Just recently, we reviewed the Navigon 5100 and were pretty impressed by this newcomer for its useful set of navigation features, including the integrated traffic receiver, lane assistant function, and 3D "photorealistic" view for complicated intersections. Now we're turning our eyes to the step-up model, the Navigon 7100 ($649), which adds integrated Bluetooth and a larger 4.3-inch touch screen. Unfortunately, we're not as pleased with our experience with the 7100. General performance was slightly sluggish and the system's interface can be confusing--definitely not as user-friendly as competing products. Plus, the Bluetooth capabilities are limited since you can't transfer your phone's contact or call-history list to the portable navigation system. Given all these factors, we'd rather give up some features and get better performance from the TomTom GO 720 or Mio C520.
The Navigon 7100 very much resembles the Navigon 5100 with its attractive, curved body and sleek black finish. However, it's bigger at 3.5 inches tall by 5.1 inches wide by 0.9 inch deep and 7 ounces, and, thus, allows for a more spacious 4.3-inch touch screen. It displayed sharp maps and bright colors, and the screen was also readable in various lighting conditions, including bright sunlight. We must say that the onscreen keyboard is a bit cramped, so you can't easily input addresses with your fingers. Fortunately, the Navigon 7100 comes with a stylus for more accurate text entry.
The user interface is the same as that found on the Navigon 5100 and Fujitsu Siemens Pocket Loox N100. The main menu page is user-friendly, with four large and intuitive icons for New Destination, My Destinations, Take Me Home, and Voice Command. We wish there was a Map icon to go directly to the map screen, but as is, you have to tap Options first and then Show Map. Also, 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 power button is located on the right spine. On top of the unit, you'll find an SD expansion slot, while there's a reset hole, a mini USB port, and a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack on the bottom. Finally, the speaker, external antenna jack, and stylus holder are on the back.
The Navigon 7100 comes packaged with an SD card preloaded with maps, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a car charger, a USB cable, a soft carrying pouch, and reference material. The car mount's design is the same one included in the Navigon 5100, which we found quite interesting. It's quite modern looking, and I didn't even know what it was when I first took it out of the box. To me, it looked like a landline phone receiver, while a fellow CNET editor said it looked like a shower head. I think it's the long, slender arm that throws you off.
The Navigon 7100 is equipped with a SiRFstarIII GPS chip and all maps of the United States and Canada are preloaded on the included SD card. As with most GPS devices, you can enter a location by specific address, point of interest, recent destination, user-defined home, and so forth. The 7100 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 pedestrian, bicycle, and motorcycle route options, and our favorite, slow-car mode. Other standard navigation features include automatic route recalculation, multistop trips, simulated demos, speed alerts, and, of course, text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, including text-to-speech functionality for specific street names.
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.
Speaking of which, like other Navigon products, such as the Fujitsu Siemens Pocket LOOX N100, the Navigon 7100 has a comprehensive POI database that includes branded icons for major corporations (e.g., McDonald's, Chevron, Shell). In addition, you can now search for POI by Zagat Survey ratings and reviews. It's available for hotels, night life, attractions, golf courses, and restaurants, and once you've selected your category, you can refine your search even more by top service, best buy, and so forth. Tapping the information icon on a business listing will then bring up specific ratings and reviews. The Zagat Survey data is particularly useful when you're in a new town and need recommendations of where to eat or go out. Overall, we found the database to be fairly up-to-date, though not perfect.
The Navigon 7100 also includes several other helpful and beneficial navigation features. First, it has an integrated traffic receiver so you get subscription-free traffic updates. You'll see a little exclamation point on your map screen and by tapping it, it will bring up a list of congested areas. You can select a specific incident and get more details on the problem. The system has the ability to plot an alternate course, as well. To make for the smoothest ride possible, there's also a lane assistant function that will recommend the optimal lane for your route. Last but not least, in complicated intersections, such as major highway exchanges, the Navigon 5100 will present you 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.
One additional feature the 7100 has over the Navigon 5100 is integrated Bluetooth, so you can pair with a compatible Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and use it as a hands-free speaker system. Once paired with your handset, you can make calls using the system's onscreen dial pad or if there's a number associated with a POI, you can dial out directly. Unfortunately, however, you can't transfer your phone's contact list or call history.
Before we talk about the road test, a general word about the Navigon 7100's performance: We found the unit to be a bit sluggish. There were numerous occasions when there was a couple-second delay between the time we tapped an item and the time it actually came up onscreen. Though slight, we found this to be annoying after a while.
For the driving portion, we tested the Navigon 7100 in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit about 2 minutes under cloudy skies to gather the necessary satellites and get a fix on our position. The receiver did a good job of keeping its lock and accurately tracked our location as we ran everyday errands around the city. The unit did lose a signal as we drove the Broadway Tunnel, but immediately picked it back up once we exited the tunnel. For a planned route, we entered our standard trip from the Marina district to CNET's downtown headquarters, and the Navigon 7100 calculated directions fairly quickly. The itinerary was accurate as we glanced at the list of turn-by-turn text directions. The voice prompts were loud but we found the text-to-speech directions to be a bit robotic and there's only one voice option. To test the route recalculation rate, we missed several turns and the 7100 was able to get us back on track in a timely manner.
We were able to successfully pair the portable navigation system with both the Motorola Razr2 V8 and the Palm Centro. Though we wish there was an easy way to transfer our phone's contact list to the 7100, we had no problems making calls and the speaker system had good volume and clear sound.