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Jewish World Review
Nov. 17, 2006
/ 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767
When new isn't improved
If, as discussed last week, "planned obsolescence" is a hallmark of many
businesses, "new and improved" is perhaps one of the hucksters greatest
phrases. Last year's product can't possibly suffice this year, they say,
so let's add some features and relaunch.
Sadly, while something may be "new," it isn't always "improved."
For example, take the Magellan RoadMate 6000T, a $699.99 GPS system that
is the same price as last year's RoadMate 360. Where the former item was
well worth the same price Magellan is asking for this year's model, this
new product suffers greatly from feature overload.
Users can, for example, plug in a SecureDigital (SD) flash memory card and
you can either view photos on the device or listen to music. Of course,
you can do both on a video-equipped iPod, and plugging the Apple Computer
music device into a car stereo will produce better sound than the Magellan
unit. So, why the features?
Magellan also placed a Bluetooth speaker phone into the unit, which means
you can speak through it when answering or making calls, something useful
in places such as the District of Columbia, where the law requires
"hands-free" use of cell phones. Sound quality is uneven, however, and
while that may be a function of the telephone one is using, it again seems
a bit of an unnecessary add-in, considering the seemingly wide adoption of
What's more. once I had invoked the phone menu during a given session, the
device wouldn't get away from that no matter what I tried. I could only
boot up the GPS, let it warm up and manually "escape" from the phone menu
into navigation. And, after all, navigation is what one buys a GPS to
In navigation, the 6000T is acceptable, but not necessarily the best
choice for the job. It works well, but its promise of "live traffic
reports" and presumably re-routing seemed uneven; the only feature that
would be invoked is a slow traffic indicator that urges you, for example,
to jump from the express lanes of I-270 south into the local lanes. Fair
enough, except when you're stuck in the middle of traffic and there's no
way to get into those lanes. A few lines of software code might solve that
I'm also disappointed in Magellan's lack of options for voices and the
on-screen display. Friends who have the TomTom GPS report they can select
several voices for the device, including one with a British accent. By
contrast, Magellan gives you the choice of either male or female and
that's it. A little more variety, instead of, say, the photo viewer a
great driver distraction if I ever heard of one might be welcome.
Because Magellan is asking one penny less than $700 for this unit, it
should be subject to the same kind of scrutiny a notebook PC also
available at $700 or less in some cases should get. After all, you can
hook up a USB-attached GPS antenna to a notebook PC equipped with
Microsoft's Streets & Trips 2007 software, recently released at a list
price of $129, though it's available for less at online stores and some
retailers. The Microsoft software does its job very, very well, calculates
alternate routes, speaks directions and, since it uses a notebook display,
offers a much better viewing experience than the Magellan. If I were
driving a great deal, I'd consider getting some kind of auto mount for a
PC and use a notebook instead of the Magellan RoadMate 6000T. Details on
the Microsoft software can be found at www.microsoft.com/streets; I won't
tell you where the find the Magellan product, since I'm not recommending
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com