Toybox: Stylish-looking Navman takes user-friendly route

What initially struck me about the S150 was its slim, brushed-metal look and light weight

Navman’s S150 Platinum comes packed with useful features, but not too many to be confusing.

The new S-series Platinum GPS devices have a strong focus on usability, Navman’s general manager, Andrew Blakey, told Computerworld recently. And the company’s Auckland-based R&D lab has done a good job here. One of my favourite features is the device’s home button — a blue line in the lower right-hand corner of the device — which takes you back to the main menu.

However, what initially struck me about the S150 was its slim, brushed-metal look and light weight. The 13.5mm wide device weighs in at a mere 150 grams and is definitely one of the most stylish-looking GPS devices I have seen.

The 4.3-inch touch-screen allows you to scroll through menus and glide around maps using just your finger in very iPhone-esque fashion. But I did find myself stumbling at times and accidentally pressing an option when I only meant to scroll.

You also have to press the screen quite hard, but this is no biggie — I guess I’ve become spoilt using to the sensitive iPhone touch-screen.

The S150 has enhanced search capabilities, which makes it easy to search for keywords or places, or different areas and businesses. You simply type in an address, keyword or point of interest and the device comes up with a list of suggestions.

Another nice touch is that many of the options are incorporated into the “flow” once you’re using the device, so you don’t have to go to settings to change options. For example, you can turn the sound on or off by tapping on the screen, and you can bring out or dock a scrollable menu on one side of the screen with just one little tap on the screen.

The S150 also comes with a number of other features, such as Bluetooth connectivity — which allows for hands-free calling — and a location capture button, which lets you capture a destination you want to remember. There’s also lane guidance, to make it easier to, for example, exit a motorway; and there’s New Zealand’s own GeoSmart mapping.

In addition, the device can calculate the best route for fuel efficiency, taking turns into account, and reducing the number of starts and stops.

I also liked the pedestrian mode, for navigating on foot. It’s very useful for finding addresses or places when out walking. While the S150 may be a bit bulky in the pocket, it does fit very nicely in the handbag.

However, on the down-side, the rechargeable integrated battery doesn’t last very long — up to two hours only. But, with the included in-car charger, this is not such a big problem. You can also charge the device from your computer, via a USB.

Navman’s S150, which has a two-year warranty, has a recommended retail price of $549.

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