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Thursday, January 7, 2010

First Impression Review Of Nextar X3-11 GPS

This is a review of one of the four GPS units I bought on Black Friday for evaluation. I have been using this one for the past 3 weeks or so, so this review reflects my own personal experiences with this GPS unit.

Bought at: Kohls
Price: $89.99 + tax
Discounts: 15% off with coupon, $20 mail-in rebate, $10 rebate for purchase over $50 in a single transaction
Final Price: About $45 + tax
Nextar X3-11 GPS
Package Comes With: GPS Unit, Car Charger, Hardware User Manual, Software User Manual, QuickStart Guide, Windshield Mount, Dashboard Mount Adhesive Disk, GPS Carrying Case, Stylus.

Screen: 3.5", Color, touchscreen. 360x240 pixels. The touchscreen can be operated with either fingers or the provided stylus. Operating the screen with fingers is more convenient, but can result in smudges after several uses. The stylus helps prevent such smudging.

Battery: Lithium ion, non-removable. Takes 4 hours to charge fully, can power the unit for about 3 hours of normal use.

Charger: Only car charger provided. Spiral, stretchable cord. Plugs in through a dedicated 5V DC input port, different from the USB port.

Maps: Provided by Navteq. Covers all of the United States and Canada. POI database contains about 1.6 million points of interest. The maps are loaded in a removable 2 GB SD card which is inserted into an SD card slot on the side of the GPS unit. The unit can be operated with a different SD card (containing photos to view or music to play), but under those conditions, the navigator functions can not be used. The map data occupies about 1.25 GB out of the provided 2 GB SD card. The rest of the space can be used to store photos or music.

Spoken Directions: Navigation directions are provided through on-screen as well as voice prompts. The speaker is on the back of the unit. It was very loud. The GPS provides no choice of voices for the spoken directions, but the default voice was quite nice and easy on the ears. The unit can provide directions in English, French or Spanish.

Keyboard: No physical keyboard. On-screen keyboard appears as and when needed. The on-screen keyboard is only in ABC mode though, there is no option to change to QWERTY mode.

Package: The unit comes in a pretty large package that is somewhat inefficient. It was easy to open, but not so easy to repack. The GPS unit itself is about 4" x 3" x 1", and weighs 5 ounces.
Nextar X3-11 With Carry Case and StylusGPS With Carry Case And Stylus

User Manuals: The product comes with 2 user manuals. One explains the GPS unit's hardware functions (including the non-GPS functionality as well as the hardware setup such as how to plug in the power cord, etc.). The other explains the GPS functionality of the unit. Both manuals are exclusively in English. They are very detailed and cover pretty much every aspect of the use of this unit.

The QuickStart Guide is a foldout sheet that explains the basic setup and operation of the unit so that one can get started using the unit without reading through the entire user manual. The QuickStart Guide has pictures showing the parts of the hardware (on/off switch, SD card slot, power cord slot, etc.) as well as basic navigation using the map screen, etc.

Mount: Comes with a windshield mount based on a suction cup, and a dashboard mount. It was easy to affix the windshield mount to the windshield of my car and mount the GPS onto it.

Additional Capabilities: MP3 playback, photo viewer.

Detailed Review:

The unit was easy to unpack and relatively easy to set up. Once I plugged it into the car charger I switched it on. The opening screen gives you the option to either use the navigator, the photo viewer or the music player functionality.
Nextar X3-11 opening screenOpening Screen

This screen also provides the user the option to set various hardware options such as the language, brightness, date and time, etc. One can also access the status of the battery charge from this screen (when the unit is unplugged from the power, the battery status page tells you how much battery power remains, but when it is plugged in, it only says Charging without telling you what percentage of the battery has been charged).
Nextar X3-11 setup screenSetup Screen

The user manual explains the music player and photo viewer functionalities of this unit in good detail. I am not going to go into those aspects of this unit since that is not the main purpose of this unit.

