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Reader Review: Panasonic Strada CN-GP50N GPS Updated 29th February 2008

Reviewed by John Seccombe & Darren Griffin

 

IntroductionBox

We have been trying to obtain a sample of this unit for review from Panasonic UK for some time now. Promises have been made and then broken and to be honest we have given up chasing them. However thanks to reader John Seccombe we can at least publish this reader review of the unit. Over to John...

 

I have just had an opportunity to trial Panasonic's first introduction to the standalone GPS market, the Panasonic Strada CN-GP50N. As a new unit on the shelves it has been received with some interest. I myself have always held Panasonic products in high regard and I am happy to say I was not disappointed.

 

Note: Please forgive the poor quality of some of the photos in this review as I only had the device for a day and all I had was my mobile phone!

 

What Is In The Box?

Upon opening the box you are presented with an enormous manual (which I promptly discarded to one side!) to reveal the CN-GP50N snugly held in place with cardboard. Opening out the device and you will find a screen preview of what you will soon find as a screen protector.

 

Opening Box

 

Other items in the box included:

  • A standard suction mount
  • A self-adhesive dash mount
  • USB cable
  • In-car power cable
  • Unit mount for suction mount
  • Anti-fall tie
  • Spare rubber plug covers.

Then unit includes full Europe mapping and full road mapping of the whole of Greece.

 

Box Contenmts

 

 

First Impressions

First impressions of the unit are good. It has a nice form factor, it is not too heavy, appears to be made of quality materials and of course it has that nice big screen.

 

The screen is however my first concern as it appears to have a silvery sheen to it, no doubt in an attempt to diffuse glare from the sun. I wanted to take a picture of how it looks with a light source behind (see photo below) so I mounted it up and stuck it to the desk and it held firm so I could turn it on. I also plugged it into the USB to see if it would charge and a happy red light confirmed this.

 

Shiny Screen

 

Mounting Disc

 

Mount

 

I can confirm at this point that the CN-GP50N uses Navigon software, and the maps are stored on the supplied memory card. It also has 4GB of spare internal memory but as the unit DOES NOT SUPPORT CUSTOM POI's this space is of course useless.

 

I have been told the POI Warner has been used successfully on other Navigon products so maybe this may prove to redeem the CN-GP50N's fatal flaw.

 

Speed alert

 

The touch screen was very easy to use but I found at times I had to press a button several times, and when the unit slowed it would action the button pressed several times. This occurred when inputting an address, which proved only to annoy. Scrolling the map also produced some weird results. I found it awkward but not impossible (for the patient among us).

 

Overlooking the quirks, the menus were very intuitive and as a typical bloke I did not feel I needed to remove the manual even from its sleeve. You will also notice the menu transitions which are just beautiful.

 

So back to that screen. The quality of the screen Panasonic have chosen to use is impressive. Although difficult to portray in a picture, I believe this screen would be more at home in a high end portable DVD player so well done! However some of the fonts Panasonic used probably would not work on any lesser screen.

 

I tried the photo mode for a moment, which did exactly what it was supposed to but as I fail to see the point of such features on these devices, I did not linger on it.

 

Safety Cord
A nice idea, a safety cord (so long as you don't mind a self tapping screw in your dash!)

 

The proof is always in the eating, and this is where the CN-GP50N does its thing and boy does it. After admiring the unit on my desk for a half hour, mostly taking pictures, I just plonked it in the car and away. No setting up, no fiddling, no fuss. I'd say off the shelf and into the car in 5 mins. Don't even think of paying Halfords to fit it, as you won't need to.

 

At first I left the routing set to fastest, but the unit began to misbehave, by sending me down any available motorway, even if it meant going back on myself, but changing the setting to optimum (recommended) sorted that out and the route home was little different if not better than my Navman ICN750.

 

Display

 

Some of the routing information on the screen is far too small. Spending any time on more than a glance is dangerous and to see your ETA is therefore impossible. The next turn button with countdown bar was a nice touch, where a touch would repeat the last instruction. This is not a new feature but the ease of use gets a mention. Audio was clear and easy to understand. Do not use the American voice unless you just want a laugh. The volume did reset itself twice but it may have been where I was fiddling.

 

Display


A single touch of the screen gives you some quick options including a day/night mode rather than searching the 9-page menu for the same option, Nice.

