Depending on how you look at it, the NV-U84 is either the second or third highest device in the Sony NAV-U GPS lineup. There's no question that the NV-U94T is the flagship, but determining the NV-U84's value compared with its siblings is a tricky affair.
For one, it has the big 4.8-inch touch screen and higher price that imply that it's a step up the ladder from the 4.3-inch screen of the NV-U74T. On the other hand, it lacks most of the advanced features of the NV-U94T and U74T--such as Bluetooth and traffic data--which puts it at a huge disadvantage.
The NV-U84 features a downright huge 4.8-inch wide-screen display with a matte-finish gunmetal gray bezel. The device is 5.2 inches wide by 3.1 inches tall and is 0.8 inch thick. The top of the device is home to a sliding power switch. On the bottom are an open/release button, a Memory Stick Duo slot, a headphone jack, and inputs for charging over USB or with the included 12V power adapter.
The Super Suction Cup system combines the best parts of a suction cup and an adhesive Wacky Wall Walker to allow the device to attach to a vehicle's dashboard as easily as it attaches to the windshield. The attachment process begins with placing the sticky suction cup on the dash, then depressing a button to force the air out of the space between the surface and the cup. Finally, a lever is rotated to lock the device in place. It sounds like a bunch of steps, but it only takes a few seconds to attach. Once locked into place, a great amount of force is required to remove the Super Suction Cup, so there should be no worries about the device falling off during spirited driving.
The Super Suction Cup's mounting bracket features a redundant input for the 12v power adapter, making placing and removing the device a one-hand affair by eliminating the need to disconnect the power cable. The device can be used without the cradle and power adapter, but the internal battery only lasted about 2 hours on a full charge during our testing with Bluetooth and traffic activated.
The map screen features crisp graphics and an uncluttered interface, enhanced by the large amount of screen real estate provided by the large display. The bright backlight makes for easy viewing even in direct sunlight. The screen switches to a dual view as an intersection is approached to show detailed information about the upcoming turn, and on the highway the device shows a 3D representation of exits to notify the driver of what lane he or she should be in. While in dual view, the two views are separated by a bar that counts down the distance to the turn.
The menu features three main tabs for Navigate, Application, and Settings. The Navigate tab is where you'll find buttons for address entry and points-of-interest (POI) search, along with buttons for home and address book. The Application tab has the photo viewer and traffic information, but more on this later. The Settings tab holds the rest of the options, such as disabling the feature demonstration mode or changing map colors. The Settings menus require a bit of scrolling, so it's best to leave this tab alone unless the vehicle is stopped.
The internal speaker faces the rear and bounces sound off of the windshield, so ultimate sound quality will vary with mounting location and vehicle acoustics. Audio quality for the text-to-speech driving directions was good in our test vehicle, and the internal speaker was pretty loud. The NV-U94T supports the playback of JPEG photo slide shows from its Memory Stick Duo slot.
The gesture feature of the previous NAV-U line is still present, allowing quick access to select functions by "drawing" a command on the touch screen with your finger. For example, tracing the inverted-V shape of a rooftop sets Home as the destination. Other commands included drawing clockwise or counter-clockwise circles to zoom in/out to two preset scales.