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From the front, the Navman MiVue Drive LM looks much like any other GPS navigation device. You're dealing with a 5-inch LCD touchscreen with a very simple rounded case design, set into screen mount with a very standard suction cup. It's designed for in-car use, but presuming you'd charged it up, the 135x84x21mm frame is easy enough to carry around. To give you a frame of reference, it's actually smaller (but notably thicker) than an iPhone 6 Plus.
So far, so ordinary, and certainly not something worth getting all that excited about in 2014. Every single smartphone you can buy comes with integrated GPS functionality and some kind of mapping solution, and just having maps for in-car use really isn't enough to make a GPS to stand out. It's only really when you flip the Navman MiVue Drive LM around that you spot what makes it special.
That's because the killer feature of the Navman MiVue Drive LM is the camera which gives it an integrated drive recorder facility, often referred to as a "crash cam". On the back of the Navman MiVue Drive LM you'll find a 720p capable camera with a wide angle lens, placed there so that it's facing outwards towards the road while you're driving.
The Navman MiVue Drive LM constantly records as you drive to a micro SD card. There's an 8GB card in the box so you don't have to budget separately to get that functionality up and running. By default, recording loops around when the storage fills up, but any identifiable crash as detected by the inbuilt sensors will be marked as a protected file for later viewing.
On the GPS front, the Navman MiVue Drive LM features a number of add-on features that have been highlights of previous devices, such as "landmark guidance plus", which gives you a more natural set of spoken directions based on what it knows about your local map data. As an example, instead of simply saying "turn left in 100 metres", it'll say "turn left at the Post Office", which is a lot easier to discern and has the added benefit of keeping your eyes on the road. It's covered by Navman's lifetime maps warranty, with map updates monthly if you're that keen, although you've got to upload them manually through Navman's desktop software.
As a GPS, the Navman MiVue Drive LM performs quite well. Any GPS is only as good as the map data it can process, and while Navman offers its lifetime maps guarantee and monthly updates if you're so inclined, we could still find gaps in its mapping information. Every GPS system in Australia uses only a couple of maps sources for its data, and they're all in the same somewhat incomplete bucket, but it's irritating that there are still so many issues in 2014.
Any route selection you make, whether via keyword, address or the inbuilt points of interest database will then be presented with a series of drive choices, depending on whether you want the fastest, most economical, easiest or shortest route. For many journeys these will be identical in any case. Routing and re-routing were quick in any test, although initial satellite lock when first setting up the Navman MiVue Drive LM did take a few minutes.
The Navman MiVue Drive LM is set by default to give a lot of warnings of upcoming road features, but this is something of a mixed blessing. It'll bleep loudly to let you know you're approaching a feature rapidly, but sometimes these will be features you don't necessarily care about, such as turn lanes you're not going to move into, or slowdown areas for trucks only.
There's an obvious step to take when testing out any crash camera device, and that's to crash into something. Call me crazy, but I wasn't actually willing to go that far.
It's certainly feasible that a full on life threatening crash could disable the Navman MiVue Drive LM in ways I haven't been able to fully discern. That being said, the recording function is fairly easy to use or review on the Navman MiVue Drive LM itself, with a dedicated menu section for playback and settings changes.
Everything within has a quite rudimentary graphics style that feels a little 1980s-ish, but it's functional stuff, and video quality in varying lighting conditions was easily enough to make out road features as long as the camera is pointing the right way.
The 720p capability of the Navman MiVue Drive LM isn't the top of the range when it comes to actual recording, because a number of dedicated crash cams now come with 1080p recording facility. That being said, it mostly works well, clearly picking up the licence plates of cars as I approached them on highways and registering and protecting files if I deliberately shook the unit or came to a heavy stop on an otherwise quiet road. The only real issue is an unavoidable one for any crash cam, and that's the fact that if you're driving as the sun goes up or down, part of the recorded image will be badly blown out. It is actually feasible to drive while watching the drive recorder work, but this is a terrible idea, because even though it is real-time, it's immensely distracting and a diversion from the full road view available from your windscreen anyway.
The Navman MiVue Drive LM also had a couple of short lockups while on a longer drive. It's rare to find a standalone GPS unit that won't have some kind of bug in it, and the Navman MiVue Drive LM was no different in our tests. It only happened the once in a couple of weeks of testing, however, so whether this was a purely random bug or something likely to be more of a pain is difficult to say.
Navman's done something really special with the Navman MiVue Drive LM. It would be tempting to say that in 2014 the concept of a standalone specialised GPS was an anachronism, because smartphones can handle so much of that work.
By adding specialised and quite desirable driving features with the inclusion of its drive recorder, and staying at the kind of price point that premium GPS devices have commanded for the past couple of years, Navman's made the best complete GPS solution we've seen for a very long time.