Have you ever gotten lost while in a strange town, or even in your own town? I frequently have to go to new places. Usually, I just go online and print off a map and directions. Now with Magellan RoadMate 800 I can just hop in the car and go. The RoadMate 800 tells me where my turns are and how long it will take to get there..
- Turn-by-turn guidance with SayWhere™ voice prompting
- Multi-destination routing
- Auto Re-route
- Over 6 million points of interest (POI)
- 3.5″ color touch screen
Interacting with the RoadMate 800 is really easy. Not only does it have buttons to navigate the screens and select menus, but the screen is touch sensitive. While you are in the car this is essential since you cannot afford to divert your eyes long enough to use a scroll button. Being able to push the exact option is great. The buttons on the screen and on the device are big enough to see clearly and push, so people with big fingers don’t even have to worry about hitting the wrong button. The buttons are sensitive enough that you really don’t have to press hard. Even with the on-screen and off-screen buttons it can still be distracting if you are trying to drive and select a destination. I would be nice if there was some kind of speech recognition so you could just tell the device to activate menus and go to destinations.
Voice prompting is great. This is also a big must for driving. You don’t want to have to always be looking at the screen to see when your next turn is, so the device will give you prompts. It will start by telling you when you are about 2 miles from your turn, and then 1 mile, and again at about half a mile. Then, just before you make your turn a chime will sound to indicate you are there. You can choose between a male and female voice to do the announcing of turns.
The RoadMate 800 comes preloaded with maps of the U.S., Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Canada. So you don’t need to worry about setting it up. I did not see any way to update the maps, but I assume that Magellan will provide periodic downloads with new maps that will have the latest streets and roads. There are also maps of Europe loaded on the device, but they are not available unless you purchase a key and use it to unlock those maps. There is also a European version that is just the opposite. It has European maps by default and you have to unlock the America maps.
There is an extensive set of configurations and settings that you can change. Some of the options included in those menus are: changing the colors that the maps and other screens are shown in, changing from a male to female voice for announcing the turns and managing the trip computer.
SmartDetour will automatically give you an alternate route if it detects that you have not moved very far for a while on a freeway or highway. This option can be disabled in the settings or at the time it offers you another route you can reject it and stay on your current course. I only had this come on once and that was when I was on an off ramp waiting to turn, but the RaodMate thought I was still on the freeway.
Auto Re-route will make sure that you are always on the right track even if you make the wrong turn. If you get off track the RoadMate 800 will automatically calculate the best route from your current location. Most of the time it will direct you back to the previous route.
The external antenna really offers great reception. I was able to get a GPS signal in places that other GPS’ with internal antennas could not.
A new feature they added in this model is a battery. The battery is nice because you can take the RoadMate 800 with you and plan your routes before you get in your car. The battery does not last very long but it gives you enough time to setup a few routes and destinations.
Other new features in this model are an MP3 player, picture viewer, and SmartVolume. I am not too sure of the usefulness of the first two features. Since the RoadMate 800only has one speaker it will not do a really good job of playing music. Also I am not sure you want to be looking at pictures while you are driving. The third feature, SmartVolume, automatically raises the volume of the device when you reach 45 MPH. This helps you from having to mess with the volume as your car makes more noise when it goes faster.
If they really wanted to add a feature that would make this more useful Magellan would not add MP3 players or picture viewers, they would add a radar detector or some other feature that helped make driving easier or safer.
This model also comes with 20 GB of storage. The majority of that is used for preloaded maps and points of interests. There is 4.5 GB of memory that can be used to store music, pictures and custom points of interest. In addition to the internal storage there is unlimited storage with the use of SD cards.
The RoadMate 800 is much larger and heavier than other devices that are for camping and hiking. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You do not have to carry this one around with you. It mounts on your windshield with the included mount or you can get an optional dash mount. The screen is much larger which allows you to see it from a greater distance and also interact with the touch screen. There is also a speaker so the device can talk to you. All these things add up to make a bigger device.
On the top of the RoadMate 800 are the SD card slot, volume, and the reset button. The reset button is for when the device freezes up. I only had to use this once.
The front of the RoadMate 800 has the screen which is touch sensitive so that you can interact with the device. There are also 10 buttons which serve various purposes. The most notable are the power button, which is located on the left, the zoom in and out buttons, the locate button and the view button. To use the power button you need to hold it down for a couple seconds and then release it to turn on the GPS. The zoom in and out button are for getting closer or further out from the map. The locate button will give you information about your current location. The View button toggles between the map, Trueview 3D, and direction displays.
On the back is where the antenna is. It is a square multi-directional patch antenna that can raise and lower. You always want the antenna to face up so it can get the best possible signal. There is a small plastic flap on the antenna that is covering the external antenna connector. The large circle on the back is the speaker.
On the bottom is the power plug and a 16-pin connection. The 16-pin connection is not currently used, but they have it marked in the manual for future expansion. I guess they are planning to come out with add on devices.
The left of the device has a mini USB port and a headphone jack. As it is illegal, in most states, to use headphones while driving I can only assume this is for listening to MP3s while not in a car. The mini USB is used for transferring new maps, MP3s, pictures and points of interest to.
The right side may not look like it has anything, but it is where the battery is. There is a small screw that you remove first, and then the battery will slide out the right side of the device.
The power plug was also redeisgned for this model and I think it has a great new design. As you can see from the pictures the prongs on the plug can be removed. There are other plugs for different countries. this design makes it possible to charge up your RoadMate 800 without haveing to hassle with a big power adapter.
