Navman's iCN 650 represents the New Zealand-based company's top-tier vehicle navigation offering, and with a price tag of $1,200, it's one of the more expensive systems on the market today. True, it has a bright color display, and you get nice extras, such as a remote control and a sturdy windshield mount. However, when compared to other high-end GPS systems, such as the and the , it falls short in terms of performance. Housed in a rugged gray-metallic, magnesium-alloy casing, the Navman iCN 650 is built for travel. The 13-ounce unit measures 6.5 by 2.9 by 1.8 inches, so it's easily transportable from car to car, and it comes with a protective nylon carrying case. There's also a 12-channel parallel GPS receiver and a folding ceramic patch antenna with a jack for an external antenna.
The 3.8-inch (diagonally) color screen sports a 320x240-pixel resolution and displays 262,411 hues. It's bright and crisp under most lighting conditions but slightly washed out when viewed in direct sunlight, and it's not touch-sensitive. You can scroll through menus, zoom in and out of maps, adjust speaker volume, and input trip information using the six backlit buttons and the eight-way rocker panel located to the right of the display; you can also go with the included credit card-size remote. There's a power jack on the left-side bezel and a USB port on the bottom for connecting the device to a PC, while an SD/MMC expansion slot resides on the top. You also get an in-dash mounting kit for permanent installations and a suction-cup mounting bracket, which attaches to your windshield. We installed the iCN 650 using the suction-cup device, and it was quick, easy, and solid. Even a bumpy off-road adventure didn't dislodge the mounting arm.A look behind the scenes of the Navman iCN 650 reveals an Intel PXA255 XScale processor, 128MB of SDRAM, and a 2GB hard drive loaded with street-level maps of the United States and Canada. However, the Navman iCN 650's lack of touch-screen control, such as the ones found on Garmin's StreetPilot 2620 and Magellan's RoadMate 700, is a glaring omission when you consider the system's lofty price tag. As a result, entering addresses and other info via the onscreen keyboard can be tedious.
On the brighter side, the iCN 650 has plenty of navigation tools to help get you to your destination. In addition to text- and voice-guided driving directions in eight languages, the iCN 650 offers the usual array of navigation features, including route planning using shortest time or shortest distance; Back-on-Track route correction when you veer off course; a large points-of-interest (POI) database; and Trip Planner, which uses POI, addresses, recent destinations, and favorite places to create driving routes. Maps can be viewed in the standard 2D mode, or you can switch to 3D mode for a 90-degree angle of the roadway, which is spread out on the horizon. The roads and the turning arrows are bold and easy to see, and the iCN 650 will display the next four turns on the text screen to give you plenty of warning. You can set alarms to let you know when you've exceeded your desired speed limit or when the GPS signal is lost, and you can use the zoom buttons to define your map size, or you can let the unit do it automatically based on your traveling speed.
Along with the mounting hardware, a remote, and a carrying case, the iCN 650 comes with a 12-volt vehicle power adapter, an AC power supply, a USB cable, and Navman's SmartST navigation software. SmartST contains all the maps and voice files that come preinstalled on the unit's hard drive, so you can add or delete specific regions from your PC and upload the changes to your iCN 650. The software is also used for retrieving software updates for the iCN 650.The Navman iCN 650's performance was a mixed bag. We tested the device in the New York region, and the first time we fired it up, the iCN 650 needed just 40 seconds to obtain a 3D fix (four satellites), but subsequent starts were erratic. For example, it took more than 8 minutes to lock in the following day and 3.5 minutes later that same day. Once initialized, though, the iCN 650 did an admirable job of maintaining a strong signal. We lost our 3D fix only once, down by Wall Street in lower Manhattan, which is notorious for its lack of wide-open sky. The system also missed the mark when nailing down our precise position. While other systems did a good job of pinpointing our exact location in relation to our home address, the iCN 650 was consistently off by about three houses, and the POI database incorrectly indicated an airport location on the next block over from ours (the closest airport is more than 20 miles away). However, the driving directions were flawless, and Back-on-Track kept us on target regardless of how far we strayed off course.