 

The Bluetooth phone connection worked well was clear and I could be heard by the caller. Setup was easy with my Sony but failed to work on my iphone! However when making a call it will completely kill your navigation as you can't seem to use the screen or hear any instructions. Hmm.

 

Spare Rubber Covers
Spare Rubber Covers

 

LANE ASSIST sounded like a fantastic feature on paper, but in my opinion Panasonic missed a trick. What lane assist means is a series of arrows under the direction icon. The lanes you can use are marked in the same colour as your route and different colour for the lanes you should stay out of. These arrows always appeared too late and would take some serious getting used to, as you would need to train yourself to look at the screen when needed. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN A VOICE COMMAND. Here I find myself again straining at the screen for the information I need and not at the road, but thank goodness for that high quality screen.

 

Lane Assist
Lane Assist in action

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Despite its many faults, it has in my opinion defiantly launched Panasonic into the world of GPS. If this is a test model then I am sure the next will be awesome. For a general GPS user or a newbie to GPS devices this is a very competent unit that I would and have recommended.

 

However the more advanced users will find the lack of custom POI's a real let down, and redemption will only come in the form of an update or if POI WARNER works on it.


Update

Darren Griffin 29th February 2007
We finally received a review unit from Panasonic UK at the beginning of February. Rather then write an entirely new review I have chosen simply to add my comments to those of John's above.

 

Contents

 

My initial impression upon seeing the device for the first time was of its substantial construction. Unlike other GPS devices this one is typically Japanese in its design and feels substantial in the hand. It gives an impression of quality albeit with a hefty weight. This isn't a device you would want to carry around with you for very long.

 

Rear View
Affixed to mount

 

The mount is substantial and works well, it has a full range of adjustments and the unit is easily 'clicked' into place and removed. Each part of the mount that is adjustable has a lever that os easily locked into place to secure the mount in that position. There is also a knuckle joint that allows fine tuning of position, secured with a rotating collar.

 

Panasonic have chosen to use power supply separate to the mini-USB data connection. When connected to a PC via USB the unit appears to charge so I don't actually know why a separate supply has been provided? The power socket is located on the bottom left of the unit. I was disappointed to find that there was no provision for the cable to be affixed to the mount itself. It is a pet hate of mine but I find power cables that jut out from the sides of a device unsightly.

 

Left SideRight Side
ON/OFF, External Antenna and Power on left side, SD Card Slot on right

 

A little bag of spare port covers is supplied, a nice thought but perhaps indicative of their propensity for being lost? the security lanyard is another novel idea but one I suspect few users will wish to take advantage of, would you want to use a windscreen mounted device and then put a large screw through your dash to secure it?

 

Port CoversLanyard
Spare port covers and security lanyard

 

The large power button on the left hand side is easily located and has a positive On/off action, nice and simple and a big improvement on all the devices currently that have rubbery buttons that have to be depressed for a few seconds to power on/off.

 

However it is once powered up that matters take a turn for the worse. Panasonic have chosen to use Navigon software. Whilst acceptable as a basic navigation platform, Navigon has never proved to be the slickest navigation solution and this example sinks to new depths. It has to be the slowest user interface I have ever had to toil with, frequently I was left waiting for seconds whilst a menu appeared or a configuration screen was loaded. Address input was a tortuous process with a noticeable pause between each and every letter entered. There is no excuse for such treacl like performance, certainly the unit has a specification suggests it is capable of much more so I suspect it is the Navigon software which has proved to be sluggish on many other platforms. In the end I had begun to develop menu rage as each step was so sluggish!

 

Navigon present a wealth of useful information on the navigation screen itself and the look is appealing. However, the information boxes are tiny! I have good eyesight but struggled to read them in my car which has the device relatively close to the driver. If you drive a people carrier or other vehicle where the windscreen is steeply sloped then you can forget it.

 

As John has commented above, there is no native support for third party custom POIs, an unforgivable omission in this day and age.

 

My findings are at a polar opposite with John's. This is supposedly a premium unit sold at a premium price. It's only saving grace is a solid construction and large screen. Even the mappping that covers Greece would not persuade me to but this unit, if you need such coverage consider other devices that have Navteq map data.

 

I had hoped for much more but if this is the best panasonic can offer then I fully expect this will be their first and last dip into the PND market.

 

 

References

Suppliers Web site http://www.panasonic.co.uk/
Guide Price at time of publication GBP 299.99
   
Pocket GPS Contributors John Seccombe
  Darren Griffin

 

 

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