When Navman launched the S300t in late 2008, it marked a turning point: for the first time the GPS ingredients list included style, as well as utility and features. With a glossy 4.7-inch touchscreen, metallic elements, minimalist map screen and an interface featuring iPhone-style swipe-to-scroll and semi-hidden windows, the S300t was a pretty thing to behold.
Shame then that its unresponsive touchscreen, insufficient processing power and numerous other minor faults meant that the S300t's function lagged well behind its form. Fast forward two years, and Garmin and TomTom have just released their first high-style models, the Nuvi 3790T and Go 1000 respectively. Meanwhile, the new top-of-the-range 2010 Navman, the MY75T, does without the capacitive touchscreen, any metallic body elements and eschews the iPhone-esque interface introduced with such fanfare just two years ago. So, it's back to basics then.
The matte 5-inch resistive touchscreen does its job well — the cheaper MY60T and MY65T units have 4.7-inch screens — and we had no problems viewing the screen in bright sunlight or with polarised sunglasses on. The compact windshield mount also did a good job despite the rough Sydney road network, and unlike the mount for the entry-level EZY30 and EZY40, there's no need to fuss around threading the mini-USB plug through the mount.
The stark spartan look of the map screen from preceding generations remains. Tapping the map screen brings up a menu that lets the user adjust the volume, add/skip waypoints, zoom, detour and reroute, as well as view the current route.
To access the main menu one has to use a physical Menu button that brings up a suite of Windows Phone 7-style icons — there's also a physical Pin button that saves your current location to a recent destinations list, just by the by. Using a MY-series GPS is pleasant now that the slide-to-scroll interface, off-screen windows and confusing clicks with swipes have all thankfully been consigned to history's dustbin.
Destination entry is easy to do via the keyword feature, so long as you're not searching for, say, a George Street. Unlike top-of-the-range Garmin and TomToms there's no voice control mechanism, so everything has to be done with the power of one's finger.
While the physical aesthetics may have taken a step back, the top-of-the-range Navman's feature list keeps marching on. There's the commonplace items, like text-to-speech, lane guidance, junction view, Bluetooth hands-free, traffic messaging, 3D landmarks and automatic day/night mode switching. On top of which there's also an FM transmitter, MP3 playback, Lonely Planet travel guides, Hema off-road maps, and verbal camera and school zone warnings.
Most of the time the FM transmitter is powerful enough to provide static free verbal instructions and MP3 playback. In a massive improvement over previous Navman models, music files can be dumped straight onto a microSD card, inserted into the GPS and played straight away. Unfortunately, there's no map screen shortcut to the music selection interface, so skipping a track, changing albums and the like, requires a hunt through the main menu. Rebooting the device will, for some inexplicable reason, reset audio output to the MY75T's internal speaker.
Bluetooth hands-free was rather more problematic than should really be the case. Initial phone/device pairing takes a short eternity and often required us to reset the Navman for pairing to be successful. With an iPhone sound was fine over the internal speaker, but kept on breaking up when sound was set to the FM transmitter. On a Motorola Android handset we had even less luck: we were simply unable to communicate with anyone.
As for the Bluetooth Google and TrueLocal searching, we had no luck with any of our phones. After the 500th data profile error, we concluded that it was just easier to use our phone to do a Google search and then enter that address into the Navman.
Of more use is the bundled Lonely Planet data that offers more detailed point-of-interest info and a number of preloaded scenic routes, such as Victoria's Great Ocean Road and the Southern Forests tour of WA. A WCities guide for Canberra is also part of the package.
Along the top edge of the MY75T is an on/off/reset slider. Start up from sleep takes about 13.5 seconds, while there's a 35-second wait after a full reboot.
The MY's processor packs more punch than the one found in the cheaper EZY line, so simple tasks, like changing the volume, don't end up in a laggy animation mess. That said, the MY75T's transitions and animations aren't as smooth as they should be. Also, be prepared to twiddle your thumbs or begin writing your treatise on gender politics in War and Peace while the GPS calculates three alternate routes for every destination.
Routes generated by the MY aren't too dissimilar to those of its competitors: there's a marked preference for major roads and the routes are rarely ever close to being optimal. Lifetime traffic messaging is included and is helpful for avoiding big delays, but there were times when we ran into incidents on side roads that aren't covered by Suna's service.
Loaded with the latest Navteq Australia maps, the MY75T's lane guidance is limited to freeway exits and intersections. Junction view and 3D landmarks are also included, although the modelled skyscrapers did often obstruct our view of the route path. Like other portable GPS units, positioning accuracy decreases greatly in the CBD, with the MY75T sometimes losing its bearings. For those who are in possession of a four-wheel drive, the inclusion of Hema's off-road maps should be of use.
The speech-to-text system does a reasonable job of pronouncing street names as part of its verbal instructions; however, it did prompt us to scratch our heads on a frequent basis. Verbal instructions are greatly enhanced by the MY75T's ability to guide you from local landmarks — "turn left at the traffic lights" or "turn right at the petrol station", for instance.
Speed and red light camera locations are fairly comprehensive, but we did pass a few (both new and old) without a murmur from the GPS. School zones are also included and unlike earlier generations the warnings are actually useful. For one, the zones stored in the device match up with the prescribed speed restricted area, not a radial area around said school. And, just as important, the zones are time and day dependent — so, no more school zone warnings at 2am.
In a neat twist, for all camera and zone warnings, the generic alert tone has been replaced by a more detailed verbal warning. Annoyingly, though, bus lane cameras have been listed as speed cameras, making a drive through Sydney's CBD an endless cavalcade of erroneous warnings.
The included Lonely Planet guides and Hema off-road maps make the MY75T an interesting choice for holidaymakers, but you may want to test the Bluetooth hands-free out before buying.