Using the RoadMate 800 is really simple. Setup and customization can take a little while if you have a lot of addresses that you are entering. You don’t have to worry about going outside to do the initial setup. The initial setup can be done inside where you don’t have a GPS signal. Things like entering your personal information, addresses, configuring the color scheme, voice prompts and other things do not require a GPS signal. Once you are ready to create a route you will need to go outside.
Creating a route is extremely easy. All you need to do is enter your destination and if you are in a place that you can receive a GPS signal it will create a route from your current location to the destination. There are several ways to select a destination. The first way is to choose one of the 7 million points of interest that come preloaded on the GPS. The next way is to enter the address manually. This is made really easy with the QuickSpell technology. QuickSpell intelligently sorts, searches, and checks spelling for rapid address entry with minimal keystrokes, accelerating your data entry by matching letters to the available destinations. For example, if you typed the letter S for the city the device eliminates certain letters because no city has those letters as the next letter. Also, if you have typed enough letters that there are no more variations possible, the device will automatically switch to a list of cities and let you choose the one you want. The last way to get a destination is to choose it from the address book. This is a list of previously entered addresses.
Once you have your destination in you can choose one of four different paths. You can choose Shortest Time, Shortest Distance, Least Use of Freeways or Most Use of Freeways. Most people will probably use the shortest time, but in case you don’t like to use freeways, then you can choose the least used freeways. You can also link destinations together to create a route. If you are taking a trip across the country and you have several places that you want to see then you can plug them in and the RoadMate 800 will find the best path for you.
If you are moving it takes longer to find your current location and calculate a route. You should be stopped when you first create a route. It may take an even longer time to find your location if you turned off your GPS in one location and didn’t turn it on again until you moved away. In this case the initial route will be from the previous location and when the GPS finds your current location, it will recalculate and give you a new route. I had this happen to me while recently taking a trip to Iowa. The last place I used the RoadMate 800 was the Utah airport and then again when I got to Iowa. It only took a couple seconds for it to find me, but it was a noticeable pause while it got a connection.
As you move along the route the RoadMate 800 will keep you informed about how far you are away from your next turn. Your first prompt will come at about 2 miles out. If you have street name enabled, then you will hear the name of the street after the announcement of the turn. You will be reminded of the turn again at about 1 mile and again at about .5 miles. The final announcement will be telling you your turn is approaching. When you get to the turn you will hear a short chime. There is a different chime for left and right turns. There is also a prompt for when you are getting close to your destination and when you actually arrive at your destination. I did notice a little bit of static from the speakers after the direction had been announced. I did not find the static to be distracting or bad, but others may not like it and it may get annoying.
Sounds are not the only indicator that you get when you are approaching your turn. The screen also has information about your location and how far away you are from your turn and destination. In addition to the map which has a big purple line marking your route, there is also a series of numbers under the map which indicate the distance to the next turn, the time to destination, the direction to destination and your current distance from your destination. When you get close to your next turn a small progress bar will appear to show how close you are.
If you happen to make a wrong turn the RoadMate 800 will recalculate the route and tell you the best way to get to your destination, most of the time it will just tell you to turn around and go back to where you made your wrong turn. It is possible that you go so far off track that it will recalculate a completely new route. If you keep going the wrong way then it will continue to recalculate so that it can keep up with your current location.
No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get lost while I had the RoadMate 800 with me. I never tried taking it off-road so I don’t know how it would handle places that were not on the map. I assume it would expect you to know how to get back to the nearest road and then it would give you directions from there.
Even though I say I never got lost, there were a couple times that the RoadMate lead me down the wrong street. One example of this is when I was on the freeway in Iowa it said my exit was coming up on the left. I have never been on a freeway that had an exit on the left so I was a bit surprised. I spent so much time looking for an exit on the left that I actually missed my exit which was on the right. Also when I was trying to find my hotel in Iowa the RoadMate asked me for the street, but not the number. So while it got me to the correct street I was at the wrong end and I had to go quite a long ways before I found my hotel.
Also, some of the maps and points of interest are out of date. While driving around the RoadMate 800 tried to lead me down a road that no longer existed. It looked like a new road had been built in its place. I don’t know how long the road had been there, but I could tell it was at least a couple months old. Also there are quite a few points of interest that do not exist. While in Iowa I tried looking for a store. When I typed in the name of the store the RoadMate 800 said the nearest was over 75 miles away. When I looked it up on the stores website they listed 5 stores within a 30 mile radius of where I was. I hope that Magellan is planning on offering frequent updates for its maps. If it doesn’t then this expensive device will become useless in a very short amount of time.
The RoadMate 800 comes with a 2 year warranty. You can also purchase an additional 2 year warranty for $129. The warranty only covers defect in manufacturing. Even with the extended warranty if you drop the RoadMate 800, or get it wet and it stops working, you will not get it fixed for free.
Another thing you want to take into consideration when purchasing a GPS is the frequency of updates. A GPS with old maps is more than useless, it can get you lost and make your trip very bad. Magellan does not publish how and when map updates will appear, so I had to ask. According to my contact at Magellan they do not offer any updates for their devices until they have been out for at least a year. For a map this is a really long time. Other GPS companies seem to offer monthly updates. I would recommend to Magellan that they consider increasing the frequency of updates.
The RoadMate 800 offers all the features that a road warrior could want. I could not think of a single feature that I would want that this device did not provide, in fact it provided a couple features that I would never use. I highly recommend it for anyone that is on the road a lot and often in unfamiliar territory. Because it is portable it would even be good for someone who flys and rents cars to get around. Because of its size and weight it is not for campers and hikers, you may want to consider the Magellan eXplorist 600. At the time of this review the RoadMate 800 costs about $699.99, so spend your money wisely.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|