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RoadMate Pushes Buttons

The FineDrive 400 (left) lacks finesse, while the RoadMate 360's buttons add bulk.
The FineDrive 400 (left) lacks finesse, while the RoadMate 360's buttons add bulk.
Magellan's $600 RoadMate 360 is unique in a couple of ways. Most obviously, it has an array of hardware buttons, which might appeal to some people. The buttons add bulk, however, and they didn't perform significantly better than the well-designed touch-screen controls on devices such as the Garmin and TomTom.

I found the RoadMate's screen bright and easy to read in any light. It's the only model I tried that stores custom settings for three different users--ideal for shared use by family members. And it has my favorite data-entry system: As you begin selecting letters to fill in a data field--for the street name or city, for example--the RoadMate grays out the ones that would form an entry not found in its database. This helps minimize mistyped names and speeds up data entry.

The RoadMate's points-of-interest database was sensibly organized, though not completely up-to-date: It identified a local Starbucks quickly, but no Peet's Coffee.

The accuracy of the product's real-time navigation was about average for the units I looked at, as it got me from point to point efficiently in most cases. In one instance, however, it made me go around the block to get onto the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge, when a simple left turn would have sufficed. The device also seemed a little slow to calculate new directions when I drifted off track.

This was the only unit in the group that lacked a 3D map view showing what the route ahead looks like from a hundred feet or so off the ground. Many drivers prefer the 3D perspective for navigating.

Finally, like the iWay, the RoadMate has a gooseneck mount that caused the device to jiggle on rough pavement.

Bottom line: A capable navigator and one of the better units for searching points of interest, but hardware buttons make the RoadMate larger than it needs to be.

At a Glance
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