The evolution of technology devices toward ever greater functionality and sophistication never seems to slow down. Just as the techies invent new ways to make devices smaller, they also find ways to pack more features into those smaller packages. If you have never used an automotive GPS, the time may have arrived to check this one out, the 7200T made by Navigon, because it succeeds on both fronts.
I'm partial to the portable GPS devices over the built-in models that most automakers offer. Built-in components usually come as part of a technology package, which can tack on $2,000 to $3,000 to the car price, and then you can use it only in one vehicle. The 7200T retails for $469, and not only can you take it from car to car, but you can load itineraries into it before you ever leave home. And with its upload features, the company can update your maps and other functions.
Choosing a portable GPS should revolve around convenience of transport and ease of use. The 7200T, among the sleekest devices on the market, will slip easily into a shirt or jacket pocket. Its voice-entry system (it also has a touch-screen option) makes programming destinations extremely easy. It has a bit of a learning curve as you get used to the rhythm of the device's questions and the need to enunciate each word and number clearly. But even if the Navigon doesn't understand you exactly, it will list a menu of choices, and you can simply touch the correct one on the screen.
The large 4.3-inch screen has both day and night lighting to make it easy to read at all times. Although many images on Navigon are commonplace on GPS devices, I particularly appreciated the "Reality View," a 3D vantage point that highlights such things as exit signs as you approach them, reducing the possible confusion at an unfamiliar turnoff by providing an advance glimpse. But the biggest draw of the Navigon may be its traffic updates. Other GPS companies still charge for this service, but Navigon makes those reports available free. You can get a list of potential or existing trouble spots along your route, or the device will automatically alert you as you approach a slowdown and provide information about the incident. On a trip up the I-95 corridor on a Sunday night last October, the alerts were accurate for the location and duration of the slowdown. In extreme cases, you can ask for a detour, and the unit will guide you around the backup.