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Delphi is probably better known for its satellite radio products, but the company has also tried its hand at portable navigation systems. Though not as recognized as the big players in the industry, such as TomTom and Garmin, Delphi is hoping to change that with its latest in-car GPS device, the Delphi NAV200. Designed for the value-oriented consumer, the NAV200 comes with a fairly reasonable price tag of $399.99 (though we liked the original price of $349 better; Delphi said industry demands caused it to raise the price) and features all the basic navigation tools, with the option to add other services for more-advanced users. All in all, it's a decent navigator offering accurate directions, and you get more bang for your buck than the similarly priced TomTom One. That said, we favor the clean and simple interface and responsiveness of the TomTom One.
Like most in-car GPS devices these days, the Delphi NAV200 has a nice, portable form factor (5.3 by 3.2 by 1 inches; 6.7 ounces), so you can use it in multiple cars. There's a flip-up antenna in the back that adds some slight bulk to the overall package, but not so much that it makes the unit unwieldy.
The center of attraction is the 3.5-inch touch screen. It shows off 16.7 million colors at a 320x240-pixel resolution and features an antiglare coating for better viewing in daylight. The touch screen was responsive, but we found it difficult to enter addresses using the cramped virtual keyboard. Fortunately, Delphi includes a stylus (located along the top edge of the device), so you can use that for more precise text input.
To the left of the display, there are shortcut keys to the main menu and screensaver mode, and zoom in and out buttons to the right. A volume dial is located on the right spine, which we always appreciate since it saves us from having to go through the various menus to adjust the sound; there's also a jack for an optional traffic receiver and the power connector port. On the left side, you have a 3.5mm headphone jack (accepts Walkman-style headphones, but its identification--Phone--is misleading) and a power button. Finally, the SD expansion slot sits on the bottom of the unit. One feature that was noticeably absent was a USB port. This is a bit of an inconvenience since the NAV200 can play back music and video, but instead of being able to transfer these multimedia files directly onto your device or SD card via USB connection, you must have an SD card reader.
As far as accessories, Delphi packages the NAV200 with the basics, including an SD card preloaded with maps of the United States and Canada, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a car charger, and reference material. A protective case and AC adapter would have been nice additions, however.
Equipped with a 400MHz processor and SiRFstarIII GPS receiver, the Delphi NAV200 is ready to use right out of the box. Just insert the included SD card, and you're ready to start planning your trip. Delphi also has a nice feature where it gives you the option of operating in one of two modes: Standard or Extended. Standard is best suited for first-time GPS users as it gives you only the basic options; essentially, you can route from point A to point B, and that's about it. Once you become more accustomed to using the device and navigation tools, you can switch to Extended mode, which allows to you create multidestination routes, search for points of interest based on different criteria, and more.
Like most of today's portable nav systems, you can get directions by entering a specific street address, an intersection, a point on a map, or a location on your Favorites or Recent Destinations list. You can have the NAV200 create routes by fastest or shortest route; with or without interstates and toll roads; and in vehicle, pedestrian, or bicycle mode. If you don't like a portion of the calculated route or know there's road construction or traffic in a certain area, you can create detours. Also, if you happen to miss a turn, don't worry; the system supports automatic route recalculation.
Heavy commuters may be interested in adding real-time traffic updates with Delphi's Real-Time Traffic Kit. The kit, which costs $199.99, includes an antenna and RDS receiver, an SD card with a software upgrade, and unlike other services that require a monthly or annual subscription, you get a lifetime subscription to Clear Channel's Total Traffic Network--very nice. Aside from live updates on congested areas, hazardous road conditions, and extreme weather warnings, you can also get alternate route recommendations and estimated time of arrival (See Performance section for more). The service covers 49 of the top 50 U.S. markets; you can check for your city here.
Maps are available in 2D or 3D view with a night-mode option, which changes the color of the maps for better nighttime viewing. The map screen can actually be quite overwhelming, as a wealth of information is presented to you. There are about 18 bits on data, such as estimated time of arrival, remaining distance to destination, next road name, current speed, current heading, and more, that frankly, take up a lot of screen and map real estate; plus the icons are not clearly identified, so be sure to give the Owner's Manual a good read before starting out. That said, there is a second screen that hides a lot of this information if you don't need or want it. Plus, you get voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, so you don't have to rely solely on the visual maps or prompts. The NAV200 does not support text-to-speech functionality at this time.
The Delphi NAV200 also has a 1.6-million POI database that contains all the basics (gas stations, hotels, ATMs, and so forth) and more specialized categories (shopping centers, museums, golf courses, and so on). We found most of the entries to be up-to-date, and it even identified CNET Networks after we input our street address, which was a first. Yet curiously, when we tapped on a POI on the map, it would take us to another navigation screen, instead of giving us information about the location.
The NAV200 includes a music and video player as well as an image viewer, so you can use the gadget out of the car or to entertain the little rug rats in the backseat. The media player supports MP3 and WAV files and AVI video formats, while you can view JPEG, GIF, and PNG images. Other extras include a calculator, a world clock, and a game.
Before we get to the road test results, we should mention that we experienced a noticeable lag when trying to access the Delphi NAV200's navigation app and its submenus. Time after time, we sat there watching the little hourglass icon turn round and round before we could start entering addresses and so forth. Needless to say, this was a bit frustrating. The good news is that once on the road, the NAV200 was fairly quick to perform its tasks. We took the unit on a test-drive in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took about two minutes to acquire a GPS fix, while subsequent starts took mere seconds. The device accurately pinpointed our location as we drove around the city, and it was quick to create directions and recalculate routes.
During our test drive, the Delphi identified 44 different trouble areas, including the closure of the MacArthur Maze, a major freeway interchange here in the Bay Area. We also got visual cues as roads with heavy traffic were highlighted in red and noted with the type of delay. We found the whole experience useful not only for driving in familiar areas, but especially for unfamiliar routes, as the unit was able to provide us with alternate routes that we didn't know about before. If you have a long commute or are frequently on the road for business, the Delphi Traffic Kit may be worth the investment.