Navman’s S80 is a stylish GPS unit with a great display. It’s easy to use, will synchronise nicely with your Bluetooth mobile phone and is a snap to install. It’s a pity that it only runs a crippled version of the company’s excellent Navpix navigation, however.
The S80 uses the standard technical parts under the hood; a SiRFStar III GPS recviever along with Sensis road maps. It’s also Bluetooth capable; pairing it with a compatible mobile phone will turn the S80 into a very effective hands-free kit for your car.
One feature that Navman offers on some of its GPS range is the ability to use what it calls Navpix. These are digital photos with embedded GPS co-ordinates, so that rather than navigating to a street name or number, you just choose a familiar looking picture. The S80 supports Navpix – to an extent. The limitation here is that unlike previous Navpix-enabled models, the S80 lacks a digital camera for you to take pictures with. Instead, you’re limited to Navpix photos you can download from Navman’s site. There certainly are plenty of them for popular tourist destinations, which is nice, but the odds of your Aunty Beryl’s place being among them is slim. We love Navpix – it’s a great application of technology – but Navpix without the capability to create your own Navpix photos feels a little half-hearted to us. If you want that capability with the Navman S series, you’ll have to plump for the $799 Navman S90i.
The S80 uses an entirely touchscreen-driven interface, which is new territory for Navman; previous models have normally had a right hand side series of common buttons. These still exist – but they’re now virtual buttons that can slide out of the way to allow the S80’s 4.3″ display to show off more road, or more trip details. The S80’s interface is clear and logical, and the display was very clear and bright throughout all our tests, which included night, day and rain driving. The unit was fast to get a GPS lock, and very good at recalculating routes on the fly if conditions force you off the proscribed path.
Text-to-speech engines – which in a GPS context usually speak the road names before you turn into them – are usually fraught with peril, especially given the complexity of many Australian road names. We were very surprised to hear the S80 manage exceptionally well with just about every road we came to. While some of the pronunciations weren’t entirely correct, they were clear enough that anyone should be able to discern which road the unit’s talking about – and in a market where the average Text-To-Speech engine sounds like a rusty robot, this is a remarkable achievement.
The S80 is a good GPS unit, but we can’t shake the feeling that if you’ve got the money to spend on it, you may as well save a few extra pennies and get the upper tier S90i, simply to benefit from being able to easily create your own Navpix and then drive to them. That being said, when and if the S80 drops in price, it’ll definitely be a model worth looking out for.
Review: Alex Kidman