Road Angel Navigator review: Road Angel Navigator

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Roadshow Editors' Rating

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The Good Compact. Lightweight. Nice touchscreen display.

The Bad Poor voice quality. Slow to calibrate. Short battery life.

The Bottom Line GPS technology has come a long way in the Road Angel Navigator, but for real benefit on the road, it still has a way to go.

The first in-car navigation system I ever encountered was in a taxi in Tokyo -- more than 15 years ago. It was mounted in the centre console just below the radio and en route emitted voice instructions from a very real-sounding Japanese female. It worked like a dream. Fast forward to today, and I'm driving around with a unit that does that job (quite nicely, in fact), but not a heck of a lot more.

Performance
The Road Angel Navigator comes with a device called a proDock that enables you to hang the unit from the windscreen or between the front seats. The dock has an integrated loudspeaker which helps, because the speaker in the device itself is not the best for listening to voiced driving instructions -- especially in a noisy car.

I tested the Road Angel Navigator on a series of drives -- some familiar routes and some unfamiliar. The unit coped extremely well, recalculating routes with a little chirrup in the cases where I elected to take a route that differed from the suggested one. The voiced directions were uttered well before the necessary turn was required; though, as I mentioned earlier, the speech was a bit difficult to understand, and I found myself wishing there was a "repeat" button on the unit. (The developers have said that this is a feature that will appear in the next version of the product.)

Mapping data is gathered from Sensis' Whereis and UBD resources, and one of the special features of this unit is its ability to warn drivers of school safety zones, speed and red light cameras, railway crossings, and other dangerous road conditions. With the handy touch screen, it's also easy to add your own personal road safety warnings, and of course to enter your favourite addresses (though, seriously, if you need to be told more than two or three times how to get from home to work, you might want to consider taking the bus -- I think it'd be safer).

Operation
The unit on its own (without the proDock) weighs 200 grams and though the manufacturer claims a battery life of four hours, I found it barely made it beyond the three-hour mark. I also found it took an incredibly long time to get its bearings when turning the unit on. This is because when it powers up, the device must load two different applications (the navigation app and Road Angel, which gives the driver road safety hazard info). It also must retrieve data from at least three global positioning satellites before it is ready. That all makes sense, but it also makes it difficult to simply grab the unit, hop in the car and go.

"Navigating" through the Road Angels screens is fairly straightforward, and thanks to the touch screen, there is no need for a confusing array of button controls. I found that in most cases I didn't want to go to the trouble of using the proDock holder in the car -- it was much easier to just carry along the unit itself. This, however, meant that it wasn't charging and I was left to my own navigating skills several times during testing when the battery died.

It's nice to see a device with such a wealth of road knowledge on Australia (the Road Angel also claims to have information on over 540,000 points of interest across the country), and in general the device works as you would want it to. The only things I'd ask for is better battery life, and quicker start-up time.

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