When you hear the name Averatec, you probably think laptops and not GPS devices. However, the company is expanding its consumer electronics portfolio with its first personal navigation system, the Averatec Voya 350. It's a basic system with text- and voice-guided driving directions, a points-of-interest database, and automatic route recalculation. But we're not knocking it for its simple feature set, especially when you consider its reasonable price tag of $379.99. That said, the Voya isn't as sophisticated as some of the systems from more established GPS companies. It has some design quirks, and the interface could be simpler, for example, so for our money, we'd rather go with the TomTom One or the Garmin StreetPilot i series. Still, it gets the job done, and it isn't a bad system for minimalists or GPS newbies.
Overall, the Averatec Voya 350 is a compact (4.5 by 2.9 by 0.7 inches; 6 ounces) device, although a helical antenna adds an extra 0.75 inches of unwanted bulk and is a bit of an eyesore. Still, it's a travel-friendly device that you can easily transport from car to car and even use on foot. It'd be good for, say, navigating the streets of large cities such as New York or Chicago.
The front of the unit is dominated by a 3.5-inch TFT touch screen that displays 16.7 million colors at a 320x240-pixel resolution. It's readable in sunlight, but we had some initial problems with the touch screen. There were several occasions where we had to tap a menu icon several times before the screen registered our command, but we recalibrated the screen under the Setup menu, and that did the trick. Unlike other GPS devices we've seen with touch screens, the Voya 350 also comes with a stylus (located on top of the device) so that you can use it for more precise input--a good thing, since the onscreen keyboard can be a bit cramped.
To the right of the screen, you will find the speaker, power on/off, a Main Menu button, Zoom In and Out keys, and a five-way navigation toggle. There are a couple of things to note about the latter. First, it isn't a directional keypad as one might expect. Instead, pressing up toggles between North Up and Heading Up; pressing down switches between 2D and 3D map view; and the left and right keys cycle through the map views, GPS setting, trip info, and more. In addition, pressing the control in the middle brings up the Set Destination screen. Admittedly, these take a little getting used to, but we eventually warmed up to them and found some of the information to be quite useful. For example, the Current Location page will tell you which side of the street odd-numbered and even-numbered addresses are on. The control itself is a bit wobbly and doesn't always work properly. After a while, we found it best to just nudge the outer edges, rather than pressing the button directly.
On the left spine, there is a reset hole, a Hold button, a jack for an optional external antenna (for enhanced reception), and a port for the power adapter. The right side has an SD card expansion slot and a headphone jack, while there's a connector on the bottom for the included car charger. Aside from the car charger, Averatec packages the Voya 350 with an SD card preloaded with maps of North America, an AC adapter, and a vehicle mount (windshield and dash). The one thing we wish the company had also included was a carrying case (à la the Mio C710), since the device could easily travel with you on foot.
The Averatec Voya 350 is equipped with a 12-channel SiRF StarIII receiver and is ready to use right out of the box, since all the maps of the United States and Canada are preloaded on the included SD card. Simply insert the card and go; no need to worry about transferring maps from your PC to the device. The Voya 350 features all the standard navigation tools you'd expect in a GPS device, including text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions (with support for Spanish and French), automatic route recalculation if you veer off course, and a points-of-interest (POI) database. You can search for destinations by specific address, intersection, or city center. You can also select a place from your Favorites list, recently visited locations, or POI. The Voya's POI database contains more than 1.6 million entries, including all the major attractions and more specific categories such as ski resorts and ferry terminals.
To customize the way the unit creates routes, go to the Settings menu, then Route Options; from there you can choose from quickest or shortest route, with or without toll roads, and so forth. This would also be a good time to mention the Voya's interface. It can be a bit confusing, since each Settings page contains about four to five categories, then beneath each of those are a series of buttons for all the various functions. It's overwhelming at first glance, but you get accustomed to it after a couple of tries.
Map views are available in 2D and 3D modes, and you have the choice of four map colors and auto/day/night modes. As you're driving around, the map screen displays a bunch of useful information, such as the name of the street you're currently on, your upcoming turn, estimated time of arrival, remaining distance to your destination, and so forth. If you need to have a voice prompt repeated, simply press the Next Turn arrow in the upper left corner of the screen. The Voya 350 does not, however, have text-to-speech functionality, so you won't get specific street names in voice commands.
As we mentioned before, the Voya 350 is a very basic system, so you won't get any of the advanced features showing up in recent models, such as MP3 playback, integrated Bluetooth, or traffic information. It does, however, have a speed alert function that will let you know when you're driving over a user-defined speed. There's also a trip planner and an almanac that provides such information as time of sunrise and sunset and moon phases.
When we first fired up the Averatec Voya 350, it took about two minutes for the unit to lock onto a satellite fix, and it accurately pinpointed our location. The Voya continued to do so as we drove around the streets of San Francisco. The system also gave us accurate driving directions to a friend's house in the Russian Hill neighborhood of the city, and got us back on track after we missed a couple of turns. The Voya 350's lithium-ion battery is rated for up to four hours of continuous use.