A couple of months ago, we reviewed the Magellan Maestro 4040 and liked it for its nice interface, performance, and value. Now, the company has added an even more affordable solution to the Maestro family. Aimed at the first-time buyer and budget-strapped, the Magellan Maestro 3100 offers the most essential navigation features for a reasonable $299.99. It accurately and easily got us to our destinations. That said, it doesn't offer quite the same sleekness or smooth operation of a TomTom One or Garmin Nuvi 350, so if you can find a deal, we'd recommend buying one of these two portable navigation systems. Magellan also offers a step-up model, the Magellan Maestro 3140 ($399.99), that adds text-to-speech functionality, Bluetooth, and AAA support.
The Magellan Maestro 3100 is basically a scaled-down version of its bigger brother, the Maestro 4040. The unit measures a compact 4.2 inches long by 1.1 inches wide by 3.4 inches high and weighs 6.5 ounces, so you can easily move it between cars. However, the smaller size also means that you don't get the luxury of the larger 4.3-inch display like the Maestro 4040. Instead, the 3100 is equipped with a responsive 3.5-inch diagonal touch screen. While maps were readable, we thought the color was a bit washed out and wished there was a little more contrast. Lowering the screen's brightness helped slightly, but it wasn't quite up to par with some other systems we've seen.
Aside from the power button on the right side, you will use the Maestro 3100's touch screen to perform most functions, from entering addresses to adjusting the volume. This allows the device to have a simple and clean design. There are no external controls cluttering the face of the 3100. There's just an SD/MMC expansion slot and a reset button on the left spine, and a mini USB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a power connector on the right side. The unit's speaker is located on the back, and since the GPS receiver is integrated into the device, you don't have to worry about dealing with a flip-up antenna.
The Magellan Maestro 3100 comes packaged with a car charger, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a USB cable, and reference material. The windshield mount did a good job of holding the unit in place, and there's a lock mechanism to reinforce the seal between the suction cup and windshield. However, we found that it takes quite a bit of wrangling to dislodge the system from the mount's backboard.
The Magellan Maestro 3100 is all about delivering the basic navigation features without any extra fluff. It's equipped with a 20-channel, WAAS-enabled SiRF StarIII GPS chip and comes preloaded with Navteq maps of the continental United States. If you plan on traveling to Canada or Puerto Rico, you might want to consider the Maestro 3140, since those regions are included on that system.
For simple tracking, you can use the Show Map function, which brings up an overview map with your location, otherwise you can select Enter Address to start planning a trip. You have several options for picking your destination; you can enter a specific address or an intersection, or for longer, multistop journeys, you can use the Trip Planner, which can handle up to 20 destinations. Like many other Magellan GPS devices, the Maestro 3100 has the handy QuickSpell feature to aid in the text entry process. As you start to input the numbers and letters of an address on the virtual keyboard, QuickSpell dims out any characters that don't match any of the city or streets located in the system's database.