When you press the option to take you into the navigator functionality, you are presented with a screen of legalese (if you do not exit the navigator functionality, you never have to see this screen again). Once you agree you are presented by default with a map screen which shows your current position on the map.

The map is scalable all the way from one inch representing 100 feet to one inch representing 10 miles. The default is one inch to 1000 feet. At the bottom of the map screen are the current time and the current speed. If you are navigating to a destination, the bottom of the map also contains the remaining time, distance and estimated time of arrival.

Above this, on the left is the menu button and on the right is the volume control. Between them is the current location in the form of a street or highway name. Tapping on this brings up information about the current location (address, latitude and longitude, etc.). From that screen, you can save the current location as a destination, a favorite, etc.

Higher up, on the left and right, are the map zoom-in and zoom-out buttons. Near the top right of the screen is the north pointer which can be used to quickly change the orientation of the map from north on top to heading on top or vice versa.

If you are navigating to a destination, at the very top of the screen is the next street you have to turn on and the distance remaining to that turn. Tapping on this will show you the list of turns in the entire route. Just below that on the left is the direction of the turn. You can tap on this direction indicator to get the GPS to repeat the turn instruction. You can also tap and drag the map to pan the map in any direction.

Hitting the Menu button on the map screen gets you to a screen that enables you to set a destination, change settings, set an itinerary, quickly access some shortcuts, get information (such as the current location, access a trip computer, get GPS information, access an almanac that includes sunrise and sunset times, etc.), or start using the parked car locator functionality.
Nextar X3-11 menu screenMenu Screen
Nextar X3-11 information screenInformation Screen

The GPS allows you to enter a destination by address or intersection, or navigate to a point of interest, a recent destination, a favorite or a city center. Addresses can be entered city first or street first. Intersections can also be entered either city first or streets first. The list of favorites and recent destinations can be edited from this screen also.
Nextar X3-11 destination screenDestination Screen

The navigation was very accurate in my testing and recalculation of the route after missed turns was very quick also. The GPS provides turn instructions when you initially turn onto a street (regardless of how far away the next turn is), then reminds you 2 miles from the turn and then again when you are 2000 feet from the turn and about 400 feet from the turn. At the turn itself, it sounds a chime so that you know the turn instruction pertains to the cross-street you are at at that point.

If two turns are very close to each other, the GPS provides both directions at the same time just before the first of the turns. This is useful to make sure that you position yourself in the correct lane for the next turn because of the short distance before the next turn.

The GPS has only 8 main categories of points of interest, but some of these categories have subcategories. One of the unique features of this GPS is that restaurants are subcategorized by cuisine, so you can easily locate restaurants that suit your mood of the moment! 1.6 million points of interest means that many smaller businesses are not in the database. Some categories of institutions, such as post offices, are not in the database either. The database does include phone numbers for all the points of interest.
Nextar X3-11 POI screenPoints Of Interest Screen

The points of interest also include an Emergency category that allows you to quickly locate the nearest police station and/or hospital.
Nextar X3-11 emergency screenEmergency Screen

The Settings screen allows you to change route options (whether to include or exclude toll roads, navigate via the quickest route or shortest route, include or exclude ferries, include or exclude carpools, etc.), display options, language options, safety options (school zone warnings, speed limit settings, etc.), and other options such as time zones, units to use for navigation, etc.
Nextar X3-11 settings screenSettings Screen

The settings screens include a help button that explains what each options means. The user manual also explains the options and what they do in good detail.

The GPS allows you to add a way point to a given destination. The GPS will then navigate to the way point and then to the final destination. You can also pull up the route list for any given destination and ask the GPS to avoid a particular street on the route or detour around specific sections of a street.

In addition, the GPS also allows you to set an itinerary by entering a series of destinations and then navigating to them in the order entered. Unfortunately, the GPS can not optimize the order of destinations to minimize time or distance.

