NDrive promotes its NDrive G800 satnav as the next step for navigation - and it certainly has potential.

Combining such high-end features as Bluetooth hands-free calls and an FM transmitter with photo-based navigation, the NDrive G800 could well be the first of many genuinely user-friendly devices to hit the satnav market.

But Drive G800's photo-based 'breakthrough' is far from infallible, and unless you live in or regularly visit one or several of the UK's larger cities - Birmingham or London, for instance - you'd have good reason to see it as something of a gimmick.

There's no mention of the photo maps in the NDrive G800's onscreen tutorial, settings or, indeed, anything other than the '3D Real Photos' slogan slapped on the box. Given that mapping the entire UK in the NDrive's five different viewpoints would require far more storage space than the included 8GB SDHC Card provides, it's difficult to see the value of doing so.

With a birds-eye view of a largely built-up area, we had trouble distinguishing PC Advisor Towers from its neighbouring tower blocks in central London. To take full advantage of these aerial views, you'd need to be travelling to or bypassing one of the city's 'green' or 'wet' areas, a football stadium or other recognisable landmark. (And on that note - no, images are not provided in real time.) But it goes without saying that, whatever the quality or breadth of the NDrive's imagery, the NDrive G800 is a step forward for navigation. And as we mentioned above, you can choose from five different 'photo viewpoints'.

Indeed, we were so impressed with the idea of photo navigation, along with some decent (if standard) multimedia functionality - the NDrive G800 includes an e-book reader, picture and video viewer, MP3 player and two games – plus the features already mentioned, we could easily have missed this satnav's obvious faults.

The most glaring of which is the omission of full (or any) postcode support, which makes planning a trip that bit more painful. If you are going to be using the NDrive G800 to navigate the busy and often confusing streets of London, this could prove to be a fairly irritating niggle. NDrive told us at the time of writing that in a few weeks users will be able to download a free update for up to seven-digit postcode search from www.ndrive.co.uk, which is fair enough, but it's still a hassle you could do without. And when you're paying £299 for a satnav, such functionality should be a pre-requisite.

We'd also liked to have seen more in the way of customisation - you can decide which points of interest (POIs) to view onscreen, choose between 2D and 3D views and several interface templates (better described as skins), but there's no possibility of refining the information the NDrive G800 shows onscreen.

Traffic information would also have been nice in such a 'revolutionary' device as the NDrive G800. Speed camera alerts are included, however.

And the NDrive G800 is highly usable. The user interface is simplicity itself, while its rugged design was clearly built for a life on the road.

NEXT PAGE: the NDrive's looks, using it on the road and our expert verdict > >

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NDrive promotes its NDrive G800 satnav as the next step for navigation - and it certainly has potential.

The NDrive G800's rubberised matte black casing is attractive, its 4.3in touchscreen generous (again, if now rather standard) and a well-placed stylus makes using the software keyboard a cinch. It follows, then, that the NDrive's car cradle and mount are sturdy, well designed and unobstructive.

Neither could we fault the NDrive G800 on the road: instruction was given in plenty of time by the very helpful Mary - who was more than capable of quickly recalculating our route as we duly ignored her. We were able to navigate to our home address, chosen POI, recent or favourite location - and set our own speed limit in doing so. (The NDrive isn't capable of altering UK law for our driving pleasure, of course, but it will sound an alarm as you exceed a chosen speed - the maximum of which is, ahem, 100MPH.)

We were also pleased with how quickly the NDrive G800 picked up a satellite, even from a cold start or indoors.

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NDrive G800: Specs

  • 4.3in QVGA 480x272-pixel touchscreen
  • 372MHz Centrality Atlas-III processor
  • 64MB SDRAM
  • 8GB SDHC Card with photo-based UK TeleAtlas maps
  • FM transmitter
  • Bluetooth hands-free calls
  • video (WMV, AVI, ASF) and picture (Jpeg, GIF, BMP, PNG) viewer
  • music player (MP3, WMA9, WAV)
  • games
  • e-book reader
  • POIs
  • stylus
  • car charger and mount kit
  • 3.5mm stereo jack
  • integrated speaker
  • USB 2.0
  • 121x83x20mm
  • 210g
  • 4.3in QVGA 480x272-pixel touchscreen
  • 372MHz Centrality Atlas-III processor
  • 64MB SDRAM
  • 8GB SDHC Card with photo-based UK TeleAtlas maps
  • FM transmitter
  • Bluetooth hands-free calls
  • video (WMV, AVI, ASF) and picture (Jpeg, GIF, BMP, PNG) viewer
  • music player (MP3, WMA9, WAV)
  • games
  • e-book reader
  • POIs
  • stylus
  • car charger and mount kit
  • 3.5mm stereo jack
  • integrated speaker
  • USB 2.0
  • 121x83x20mm
  • 210g

OUR VERDICT

The main pull of the NDrive G800 is its photo-based navigation - excellent, if you're a bird. Given that this one stand-out feature isn't country-wide, we found little to recommend the G800 as anything other than a standard, yet highly user-friendly, satnav that comes at a high-end price. However, if you're quick you can snap it up for an introductory price of just £199 from inkino.co.uk.

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