High-quality vehicle-navigation systems have always been a bit expensive, and the new Magellan RoadMate 700, with a list price of $1,299, is no exception. That said, we think the RoadMate 700 is worth every penny, thanks to its accuracy, its user-friendly touch-screen interface, its voice-enabled and text-based driving directions, and its seamless mapping database.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
Ready to use right out of the box, the fairly compact RoadMate (3.3 by 6.5 by 1.5 inches; 13 ounces) features a high-resolution color display (2.25 by 3.0 inches) that automatically adjusts as lighting conditions change. We had no trouble reading the screen, whether in direct sunlight or at night, and the colors remained crisp, regardless of the lighting environment.
We particularly liked entering information via the touch screen, although you can use the backlit eight-way rocker switch and the function buttons located on the right side of the unit. Inside the attractive two-toned silver/gray casing sits a 12-channel, WAAS-enabled receiver and a 10GB hard drive, which holds preloaded detailed maps of the United States and Canada.
It's the hard drive that makes the RoadMate so simple to use, as there are no CDs or maps to upload from your PC. But this also means you'll be doing all planning and navigation on the device. To keep it simple, RoadMate has a single database for the entire country, eliminating the need to switch between regional segments as you travel. For a fee, Magellan will provide annual mapping updates, which can be transferred to the unit's built-in CompactFlash slot via a CompactFlash card (not included, unfortunately).
Routes can be based on distance, time, or overall freeway usage. RoadMate offers room for three user profiles, making it ideal as a multicar navigation tool, and each profile holds up to 100 user-defined addresses for routing to frequently traveled destinations. The hard drive itself contains a massive Points Of Interest (POI) database with more than 2 million entries, including restaurants, banks, gas stations, and local attractions. You also can search for POIs nearest to your current location, then hit the Route button; the RoadMate 700 will display turn-by-turn directions.
It's always a good idea to read the CD-ROM-based manual before taking to the highway, but if you're already on the road and need assistance, the built-in tutorial has all you need to know about operating the unit. Other handy features include a trip log, a map-zoom function, and a screen that displays information related to your current position. There's also an information bar at the bottom of the screen that displays the receiver's signal strength, the direction of travel, the distance to your next maneuver, the ETA, the heading, and the mileage to your destination.
We connected the RoadMate 700 to the docking cradle and the mounting device, which then attaches the device to the vehicle's air conditioning vents. On our Ford F-150, this was a bit tricky since the vents swivel; we were never able to achieve a solid mount, and the RoadMate swung freely each time we hit a bump or made a sharp turn. Fortunately, Magellan has corrected this and will provide a suction-cup mount on all new units. After plugging the 12-volt adapter into the cigarette lighter and powering up, we were ready to roll.
On our road tests, the RoadMate 700 performed flawlessly, acquiring a strong satellite lock within 45 seconds and accurately pinpointing our position on the display. Through the POI database, we searched for and found a local state park, created a "shortest distance" route, and hit the road. The RoadMate's voice-guided directions were clear and right on the money. They also gave us ample warning for upcoming turns and a tone alarm when the turn should be made. If you miss part of the voice directions, press the Replay button on the top of the unit to repeat the command, or select the View button to see a text-based version or a 3D view of the next turn. It's hard to miss upcoming turns, as the TrueView 3D screen pops up before each turn and shows an exploded view of the intersection, as well as the direction of your route. When we purposely veered off course, the RoadMate recalculated our route within seconds.