The shortcuts screen allows you to set your Home location. Home can only be set by entering an address. There is no way to enter an intersection, or save the current location of the GPS unit as the Home location. This screen also allows you to navigate to the already-set Home location instead of having to enter it every time. It also has the ability to route you to nearby ATM's, gas stations, hospitals, parking lots, restaurants and tourist information locations from the shortcuts screen.
Nextar X3-11 shortcuts screenShortcuts Screen

The parked car locator functionality is useful for locating your car after you park it in large, confusing parking lots. You can pull up the parked car locator functionality to set the parked car location. Then take the GPS with you (in the provided carry case so that it does not get scratched, etc. due to contact with sharp objects in your pockets). When you are ready to locate your car, activate the parked car locator, and you are provided with a straight line linking your current location with the location of your car.

At the back of the unit is a reset button which you can use to reset the unit in case it encounters an error condition that causes it to lock up for any reason. The reset action does not cause the GPS to lose any of your saved information like the Home location, favorites, recent destinations, etc. It is simply a fail-safe to get the unit working again in case it encounters an error that it can not otherwise recover from.

The GPS mount attached firmly to the windshield without any problems and mounting the GPS onto the mount was very easy. I did not test out the dashboard mounting disc. The car charger was pretty bulky, and the carry case is not designed to carry the charger (or the mount). The carry case does have a small inside pocket for the stylus, which you can use instead of your fingers to keep the screen free of smudges.

Summary:

The Good
  • Excellent screen (good colors, good touch sensitivity)
  • Stylus is provided so that you can use it to operate the touch screen rather than your fingers, which can cause smudging
  • Large number of POI's, categorized for easy access and search. POI's have phone numbers making the GPS a mobile yellow pages
  • Restaurants subcategorized by cuisine
  • Maps for all of the US and Canada
  • Maps stored on removable SD card, so if an updated map or POI database is made available, it is easy to replace them (either on the same SD card or replace the SD card itself)
  • Can route to a series of destinations whose order is determined beforehand by the user. You can also add a stopover destination to an existing routing. Itinerary planning however does not involve the GPS figuring out the best order of destinations
  • Ability to navigate in pedestrian (no one-way or turn restrictions, avoid freeways) mode
  • Ability to include ferries in routing
  • Large number of safety options such as headlight reminder,fog assist (sounds a tone whenever you near an intersection), school zone warning, etc.
  • Parked car locator to enable you to home in on your car in large, confusing parking lots
  • Favorites list to store frequently visited locations (the manual, however, does not mention what the capacity of the Favorites list is, or even whether it has one)
  • Very loud speaker that can be heard over road noise, radio, etc.
  • Has emergency locator to find nearest police station or hospital
  • Help screens provide online help in figuring out what various settings mean
  • Excellent, very detailed user manuals that explain all the functionality and settings of the unit rather than just the basics. QuickStart Guide is about as detailed as the entire user manuals of the other GPS units I have reviewed
  • 3 separate trip computers enable you to accumulate statistics such as total distance, total time, average speed, maximum speed, etc. for entire trips
  • Has additional capabilities such as ability to serve as a photo viewer or MP3 player (has a headphone port to allow one to listen to music in stereo)
The Bad
  • The GPS provides you no way of retracing a particular route, either in the original direction or in reverse (so, for instance, if you discover a scenic route by accident and want to store that route to drive on once again, you can not)
  • No way to download previous routes or driving history (locations, routes, speeds, etc.) to your computer for record-keeping or analysis purposes
  • No way to enter a destination by coordinates
  • No way to enter Home location except as an address
  • No way to make changes to the map or the POI database
  • Somewhat short set of options that can be customized. User can not even choose a QWERTY keyboard over the ABC keyboard layout provided
  • Charger plugs in through dedicated port, making it difficult to find third party providers to replace the original charger in case something goes wrong with it
  • No ability to get live traffic data integrated with the GPS unit. No extra features like gas price finder, etc.

Help me make a decision!

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