ASUS is a brand better known for its motherboards, graphics cards and notebooks than their GPS units. But their newest product, the S102 PND (Portable Navigation Device), has some nifty features and an attractive price tag to match.
ASUS claims the S102 features a high-sensitivity antenna technology that makes signal reception from satellites more stable, reducing the rate of dropouts and its navigation more precise. It sounds like a big claim given most manufacturers quote accuracy as a main selling point, and we'll be interested to test it ourselves when we can get hold of a review unit.
The S102 is more than just a dumb GPS device though, adding MP3 playback, an SD card expansion support, handwriting recognition and allows for photo viewing on the large 3.5 inch 320x240 resolution colour display.
The unit ships with 64MB of Flash ROM memory and an additional 64MB of SDRAM, twice the ROM size of the AU$999 Road Angel Navigator 7000. The unit has support for both an internal antenna or can be connected via the external jack. ASUS is quoting over four hours of run time on the standard lithium-ion battery, making it useful even on longer trips.
Perhaps a casualty of the lower price tag, the S102 PND doesn't appear to offer any text-to-speech functionality. This means that instead of offering a street name at the next junction to turn down, you'll instead be prompted with basic instructions such as "turn right in 500 metres".
Unlike some of the other models on the market, it doesn't include a digital camera for snapping and marking point of interest locations you may want to remember or head back to in the future. Again, most likely to offer a basic GPS unit at this price point, perhaps ASUS will launch a premium version of the S102 PND with text-to-speech and an integrated digital camera.
We'll reserve final judgement until we can actually put the unit through its paces and gauge the accuracy and speed of its GPS functionality -- in particular the real-world effects of the higher sensitivity antenna. At the moment even without the inclusion of a digital camera or text-to-speech support it seems to be well priced for the offering. No doubt as ASUS continues to bring products to market in the GPS category they'll offer the latest gadgets, but for now it seems like they're testing the waters.