Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Navman iCN 550
- GPS signal strength, 4GB hard drive, Display, User interface, Next Turn map option, Included remote control
- Volume, Build could be more rugged.
A solid easy to use GPS unit. The iCN 550 has an easy to use interface and comes pre-loaded with Australia, Europe and North America maps.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
The Navman iCN 550 sits at the higher end of the Navman range of GPS units, and offers an easy to grasp user interface combined with a bright and clear 3.5in touch screen and 4GB hard drive. Australia, Europe and North America maps are also pre-loaded.
The iCN 550 is quite a large GPS. It measures 140mm x 77mm x 29mm and weighs 256g, so it is one of the biggest GPS units currently on the market. The GPS receiver of the iCN 550 works using a flip out antenna on the rear of the unit and this only further adds to its size. Although it is quite large, the grey plastic casing doesn't feel nearly as solid as the titanium shell of Navman's previous product, the iCN 720. The iCN 720 feels slightly heavier but more solid, so this is something to consider if you feel your GPS will need to take some wear and tear.
The iCN 550 includes a bright 3.5 inch TFT touch screen and we found it looked quite good in most circumstances. It did however suffer a little in direct sunlight, but its horizontal and vertical viewing angles were excellent. The iCN 550 screen combined with the intuitive Navman user interface ensures the unit is effortless to use.
Somewhat perplexing though is the multitude of buttons on the unit - especially when you consider all the iCN 550 features can be operated via the touch screen. The fuel and parking buttons, as well as the power key and the cycle maps button, are convenient. However the rest of the controls, in particular the navigational pad, could have been avoided. This would have made the unit much more compact. Importantly of course, the controls themselves are fairly responsive though and their sunken middle ensures your finger can easily press the keys when the iCN 550 is attached to your windscreen. Each button also features a bright blue backlight, which makes night time travel a breeze.
You can quickly change the iCN 550's map view using the cycle maps key; the unit offers standard 2D and 3D views, as well as turn lists (next five turns) and next turn maps. The latter is a new feature and shows information relative to the next turn, including the direction of the turn and the distance to the turn. There is also a button that takes you to the main menu screen, an escape key, zoom buttons and the aforementioned parking and fuel buttons. Pressing these keys (marked with a P symbol and a picture of a fuel pump) brings up a list of the nearest parking and petrol stations which you can navigate to with two simple button presses, and we found them quite useful.
The iCN 550 also includes a three-way volume scroll wheel, reset button and mini-USB port on the right hand side and a headphone jack and SD card slot (for extra maps) on the left. Interestingly, the iCN 550 houses a small stylus, which slots into the top right of the unit. These are normally reserved for PDA-style GPS units, so it is somewhat surprising to see it on this model.
The iCN 550 is equipped with a 12 Channel parallel GPS receiver and its performance is fairly speedy. In our driving tests, we found the unit took anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute to pick up a signal after being turned on and overall, it was quick and responsive. Even with an obscured view of the sky the iCN 550 still managed to maintain a constant signal while driving.
The unit is very simple to use as all of its operations are accessed via the main menu screen. From here you simply tap the 'go to' menu and you can then navigate to your home, a specific address or point of interest (POI), a saved favourite destination or a recent destination. You can also program a multi-stop trip (with a maximum of 14 stops) and this is done via the main menu along with adjusting any preferences, or viewing route information, such as the instruction list or a summary of your trip. You can also cancel your route should you wish.
When searching for a specific address, the iCN 550 filters suburbs by state, so you aren't presented with a list of every suburb in Australia. You can search for a specific city, area, street or point of interest. You can then pinpoint your exact destination by choosing to navigate to a specific house number, intersection or even to the centre of the street. The address entry screen uses a large on-screen keyboard and number pad but you'll still need to use your fingertips to ensure you don't accidentally press the wrong buttons. You can also use the navigational pad, but scrolling across the keyboard to select letters is a fairly time consuming process.
The iCN 550 uses SmartST 2006 software with WhereIs maps. There are maps for Australia, Europe and North America pre-loaded onto the iCN 550's 4GB hard drive, so if you travel overseas frequently this unit should suit you. The navigational experience was pleasing thanks to the detailed maps and clear voice instructions. The maps can be zoomed in and out and are able to show the current time, current speed, estimated time of arrival (ETA), distance to your destination and time to reach your destination. If you don't hear the voice instruction, you can tap the next turn diagram to repeat it. The audio instructions on the iCN 550 were of reasonable quality, although we did feel the volume wasn't loud enough, especially in noisy environments.
The usual routing options, such as avoiding tolls or warning when routes include tolls are supported on the unit. Users can also set a preference for using motorways or normal urban roads and this is taken into consideration when the unit calculates a route. You can even tell the iCN 550 to avoid a specified area on the map, for example; you may want to drive around an area that frequently experiences traffic problems. Up to 10 avoid areas can be added to the iCN 550 and they are displayed as shaded areas on the map. Navman has also included a route demonstrator to preview the route. Other features of the iCN 550 include the ability to adjust the screen brightness and up-to-date speed camera and red light camera warnings. There's also a user-configured preset speed warning alert that will inform you if you are driving too fast.
Navman has included a remote control with the iCN 550, but unlike the iCN 720 it doesn't include a rubber strap to attach it to your car steering wheel. The remote control uses RF technology, so there is no need to point it directly at the unit. It can adjust volume, zoom in on your maps, go to the main menu screen and change the map view, but you'll still need to use the unit itself to search for an address. Also in the sales package is a car windscreen mount, cigarette lighter adaptor, carry case, USB cable and AC power adapter.
According to Navman, the iCN 550's internal battery is rated at up to four hours, depending on usage. We averaged about three hours of use before we had to charge the unit again. The iCN 550 price is slightly more expensive than its brother, the iCN 720, and it should be noted that this unit doesn't offer the NavPix feature.
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