It's that time of year again. 'Tis the season to pack up the minivan in preparation for the annual holiday pilgrimage to relatives' houses. But why not alleviate some of the stress of holiday road travel by equipping your car with a GPS device that will guide you to the shortest routes and help keep restless kids at bay by alerting you to upcoming pit stops? One such system is the Cobra NavOne 3000. It's ready to go right out of the box, and like the Garmin StreetPilot 2620 and the Magellan RoadMate 700, the NavOne 3000 contains a hard drive with street-level maps of North America. It lacks a few niceties, however, including a touch screen and a user-friendly menu system, making for a bit of a bumpy ride. The Cobra NavOne 3000 is one of the largest (4.7 by 7.9 by 2.2 inches) and heaviest (8.9 ounces) in-car GPS units we've seen. Enclosed in an attractive, slate-gray casing, the massive 5.2-inch color display is the unit's centerpiece; it's crisp, clear, and readable in any type of light, thanks to an automatic brightness sensor. The NavOne 3000 suffers, however, from the lack of touch-screen functionality, which we've come to expect from GPS units in this price range, such as the Garmin StreetPilot 2620. Instead, a menu button brings you to the main screen, where you can access the points of interest (POI) database, enter and locate addresses, and plan trips using the four-way rocker switch and the Enter button (located just to the right of the screen). Each menu selection provides onscreen icons for navigating through submenus using one of the four function buttons on the face of the unit.
The right side of the unit contains LCD brightness and contrast controls, while the power switch and the IR port are located on the left. Around back, you'll find a USB 2.0 port (for map and firmware upgrades) and a 12-volt power connector. Unfortunately, an AC adapter isn't included, so you'll have to purchase that separately for $18.95. Finishing out the NavOne are a port for connecting an external antenna to the bottom of the device and a socket for mounting the unit on a tripod. The suction-cup mounting hardware clips onto a socket on the back of the unit and attaches to the vehicle's windshield. The mount is very flexible and can be adjusted to any viewing angle, but we found that it couldn't support the weight of the NavOne for long periods and became dislodged when traveling over rough terrain.The Cobra NavOne 3000 uses a 12-channel receiver and comes with a 20GB hard drive, which holds map data and stores custom route and trip information as well as approximately 2 million POI, including hotels, airports, restaurants, and local attractions. As with other units in this class, there is no need for CDs or memory cards since street-level maps for the North American region are preloaded on the hard drive. The NavOne features an internal gyroscope to calculate your movement in the event of signal loss. It also uses Cobra's proprietary iASAP (Intelligent Accelerated Satellite Acquisition Protocol) technology for quick satellite-lock times and enhanced signal strength in dense environments.
In addition to the usual vehicle-navigation features, including voice-guided and text-based driving directions (in English, Spanish, and French); automatic route creation using addresses or POI; automatic route recalculation; and compass, odometer, speedometer, and trip-timer functions, the NavOne 3000 gives you trip-planning capabilities. These features let you preprogram up to 10 destinations for each trip, and you can store up to five trips (or plans) at a time. We liked that you can mark and store waypoints with this unit, a feature not available on many vehicle-navigation systems. Also unique is the IR port, which lets you beam address information from your PDA (compatible with Windows Pocket PC 2002 or later and Palm OS 5.0 or later) directly into the unit's address database.
Although the NavOne is ready to use right out of the box, we recommend thoroughly reading the user manual to get acquainted with the menu system, which is unintuitive and requires knowledge of the submenu structure to plan trips and display certain status screens. Entering address or city information requires scrolling through the letters of the alphabet using the rocker switch, which is an inconvenient and slow process; again, this is where a touch-screen solution is needed. Furthermore, while the screen displays GPS-satellite signal strength in bars, the unit lacks a true GPS status page for tracking the number and the position of locked satellites.The first time we powered up the Cobra NavOne 3000, it acquired a strong fix (measured by green signal bars) within 30 seconds and, on subsequent tries, was equally fast. We tested the unit in New York City and were impressed with the accuracy of its voice-guided directions and the precision with which it tracked our location on the map. Also impressive was the NavOne's ability to hold an adequate signal lock in areas where the sky was partially blocked by trees and tall buildings. As expected, we momentarily lost reception in lower Manhattan, but the NavOne reacquired a fix within 5 seconds. The internal gyroscope also did a good job providing a virtual lock while we drove through the Battery Tunnel, although we were out of the tunnel for about 20 seconds before our location on the map reflected our true position.