Last November, we took a look at the Navigon 2100 portable navigation device, and while we were impressed by the feature set and affordable price tag, its sluggish performance ultimately left a bad taste in our mouths. However, we wiped the slate clean as we tested the Navigon 2100 Max, a slightly revamped and beefed up version of the 2100. In short, we liked the enhanced features, including the larger 4.3-inch touch and advanced lane guidance. Plus, the in-car GPS is a good value at $299. However, it still suffers from slightly sluggish performance and a kludgey user interface that can't quite compete with the likes of Garmin and TomTom.
Like the company's other GPS devices, the Navigon 2100 Max is a sleek-looking, portable navigation device that features a lacquered black casing and slim profile. It measures just 4.8-inches wide by 3-inches tall by 0.7-inch deep and weighs 6.3 ounces for easy portability.
The Max in the product name refers to the larger 4.3-inch touch screen--a nice little bump up from the Navigon 2100's 3.5-inch display. The extra screen real estate makes it better for viewing maps and other details, such as points of interest. It also helps for entering addresses, as the onscreen keyboard is roomier than on the previous version. The user interface is almost the same as the 2100's, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Navigon's software isn't the most intuitive or efficient, especially compared to a Garmin or TomTom GPS, so it takes a little more work and time to enter addresses, search for POI, and so forth. Plus, there's still a bit of that sluggishness that plagued the Navigon 2100, so the system tests your patience (see Performance section for more).
The rest of the Navigon 2100 Max's controls are pretty simple. The top of the unit holds an external antenna jack and a power button, while there's a reset hole and mini USB port on the bottom. On the right side, you will find an SD expansion slot and the speaker is located on the back.
The Navigon 2100 Max comes packaged with an SD card preloaded with maps, a car charger, a USB cable, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), and reference material. The car cradle requires a little assembly but nothing too difficult, and it securely held the unit in place during our test drive.
Overall, the Navigon 2100 Max has many of the same features as the Navigon 2100, but there are a couple of new additions, which we'll highlight in this section. First, to supplement the Reality View, which provides a "photorealistic" 3D view of complicated intersections, there is now a lane assistant tool to help keep you on track. It works by overlaying arrows on the street to show you which lane you should want and in which direction you will be turning.
Next, there's a new safety tool called DirectHelp. It's similar to the "Where am I?" feature on the Garmin devices, as it lists your exact coordinates and provides you with the location and contact information of the closest police station, hospital, pharmacy, or roadside assistance. While phone numbers are listed with the entries, the Navigon 2100 Max is not equipped with Bluetooth, so you can't dial out directly to these services.
As for the basics, the Navigon 2100 Max comes packaged with an SD card that's preloaded with maps of the continental United States (lower 48 states) and branded POI. The 2100 Max also works with the Navigon FreshMaps--an add-on service that provides up to 12 map updates over a three-year period for $79.99. For more about the navigation features of the Navigon 2100 Max, please read our full review of the Navigon 2100.
As we noted in the Design section, the Navigon 2100 Max suffers from some of the same performance lags as its predecessor. There's some delay between the time you tap an icon on the screen and the time the system actually registers the command, and unfortunately, it also affects some of the navigation calculations.
For our road tests, we took the Navigon 2100 Max out in San Francisco, and from a cold start the receiver was able to get a fix on our location within a quick couple of minutes under clear skies, while subsequent starts were almost instantaneous. The unit did a good job tracking our position as we drove around the city; not surprisingly, the 2100 Max briefly lost the signal as we drove through the Broadway Tunnel but was able to quickly reestablish a connection when we exited the tunnel.
As usual, we plotted our trip from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters. Once we entered our start and end points, the Navigon 2100 Max started off strong by quickly calculating a bulk of the route, but then it got hung up at the end. In all, it took about 10 seconds for a complete itinerary, which yes, isn't very long, but a little slow compared to other systems we've tested.
We checked out the route list before starting on our drive and found them to be accurate. Once on the road, the 2100 Max provided clear voice-guided directions; the text-to-speech was pretty decent and didn't mangle too many pronunciations. We missed several turns to test the route recalculation rate, and we're happy to report that the Navigon 2100 Max fared better than the Navigon 2100. While not lightning fast, the system was able to get us back on track in a timely manner and the new routes were efficient.