Compared with the 3.5-inch screen size standard of older personal navigation devices, as well as current entry-level devices, today's 4.3-inch and 5-inch units seem downright huge. More screen real estate means easier viewing and faster data inputs. However, the Magellan RoadMate 1700's 7-inch wide-screen display dwarfs them all. Is this too much of a good thing?
The RoadMate 1700 looks a lot like every other RoadMate that we've tested, until you put it side by side with any other GPS device on the market. Its 7-inch wide screen seems freakishly large compared with the usual 3.5 inch and 4.3 inch PND screens. However, while the 1700 is much taller and wider, the device is also one of the thinnest PNDs we've tested.
Like nearly all PNDs, the majority of the RoadMate's visage is occupied by a color touch screen, but there are a few physical interfaces to be found. Along the unit's top edge is the power switch. This slider has settings for on, off, and reset. When powering the unit off, you are presented with a 10-second countdown and the option to return the slider to On or shut down immediately. If no option is chosen, then the shutdown is completed. If power is disconnected or if the battery level gets too low, a similar countdown timer is displayed on the device, but the length is increased to 30 seconds, at the end of which the device goes into standby.
At the top center of the unit is a microSD card slot. Along the bottom edge are the Mini-USB port for charging and connecting to a computer, a 3.5mm AV input, and a connection for the 12-volt charger. On its back are a speaker and the slotted connection for the windshield suction-cup mount. The 1700 ships with a Mini-USB cable for synchronizing, a 12-volt charger to keep the vehicle powered when used in a car, a suction-cup windshield cradle that attaches to the 1700 with a tongue-in-groove-type connection, and a soft slipcover. In the box, you'll also find an adhesive disk for dashboard mounting and a nice full-color, multilanguage guide.
Like Garmin devices, the RoadMate presents a pair of large icons--Go To and View Map--and a bottom bar that contains a the settings menu, where more advanced options are located, and a cancel route icon.
Go To takes you to the destination selection menu, where they are given a choice of address entry, POI search, or address book browsing.
Entering an address or searching for a POI is quick thanks to the 1700's responsive touch screen and QuickSpell system, which attempts to predict what you're typing and blanks out invalid letters and numbers to prevent mistyping. Unlike the smaller 1470, the onscreen keypad is laid out in the more familiar QWERTY layout, which is very conducive to two-handed input.
Once a destination is chosen, the destination confirmation screen gives you the option of simply hitting a large GO button to start a route or, through a route options menu, comparing a variety of potentially different routes. Available options include Fastest time, Shortest distance, Mostly freeways, and Least use of freeways. You are presented with estimated times for each of these routes and can even compare all four routes on the same route screen. Typically, these granular routing options are hidden deep in the menu structure. We like that the RoadMate makes them easily accessible.
The second button on the main menu is the View Map button. The RoadMate's map screen features a volume icon on the right side that brings up a volume slider. Along the bottom is a bank of soft keys, one of which is customizable to display current speed, current time, elevation, time remaining on route, estimated time of arrival, and direction of travel. There are also buttons for zooming in and out, and a menu key.
Tapping anywhere on the map screen puts the map into an exploration mode. Here you can change between 2D and 3D views, zoom in and out, touch and slide to move around the map. Tapping a location in this mode drops a pin and displays an address along the top of the screen. Subsequently touching the icon next to the address chooses that point as a destination and takes you to the destination confirmation screen.
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.