The RoadMate 1470 doesn't deviate from the tried-and-true portable navigation device form factor. Measuring 3.3 inches deep by 5.2 inches tall by 7 inches wide, the RoadMate's thinness easily makes this unit one of the most pocketable devices in its class. Like nearly all PNDs, the majority of the RoadMate's visage is occupied by a color touch screen. Most units in this price range make due with a 4.3-inch screen, but the 1470 is equipped with a massive 4.7-inch unit. And we appreciated the extra real estate when viewing turn-by-turn directions out of our periphery at highway speeds.
The screen features a matte finish that does a good job of diffusing glare which, along with the bright backlighting, keeps the unit usable when viewed in direct sunlight.
Along the unit's top edge is the power switch. This slider returns to a neutral position when actuated and powers the device on or off. When powering off, the user is presented with a 5-second countdown and the option to cancel or shut down immediately. If no option is chosen, then the shutdown is completed. A similar countdown timer is displayed when the device is disconnected from its charger, but the length is increased to 30 seconds.
Along the bottom of the unit is a microSD card slot and the Mini-USB port for charging and connecting to a computer. On the back is a speaker and the connection for the windshield suction cup mount.
The 1470 ships with a Mini-USB/12-volt charger to keep the vehicle powered when used in a car, and a suction cup windshield cradle, which attaches to the 1470 with a tongue-in-groove type connection. In the box, you'll also find an adhesive disk for dashboard mounting, a Mini-USB cable for connecting the 1470 to a PC, and a user's guide.
One of our major issues with the RoadMate 1470 is with its windshield mount cradle and the way it fails to play nice with the vehicle charger. The charger connects to the base of the 1470 with a 90-degree Mini-USB connector. However, the connector interferes with the sliding motion that is necessary to attach the device to the cradle. As a result, you have to mount the device and then attach the power cable. This would be a minor issue, but the bottom-facing location of the USB charging port makes attaching the power cable a frustration, requiring a good deal of fiddling and wiggling. If that weren't bad enough, the suction cup isn't very secure and is prone to falling off of the glass while you're fighting with the charger.
Once you've gotten the knack of attaching the RoadMate 1470 to the windshield, the user experience gets better. However, considering the well-designed cradles from TomTom and Garmin, this is an area where the RoadMate has tremendous potential to improve.
The main menu's home screen is reminiscent of the interface of the Garmin Nuvi line. Where the Garmin presents a pair of icons and an option bar, the RoadMate presents three--Go To, View Map, and Local Options--and a bottom bar that contains the settings menu, where more advanced options are located, and a cancel route icon.
Go To takes users to the destination selection menu, where they are given a choice of address entry, points-of-entry (POI) search, or address book browsing.
Entering an address or searching for a POI is quick, thanks to the 1470's responsive touch screen and QuickSpell system, which attempts to predict what you're typing and blanks out invalid letters and numbers to prevent mistyping. However, the keypad screen's alphabetical layout slowed our inputs considerably and doesn't offer an option to switch to a more familiar QWERTY layout.
Once a destination is chosen, the destination confirmation screen gives users the option of simply hitting a large GO button to start their route or, through a route options menu, comparing a variety of potentially different routes. Available options include Fastest time, Shortest distance, Mostly freeways, and Least use of freeways. Users are presented with estimated times for each of these routes and can even compare all four routes on the same route screen. Typically, these granular routing options are hidden deep in the menu structure. We like that the RoadMate makes them easily accessible.
The second button on the main menu is the View map button. The RoadMate's map screen features a volume icon on the right side, which brings up a volume slider. Along the bottom is a bank of soft keys, one of which is customizable to display current speed, current time, elevation, time remaining on route, estimated time of arrival, and direction of travel. There are also buttons for zooming in and out, and a menu key.
Tapping anywhere on the map screen puts the map into an exploration mode. Here you can change between 2D and 3D views, zoom in and out, touch and slide to move around the map. Tapping a location in this mode drops a pin and displays an address along the top of the screen. Subsequently touching the icon next to the address chooses that point as a destination and takes you to the destination confirmation screen.
Getting back to the home screen, the third option is Local options, a submenu that displays the device's current position as a street address--complete with nearest cross streets--and as GPS coordinates. Here users are also able to browse a database of events, attractions, restaurants, gas stations, and destinations near the current position. Attractions, events, and destinations feature descriptions and contact information.