Dual NavAtlas XNAV3550 review:

Dual NavAtlas XNAV3550

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The Dual NavAtlas XNAV3550 is powered by a 12-channel SiRFIII GPS chip and a 400MHz processor. All maps of the United States are preloaded on the included SD card, so you can start navigating right out of the box. If you want to add maps of other territories, such as Canada and Hawaii, you'll have to use the map database DVD to transfer those regions onto the device. We should note that, unfortunately, the XNAV3550 doesn't have a USB port, so you can't make direct transfers from your PC to an SD card or the device. Instead, you'll need an SD card reader--how inconvenient.

The XNAV3550's feature set is almost identical to the Delphi NAV200. To start planning a trip, you can enter a specific street address, an intersection, a point on a map, or a location on your Favorites or Recent Destinations list. You have the option to get directions by fastest or shortest route; with or without interstates and toll roads; and in vehicle, pedestrian, or bicycle mode. The Dual XNAV3550 also supports 2D and 3D map views, day and night modes, detours, and automatic route recalculation. Unfortunately, the system does not provide you with text-to-speech directions, so you won't hear actual street names when given voice-guided directions. Also, unlike the Delphi NAV200, the XNAV3550 doesn't offer the option of receiving real-time traffic updates.

The Dual XNAV3550 contains a 2-million points-of- interest database with all the major attractions (gas stations, hotels, ATMs, and so forth) and more specialized categories (shopping centers, museums, golf courses, and so on). One advantage of the Navigon software is the excellent POI system. It does a great job of naming specific POIs, and the entries are fairly up to date. For example, as we were driving through downtown San Francisco, we were able to look at the map screen and see upcoming ATMs by bank names, grocery stores by brand, and it even identified CNET Networks--pretty cool.

Though it isn't the main selling point of the device, a media player/image viewer comes with the XNAV3550, so you can use the gadget out of the car or to entertain any munchkins in the backseat. The media player supports MP3 and WAV files and AVI video formats, and you can view JPEG, GIF, and PNG images. Again, you'll have to use an SD card reader to get any of these files onto a memory card or the device. Other extras include a calculator, a world clock, and a game.


We tested the Dual NavAtlas XNAV3550 in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit about 3 minutes to get a GPS fix under cloudy conditions; subsequent starts were much faster and it was able to hold onto the signal. On everyday drives throughout the city, the XNAV3550 did an OK job of pinpointing our location, although on several occasions it was half a block off the mark. On a specific trip, the system provided us with accurate directions. We should note that the voice prompts didn't sound all that great through the unit's speakers. At the highest volume level, audio was blown out, and even when we turned the volume down the voice still wasn't as clear or smooth as we've experienced on other systems. Also, route recalculations were not as fast as we would have liked. We missed several turns on purpose to test the feature, and the XNAV3550 gave us a new route just before we had to make a turn.

General system performance was quite sluggish. We often watched the hourglass icon turn round and round when launching certain applications, which wasn't very entertaining. Multimedia performance was what we expected from a GPS device, which is to say, audio and video playback wasn't the greatest but suitable if you're an absolute pinch. Battery life is on the low side. On a single charge, the Dual XVAN3550 is rated for only 1.5 hours of use--for navigation, as well as audio and video playback.

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