The Insignia NS-CNV43 piqued our interest with its Internet-connectivity for live traffic, fuel prices, and other services; however, its claim of being the first ever GPS device with Twitter integration and the low price are what really excited us.
So how does the Insignia device stack up to the competition? Read on to find out.
The NS-CNV43's hardware is built around a large 4.3-inch color TFT touch screen. Surrounding the screen is a glossy black and gray frame with rounded edges. Aside from the touch screen, which is where the majority of the interactions will take place, the NS-CNV43 also has a power button along its top edge as well as a volume rocker and Mini-USB port on the right edge, and a pinhole reset button on its bottom.
Flipping the device over, we find a matte-finished back panel with a small speaker for audible cues and a door held shut with a screw, behind which hide removable microSD and SIM cards.
The NS-CNV43 features haptic feedback for its touch-screen interface. When the device registers a successful tap, you'll feel a short vibration coming from it. If you don't press hard enough or miss the onscreen button, then there is no vibration. We expect that some users will find this feature quite useful, as it helps to increase touch accuracy by effectively slowing down the user's inputs enough for the screen to keep up, but after a while, the constant buzzing started to feel a bit gimmicky. As always, haptic feedback is a user preference sort of thing that you'll have to try to know if you like it. Fortunately, the vibration can be turned off in a menu.
Its map screen is fairly standard--if not a bit crude--as far as navigation devices go; it has 2D map views for direction of travel and north facing modes, as well as an isometric 3D map. A button on the left edge of the map screen toggles between the views, and on the right side is a pair of zoom buttons. An option buried in the settings menu will let you choose points of interest for selected categories on the map. Hitting the large Menu button at the bottom of the screen returns to the Home menu.
The unit's Home screen interface features large buttons for Go To (which is where you choose your destination), Settings, Google Search, Net Apps, Phone, and a central Map button. When routing, buttons for Stop and Route Edit also join the mix. Each of these submenus features similarly large banks of buttons with colorful graphics that are easy to recognize and hit at an arm's length. The onscreen keyboard--which appears when searching Google or entering an address--also features large keys in a QWERTY layout. The NS-CNV43 will attempt to autocomplete street and city names, but not Google search terms.
Interestingly, the NS-CNV43 will let you search Google, but not the preloaded POIs, which can only be browsed by category, distance, or alphabetically. This isn't much of an inconvenience if you plan to use Google for the majority of your searches, but if you let your data subscription lapse, finding a particular restaurant could become tedious.
The Insignia NS-CNV43's built-in cellular data connection is the source of the device's most interesting of its features. Through this connection, you have access to Local Google search for POIs as well as the capability to send destinations to the device via the Internet from the Google Maps Web site. Other features that take advantage of the data connection include real-time traffic updates by Navteq (that also supply the NS-CNV43's map data), GasBuddy.com fuel price updates, AccuWeather.com weather information, and movie listings from Hollywood.com. Traffic data is accessed whenever a route is calculated for more-accurate travel times, with any delays being shown in a box on the map screen. Clicking this box brings up an overlay with more information about the nature of the delay and a button to detour around it, if possible. The other connected functions must be manually accessed and searched in the Net Apps menu.
One Internet-connected service that stands out because of its unconventional nature is its Twitter integration. After entering your Twitter username and password, the NS-CNV43 gives you the option to Tweet your routes using an open-source Java library for the TwitterAPI called Twitter4J.
The process works like this: First, you select a destination as you normally would, either by Google Search, POI, or manual entry. When the confirmation screen appears, you will see a new check box option for "Tweet my route." Checking this box will send out a tweet with your destination--either the proper POI name or the street name for manually entered addresses--and the expected travel time. For example, it may send a tweet that says, "Leaving for CNET Networks. Be there in about 18 minutes." When a new route is calculated, it will generate a new tweet with an updated estimated time of arrival. When the destination is reached, a tweet similar to "Arrived at CNET Networks." will be sent.
While we can see past the novelty of tweeting your destination to the actually useful function of automatically letting your loved ones know where you are, we also see a huge security and privacy issue with potentially tweeting your home address, making your comings and goings available to tech-savvy bad guys. So, if you're going to tweet, be sure to tweet responsibly.
The NS-CNV43 comes with two months of data service out of the box, after which you can purchase service a la carte with no contract required. As few as three days of service can be purchased for $4.99 or as much as 12 months of service for $99, with various increments in between. For comparison, a year of TomTom's LIVE service is $120 ($9.99 per month) and Garmin's nuLink is free for the first two years, after which it is a flat $60 per year.
Other useful features and functions include text-to-speech turn-by-turn directions, a crude icon-based lane guidance system, multiple language support, and Bluetooth hands-free calling.
Pairing the NS-CNV43 to a Bluetooth phone is a simple four-digit PIN affair. Once paired, a telephone icon appears in the main menu, on the map screen, and next to POI phone numbers on destination confirmation pages. Clicking this button for a POI will automatically call the POI using the paired phone. Clicking the phone button on any other page will call up an onscreen 10-button keypad. The unit does not import contacts and we were unable to get it to work with our phone's voice-dialing function.
While the NS-CNV43 checks off a fairly impressive number of features; however, performance is the connected GPS device's Achilles' Heel. Specifically the NS-CNV43 is a pretty slow device by most measures.
Starting with the boot-up time, the NS-CNV43 takes about a full minute to boot to the menu screen. In comparison, the Garmin Nuvi 1690--which has a similar feature set--has a 10-second to 12-second boot time. Once in the menu, establishing a satellite lock from a cold boot took anywhere from 2 minutes to 5 minutes, with subsequent lock times averaging about a minute.
Then there's POI search. Finding a destination is fast enough with Google search (averaging about 30 seconds to 45 seconds to return results), but finding a particular locally stored POI (for example, if you don't have a data signal) can be maddeningly slow because it lacks a POI search function. If you're in an unfamiliar city and the bank you're looking for isn't close to your current location, then you can all but forget about finding it without Google's help.
With a destination found, its route calculation is also slower than average, yet it is still tolerable. Once on the road, the NS-CNV43 is a perfectly competent navigator, getting us reliably from point A to point B without much incident.
The slowness can probably be attributed, in part, to the Windows CE-based operating system that the Insignia uses, which has also been the cause of a bit of instability. It only happened once during testing, but the NS-CNV43 is one of the few GPS devices that's thrown an error code and crashed, requiring a press of the reset button.
Although slow, we have to give the NS-CNV43 credit for accuracy. It did a remarkably good job of holding our position once locked, even in urban canyons such as downtown San Francisco. It's also one of the few GPS devices we've tested that was able to establish a satellite lock indoors when positioned close to a large window.
The Insignia NS-CNV43 is an odd little device. For nearly every point that it gains for a neat feature (such as Google Search, live traffic, and Twitter integration), it loses a point for its slow performance compared with similar models.
However, there is one way that the Insignia manages to stand out: price. The NS-CNV43 has a feature set that is pretty close in (in scope, if not in performance) to the Garmin Nuvi 1690 and the TomTom GO 740 Live. However, where the Garmin carries an MSRP of $499 and the TomTom is $349, the Insignia comes in at only $199. While the NS-CNV43 is cheaper at checkout, its strengths all lie within the data connection. When you factor in the data costs, it's only about $70 to $100 cheaper than the superior Garmin and TomTom GPS units.
If you're pinching pennies and absolutely must have a connected GPS device, then perhaps the Insignia NS-CNV43 is the device for you. However, if you want the best device for the money, spend the extra cash for a Garmin or a TomTom.