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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