When we reviewed the Averatec Voya 350 late last summer, we gave it a lukewarm reception; it was a decent portable navigation system but it was in need of some refinements in design and usability to really compete with the industry leaders, such as Garmin and TomTom.
Well, it looks as if the company got the message because its new model, the Averatec Voya 320, boasts an improved design and is easier to use. In addition to the standard navigation tools, Averatec also has added multimedia capabilities to the Voya 320, though we think the implementation could have been better. That said, the system performs its main function--navigation--well and at $300, it's a great value. If you're a GPS newbie or want an affordable portable navigation system, the Averatec Voya 320 is a decent choice.
Simple and functional
The Averatec Voya 320 sports a much more compact and refined design than the Voya 350, proving that sometimes less is definitely more. At a mere 4.3x3.x0.8 inches and 5.9 ounces, you will have no problem toting this device around and transferring it between cars. It has nice, basic black-and-silver casing with tapered edges so it won't be an eyesore in your vehicle and replacing the stubby antenna of the Voya 350 is a neater flip-up patch antenna.
Though the Voya 320 is smaller than its predecessor, we're glad to see the company didn't sacrifice the screen size. The unit keeps the same 3.5-inch touch screen of the Voya 350 with a 65,000-color output and 320x240 pixel resolution. The map colors were vibrant, and maps and text were sharp. In addition, we didn't have too many problems reading the display in direct sunlight.
To the right of the screen are four controls: power on/off, volume up and down keys, and a main menu button. They're simple and do what they advertise, so we have no complaints. And thankfully, Averatec got rid of the wobbly and frankly, useless, four-way navigation toggle found on the Voya 350.
Other design elements of the Voya 320 include a SD expansion card slot and a 3.5mm headphones jack on the left spine, and a mini USB port and power connector on the bottom of the system. The unit's speaker is on the backside along with a reset button and the aforementioned antenna.
Averatec packages the Voya 320 with a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a car charger, a 1GB SD card preloaded with maps and points of interest, and reference material.
The Averatec Voya 320 offers a solid set of features, particularly for the price. The unit is powered by a 12-channel SiRFIII GPS chip and a 300MHz Samsung processor, and comes with maps of the United States preloaded on an SD card, so it's a simple plug-and-go solution. You get the standard text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, 2D and 3D map views, more than one million points of interest (POI), multipoint trips, and automatic route recalculation.
Like the Voya 350, you can plan a trip by entering a specific address or intersection or by selecting a destination from your Favorites list, recently visited locations, or POIs. The system can then create directions based on one of four methods: quickest, shortest, using major roads, or using local roads. Unlike some of its competitors, there is no pedestrian or bicycle mode on the Voya 320, but you can instruct it to include or exclude toll roads, carpool lanes, and more. All these options are available through the Settings menu, and we should note the interface is the same as the Voya 350, which we found a bit confusing. (See our review of the Averatec Voya 350 for more.)
Before you head off on your trip, you can get a running demo of your route. You also can turn on the Speed Alert function, which will let you know when you're driving over a defined speed. Once on the road, the map screen provides you with important trip information, including your next turn, remaining distance to your next move, estimated time of arrival, and speed. If you tap the street name at the top of the screen, the Voya 320 will bring up a list view of the next several directions. Unfortunately, the system does not support text-to-speech functionality, and you can only choose from one voice.
As we noted earlier, the Averatec Voya 320 now has multimedia capabilities. There are built-in music and video players that support MP3, WMA, AVI, DIVX, MP4, and WMV files. The players are very rudimentary with just your basic function buttons. For example, there is no equalizer or shuffle mode for listening to tunes. Finally, there is an image viewer with a slide show function. An important thing to note here is the memory. The Voya 320 has 64MB SDRAM and 32MB Flash ROM, which doesn't leave much room to store multimedia files on the device. Also, the maps and POI take up all the space on the included 1GB SD card, so if you want to carry around a decent library of music or videos, you'll have to use a separate SD card and consequently disable the navigation function. Alternatively, you can invest in a large capacity card and combine both. It's a pain and inconvenience, but we're not making a bigger stink over it because that's not the primary purpose of this device. Plus, you won't really be watching movies and viewing pictures while driving, right?
Good navigator, decent entertainer
We tested the Averatec Voya 320 in San Francisco, and the unit proved to be a good navigator but a mediocre entertainer. From a cold start, it took about three minutes for the system to lock onto a satellite fix, while subsequent starts were much faster. The Voya 320 correctly tracked our location as we drove around the city running errands and was equally good during a planned trip. Directions were accurate, and the system got us back on track after we veered off course.
Though it certainly won't replace your standalone MP3 player or PVP, the Voya 320 did an OK job with music and video playback. Transferring media to the Voya 320 was a snap, as it showed up as a mass storage device on our PC, and then it was a simple matter of drag and drop. Music tracks sounded a bit hollow through the unit's speakers but quality improved once we plugged in a decent pair of Sony MDR-EX71SL ear buds. Videos were watchable though a bit blurry, as to be expected. We were more surprised by the poor experience we had with the image viewer. Our pictures looked extra pixilated, and it really slowed down the device. Averatec says the Voya 320 can operate for up to two hours on a single charge, which is on the lower side.