The RoadMate 9055-LM starts, like most PNDs, with a touch screen. Only instead of a 3.5- or 5-inch display, the RoadMate 9055-LM boasts a massive 7-inch screen (measured diagonally). Magellan markets the RoadMate 9055-LM to owners of big trucks and RVs and you may be thinking that a screen so large is probably overkill for the average passenger car -- that certainly was my first thought upon attaching the RoadMate 9055-LM to the windshield of our tiny 2007 Chevrolet Aveo test car. However, after a bit of adjustment of the PND's mounting arm, I found that the extra square inches of real estate really could be helpful in a passenger car.
Massive screen aside, the RoadMate 9055-LM isn't dramatically different from your standard Magellan navigator. Look closely at the device's glossy black bezel and you'll find the pinhole opening for the device's microphone. Along the top edge is a power switch that gives users manual control over activating and deactivating the unit. The unit's power can also be automatically controlled by the USB power connection located on the bottom edge of the RoadMate 9055-LM unit -- plugging in to power causes the unit to spring to life and disconnecting brings up an onscreen prompt that give users 10 seconds to decide to operate on battery power before automatically powering off.
The bottom edge of the unit is also home to a microSD card slot that can be used for installing map updates and a video input that is used in concert with Magellan's Wireless Back-Up Camera. Check out theof that product for more details on how this works.
The back surface of the unit is where you'll find the RoadMate 9055-LM's speaker and the grooves that are used to attach the unit to its mounting cradle. You'll recall that I mentioned that this cradle's adjustability was key in bringing my opinion around on whether or not the RoadMate 9055-LM's 7-inch screen was too big for a normal-size car. Most suction-cup mounts for PNDs feature a single point of articulation (usually at the point where the neck meets the back of the device), are only about 2 to 3 inches long at best, and can only be mounted to nonporous surfaces like glass. The RoadMate 9055-LM's cradle features three points of articulation (one at the base, one midway up the arm, and a third where the arm meets the unit), measures about a foot in length at its longest (but can also be shortened to about 8 inches if necessary), and can be mounted to almost any smooth surface without the aid of an adhesive mounting puck thanks to a mounting cup that makes use of a combination of a tacky adhesive material and a lever actuated suction cup. The price that you pay for this level of flexibility is that the cradle assembly is rather, well, flexible. Tapping the unit's touch screen (or even going over a large bump) causes the RoadMate 9055-LM unit to jiggle about like a bobble-head doll, which can be rather annoying.
Of course, my first instinct was to install the RoadMate 9055-LM on my test car's windshield like I would with any other PND, but I quickly realized that placing a massive screen directly into my field of view while driving was a bit foolish. However, after a bit of fiddling with that flexible mounting arm, I was able to settle on a configuration that uses the suction cup's ability to mount to a dashboard to hang the unit below the dashboard level and down into the center stack area where the car's stereo and climate controls are already located. The result is that the large screen ends up sitting about where a similarly sized screen would in an OEM navigation system. In this configuration, I was able to keep the entire windshield and forward view clear, keep the screen within my peripheral vision, and simultaneously reducing the reaching distance required to interact with the unit.
Users are able to lock the included 12-volt power adapter's Mini-USB connector into the base of the cradle so that it automatically plugs into its port on the base of the RoadMate 9055-LM when locking the unit into the dock. Although the RoadMate 9055-LM is too big to be placed and removed with one hand, this tiny feature did eliminate the need to wrangle with the power cable every time I entered and exited the vehicle.
The RoadMate 9055-LM at its core has many of the features that we've seen in the rest of Magellan's RoadMate lineup. The map screen places its controls in each of its four corners and along the screen's edges, with buttons for OneTouch, volume control, the Main Menu, zoom in and out, travel information, and traffic. While navigating, the 9055-LM gives live updating spoken turn-by-turn directions with useful features such as spoken street names, highway lane guidance, and speed limit alerts. We especially like the way the system uses chimes instead of speech to signal when it's time to turn, so the system doesn't feel like it's jabbering on endlessly.
From the upper right corner of the map screen, users are able to access Magellan's OneTouch menu where 15 shortcuts to commonly accessed destinations and searches can be saved. One of these presets is fixed (emergency services) but the remaining 14 can be set and reset by the user.
Lifetime map updates can be downloaded from the Internet using Magellan's Content Manager Software and Lifetime traffic data can be browsed on the unit's map. Traffic data comes wirelessly over the air via the RDS-TMC band. Like most RDS-TMC systems, flow and incident data is mostly available for interstates, major highways, and a few major streets, with the majority of secondary and surface roads going uncovered.
I first fired up the RoadMate 9055-LM just outside the CNET offices in downtown San Francisco. Like most PNDs, the RoadMate 9055-LM's initial satellite lock time is a bit longer than the subsequent locks and took about 5 minutes. (Fortunately, our offices have a fairly unobstructed view of the sky, which makes all of the difference.) Inputting a destination from an interface standpoint was fairly seamless (giving us the option to search by point-of-interest name using either Magellan's database or an onboard database of AAA TourBook destinations, enter a street address, or to pull from an address book). However, the amount of pressure required to register a touch on the resistive screen caused issues with the flexy mounting arm.
With a destination input, the RoadMate 9055-LM's chosen routes and supplied directions were satisfactory, lining up well with the routes that I would have chosen myself after years of driving in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, if there's one major issue with this PND, it's speed.
Whether poking around through its menus or watching the live map update while driving, I couldn't help but be annoyed by the lack of smoothness in the the RoadMate 9055-LM's presentation. Rather than gliding along smoothly, the map would jump from point to point in a very noticeable manner (occasionally causing me to doubt which street I was my turn). Searching for a point of interest was even more frustrating with slow text input for the search function and even slower returning of search results.
That is, if the unit even returned the result you were looking for at all. The temperamental search algorithm was a bit too specific for my tastes. For example, when searching for "Lake Temescal," the RoadMate 9055-LM returned no results. Searching for "Temescal Park" also provided zero results. It wasn't until we shortened the search to just "Temescal" were we able to find the desired destination listed a few entries down in the resulting list under "Temescal Regional Park." Most users would have stopped searching after the first two attempts, declaring the search a failure. In a world where we're all so used to Google asking "did you mean...?" this rigid type of searching is almost unacceptable.
When the RoadMate 9055-LM landed on my desk, I thought that the large screen was a bit ridiculous. However, after much use and a bit of creative positioning, I learned to love the extra inches of available display. Owners of larger vehicles will no doubt also love the seamless integration with Magellan's Wireless Back-Up Camera system. However, what I never learned to love was the laggy performance and annoyingly specific POI search engine, which stand between you and the 9055-LM's otherwise acceptable navigation and routing. If want the biggest screen possible and don't mind taking a little time to set up your trip before embarking, this PND could be the one for you. But if you don't like the idea of waiting for your PND to catch up with you, you'll probably want to look for a smaller, snappier 5-inch navigator from TomTom or Garmin.