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MacFixer, the iPhone, iPod, and iPad specialists

Navman iCN630

02nd June 2003

 Review by Dave Burrows

  

Introduction

The Navman iCN630 is a new kid on the block in terms of a complete integrated Street Routing system without the need for any type of PDA.  The iCN630 uses a modified version of Navman's newest software (SmartST Professional) and this on the iCN630 this is called SmartMap.

 

Navman iCN630

 

With the release of the Navman iCN630, Navman are trying to compete with the likes of Garmin who have had an enormous share of the market with the Street Pilot III because excluding PDA systems and fully installable in-car systems, there has been no real competition for them until now.  Although both systems use the same maps provided by NavTech, the interfaces and maps look completely different.  When you power on the iCN630 and start looking at the maps, the first thing you'll notice if you've already seen SmartST Pro is how very similar the system looks.  In-fact any changes made by Navman for SmartST Pro can be ported to the iCN630 and vice versa as the systems are very similar both from a program point of view and also from a hardware/processor point of view.  The routing screens are about the only thing that is different, on the iCN630 you don't get the nicely coloured borders around the map that you would see on an iPAQ.

 

What's in the box ?

  • Navman iCN630

  • Windscreen Suction Mount

  • Dashboard Mount

  • Mains plug

  • In-car plug

  • 2-pin converter

  • Screen wipe

  • Navman carry pouch

  • USB cable to connect the iCN630 to your PC via a USB socket

  • Owners Manual

  • SmartMap CD with European maps

Storage Space

One of the first things I noticed that disappointed me with the iCN630 is not only the price which is more expensive than the Street Pilot III, but you also don't get any storage cards supplied with the Navman where as Garmin supply you with a 128mb storage card.  What does this mean ? 

 

If you're looking to put a large amount of maps onto the iCN630 like complete UK maps, then this will not be possible with the supplied equipment as the iCN630 only has 64mb of storage space which will probably get you a couple of maps installed depending on the size of the segments.  I managed two myself.  So in additional to purchasing the iCN630, you will need to look at purchasing at minimum a 128mb MMC or SD Card.  If you are looking to also house the complete European maps, then I would strongly suggest purchasing a 256mb or even a 512mb SD card, because you know you're going to need to use it at some point!  SD card prices are constantly coming down in price and you can pick up a 128mb SD card for around 35, so I would have thought that Navman could have chucked this in for free.

 

Antenna

The iCN630 comes with a built in antenna which is multi directional and will increase the availability of the signal and comes supported with an external MCX connector allowing you to plug in an external active antenna if you feel you require it.  

One thing I have found under testing, at no point did I have to extend the multi-directional antenna or use an external antenna, I always had the internal antenna folded flat and it always used to receive an adequate amount of satellites to give me a 3D fix even when in the worst of conditions.

 

 

Speaker

The integrated speaker on the iCN630 is very clear even though it is facing the wrong direction.  Unlike the Garmin Street Pilot III, the speaker is available within the unit where the SPIII you had to use the supplied car charger/speaker plug.  Navman have done well including the speaker into the unit.  Voice Navigation is also very loud and can be adjustable within the iCN630 using the keypad supplied (no jog dial).  Running the iCN630 side by side with an iPAQ 3630 the speech was much louder and clearer in the iCN630 which is something we were originally concerned about with SmartST Pro, so it's good to see this has been addressed.  The Voice Navigational quality is also much better, where SmartST Pro sounds like someone has spoken each word in turn and glued them together, the iCN630 has fluent voice navigation which makes it a lot easier to listen to when driving at speed.

 

Screen Quality

The screen quality on the iCN630 is outstanding.   The colours are rich and the contrast strong.  The screen sports a 3.8" TFT QVGA screen for use in-car with anti-reflective coating.  The screen dimensions are 320x240 pixels with more than 230,000 colours.  Not quite as much as a Pocket PC, but 64 million colours really aren't needed for mapping and 230,000 colours should be more than enough to contend with various shades of colours.

 

Something the more advanced GPS user may recognise is that many in-car navigation systems includeing the iCN630 are always designed in a landscape mode screen layout (eg longer screen and shorter height), this is the norm for TV's and monitor's, but most PDA based GPS systems are the opposite using a portrait mode system.  There's no rhyme nor reason for this really, landscape systems look more aesthetical but in theory will provide less information on screen (height wise).  I pitted the iCN630 together side by side with an iPAQ running SmartST Pro in my tests and you did find sometimes you lost a little bit of map data on the height of the screen on the iCN630, but in most cases it was nearly identical.  The way Navman have managed to get around this is to reduce the overall size of the maps on screen that you would see, which in a sense is like zooming out.  Now because with most PDA GPS Systems you are always facing/travelling up the screen, it does mean that there is a lot of wasted real estate on screen on the left and right hand sides of the screen.  It's not entirely wasted as it's always good to see where you are on a map and the more information you have the better, but I would have thought it better to have a portrait system, or even better a system that can switch easily between portrait and landscape modes.  I'm sure this will come in later products.

