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Delphi NAV200 review:

Delphi NAV200

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Like most of today's portable nav systems, you can get directions by entering a specific street address, an intersection, a point on a map, or a location on your Favorites or Recent Destinations list. You can have the NAV200 create routes by fastest or shortest route; with or without interstates and toll roads; and in vehicle, pedestrian, or bicycle mode. If you don't like a portion of the calculated route or know there's road construction or traffic in a certain area, you can create detours. Also, if you happen to miss a turn, don't worry; the system supports automatic route recalculation.

Heavy commuters may be interested in adding real-time traffic updates with Delphi's Real-Time Traffic Kit. The kit, which costs $199.99, includes an antenna and RDS receiver, an SD card with a software upgrade, and unlike other services that require a monthly or annual subscription, you get a lifetime subscription to Clear Channel's Total Traffic Network--very nice. Aside from live updates on congested areas, hazardous road conditions, and extreme weather warnings, you can also get alternate route recommendations and estimated time of arrival (See Performance section for more). The service covers 49 of the top 50 U.S. markets; you can check for your city here.

Maps are available in 2D or 3D view with a night-mode option, which changes the color of the maps for better nighttime viewing. The map screen can actually be quite overwhelming, as a wealth of information is presented to you. There are about 18 bits on data, such as estimated time of arrival, remaining distance to destination, next road name, current speed, current heading, and more, that frankly, take up a lot of screen and map real estate; plus the icons are not clearly identified, so be sure to give the Owner's Manual a good read before starting out. That said, there is a second screen that hides a lot of this information if you don't need or want it. Plus, you get voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, so you don't have to rely solely on the visual maps or prompts. The NAV200 does not support text-to-speech functionality at this time.

The Delphi NAV200 also has a 1.6-million POI database that contains all the basics (gas stations, hotels, ATMs, and so forth) and more specialized categories (shopping centers, museums, golf courses, and so on). We found most of the entries to be up-to-date, and it even identified CNET Networks after we input our street address, which was a first. Yet curiously, when we tapped on a POI on the map, it would take us to another navigation screen, instead of giving us information about the location.

The NAV200 includes a music and video player as well as an image viewer, so you can use the gadget out of the car or to entertain the little rug rats in the backseat. The media player supports MP3 and WAV files and AVI video formats, while you can view JPEG, GIF, and PNG images. Other extras include a calculator, a world clock, and a game.

Before we get to the road test results, we should mention that we experienced a noticeable lag when trying to access the Delphi NAV200's navigation app and its submenus. Time after time, we sat there watching the little hourglass icon turn round and round before we could start entering addresses and so forth. Needless to say, this was a bit frustrating. The good news is that once on the road, the NAV200 was fairly quick to perform its tasks. We took the unit on a test-drive in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took about two minutes to acquire a GPS fix, while subsequent starts took mere seconds. The device accurately pinpointed our location as we drove around the city, and it was quick to create directions and recalculate routes.

We also tested the Delphi Traffic Kit here in San Francisco. The included software upgrade takes a few minutes to install, so be sure to do this before you get in the car and hit the road. Once it's installed and once you've plugged in the TMC receiver on the right side of the device, you'll see a little exclamation point icon appear on the navigation screen (green signal signs behind the icon mean the TMC receiver and service are ready to use). Tapping on the icon will bring you to a list of traffic messages that gives you the name of the affected area and the type of congestion--roadwork, accident, road closure, and so forth--all marked by appropriate graphics. You can scroll through the various messages, or press the map graphic to see the traffic conditions along your route. In addition, if you have a preplanned trip, you can instruct the NAV200 to take the traffic information into account so the system can create routes around the bad areas.

During our test drive, the Delphi identified 44 different trouble areas, including the closure of the MacArthur Maze, a major freeway interchange here in the Bay Area. We also got visual cues as roads with heavy traffic were highlighted in red and noted with the type of delay. We found the whole experience useful not only for driving in familiar areas, but especially for unfamiliar routes, as the unit was able to provide us with alternate routes that we didn't know about before. If you have a long commute or are frequently on the road for business, the Delphi Traffic Kit may be worth the investment.

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