Text-to-speech turn-by-turn directions enable the unit to read street names and exits aloud. English, Spanish, and French languages are supported out of the box, but with only one voice per language. It has graphic lane guidance that helps with navigating complex freeway interchanges by displaying a representation of the intersection and highway signs, while indicating what lanes are valid for the current route.
Maps and POIs are provided for all 50 United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. In addition to the millions of POIs in Magellan's database, the 1700 includes a AAA database of approved auto repair shops, AAA branch offices, TourBook Destinations, and POIs that offer discounts to AAA members. If you're a AAA member, the RoadMate 1700 can also help to get you in contact with Roadside Assistance; however, without a Bluetooth hands-free connection built in, we presume that you'll have to do the dialing yourself.
One of the most useful features of the 1700--and one that is, as far as we can tell, unique to the RoadMate series--is the OneTouch menu. This is a customizable shortcut menu where you can store up to six quick links to commonly accessed searches and locations. For example, we were able to store a link to the CNET offices and a search for our favorite fast food restaurant. In addition to the six customizable links, the OneTouch menu also features permanent links to Home, Previous destinations, Local Info, GPS status, and Emergency services.
On most of the map and menu screens, the OneTouch icon lives in the upper-right corner. Tapping that icon causes the OneTouch menu to slide down.
The unit doesn't include traffic monitoring out of the box, but can be upgraded with an add-on FM receiver. At the bottom of the unit, there is an input for a 3.5mm mini-jack AV input for connecting external video sources such as portable DVD players or video iPods, so you can put that big display to use when you're not navigating from point A to B.
Starting with a cold boot and a clear sky, we powered up the Magellan RoadMate 1700. From the flip of the switch to the display of the home screen took a scant 30 seconds. Selecting View Map and waiting for our position to be confirmed was almost immediate, which is rather impressive. However, subsequent tests from within the urban canyons of downtown San Francisco took much longer to establish a satellite lock, the longest being about 2 minutes.
The destination selection process is also identical to that of the smaller RoadMate units, with easy auto-completion on POIs and the Route Options button on the destination confirmation screen. Calculating alternate routes was considerably slower on the 1700 than the same test on the smaller 1470, but its average time was still less than a minute. Clicking the preview map button in the bottom right hand corner, we were presented with four color-coded routes overlaid onto the same map. That the RoadMate could calculate four routes in the time that most units calculate one is impressive in its own right, but the level of flexibility that this feature affords the driving enthusiast is quite cool.
During our freeway testing of the RoadMate 1700, we ran into a few situations where the PND inaccurately tracked of our position. We'd be riding along and, suddenly, the 1700 would place our marker on a surface road adjacent to the highway instead of the highway itself. This lead to incorrect turn-by-turn directions until the 1700 could get itself sorted out. Granted, this happened during a rainy and overcast day, which no doubt had an effect on the 1700's satellite accuracy, but the other PNDs we were testing concurrently did not experience the issue.
Battery life isn't usually a big selling point for GPS devices, but the RoadMate 1700 distinguishes itself by having one of the shortest. From a full charge, our 1700 showing low battery messages within 20 minutes. If you plan to keep the device plugged in at all times, this isn't much of an issue.
For long trips on the open road, the RoadMate 1700 comes into its own. With a clear view of the sky, the GPS tracks flawlessly. Its very loud speaker is easily audible over road and wind noise.
As we rolled down the highway, an undocumented feature came to light. When approaching freeway exits, a large green button appeared in the lower left corner with icons for lodging, food, and fuel. Clicking this button brings up a list of available amenities and POIs at that exit. This is a cool little feature for finding things in unfamiliar territory, such as during a cross-country road trip.
The RoadMate 1700 does a good job of matching the performance of the competing TomTom and Garmin units when it comes to basic functions (such as routing, booting, positioning, and so on). While we really appreciate the extra interface real estate provided by that huge 7-inch screen, this is really a GPS device that's too big for a normal-size windshield. However, we think that it would be right at home in a big ol' tractor-trailer or an RV, where there's plenty of space to spread out. The automatic searches for roadside POIs further lead us to believe that this is a long haul type of PND. Like the big trucks it is suited to, the 1700 also seems better suited to the open road and rural areas, as complex freeway interchanges and tall buildings seem to confuse the device's accuracy at times.