Navigon's line of portable navigation systems seems to follow the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, offering three different flavors with one to hopefully match your tastes and needs. For the gadget hounds and GPS enthusiasts, there's the Navigon 7100 with its advanced features like Bluetooth and traffic services, while the Navigon 5100 is more of a middle-of-the-road system for intermediate users. And now for beginners, there's the Navigon 2100. The entry-level unit has an attractive price point of $249, and includes text-to-speech functionality for speaking actual street names, which you don't often find at this price range. In addition, you have the ability to add more functionality, such as traffic services and refined points of interest search, once you become more familiar with GPS. That said, we were turned off by the sluggish performance and inefficient route recalculations. The user interface can also be confusing and overly complicated. As a result, for first-time GPS buyers, we'd recommend the Mio DigiWalker C230, which offers ease of use and similar features.
The Navigon 2100 is a miniaturized version of the Navigon 5100 and 7100. It features the same, sleek black finish of the other two systems but has a smaller footprint at 4 inches wide by 3.1 inches tall by 0.8 inch deep and 5.6 ounces for easy transport between vehicles. It's compact enough that you could feasibly use it while navigating on foot or mounted to a bicycle.
Despite its petite size, the Navigon 2100 still manages to pack in a standard 3.5-inch touch screen. Maps and text appeared sharp and vibrant, and we were able to read the display in various lighting conditions, including bright sunlight. The onscreen keyboard is a bit cramped to quickly and easily enter addresses, and unfortunately, there's no stylus included to help with the situation. In addition, the system's sluggish performance slows down the address entry process. (See Performance section for more).
The user interface is fairly easy to use, though not as intuitive as other systems. The main menu page includes five clear options: New Destination, My Destinations, Take Me Home, Show Map, and Options. However, as we've noted with other Navigon product reviews, once you dive deeper into the applications, things can get a bit confusing and laborious. The function of all the icons on the map screen isn't clearly identified, so we'd recommend giving the user manual a quick read or familiarizing yourself with all the unit's functions before heading off on your first trip.
The rest of the 2100's design is minimal. On top of the device, you'll find a power button and a jack for an external antenna. The SD expansion slot is located on the right side, while there's a reset hole on the left spine. Finally, the mini USB port is on the bottom.
The Navigon 2100 comes packaged with a car charger, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), an SD card preloaded with U.S. maps, and reference material. For better or worse, the 2100 doesn't ship with the modern-looking windshield mount included with the Navigon 5100 and 7100. Instead, you get a more traditional accessory, which did a good job of holding the system securely in place.
The Navigon 2100 is equipped with a SiRFstarIII GPS chip and includes Navteq maps of the 48 contiguous United States preloaded on the included SD card. To start planning a trip, you can enter a location by specific address, point of interest, recent destination, user-defined home, and so forth. The 2100 can calculate routes in one of four ways--fast, optimum, short, or scenic--and gives you the option to allow or avoid highways and toll roads. There are also options for creating routes via pedestrian or bicycle mode. As with most portable navigation systems, you get text- and voice-guided directions, but unlike many units in this price range (with the exception of the Mio C230), you also get text-to-speech functionality so you'll hear actual street names instead of more generic directions. Other standard navigation features include automatic route recalculation, multistop trips, simulated demos, and speed alerts.
Like the other Navigon products, the 2100 has a comprehensive points-of-interest database that includes branded icons for major corporations, such as McDonald's, Chevron, and Shell. Categories include all the major attractions, such as gas stations, lodging, and restaurants (searchable by cuisine type) as well as more specific items like museums and railway stations. Unlike the Navigon 5100, the 2100 doesn't include Zagat Survey ratings and reviews out of the box. You can add this feature for an additional $39. This gives you Zagat Survey ratings and reviews for POI--more specifically for hotels, night life, attractions, golf courses, and restaurants--and the ability to search for these entries by top service, best buy, and so forth.
You can view maps in 2D or 3D mode, and with day or night colors. The map screen shows you plenty of data, such as the name of the street you're on, distance to next turn, estimated time of arrival, remaining distance, a compass, signal strength, and more. You can always choose to hide some of these elements via the Settings menu, since the screen can get pretty overwhelming with all the data and points of interest. Like the 5100, the Navigon 2100 also has Reality View. This feature gives you a "photorealistic" view of complicated intersections, such as major highway exchanges, with a 3D image of the road. For example, you will get a semirealistic view of what the road looks like ahead of you, including road signs, so you're not completely confused as to what exit to take.
As an entry-level and budget-friendly GPS device, the Navigon 2100 doesn't offer much more--no Bluetooth or multimedia capabilities. However, you can add traffic functionality to the device. The unit already has an integrated traffic receiver, so the only thing you'll need is the $99 traffic service. Though the price seems a bit stiff, this is a lifetime subscription so you won't have to have to renew or pay monthly fees.
Despite being powered by a 400MHz Samsung processor, we thought the Navigon 2100 felt underpowered. Similar to the Navigon 5100, there was a couple second delay for an action to register after tapping an icon. For example, when entering addresses, there was a lag between the time we pressed a letter or number and the time it actually showed up onscreen. During our first couple of tries with the 2100, we didn't realize there was such a delay and went about entering our address, only to realize halfway through the process that the system hadn't registered half of our commands, so we had to go back and re-enter the information, which got to be annoying real quick.
For our road tests, we took the 2100 out in San Francisco, and from a cold start and under cloudy skies, it took about 5 minutes for the unit to get a 3D fix on our location. Subsequent starts ranged from instantaneous up to 2 minutes. While driving around the city, the system did a good job of tracking our position, but as expected, it did lose a signal when we drove through the Broadway Tunnel. That said, once we exited the tunnel, the 2100 picked up the signal almost instantaneously.
We also entered our standard trip from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters, and the Navigon 2100 quickly calculated directions. We checked out the list of turn-by-turn text directions and found the route to be accurate. Once on the road, the voice prompts were loud and clear, but we thought the text-to-speech directions were a bit robotic and not as smooth as some of the other systems we've tested. Also, while route recalculations were swift, the Navigon 2100 didn't always return with the most efficient routes. We missed a number of turns to test this feature, and on several occasions, the unit told us to make u-turns, sometimes when not permitted, when a simple right turn would have gotten us back on track. Fortunately, we were familiar with the area in which we were driving, but not exactly what you want if you're new to an area. The Navigon 2100's 1,100 mAh lithium ion battery is rated for up to 3.5 hours of use.