 

Suction Cup Strength

One thing that Navman customers have constantly complained about with the Navman 3000 and Navman 3400/3420 is the strength of the suction cup.  If left in direct sunlight most people would find after a few days their suction cup has fallen to the floor.  This can and did happen sometimes whilst travelling as driving over bumps would loosen the suction on the windscreen.  One thing I can categorically say, is the windscreen mount supplied with the iCN630 will not have this problem!  It's so strong, you can even hang onto the iCN630 whilst it's suctioned to the windscreen and pull it in all directions and adjust the direction it's facing.  This newly designed suction cup is much better than previously supplied in the Navman 3000 and 3400/3420 packages so having your prized possession drop from the windscreen is a thing of the past for Navman users!

 

Time To First Fix and Satellite Information

With the extensive testing I have carried out in this review, I have witnessed no extended TTFF's, in-fact most are sub one minute.  The iCN630 didn't ever lose a 3D fix at anytime.  With Pocket PC systems I religiously used to check that I had a 4+ sat fix before planning a route, but found myself not having to do this, which makes the iCN630 very desirable, in effect just plug in, switch on and go!

 

The first GPS Status screen is similar to what SmartST Pro owners would be used to and this shows your co-ordinates, speed and direction, date and time and also a visual large circle indication if you have a fix (green) or no fix (red) and how many green/yellow/red bars you have which suggest the amount of sat fix you have.  The second satellite screen you'll see this same information but with signal strength for each satellite which most people will be used to seeing in GPS products.

 

 

 

Navman iCN630 Menu Screens

Lets take a look at the iCN630 Menus.  The menu system is very simple to navigate through.  The Main Menu gives you shortcuts to select, a map view option, choose your destination, GPS Status (as seen in the above screenshots), a more detailed Settings screen and an option to easily cancel the route.

 

 

When going into the Destination screen you'll be given the option to choose an address to navigate to, an intersection, a Point of Interest, a saved favourite location, and recent locations that you have already visited.  You will also have the Instruction List which will give you turn by turn instructions rather than a map view.

 

When selecting a destination you specify the country, region which usually is classified as the county, the town and then the road name.  Note you cannot navigate by means of postcode!  When typing in place names, the on-screen keyboard will pop up allowing you to quickly enter the desired letters on the keyboard using the supplied hard cursor keypad on the right of the iCN630. 

 

Once you've entered the address you want to navigate to, the final details will be displayed on screen.  You can then save this for future use, show it on the map, or select GO which will start plotting the route for you.

 

Navman iCN630 Setup Screens

 

 

Navman iCN630 Maps

Taking screenshots of the Navman iCN630 in action was very difficult due to not having a feature to take screenshots of maps, so unfortunately a digital camera had to be used in quite a lot of screenshots to take photos of maps and some of the menus (and this is reflected in the degraded quality of the screenshots) because the iCN630 has a flickering screen similar to a TV which creates horizontal scrolling lines when taking photos.

 

 

Routing Quality

The Routing Quality is an important issue, and one we always try to address.  SmartST Pro for the Pocket PC when it was released did have minor routing issues.  Driving the same routes where SmartST Pro would hiccup, the iCN630 seemed to be quite happy and not route you down side roads which was good to see.  I did experience a few strange routes where the iCN630 tried to route me through a very large and busy town rather than continuing on a motorway which was both the quickest and shortest route, so be prepared for a few strange directions, but all in all the iCN630 always got me to the destination on time.

 

 

Navman iCN630 Specification

Cold TTFF 120 secs
Warm TTFF 48 secs
Hot TTFF 18 sec
Accuracy 5 meters
Interface RS232 (9 pin serial) NMEA 0183 Out
Physical Size 3.2"H x 6.8"W x 2.6"D
Weight 1.4 pounds (635g)
Display 320x240 pixel resolution supporting 230,000 colours
Memory 128mb Ram (64mb Application, 64mb Storage for Maps)
Data Storage 64mb internal, up to 512mb with external SD card (not supplied)
Map Storage SD Data Storage Cards
Power Source 12v car charger / mains charger (no battery)
Battery Life No battery Support
Processor Intel PXA250 (200Mhz)
Map Data Navtech giving support for 14 European Countries

 

Route Re-Calculation

Route Re-Calculation is very fast and much faster than the Street Pilot III which the iCN630 is in direct competition with.  This is probably down to the processor being uses as the iCN630 sports an Intel PXA250 XScale Processor.

