Magellan RoadMate 800 review: Magellan RoadMate 800

Pricing Unavailable
  • Recommended Use automotive
  • Features 2D / 3D map perspective, built-in speaker, optional external GPS antenna connection, preinstalled POIs

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8

The Good The Magellan RoadMate 800 comes with maps preloaded on its hard drive and includes entertainment features. It also has solid performance.

The Bad Unfortunately, the Magellan RoadMate 800 doesn't feature text-to-speech functionality or an FM modulator.

The Bottom Line Armed with a rechargeable internal battery and entertainment features, the Magellan RoadMate 800 is an accurate nav system you can use in the car or on foot, but it lacks some of the advanced features of its competitors.

Picking up where the RoadMate 760 left off, the Magellan RoadMate 800 is stocked with many of the same great navigation features of its predecessor and includes a few entertainment extras to boot. You get an integrated MP3 player and a picture viewer; plus, the rechargeable battery means you can use this device in the car or on foot. Yet, while we appreciate the multimedia features and versatility, we're disappointed by the omission of text-to-speech functionality, which was included on the 760. Still, if your main concern is moving from point A to point B without getting lost, the RoadMate 800 can do the job. At $699.99, the RoadMate 800 may be a bit too pricey for some, but when you consider the RoadMate 700 cost nearly $1,300 only two years ago, it's a step in the right direction for consumers.

The Magellan RoadMate 800 doesn't break any new ground in the design department. It sports the same basic shape and familiar gray and silver color scheme that Magellan uses for most of its RoadMate products, although the antenna is a square flip-up type rather than the lipstick-shape mechanism found on earlier models. The 3.5-inch color touch screen uses a built-in sensor to adjust to variable lighting environments, and happily, we had no problem viewing the screen in direct sunlight.

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For best results, make sure the Magellan RoadMate 800's antenna has a clear view of the sky.

To the right of the display are nine function buttons for accessing the menu system, entering commands, zooming in and out of map screens, and locating your present position on the map. One of the switches is an eight-way rocker that you can use to pan map screens and scroll through menus and item selections, while another mutes the speaker. Along the top bezel are an SD/MMC card slot, a volume control, and a reset switch. A USB 2.0 port and a headphone jack are located on the left side, and there's a compartment on the right that holds a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which means you can take advantage of the Magellan RoadMate 800's navigation and entertainment features anywhere, whether you're traveling by car or on foot.

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The RoadMate's various function buttons let you access menus, zoom in and out on maps, and more.

One of our complaints about the Magellan RoadMate 760 was its unstable mounting cradle; this time around, it is noticeably larger and sturdier. In addition to the windshield mount, Magellan packages the system with AC and DC power adapters, a USB cable, and two CD-ROMs containing the user manual and a few utilities for managing points of interest (POI), MP3s, and digital photo files. You also get a set of earbud headphones and a carrying case.

The Magellan RoadMate 800 is packed with the usual assortment of navigation features that you'd expect to find in a quality GPS device, including voice- and text-guided driving directions, multidestination routing, automatic rerouting, and a strong 12-channel GPS receiver and antenna combo. Detailed Navteq maps of North America are stored on the unit's 20GB hard drive, so there's no need to upload maps. However, if you want to unlock the 27 European maps stored on the drive, it'll cost an extra $199.

Included with the street-level maps is a database of more than 6 million POI, which are broken down into more than 35 categories, such as restaurants, vehicle services, airports, hospitals, and nightlife, just to name a few. You can locate a POI that is nearest to your current location, search for it by name, or conduct a city search and have the system automatically create a route to it. You can also create a route using a destination from your address book, which holds up to 200 entries.

Magellan's SmartDetour function kicks in when your travel speed drops below 15mph for a user-specified period of time, giving you the option of requesting a new route around the congested area. If you know ahead of time that a problem area is on your route, you can use the Detour function at any time to avoid potential slowdowns. New to this model is the addition of a 3D bird's-eye map view, which is activated by tapping an icon on the map. As with the Magellan StreetPilot 760, a detailed TrueView 3D map box opens right before an anticipated maneuver, showing the direction of your turn, the street name, and the distance to the turn. Oddly, the Magellan StreetPilot 800 doesn't offer the SayWhere text-to speech technology found on the 760, which is disappointing.

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Fill up an SD card with music and photos and take advantage of the Magellan RoadMate 800's multimedia features.

There is 4.5GB of available storage on the hard drive, so you can load lots of JPEG and BMP picture files and view them with the RoadMate photo viewer. You can also store MP3 and WMA music files and listen to them using the RoadMate music player or load them via the SD/MMC card slot. While the internal speaker is nice and loud, it's designed for voice commands and driving alerts. As a result, music sounds one-dimensional and tinny. You do get a decent set of earbud headphones, but we think an FM modulator, which allows you to play your music through your car stereo, would be a nice touch.

The Magellan RoadMate 800 performed admirably on our road tests, maintaining a strong satellite lock throughout most of our travels. Initially, it took 3 minutes for the unit to acquire a 3D fix (four satellites locked in), but waiting times were around 30 to 45 seconds thereafter, which is on a par with other navigation systems. More important, the RoadMate 800's receiver is steadfast, as it tracked our progress accurately on a route that took us from the suburbs of Long Island to Brooklyn. We lost our signal only once, and that was while we were stuck in traffic below an underpass.

The SmartDetour feature provided several escape routes when we encountered a massive traffic backup on the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway, but unfortunately, all of them were equally congested--not an uncommon occurrence around these parts. Driving directions were on the money, and the TrueView pop-ups made them very easy to follow. As advertised, the Magellan RoadMate 800's battery gave us close to 4 hours of unplugged power before requiring a recharge.

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