New toy: Navman iCN 520

by Volker Weber


While in Munich I picked up quite a few toys to write about. The first one I tested was the Navman iCN 520. I have the Premium Edition which comes with a small remote control and a CD with maps of 16 European countries. Germany was pre-installed on a 256 MB SD card and I have not yet looked at the PC software or the other maps.

Although I have been quite firmly in the TomTom camp (Nokia 9300, Palm Tungsten and Treo, Windows Mobile) , I like the iCN 520. It has less features, the 3D map is too crowded and the software can be confusing. But there are quite a few things that I like better on the Navman than on the TomTom. The most important improvement is the instructions. They are much clearer and more timely. It also tells you things like "drive 72 kilometers" so you will know that there won't be any instructions soon. It will then continue to let you know at 60, 40 and 20 kilometers how far you have to procede. While TomTom will say "exit ahead", Navman says "In 2.5 km stay right". I am writing this review in English but I mostly used it in its localized German setup, and here the instructions are also very clear and grammatically correct.

I found a small bug in the localized version. You cannot switch off the "GPS lost" warning while you are looking at the German screen. It appears to be checked off, but the warning remains. Switch the language to English, make the change, and switch back to German. Later I discovered that other settings also did not stick, so I am switching to English each time I want to make adjustments.

Using a dedicated nav device has some advantages: There is only one device to hook up to the 12V outlet, no need to keep a charged GPS mouse around, no Bluetooth setup. If you can't get a fix, you know it is the GPS receiver and not a connection between GPS device and mobile phone for instance. The screen mount for the Navman works very well, the cable has the right length and everything feels quite solid.

There are a few downsides: The device has a 3.5" TFT screen which is quite bright but still hard to read in direct sunlight. TomTom on the Nokia 9300 gets better the more light falls on the display because it's transflective. The Navman has a touch screen. You can use a pen, your finger, then there is a 4-way rocker and a thumbwheel. There are just to many confusing choices. The rocker is pretty useless since you have to press the middle to select, and it is almost impossible to do that without also rocking it. You are constantly making the wrong choices. I quickly found out that it is best to grab the device with your left hand, pull out the pen or use your finger to make choices directly on the screen. Once you are done, you drop it into the screen mount and be done with it.

The other disadvantage is the 3D view. This works very well on a TomTom but the Navman screen is too crowded to see your route. Lots of opportunities for improvement here. However, the Navman has a very good "next turn" view. It will tell you very clearly what your next turn will be and how far you have to drive until you get there. On the right hand side it will show you a small map of that area and also your distance to finish. However there is no indication how long you will have to drive or when you should arrive. Case in point that the software is complicated enough to make you read the manual: By moving the rocker left and right you can make other data available than just distance to go. Time to go or ETA are amongst them.

What I am missing most is an advance A-B routing. How long would it take from point A to point B and how long is the distance. This feature has only been added to TomTom more recently so maybe Navman has something like this coming up.

Summary for now: Much better than expected. I will keep an eye on updates and new devices as they become available.


I see you took your new Navman for a test drive to South London :)

Many of the fitted car navigation systems now are a long way ahead of the tomtom, navman and similar ilk. I sold my tomtom 700 off on ebay because the Xanavi Birdview nav system in my Nissan is far superior. Has TMC traffic integration (which actually works, not like Tomtom traffic), large screen, detailed junction/turn maps and very clear voices.

The nav system fitted to the high end LR discovery has topographic maps and if you look at engadget, you will see references to 3D navigation systems, where you see what you get.

Why are the current separate aftermarket systems so far behind the fitted systems?

Andy Mell, 2006-02-18

Why? Faster CPUs, more storage (DVD), bigger screen, no need to run on battery power, and way more expensive.

Volker Weber, 2006-02-18

I was having the "pleasure" to use a Medion navigator MD96700, besides Germany, in Belgium, France and UK. I got this device on Nov. 2005, and am quite disappointed. In Munich, this device was working so far. But while I was in Brussels and France 3 weeks ago, it didn't work at all, didn't find any satellite. After being back at home and searching in web forums, there was stated that you need to reset the GPS in the Windows Mobile options in this case. Aha. The reset (hitting the hidden button at the left of the device) is not sufficient? OK, this reset in the Windows Mobile options solved this issue.
This Wednesday I used it for driving from Manchester airport to Sheffield. It worked so far, but the distances it showed/said where completely wrong: either much to close or too far away, there were discrepancies of more than 500 meters, one time I was just passing a slip road as the GPS said that I will reach this slip road in 500 meters and need to use it... Also, the performance of the user interface is very bad: you need to wait several seconds whenever you click an icon/option.
Also, the power button is completely misplaced: the GPS turns on if you put it into its case, you cannot even see it if it is turned on (but you will here it after a few minutes when sitting in the plane and AFTER the stewardess is telling everyone that you need to turn off every electrical equipment. Perfect.)

Conclusion: will never ever buy a Medion GPS again, although everyone told me that it is worth the money, but it is definitively not.
Therefore I appreciate this post since I plan to get another portable GPS that is just working.

Michael Woehrer, 2006-02-18

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