Navman F20 review:

Navman F20

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Starting at $330
  • Recommended Use automotive
  • Features 2D / 3D map perspective, built-in speaker, optional external GPS antenna connection, preinstalled POIs
  • Navigation Software & Services Navman SmartST 2006

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

The Good The affordable, compact Navman F20 provides accurate directions and is easy to use. The unit includes maps of North America and a points-of-interest (POI) database.

The Bad The POI database is outdated, and voice-guided directions are hard to hear.

The Bottom Line The Navman F20 is a reliable, portable navigation device for first-time buyers or anyone looking for an accurate, intuitive, and affordable GPS unit.

Navman's last portable navigation system, the Navman iCN 750, wowed the market with its built-in camera. Yet this type of innovation (not to mention its high price tag) is better suited to the driver-cum-gadget hound crowd. What if you just want an affordable system to get you from point A to point B? Enter the Navman F20. This compact unit offers basic navigation tools and a simple, attractive interface that first-time users will appreciate. More importantly, it provides accurate directions. While there are some downsides, such as an outdated points-of-interest (POI) database and a weak speaker, we think the Navman F20 is a very solid, entry-level GPS device. And at $379.95, it's one of the most affordable systems we've seen to date.

The Navman F20 is well designed and attractive, with a charcoal-gray case. The unit is easily swapped between cars, as it's a compact 3.1 inches high by 4.5 inches wide by 0.9 inch thick, and weighs just 7.1 ounces. Navman kept external controls simple: to the right of the screen sits a Main Menu button and a navigation key that, when pressed repeatedly, cycles through various screens--3D map view, next turn, turn-by-turn directions, and route summary. We also liked the Gas and Parking buttons, which retrieve a list of the closest gas stations and parking garages. The power button is located on the top of the unit, with volume controls on the unit's right side--a touch we always appreciate, as external buttons save us the trouble of digging through multiple screen menus. Oddly, these buttons looked a bit crooked on our review unit, but they still worked fine.


We liked the Gas and Parking buttons, which display a list of the closest gas stations and garages.
You can access other functions and enter addresses through the Navman F20's 3.5-inch touch screen. The responsive screen is bright and features an anti-glare coating, but we still had some problems reading the display in direct sunlight. Unlike some other portable navigation systems, such as the Delphi NAV200, the Navman F20's menu interface is simple and intuitive, and map screens are easy to understand.


The Navman F20 ships with a vehicle mount, but we're worried about its durability.
A Secure Digital card slot and a mini USB port are located on the unit's left spine; a reset hole is found at the bottom of the unit. The Navman F20 comes with just the essentials: an SD card, preloaded with U.S. maps; a vehicle mount (for the dash or windshield); a car charger; and reference material. Like with the Navman 750, we worry about the durability of the windshield mount, as the plastic brackets that secure the bottom of the unit seem like they could easily snap off.

There are no tricks or gimmicks with the Navman F20--the company set out to create a basic, easy-to-use navigation system, and that's what it is. The SiRFstarIII GPS receiver is integrated into the device, and all maps are preloaded on the unit's 2GB Secure Digital card--so all you have to do is insert it into the Navman F20's expansion slot and you're ready to go. When you first turn on the Navman F20, you'll answer a number of setup questions, such as selecting a regional map and whether you want the unit to display miles or kilometers. This process is straightforward and fairly quick.


All maps are preloaded on the included 2GB Secure Digital card--just plug it in and go.
If you don't need directions, you can choose the Free Driving option and the Navman F20 will simply track your location as you're driving. To enter a specific destination, there are several options. You can input a street address, an intersection, or search for an address by zip code or city/area. The on-screen keyboard is small, which might be tough to use for larger hands. You can select locations from the Favorites or Recent Address list, or navigate home by hitting the My Home icon. The Navman F20 calculates routes by fastest time or shortest distance. Yet if you want to get information on toll roads, unpaved roads, or ferry crossings, the Navman F20 offers the option under the Preferences menu. The unit can adjust a route if you get off track, offers route demos, and shows speed alerts. The only downside we could find is the unit's lack of multi-destination route planning.

The Navman F20 offers 2D- and 3D-map views, as well as day and night modes. In the 3D screen mode, the Navman F20 displays information such as: the current street and the name of the next street on your chosen route; direction and distance to the next turn; GPS status; a zoom button; and an information icon. When you press this button, the unit launches a page that displays the remaining distance to the destination, estimated time of arrival, the current time, your current speed, direction, and the unit's remaining battery life. The Navman F20 also can display text-based instructions, and has screens dedicated to showing the route's next turn and the route summary. Of course, all of this information is supplemented by voice prompts. The Navman F20 does not support text-to-speech functionality, however, so you'll only get generic instructions (for example, turn left in 100 feet) rather than specific street names.

The Navman F20 includes a comprehensive points-of-interest database that contains all the basics (gas stations, hotels, ATMs) as well as more specialized categories (amusement parks, concert halls, monuments). Some of the listings were out of date, however. For example, we searched for restaurants and bars in a San Francisco neighborhood, and discovered several listings had gone out of business.

We tested the Navman F20 in San Francisco. From a cold start, it took the unit about 3 minutes to acquire a GPS fix; subsequent starts were much faster. The Navman F20 accurately tracked our position as we drove around the city. We also entered a specific destination, and the Navman F20 quickly returned with a suggested route. We found the directions accurate, and the unit was quick to recalculate our route when we veered off track. That said, we had a hard time hearing the voice prompts, even with the volume up to its highest level. The F20 is rated for up to 3.5 hours of battery life.

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