For the S-Series of portable satellite navigation devices, Navman has made a number of design changes. These, we’re told, are the result of focus group input from consumers, so ought to be useful refinements, rather than outré extras just for the sake of it.

There are many elements that make sense. For example, on the higher-end models in the S-Series range, there’s a built-in camera round the back with a cover that slides to one side, protecting it when not in use. This is used to record geo-reference points which can then be shared with millions of others on the Flickr photo-sharing site, as well as for photo-based navigation.

The Navman S30, as the entry-level model in the range, lacks this function, but shares the updated mapping and software function and is an excellent satellite navigation device.

The clamp that attaches the Navman S30 to the dashboard retains its useful lock and solid, flexible design, but the cradle for this slimmer Navman now sports a mini USB connection on its underside with which the power cable is attached. This firmly pushes into place and snakes back towards the windscreen rather than getting in the driver’s way by dangling loosely on the dashboard.

You don’t get a mains adapter as part of the Navman S30 package, so you’ll need to charge it over USB for several hours before use. We were caught out, charging for less than three hours initially before plugging it in to the cigarette lighter in our car and setting off for the wilds of Essex. The result: our Navman S30 powered down some 15 or 20 minutes later, though it did at least warn us that lack of juice was the issue at hand. We were able to coax it back to life about 15 minutes later, however, by continuing to have it attached to the charging point. A note about minimum charging time would have been handy.

After this initial hiccup, all went smoothly. The Navman S30 recognises full postcodes and can read aloud characters or numbers you enter so you don’t have to double-check you’ve pressed the right onscreen key. It quickly identifies routes, alerting you if there are toll roads involved. This same warning appears onscreen each time the Navman S30 recalculates your journey en route whenever you deviate (something we did several times). This fades from the screen after a few seconds, however.

More usefully, the Navman S30 pops up a query message if you try and make manual changes while in motion. It asks you to confirm you’re a passenger as messing with your satnav’s settings is clearly a potentially dangerous distraction. This also has the effect of acting as a failsafe should you accidentally touch the screen and inadvertently make changes.

The information displayed on the Navman S30’s 3.5in widescreen is pleasingly clear. Some GPS devices have garish onscreen mapping information; the Navman S30’s is more muted, in various shades of blue. Street names pop up and then fade from view as you pass – numbers, too, if you’re going sufficiently slowly, perhaps in search of a friend’s house – and the countdown to turns is spot on. We were able to catch out the Navman S30 on one occasion where a fairly new set of roads had appeared, but even here it quickly regained its composure and had us back on track seconds later.

Should you get into real trouble, there’s an emergency button on the Navman S30’s main screen that gives you fast access to fire, hospital, police and breakdown service information, along with an option to direct you straight to the nearest hospital or mechanic or to dial their number.

POIs (points of interest) such as petrol station logos and hotel names, are subtly, but again not distractingly, presented, while on a couple of occasions we were thankful to be warned of average speed check cameras. The Navman S30 only pings to warn you of standard speed cameras when you are in danger of running foul of them (within a 10 percent margin), but we would have liked to have been able to switch off the Navman S30’s spoken directions while still getting audible speed alerts.

Navman S30: Specs

  • 3.5in widescreen (320z350 pixel) satellite navigation device
  • 400MHz processor
  • 256MB flash memory
  • SD/MMC card expansion slot
  • SmartS 2008 maps (TeleAtlas 2007.4) UK and Ireland maps preloaded
  • eight-digit postcode search
  • points of interest
  • 112x20,78mm
  • 161g
  • 3.5in widescreen (320z350 pixel) satellite navigation device
  • 400MHz processor
  • 256MB flash memory
  • SD/MMC card expansion slot
  • SmartS 2008 maps (TeleAtlas 2007.4) UK and Ireland maps preloaded
  • eight-digit postcode search
  • points of interest
  • 112x20,78mm
  • 161g

OUR VERDICT

Navman has built on its already solid satnav foundations with this completely new range of widescreen models. The Navman S30 is an intelligent and unobtrusive device, which will get you where you need to be without making a song and dance about it, and can help you out should you find yourself in a fix.

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