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Having to compete with the likes of Garmin and TomTom is no easy task, but Navigon is hoping to woo some new customers with the Navigon 7200T. Now, in the past, we've always commended Navigon for offering feature-rich GPS for an affordable price, but we've had issues with the spotty performance and the complicated user interface. The 7200T follows a similar story line, but with a happier ending. The GPS offers an attractive design and plenty of features, including voice address entry, 3D landmark renderings, text-to-speech functionality, and integrated Bluetooth. The user interface and maps still aren't as clean as a Garmin or a TomTom, but performance has improved and address entry by voice can be quite accurate with some training--better than the similarly featured TomTom GO 930. Plus at $499, it's a more affordable alternative to the Garmin Nuvi 880, though you don't get all the voice command features with the 7200T. Still if you're in the market for a higher-end portable navigation device that won't completely bust the bank, the Navigon 7200T is a decent choice.
Like the Navigon 2000S, the Navigon 7200T features a slightly new design with a black matte casing rather than the lacquered finish of the company's previous models. It still keeps the compact size, measuring 4.6 inches wide by 3.2 inches tall by 0.7 inch deep and weighing 6.5 ounces, so you can use it in multiple cars or take it with you on vacations for use with rental cars.
The 7200T's display is slightly different from the company's other models. The screen is completely flat and doesn't have a beveled edge, so it gives the GPS a more sophisticated and streamlined look. The display measures 4.3 inches diagonally and is sharp and bright, making it easy to view maps. The touch screen is also more responsive than other Navigon units we've tested in the past. The onscreen keyboard is slightly larger than the Navigon 7100, so address entry was easier and more accurate. Also, the GPS features predictive text, so as you enter letters, it will automatically bring up possible result matches. Unfortunately, you only have the option of an ABC-formatted keyboard and not a QWERTY one.
The user interface is pretty intuitive. From the start menu , you have four main options: New Destination, My Destinations, Take Me Home, and Voice Entry. As we've noted in our other reviews, the Navigon interface isn't quite as clean or easy as a TomTom or Garmin GPS. For example, if you simply want to go to the map screen, you have to tap Options first and then Show Map, whereas the other systems have direct shortcuts. The extra steps required on the Navigon 7200T, but it definitely made us appreciate the simplified interface of the other units.
There's a power button on top of the unit, while there's a microSD expansion slot, a reset hole, a mini USB port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom. Finally, there's an external antenna jack on the back.
The Navigon 7200T comes packaged with a car charger, a vehicle mount (windshield and dashboard), a software CD, and reference material. The car mount is slightly different than the ones that shipped with previous Navigon units. It consists of a disc that attaches to the back of the GPS, and that piece connects to the arm of the mount. There's a bit of assembly required, but it's quite easy. What's difficult is removing the unit from the disc; there's a little release lever at the bottom, but we still had problems. The good news is the mount securely held the 7200T in place during our road tests.
The Navigon 7200T includes maps of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To plan a trip, you can enter a location by specific address, point of interest, recent destination, user-defined home, and so forth. Of course, the big news is that you can enter addresses by voice. When you first use the voice command system, you do a little test read in your car so the GPS can learn your voice and the environment in which you'll be using the 7200T. The first couple of times we used the voice entry system, the results weren't very accurate, but the more we used it, the better it got (check out the Performance section for more details). Unfortunately, unlike the Garmin Nuvi 880, the voice command system is limited to just address entry and can't be used for other tasks.
The 7200T can calculate routes in one of three ways--fast, optimum, and short--and gives you the option to allow or avoid highways and toll roads. There are also pedestrian and bicycle modes. In addition, the 7200T offers free real-time traffic updates for life, so you can know the road condition before hitting the road or finding alternative routes if you happen to get caught in traffic. If there are any incidents along your route, you'll see a little exclamation point on your map screen (as well as get an audible cue) 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 or choose to ignore it.
The PND supports multidestination routing so you can add multiple stops to your trip or add waypoints on the fly. The points-of-interest database includes all the major categories, including gas stations, lodging, and ATMs. You can search for restaurants by cuisine type, and there are also specialized categories like golf courses, marinas, and museums. In addition, you can 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. You can then have it shown on a map or navigate to the POI from your current location.
You can view maps in 2D or 3D mode, and you now get 3D landmark views. The feature is similar to the 3D building renderings found on the HP iPaq 310 Travel Companion, but brings them to major landmarks, such as the Empire State Building and Golden Gate Bridge. The map screen shows the current street, distance to, and street name of your next turn, estimated time of arrival, speed limit, and more. Make sure you check only the POI you want displayed on the map, otherwise the screen can get fairly cluttered with various icons. For complicated intersections, the 7200T offers a couple of aids. First, there's Reality View, which gives you a "photorealistic" view of complicated intersections, such as major highway exchanges, with a 3D image of the road. You also get something called Lane Assistant Pro, which will overlay arrows on the street to show you which lane you should want to be in and which direction you'll eventually be turning.
In addition to the visual aids, of course, you get audible prompts, including text-to-speech functionality so you'll hear street names rather than generic directions. Despite being an entry-level system, the 2000S has text-to-speech functionality so you'll hear street names rather than generic directions. Other GPS features include automatic route recalculation, a turn-by-turn list of text directions, route simulation, speed warnings, and DirectHelp, which provides you with the location and contact information of the nearest police station, hospital, roadside assistance, and other emergency services based on your current location.
Finally, the 7200T has integrated Bluetooth so you can pair it with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and use GPS 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. We're also happy to see that unlike the Navigon 7100, your address book and call history can be wirelessly transferred to the 7200T. We paired the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8310 and successfully transferred our contact list and made calls.
We tested the Navigon 7200T in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit about 3 minutes to get a fix on our location, while subsequent starts took less than a minute. The 7200T kept up with our movements as we drove around the city and was able to keep a lock on the satellites even as we drove through the Financial District where tall buildings often block a clear view of the sky.
We planned two trips using the 7200T. The first one was from the Marina District to Sonoma, California, and we used the voice entry function to input the address. Unfortunately, we wound up going back to the traditional method of using the onscreen keyboard after the GPS couldn't get the correct address. When we said Sonoma, we got everything but Sonoma, including Simi Valley and San Dimas. It also had difficulties with the street name, which was Zinfandel. Granted, it's a hard word, but still, we never got the right result. On the bright side, the 7200T was able to get us to our destination with no problem, which was a good thing since we weren't familiar with the area. The advanced lane guidance and reality view were particularly helpful while we were traveling along the highway. We also got multiple traffic alerts on our route, which was useful, but the frequency of audible alerts got to be annoying. We'd travel just a couple of miles before getting another notice, and we couldn't find a way to adjust the traffic updates.
The second journey was our standard route from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters. Again, we used the voice address entry, and this time the 7200T was spot on. As we mentioned earlier in the Features section, the system becomes smarter the more you use it. We checked out the list of text-based directions and were satisfied with the route, so we hit the road. Along the way, we missed a couple of turns to test the route recalculation rate, which was quick and able to get us on track with a new route.