 

Comparing the iCN630 Size

We've compared the size of the iCN630 to a regular Compaq iPAQ and also the Garmin Street Pilot III.  You can see that the iCN630 is quite a bit larger than a regular iPAQ, mainly the extra length is due to the cursor pad that's been added, but it is smaller both in length and depth compared to the Garmin Street Pilot III.

 

 

Problems Encountered

The iCN630 has been pretty flawless throughout it's use, however I did receive one runtime error which required a complete power off and back on again.  This was when I was fiddling around with routes and cancelling them.  When you go to cancel a route by plotting a new route you get an option to ask if you want to cancel the route or not.  It always looks like the cancel route option is selected when it's not, so after 3 or 4 entries into this screen the runtime error appeared.  This is something I haven't been able to duplicate in recent tests.

 

The other problem I'm sad to report is the initial blue bug that has still not been fixed in SmartST Pro is also present on the iCN630.  I would have hoped that this bug which was originally explained as a simple fix would have been implemented by now in SmartST Pro and also in the iCN630, so unfortunately we'll have to wait for a fix to resolve this issue.  For those that don't know what the blue bug is, the terrain (background) where it would be normally green or other shades, turns a bright blue which looks like you're travelling over the sea.

 

 

Navman iCN630 Compared to a Pocket PC or Palm Colour Solution

So how does the iCN630 compare to a Pocket PC or Palm Colour GPS Street Routing solution ?  The iCN630 is an integrated product, which means less cables which is a big advantage of a system like this.  The size is much smaller than the Garmin Street Pilot III and a little bit larger than a Pocket PC.  The on-screen keyboard is much better than the SPIII but it would have been nice to have had touch screen capability which isn't present in the iCN630.

 

Navman iCN630 Advantage

  • Integrated System (less cables)

  • Screen brightness is the brightest I have seen in a portable screen

  • Maps supplied by NavTech

  • Routing quality is fast and pretty good

  • No Pocket PC slow downs or crashes

Navman iCN630 Disadvantage

  • Weight and overall size (more weightier and larger than a Pocket PC)

  • No dashboard mount that can just sit there on the dashboard like the Garmin Street Pilot III beanbag mount

  • No touch sensitive screen where you can tap out using an onscreen keyboard for route entering. 

  • You still have to have cables draping off the dashboard

  • experienced one crash whilst routing which required a complete power down by unplugging the power socket

  • No battery support!

  • Price!

 

Summary

There are quite a few disadvantages for the iCN630 over advantages, one of the larger disadvantages is the price.  Comparing it with the current front runner the Garmin Street Pilot III, the Garmin weighs in at 850, where as the Navman iCN630 weighs in at 999.  What extra's are you getting for the extra 150 ?  Well, not a lot, you get less mount choices, no 128mb storage card, but you do get a smaller lighter setup which has much nicer and richer maps.  You need to weigh up if the extra storage and mounts are a requirement, if they are then you will be very pleased with the Garmin Street Pilot III, if ascetics and nicer maps are more important then the Navman iCN630 is much better!

 

The first thing I know I'm going to receive is a flood of emails on whether this is better or worse than a PDA GPS system.  It really depends on what you want out of a system.  If you have absolutely no experience in GPS Street Routing, or PDA's like Pocket PC's or Palm devices, and all you want is Street Routing, then the Navman iCN630 I believe you will be pleased with.  It caters nicely for the novice, someone who doesn't want to get bogged down into having to tweak memory, install drivers, constantly check the GPS Status screen to see if you have a 2D or 3D fix.  In short, great for people who need to rely on a system in anger like taxi drivers or couriers.

 

However, if you have used PDA's like Pocket PC's or Palm's and you might want to look at Topographical maps for hiking or walking, perhaps even for marine use, or you're not shy in wanting to right the steep learning curve of GPS products and you would like to gain a huge knowledge of behind the GPS scenes, then a Pocket PC or Palm GPS system would be better for you.

 

One of the better points about the iCN630 is it has an anti-reflective coating on the screen.  Coupled with it's superb brightness and contrast, this really is one of the better screens I have seen in a PDA type system.  Even in the brightest of sunlight where a Pocket PC (even a Compaq!) starts to white out, the iCN630 seemed to be unaffected, and I was really amazed at the quality of the screen! 

 

Conclusion

Manufacturers Website

http://www.navman-mobile.com  

Pocket GPS Reviewer

Dave Burrows

Pocket GPS Reviewer Website

Dave Burrows.com

Rating

 

Durability

Mount Strength

Acquisition Times

Car Power Cable Quality

Ability to plot route and follow

Voice Navigation Quality

Re-routing Quality

Map Detail

Overall Rating 91%

How did we achieve these ratings ?

Review Ratings

 

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