Earlier this summer, CNET News.com's Daniel Terdiman embarked on a two-week road trip with a car full of gadgets, and guiding him through the journey was the Magellan RoadMate 3000T. It helped him navigate the back roads of Oregon and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, and he gave it an overall grade of B+. Well, we took it out for a test-drive ourselves and also found it to be a solid navigation system. We weren't enamored by its design, but looks count for only so much. The important thing is that the RoadMate 3000T accurately tracked our location and provided some nice features to help with navigation. Though it doesn't have some of the advanced features of its competitors, it's a good midrange model at a fair price ($599.99). In a departure from the company's other in-car GPS devices, the Magellan RoadMate 3000T sports a more compact and squarish design. The unit measures 4.3 by 3.8 by 1.4 inches and weighs a hefty 8.6 ounces, so this is definitely a car-only model.
The center of attention is the RoadMate 3000T's 3.5-inch, QVGA touch screen. It has a resolution of 320x240 pixels and is responsive to touch commands. Even better, the display is readable in sunlight, though it does have a tendency to hold fingerprints and smudges. Surrounding the display are eight buttons--power on/off, mute, enter, escape, a navigation toggle, Main menu, Destination menu, and Locate. There are also two large buttons on top of the device for zooming in and out of maps, and a volume dial. We certainly appreciate the last set of controls as well as the mute button, but we almost wish everything else was handled through the touch screen. Having all these external controls was overwhelming, and since they're located all over the perimeter of the RoadMate, we found ourselves accidentally hitting buttons and launching various menus when all we wanted to do was adjust the angle of the device. Also, they're not all clearly identified--for example, the Main menu button is only marked by two rectangles--so a quick read of the user guide might be worthwhile.
On the left spine is an SD/MMC expansion slot, while a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mini USB port, a reset hole, and a power connector are all located on the right side. The GPS receiver is integrated into the RoadMate 3000T, so you don't have to deal with any flip-up antennas, and the speaker is located on the device's backside.
Magellan packages the RoadMate 3000T with a windshield mount, a USB cable, a cigarette lighter power adapter, and reference material. We wish the company had included an AC adapter so that we didn't have to rely solely on the cigarette lighter to charge the device. Among today's portable nav systems, the Magellan RoadMate 3000T sits in the middle of the road, offering a fairly solid feature set but lacking some of the advanced features found in the high-end models, such as integrated Bluetooth and text-to-speech functionality. The device uses a 20-channel, SiRF Star III receiver and comes preloaded with maps of North America and a 6 million-plus points-of-interest (POI) database on its 4GB hard drive.
To start getting directions, you can enter a specific street address, choose a destination from your Address Book or Favorites list, or enter an intersection. The RoadMate 3000T also has a handy little feature called QuickSpell to help speed up the process of text entry. As you start entering the letters of your destination on the virtual keyboard, QuickSpell kicks in and dims out any characters that don't match any of the city or streets located in the system's database. It worked well, and we found it quite useful.
Once you've entered your desired location, you can instruct the RoadMate 3000T to calculate routes by the shortest time, shortest distance, least use of freeways, or most use of freeways. The system also supports multidestination routes (up to 20 locations), so if you want to make several stops along the way, just use the Trip Planner feature. For impromptu stops, the system provides 37 categories of POI--from the basics, such as gas stations, ATMs, and restaurants broken down by cuisine type, to more specialized interests, such as bowling alleys.
To supplement to text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, the RoadMate 3000T offers you a number of ways to view maps: 3D, 2D track up (direction of travel is at top of screen), 2D north up (north is always at top of screen), and night mode. If you're just driving around without a predetermined destination, the RoadMate provides you with a simple view of your location and some nearby POI. However, you can get more details with the TrueView function, which offers a split-screen view of upcoming turns in 3D and 2D, or if you so desire, you can have RoadMate just list the upcoming turns. You also have access to a Trip Computer that records your average speed, total distance traveled, and drive time.
Though the RoadMate 3000T doesn't come with integrated traffic services, it does have a feature called SmartDetour. If your speed drops below 15mph, the unit assumes you're stuck in traffic and the detour icon will appear, which you can then tap to receive an alternate route. Magellan also offers an optional TrafficKit if you want real-time traffic data.
Finally, like the latest crop of GPS devices, the RoadMate 3000T has some multimedia capabilities. More specifically, it can play back MP3 and WMA music files and display JPEG and BMP images. We tested the Magellan RoadMate 3000T in San Francisco, and performance was generally good. From a cold start, it took the unit about three minutes to acquire a satellite fix, but subsequent starts were much faster. If the RoadMate has problems getting reception, a pop-up menu will first ask you if you're in a garage or indoors, and if your answer is no, it will try to troubleshoot the problem. This is a nice touch, since it shows you how many satellites it has located and you're not just left in the dark as to what's going on.
The RoadMate 3000T accurately tracked our location as drove around the city running errands. We also plugged in specific addresses, and overall, the driving directions were accurate and voice prompts were loud and clear. However, we noticed that route recalculations were a bit slow. For example, the RoadMate would alert us to take the next right or left almost as we were passing the street.