A little while ago, I joked (OK, I was half serious) that someone had finally found a good use for the Nokia 700 Internet Tablet by turning it into a portable navigation system. I have since come to realize there are more positives to the device after reviewing the revamped Nokia N800 Internet Tablet, but the GPS option is still an attractive one to me. After all, the devices have beautiful sharp screens for viewing maps and compact designs perfect for in-car travel. One such solution for turning the portable Web browser into a navigator is the Navigation Kit for the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. Priced at $239, the kit includes a Bluetooth GPS receiver, maps of North America, and most of the accessories you need for in-car use. However, we're disappointed by the Navicore navigation software as it suffers from an unintuitive interface and half-baked feature set. Though we'd have to carry an extra gadget, we'd rather spend the money on a dedicated GPS device, such as the TomTom One, to get smoother performance.
The Navigation Kit for the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet consists of the Nokia LD-3W Bluetooth GPS receiver, a 2GB miniSD card and adapter preloaded with maps, a car charger, a vehicle mount (windshield), and a software DVD. The windshield mount requires a bit of assembly as you have to attach the cradle to the arm with a screw, and the whole apparatus is a bit bulky. After some fidgeting, we were able to slide the N800 into the cradle and it securely held the unit in place. There's also a locking mechanism on the mount arm to reinforce the seal between the suction cup and your windshield. Unfortunately, the package does not include an adhesive disk for installing the mount on your dashboard, though you get a sticker for the Bluetooth receiver. Now, while this probably won't be a huge deal for most drivers, in California and Minnesota, the use of suction cup windshield mounts is prohibited so the inclusion of a dash solution would have been nice. Also missing is a charger for the Bluetooth receiver, but it does work with the Nokia N800's AC adapter.
The Navicore Navigation Kit features TeleAtlas maps of the United States and Canada, and a comprehensive points-of-interest (POI) database, all of which come preloaded on the aforementioned miniSD card. After you insert the card, you'll have to endure a couple minutes of set up and activation where you have to input the product license code, select your map region, and so forth. Once that process is complete, you can pair the Nokia N800 with the Bluetooth GPS receiver and be on your way.
The Navicore interface isn't very intuitive and overall, it lacks the fluidity and robustness of other navigation programs. For example, it's not readily apparent that you must tap the arrow icon along the right side of the screen to start planning your trip. This then brings you to a page of six options: Find route, Clear route, Find detour, Find location, Plan route, and Settings. We were also confused as to whether we should use Find route or Plan Route for creating directions, but it's the former that allows you enter your destination by street address, point of interest, latitude and longitude coordinates, recently search locations, or one of your Favorite locales. The latter lets you add more waypoints or edit portions of the route once the system has created directions. You can choose to get directions by fastest or shortest route, and in car, bicycle, or pedestrian mode. There's also support for automatic route recalculation.
The POI catalog is vast and includes entries for everything from gas (petrol) stations and restaurants to camping grounds and amusement parks. Also, with the Nokia N800 being such a Wi-Fi-reliant device, there's also a listing for Wi-Fi hot spots. You can choose which POI to have displayed on your map under the Settings > POI, but you may want to limit what is shown, as having too many POI can really clutter the map screen.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D view with daytime and nighttime colors. You can zoom in and out, but you can't easily move around the map. For example, you can't simply sweep your finger on the touch screen to see other parts of the map; you'll have to use the four-way navigation toggle to pan right, left, up, or down. The main driving view will give your current street, the direction and distance to your next turn, and estimated time of arrival. However, if you're in 3D mode, you can't see all the surrounding street names, and disappointingly, there's no way to view a list of turn-by-turn directions. And though the Navicore Navigation Kit for the Nokia N800 has voice-guided directions, it does not feature text-to-speech functionality, which speaks actual street names.
We tried the Navigation Kit for the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet in San Francisco, and we had no problems pairing the device with the included Bluetooth receiver. From a cold start, it took about four minutes to get a satellite fix under cloudy skies, while subsequent starts took less than two minutes. Overall, the receiver did a good job of tracking our location, although there were times when the signal would get weak even if we had a clear view of the sky. Maps looked great on the Nokia N800's sharp screen. That is, as long as we were inside; but once in the car and in direct sunlight, colors became a bit washed out even when we readjusted the positioning of the N800 in our car.
Route calculations were quick, taking just a few seconds. However, since we couldn't look over a detailed list of turn-by-turn directions, it's hard to say whether the prescribed route was the most efficient. That said, it accurately got us from the Marina district of San Francisco to CNET's downtown headquarters. We also took several wrong turns to test the route recalculation rate, which was quick and always got us back on track, but unlike other portable navigation systems we've tested, there's no voice prompt to let you know it's creating a new itinerary. There is a visual cue, but the first couple of times, we weren't looking at the screen, so we weren't 100 percent sure whether the system realized we had gotten off track or not. The GPS receiver is rated for up to 15 hours of battery life and 7 days standby time.