LG Electronics is just one in a growing list of consumer electronic companies entering the U.S. GPS market. We first got a preview of the company's new portable navigation line at CES 2007, but recently we got the chance to get our hands on its flagship model, the LG Portable Navigator LN740, which retails for $499.95. The LN740 is a sleek device, offering accurate directions with text-to-speech functionality. LG also includes some nice extras, such as a free trial to Navteq's traffic services and a host of accessories. However, the device falls short with its low-resolution screen, and doesn't offer integrated Bluetooth as do other similarly priced models. The LN740 is a good first effort, but we think you'll get more for your money with the Magellan Maestro 4040 or Garmin StreetPilot c550.
With its sleek, black-lacquered finish and compact size (4.5-inches wide by 3.5-inches high by 0.7-inch deep; 7 ounces), the LG Portable Navigator LN740 is a good-looking portable navigation system. The GPS receiver is integrated into the device, so there's no added bulk on the back of the unit or need to flip up a patch antenna to get a GPS fix.
On paper, the LN740's touch screen looks like a dream but in reality, it's a bit of a disappointment. It measures a wide 4 inches diagonally and displays 260,000 hues at a 320x240 pixel resolution. With that type of color output and screen quality, you'd expect sharp, vibrant maps, but this is not the case. While readable, the screen appeared grainy and pixelated and colors seemed washed out when viewed in direct sunlight. We adjusted the viewing angle and tweaked the brightness settings, which helped a little, but not enough to compete with TomTom's or Garmin's sharp displays. The touch screen, however, was responsive and the interface user-friendly and intuitive.
While the touch screen handles most of the main controls, you can adjust the volume and return to the device's main menu with dedicated controls that sit to the right of the display. There is a mini-USB port as well as a SD expansion slot on the left spine, while the right houses the power button, traffic antenna jack, and power connector. One notable omission we discovered was a headphone jack. The LN740 does offer music playback capabilities and a "pedestrian" mode; while you probably wouldn't use the device as an MP3 player or handheld navigator, it would have been nice to have the option to plug in a pair of headphones for an improved audio experience.
The LN740 comes with a good assortment of accessories, including an AC adapter, a car charger, a vehicle mount (for the windshield and dash), a traffic antenna, a carrying pouch, a USB cable, a backup map disc, and other reference material. We were impressed by the number of goodies (LG includes more than most), and particularly appreciated the AC charger, carrying case, and traffic antenna, as these can cost upwards of $40 when purchased separately.
The LN740 is easy to install on the vehicle mount. We had some initial concerns about whether the adjustable arm could support the device's weight, but the cradle held the device securely in place even as we drove over bumpy roads. The setup for the traffic antenna is a bit awkward, as it involves running a wire along the windshield and attaching it via suction cups. The result isn't very pretty.
The LG Portable Navigator LN740 is equipped with a 20-channel SiRFstarIII GPS receiver and comes preloaded with Navteq maps covering North America. For everyday trips, you can go straight to the Map page and have the LN740 track your location as you cruise. Otherwise, you can plan a trip by entering a specific address, choosing a recently visited location, or selecting a destination from the My Places list. Entering addresses is easy, as the system quickly returns with possible results as soon as you start entering the first few letters of any city, state, or street. In addition, the LN740 supports multistop trips and offers a comprehensive points-of-interest database that includes some 7 million entries. This database includes major categories as well as more specific items, such as restaurants by cuisine, gas stations, ATMs, wineries, and parks--and will even include a phone number, if available.
The LN740 can create directions by shortest distance or fastest route, including or excluding toll roads, highways, or ferry ways. It also offers a "pedestrian" mode, if you wish to use the device while walking. Once the device has calculated a route, you can review a list of turn-by-turn text directions or get a route summary. We didn't find the summary helpful, as the level of detail is too superficial (a map overview with the highlighted route). If you don't agree with the provided directions or want to avoid part of the route, the device offers a reroute option as well as a detour function. What's more, LG provides a free 90-day subscription to Navteq's traffic services, so you can check to see if there is any congestion on your drive before you hit the road. To continue service after the complimentary period is up, you will have to pay $60 a year. The LN740 will also automatically recalculate the route if you happen to get off course.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D and can automatically switch between colors representing day or night. A small on-screen diamond icon allows you to easily switch between the two map views; plus and minus signs located at the upper left and right corners of the screen let you zoom in or out. At the bottom of the screen, distance to and direction of your next move is displayed, along with current street name, speed, and estimated time of arrival. The street name of your next turn is listed at the top of the screen, which can be hard to read as it can sometimes blend in with the map. Fortunately, you don't have to rely on just visual prompts, as the LN740 also offers voice-guided directions with text-to-speech functionality. While the unit supports 16 languages, the text-to-speech capabilities are only available in English, Spanish, and French.
The one thing the LN740 lacks when compared to other systems in its class is integrated Bluetooth for hands-free calling. For better or worse, the LN740 does have music capabilities as well as a photo viewer that supports MP3 and WMA music files, as well as JPEG and BMP image formats.
We tested the LG Portable Navigator LN740 in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit a solid 10 minutes to get a GPS fix and pinpoint our location. We got a bit impatient during this time (especially since we were just sitting in the car), but fortunately, subsequent starts were almost instantaneous and the receiver did a great job of keeping a lock on our position as we drove throughout the city.
We planned a few trips: one from San Francisco to Tiburon, and another from the Marina district to CNET's downtown headquarters. Both times the LN740 provided us with accurate and efficient directions. Voice directions were hard to hear through the unit's weak speakers, and the text-to-speech instructions were robotic, mangling the pronunciation of some street names. Still, we'll absolutely take the awkward pronunciations over no text-to-speech at all. Route recalculations were quick enough to give us new directions before arriving at the next turn. The LG LN740's internal lithium ion battery is rated for up to 6 hours of continuous use.