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Magellan RoadMate 700

Portable GPS devices are useful for people who have several cars and want navigation and mapping guidance in each. Magellan's standalone RoadMate 700 costs £1,099 (inc. VAT) and occupies the middle of a range spanning low-end monochrome devices costing around £500 up to large feature-packed colour-screen systems at £2,000-plus.
Written by Andrew Swinton, Contributor

Magellan RoadMate 700

7.7 / 5

pros and cons

  • Plug and play supports search by postcode touch-screen and voice prompts
  • Wobbles on windscreen mount lacks Bluetooth route recalculation graphic obscures the map
  • Editors' review
  • Specs

Portable GPS devices are useful for people who have several cars and want navigation and mapping guidance in each. Magellan's standalone RoadMate 700 costs £1,099 (inc. VAT) and occupies the middle of a range spanning low-end monochrome devices costing around £500 up to large feature-packed colour-screen systems at £2,000-plus.

Weighing in at 375g, the RoadMate 700 is a significant load to hang off your windscreen using the supplied sucker and bendy metal arm. To its credit, in one week’s use it never fell off. But the wobble factor cannot be ignored -- its severity depends on road conditions, speed and your car’s suspension. Although this does mar the navigation experience, drivers should heed the manual, which states that you should concentrate on the road and be directed chiefly by the RoadMate 700’s voice instructions. Magellan offers a dash mount accessory to keep the RoadMate stable, which is worth investing in. The mapping data is stored on an internal 10GB hard drive. You can connect the RoadMate to your to your PC via the supplied USB cable, whereupon the device appears as a mass storage device. About 4GB is taken up by nine main directories containing European mapping data provided by Navteq, sound files and postcode data. There's a CompactFlash slot for upgrades and an infrared port, but no Bluetooth. To the right of the 320-by-240-pixel TFT screen is an eight-way rocker keypad. This is surrounded by the main command keys -- Locate, View, Option, Enter and Cancel, plus a Zoom in and Zoom out key. There's a rotating volume control at the back, with a small Repeat button to the right of it. There are three main display views: the Guidance screen, which has a plan view with a thick purple line showing your route; the Directions screen has a list of roads and distances to the next turn, with direction signs; the third ‘TrueView 3D Screen’ view can only be accessed by pressing the view key in the Directions screen, and helps you take the correct lane when approaching a junction. At the bottom of all three screens is a common info bar that contains a direction and signal strength icon, distance to next turn, estimated time to destination, direction of destination and distance to destination.

The hardware takes about two minutes to set up: you attach a base plate to the unit with four screws and fix the sucker with the flexible arm to the windscreen. The curly power lead goes from the cigarette lighter and plugs in at the back, above the USB port. A 45mm-long hinged stubby aerial swings up to increase reception. If you need even better reception, Magellan offers a 12-foot external antenna accessory. The RoadMate 700 is a plug and play device that requires next to no configuration. Up to three users can store their destination data, the device supporting a total of 300 addresses at any one time. In practice, it took over 15 minutes and three or four attempts to initialise the GPS and for it to recognise the location was London and not France, where it was tested after manufacture. It's essential that you are stationary when setting up GPS for the first time and that there are no obstructions blocking line of sight to satellites. When plotting a route, you use voice-prompted touch-screen menus that include the useful 'Search by postcode' option -- the others are 'Shortest time', 'Shortest distance', 'Least use of motorways' and 'Most use of motorways'. You can zoom maps out to a more than adequate 700 miles, and zoom in to 350 feet. Mapping precision is claimed to be less than three metres, courtesy of geostationary satellites serving the WAAS/EGNOS area. A audible alert warns you before the next turn instruction. However, if you miss a turn, the map is obscured by a ‘recalculating route’ graphic that takes around 30 seconds to refresh. This is unfortunate, as it's just after you miss a turn that you most want to see the map! Occasionally there's a lag where the audible click from a touchscreen instruction is about five seconds late – you're left staring at the frozen screen until the action eventually executes. Another area of concern is that the screen is affected by glare -- even with the auto brightness setting selected, it could have benefited from some shielding. During testing there many instances when the voice instruction was issued at precisely the right moment; less frequently , the RoadMate 700 remained inexplicably silent as a complex series of junctions were approached. The Magellan RoadMate 700 is user friendly and includes a vast amount of data with its maps: with 750,000 points of interest split into 40 categories, you're likely to arrive at your destination as well informed as the locals.