While best known for its computer components and motherboards, Asus is branching out to all sorts of consumer electronics, including GPS. The Asus R700t is one of its first portable navigation devices, and we must admit we're pleasantly surprised. The slim device is easy to use and features some great navigation tools that aren't commonly found in other PNDs. For example, the R700t shows 3D building renderings on its maps, and it has an embedded traffic receiver. In addition, you get a free lifetime subscription to the Traffic Message Channel. Given all these great features, we were shocked and ultimately disappointed that the system lacked text-to-speech functionality. If Asus adds this technology and fixes some of the performance glitches we experienced during our test period, the company could compete well in this space. The Asus R700t is available now for $325.
At just 3.1 inches high by 5 inches wide by 3.1 inches high by 0.5 inch deep and weighing 7 ounces, the Asus R700t is one of the slimmest portable navigation systems we've seen in a while--quite a feat considering the number of features that are crammed into the device. On front, there's a 4.3-inch touch screen that shows off 65,000 colors at a 480x272-pixel resolution. The display has a light-sensing technology that will automatically optimize the backlighting for your current environment. During our test drives, we didn't have any problems viewing maps and the touch screen was responsive.
The R700t's interface is pretty intuitive with large icons and clear identifications, and we were able to figure out most functions just by playing around with the device. From the main menu, you can choose from the various functionalities of the device--navigation, video player, photo viewer, music player, or phone. Once in the Navigation application, you can choose from two menu options--Advanced and Simple. Advanced gives you a few more routing options and navigation tools, such as a track log, saved routes, and search. If you're new to GPS, you may want start with the Simple mode and then switch to Advanced after you have more experience using the R700t.
There's a microSD expansion slot on the left side while there's a mini USB port and a 2.5mm headphone jack on the right side. On top of the unit, there's a power button but the main power switch is on the bottom. The speaker is located on the back as well as an external antenna jack.
The Asus R700t comes packaged with a car charger, an AC adapter, a USB cable, a pair of earbuds, a vehicle mount (windshield only), a protective carrying case, a 2GB microSD card, desktop software, and reference material. The vehicle mount securely held the unit in place, but like the TomTom GO 930, Asus doesn't include a dashboard disc, which is a problem for California and Minnesota drives since drivers are prohibited in these states to have anything mounted to the windshield.
The Asus R700t has an impressive feature list, though there's one omission that perplexes us (more on this later). To start, the R700t is equipped with a SiRFstarIII GPS receiver and comes preloaded with TeleAtlas maps of North America, including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Planning a trip can start several ways. You can enter a specific address, coordinates if you know them, select a point of interest, or choose a location from your Favorites or History list.
The R700t can calculate routes in one of four ways--fast, easy, economical, and short--and gives you the option to allow or avoid highways, toll roads, carpool lanes, and so forth. There are also pedestrian, bicycle, taxi, bicycle, and emergency route options. The Asus R700t also has an embedded traffic antenna and comes with a complimentary lifetime subscription to the Traffic Message Channel, and it can provide alternate routes around heavy congestion or accidents. Other standard navigation features include automatic route recalculation, multistop trips, simulated demos, speed alerts, and, of course, text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. Unfortunately, the R700t does not include text-to-speech functionality, which is our biggest beef with the device. For a GPS to have so many advanced and useful features but not text-to-speech, baffles us.
You can view maps in 2D or 3D mode, and with day or night colors. The map screen shows you plenty of data, such as the name of the street you're on, distance to next turn, estimated time of arrival, remaining distance, a compass, signal strength, and more. In addition, the Asus R700t offers 3D building renderings, which is pretty cool to see as it runs you through the route.