should use when on the slip road would be useful.
The Landmark View 3D raised its head as we drove across country – a particularly interesting church popped up on the map in 3D even though our route did not go directly by it. I also saw Day Mode and Night Mode in action – on Sunday morning I left home when it was dark and the screen brightness was automatically lowered to reduce glare. As it got light, the screen got brighter. Useful for early mornings and late nights.
The Speed Assistant feature worked well – the displayed speed limit was accurate at all times on the roads we used (in North Yorkshire) and always updated within a second of changing into a new speed limit. The overspeed warning can be configured to provide alerts at 5, 10 or 15mph over the speed limit (or not at all) and you can choose different settings for built-up areas and out of town. Clever Parking also worked well, correctly identifying nearby public car parking wherever we went.
I did not get a chance to see any of the 3D mapping that is one of the 70 Premium’s special features – we visited Scarborough and Whitby with the Navigon, but neither of them appear to be big enough to qualify for 3D mapping. I’m hoping to visit somewhere larger before I return the review unit, so will update this article if I get to go 3D.
Happily, North Yorkshire has no fixed speed cameras so this piece of functionality did not get tested either. Traffic updates are via TMC – the same information you get on FM car radio. This system uses the charging cable as an aerial, so only works when the charging cable is plugged in. Just as when you listen to the TMC announcements on the radio, it is reasonably timely and accurate but not perfect. You can browse current traffic information via the Options menu and can choose to have an alert appear on the screen or to be automatically rerouted when a traffic delay appears on your route.
The Navigon 70 Premium can connect to two mobile phones at once with Bluetooth – useful for a driver’s business and personal phones. Registering a trusted device was quick and easy and the voice-activated handsfree worked exactly as you would expect, without any fuss. Volume and clarity were okay, although obviously not as good as a system that uses the car’s stereo.
The Navigon 70 Premium costs around £200 at the time of writing. It has plenty of functionality and everything we tried worked well. It looks good and feels well made, the screen is sharp, large and fairly easy to use, and the voice commands work reasonably well. Overall I liked it and quickly felt at home using it.
Drivers of large vehicles can pay another £100 and get the Caravan & Truck version, which offers route planning based on a vehicle’s length, width and height, configured by the user.