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Magellan Maestro 4700 GPS

Magellan 4700 I had high hopes for the Magellan Maestro 4700 GPS unit that the company sent for review. It had a larger than usual screen - 4.7", accepted spoken voice commands, had predictive traffic, six million points of interest, and more.

Unfortunately, this unit seemed to take a step backwards compared to the Magellan Maestro 4350 reviewed here a few months back in some respects, but in other respects it had some truly great features.

Setting up the unit was a breeze. There were no firmware updates to download (and at least at the moment there does not seem to be any software being offered to accomplish an update even if they had one). Unfortunately, you do not get a choice of voices that speak the driving directions as on the 4350. You get one female voice, and that's it.

Setting the home location is always a bit tricky because GPS units are not completely accurate. I elected to set my "home" location using the exact satellite coordinates of the end of my driveway, but that did not make that exact spot quite right when navigating home. Call me crazy, but I like the unit to announce that I arrived at my destination just as I turn into the driveway. Ultimately you can trick the unit into being more precise. Instead of entering your real address, say 123 Main Street, you might have to take a higher or lower number, such as 141, to get right on the mark.

The unit mounts on a new shorter arm, and then can be placed on the windshield or on a disk on the dashboard. The power input for the device is on the bottom, near the mounting arm, which makes connection and disconnection a bit difficult.

The 4700 takes a bit of time booting up, and if it has been indoors, acquiring the satellite signal can be excruciatingly long. I have even left the house and been two or three blocks away before the signal locks in. The 4350 was much faster.

The 4.7" screen is slightly larger than the typical unit, and slightly (only slightly) brighter than previous models. In bright daylight or sunlight, the unit's screen still washes out significantly.

When the unit is first turned on, there are two choices: "go to" or "map". There is a smaller icon on the bottom to reach "settings". When choosing "go to", you can search by points of interest or name. The points of interest categories are pretty typical, like gas, shopping, banks, etc., but for some reason although the database has six million entries, the store you are looking for may not be in the category listings. Unlike the 4350, the 4700 returns a list of, say, stores in the category you have chosen, listed in order of distance from you, but with no further information. You can only see the city or address of the store when selecting it. This becomes an extra step when you know the specific store location you want, but have no idea whether the right one is 3.9 miles away or 4.2 miles from you.

Magellan 4700 When trying to set up navigation to a particular address, you first enter the city. As you type each letter, the voice says the letter you have just pressed. This absolutely speeds up typing and is a great feature. The field you are typing in uses a type of predictive technology that shows the full name of the city that begins with the letters you have just typed. If you keep typing but do not look at the field, you may in fact overshoot your city in the list, and only see choices of other cities not even in your state. Ultimately you will get a list of cities that match your search criteria.

Once you have selected the street address to navigate to, the unit asks you to confirm the choice by pressing the big orange "go" button. You could also speak the command "go there", but nine out of ten times, the unit will respond "I didn't get that." Interestingly, that command is not even listed in the instruction manual. Most people will press the go button, and then experience an approximately 15 second delay before the touch is recognized and the screen changes to the map of your current location. The voice recognition features are just not ready for prime time, so I eventually turned them off.

You can look at the planned route and choose to avoid certain roads. You cannot however go into simulation mode as past models have allowed you to do in order to "fly over" the route quickly in the map view. The unit also invisibly recalculates your route if you go off course. It does not orally say it is recalculating, which would have been useful information to give the driver.

It is very easy to create a multi-destination trip, or to add an additional destination once you are enroute. The unit also includes AAA listings for hotels, restaurants, etc., and can get you to one of these from nearby highway exits.

Magellan 4700 The main map screen puts most commands one or two clicks away including changing the volume, canceling the trip, going home, etc.

While this unit will get you to your destination, it does so in some cases without talking as much as prior models. I happen to like a chatty GPS unit that is giving me frequent instructions such as to stay right in 300 yards (in order to be on the correct side of a fork). In some cases the unit does this, in other cases not. And I don't even believe the word "yard" is in its vocabulary. This unit only speaks in terms of miles. So very typically you might hear the next turn instruction saying turn right on Medford Street in one mile; turn right in half a mile, turn right in two-tenths of a mile, right turn approaching. The two-tenths and one-tenth indicators are typically over estimates of the distance before the actual maneuver is needed.

Thank goodness Magellan units offer the "ding" -- a chime sound, now selectable, that indicates the exact point of a turn. It comes on at between 25 and 50 yards before the actual maneuver, like clockwork. This is a huge improvement over the 4350 which used to ding unpredictably either before, after, or right in the middle of the spot for the turn. There are actually two types of dings on this model - a warning ding-ding at a fork, and warning ding-dong at a turn.

Another navigation feature that this unit only occasionally provides is an announcement of both the current and next maneuver that will be required. For example, it rarely says "right turn approaching followed by a left turn in two-tenths of a mile." Knowing the subsequent maneuver helps the driver get in the proper lane, for example, after making the first turn. Similarly, when entering a highway, the unit tends not to announce "drive 10 miles", though the line at the top of the screen will show the next maneuver.

The voice command is a female voice and is very loud and clear when giving general instructions, but is more gravelly when speaking specific street names. While her pronunciation is generally good, but not perfect, the muffled sound doesn't help.

The unit announces which side of the street your destination is located on in advance of arrival ("your destination is on the left in two-tenths of a mile"), but does not do so when you have actually arrived.

The 4700 uses "predictive traffic" to route you around delays that are historically known about certain roads. I honestly can't tell you how well this feature works. Most times, a red triangle appears on the screen noting how long a delay to expect, but the delay noted is only a minute or two. It is not worth rerouting in that case. While predictive traffic is built into the unit, you are only warned about actual traffic delays if you buy the optional traffic device for $79. This is a one-time purchase, so there are no recurring annual fees. In lieu of the annual fee, you get occasional one-line messages on the screen promoting various discounts.

On multilane highways, the unit provides terrific lane guidance. Two green simulated highway signs pop-up over lanes indicating which lanes you should be in at certain forks (the sign for the fork not to take is dimmed). The font on the signs is still too small to read comfortably, but knowing whether to stay left or right is a big help.

In navigation mode, the unit does not display the name of the street that you are traveling on, as do some models at the bottom of the screen. The line at the top of the screen tells you the next maneuver. If you want to hear it again, just tap that line. Occasionally, and inexplicably, that line disappears from the screen. Also, every so often, the navigation can't keep up with your exact location, as I noticed in downtown Boston. The map was several blocks behind my actual location for a while. And unlike some other Magellan models, the 4700 no longer shows major buildings in big cities in lifelike 3D mode rising up from the street. It was a neat feature.

All in all, the Magellan 4700 has a variety of nice features including a sensational ding sound to announce the point of a maneuver just before you get to it and navigation that gets you to your destination using routes that you might have chosen on your own. The unit's screen washes out in bright light, finding destinations using the points of interest method is painful, and a slightly garbled voice are significant negatives. The 4700 lists for $299.

September 14, 2009

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Consumer World®, launched in 1995, is a public service, non-commercial consumer resource guide with over 2000 links to everything "consumer" on the Internet. Edgar Dworsky, an avid bargain hunter, is the founder of Consumer World, editor of MousePrint.org – an educational site devoted to exposing the fine print loopholes in advertising, and a former Assistant Attorney General in the Consumer Protection Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.



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