The Motorola Motonav TN30 is part of Motorola's first foray into the world of portable navigation devices (PNDs). Like most first-generation devices, the Motonav TN30 is a charming unit with a fresh look and high ambitions, but it still has a few kinks that need to be ironed out before it can be considered a true contender in the PND market. Specifically, we found the TN30's software to be quite buggy, which ultimately hurt the usability of what would have otherwise been an excellent device.
The Motorola Motonav TN30 doesn't vary wildly from the tried-and-true PND form factor. Its 4.3-inch wide-format touch screen is crowned with a silver Motorola "M" medallion and surrounded by a glossy black bezel, with a matte black body. On the upper-right side of the bezel there is a multicolor charging-status LED and at the upper left is a pinhole microphone. The top side of the Motonav TN30 features the power button, which must be held down momentarily to activate and deactivate the device. The right side of the device is home to the SD-card slot and micro-USB port, used for charging the device and connecting to a computer. A recessed reset button can be found on the bottom of the TN30, while the left side is devoid of features. Flip the TN30 over and you'll find the rear-firing speaker behind an interestingly designed grille.
The Motonav TN30's menu is handsomely designed, with dark graphics and a simple home screen that features only four choices: Go, Map, Call, and Settings.
Drilling down into the Go menu, we found the various methods for destination entry, including address, recent and saved locations, points of interest, and a home button. The Call button takes you to the Make a Call screen. Finally, the Settings button brings up the various options for personalizing the Motonav TN30's functions.
The Map button brings up the map of your current location. It's worth noting that there is a Map button in the lower left corner of nearly every menu screen, making returning to the map a simple one-touch affair. The map itself features semitransparent buttons on the left side of the screen for changing map mode (2D or 3D) and volume control. The right side is home to the zoom buttons, a phone button that leads to the Make a Call screen or answers incoming calls, and icons for battery-charge and Bluetooth-connection status. The bottom of the screen houses an info bar that can display information about current location, time and distance to destination, or speed, direction, and altitude information, as well as the Menu button.
Finally, the Motorola Motonav TN30's cradle is a bit of an odd egg. Out of the box, it seems like a mounting bracket attached to a suction cup by a rigid plastic arm that sticks straight out. When mounted on a slanted windshield, the device pointed straight down at the ground. Confused by this odd configuration, we contacted Motorola and were informed that the arm was, in fact, flexible and--with some effort--could be bent into the position that best suits your car. Once bent, the cradle holds the Motonav TN30 firmly in position without wobble or droop.
Motorola says it has focused the Motonav TN30's functionality on the handful of features it thinks buyers will want at the device's price point.
Bluetooth handsfree is easy to use, offering onscreen dialing, a list of recent calls, a redial button, and a voice that activates your phone's voice-activated dialing, if so equipped. Caller ID information for incoming calls is displayed in a pop-up window, with options to answer or ignore the call. The internal speaker is expectedly harsh sounding, but it is loud and easy to hear.
While guiding you to your destination, the Motonav TN30 features text-to-speech driving directions, which helps to keep eyes on the road, and lane guidance, which puts you in the correct lane at complex highway junctions. Instead of the typical split-screen affair we've seen from similar devices, the icons for lane guidance are smallish and overlaid near the top of the map, which some users may find a bit easy to miss.
We had an opportunity to test the Motonav TN30 over a cross-country road trip from Atlanta to San Francisco. While the Motonav TN30 looked great and possessed a fine set of features, it falls flat when it comes to extended usage.
At first, all was well: the device found our location from a cold start in just a few minutes and within 30 seconds on subsequent boots. The Motonav TN30 did a fine job of routing us around the streets of downtown Atlanta. Locating points of interest, such as a gas station or restaurant, was quick and painless. When we missed a few turns on purpose, the Motonav TN30 was a bit sluggish to notice that we'd left the route, but once it did recalculation was quick.
However, by our second day of testing, the Motonav TN30 had become less responsive to our commands. Next, the Bluetooth handsfree stopped pairing and eventually, the menus stopped rendering properly, overlaying the new screen in a jumble over the old screen instead of refreshing. By the end of day two, the device was all but unusable, requiring a hard reboot with the bottom-mounted pinhole reset button. Freshly reset, the Motonav TN30 was again usable, but by the end of the third day, it had slowed to a lock again.
Because we were traveling cross country with the device, we found a few more odd bugs. For example, the Motonav TN30 doesn't automatically reset your time when you pass through time zones, which we'd think a location-aware device would do. When crossing state lines, there was an odd pause as the next state was loaded and the route recalculated.
The Motonav TN30 made a fantastic first impression with its focused feature set, attractive interface, and intuitively designed menu structure. However, over the long term, we were disappointed by the devices' buggy and unstable software. Perhaps when Motorola releases a new software update the device will be more usable, but checking Motorola's Web site for a potential firmware update, we found no software support.