capsule review

TeleNav Shotgun Connected GPS Device

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At a Glance
  • TeleNav Shotgun

How much do you hate entering destination addresses on the touch-screen keyboard provided by your GPS navigation device? If you think that being able to sync addresses easily to your GPS device might be worth $10 to $12 a month, the $299 TeleNav Shotgun definitely deserves a look.

TeleNav is new to the field of dedicated GPS devices, but it's an old hand at navigation software: For quite a few years the company has developed GPS apps for BlackBerry and other GPS-enabled cell phones, both under its own brand name and under the names of various carriers (including AT&T Wireless and Sprint, which we recently reviewed in a roundup of carrier-branded smartphone GPS apps).

As dedicated GPS hardware goes, the company's debut offering is pretty good for the price. The Shotgun has a 4.3-inch LCD screen and comes with a car charger and mount, an AC adapter, and a USB cable. (The cable is provided strictly for charging the device from your PC; when you use the cable to connect the Shotgun to a Vista PC, the sync software in the Shotgun's Windows Mobile operating system activates, but it doesn't actually sync with anything.) The Shotgun comes preloaded with maps and a generous database of 11 million points of interest (POI) for the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

What distinguishes the Shotgun from the GPS pack, though, is the optional TeleNav Connected Service. Not only does it deliver POI database updates, fuel prices (which you can search by location and fuel type), and real-time traffic conditions, but it also transmits frequently used addresses to the device. (You enter those addresses ahead of time on your personal My Favorites page on TeleNav's site.) TeleNav also provides several free plug-ins--for FireFox, Google Toolbar and Internet Explorer--that let you transfer addresses from Web pages to MyFavorites, simply by highlighting them and clicking a TeleNav icon.

The cost of these features varies depending on whether you pay as you go (in which case it's $12 per month) or invest in a one- or two-year prepaid subscription (which bring the monthly fee down to just under $10). TeleNav lets you try the service free for three months.

The Shotgun is only the second GPS device we've seen that comes with its own cellular data hookup (it carries a SIM card). The Dash Express was the first; but ironically, the week before the Shotgun was announced, Dash Navigation said it was ceasing production of the Dash Express. The Shotgun's svelte dimensions (it's only 0.7 inch thick and weighs a tad over 4 ounces) make it much more suitable than the bulky Dash was for business travelers to toss into a briefcase or purse. I also found the device easy to snap in and out of the dashboard mount.

Other GPS devices with similar services generally rely on either FM radio or a Bluetooth hookup to a cell phone that you provide (and that can be tricky to set up). When powered on, the Shotgun made its data connection quickly and downloaded new information in seconds.

Its speedy Web-based data-entry features are very welcome, since adding addresses manually on the touch-screen keyboard can take a while: Though TeleNav helps you narrow down cities as you type, it inexplicably makes you enter street numbers before helping you narrow down street names.

Searching the POI database can be cumbersome, too: The device asks whether you want it to find results near your current location or somewhere else--but if that somewhere else is in a distant neighborhood in the same town, you're out of luck: As far as the device is concerned, "elsewhere" probably means somewhere near your current location, so that's where it starts its search; as a result, you'll have to wade through a ton of results before you get to the outlying district.

The Shotgun doesn't support waypoints, either; waypoints are helpful for planning a long day of driving to multiple stops. Insteasd, you must enter your destinations sequentially, as you arrive at each one. And if you try to look at routing for the next destination, the Shotgun will terminate your current routing--so when you're done with your sneak peek ahead, you'll have to reenter the data and wait for the device to recalculate the original route.

Still, I found the moving maps (available in 2D and 3D views) generally clear and easy to follow, and the routing generally made sense (despite the absence of lane guidance in some complicated freeway junctions).

Spoken directions use text-to-speech technology to identify roads by name, which is helpful when you can't take your eyes off the road to check the name on the display. The spoken names were generally clear, with a few weird anomalies such as numbered highways (CA 85 sounded like "Kah 85"). You don't, however, get to choose a voice, as you do with some units.

I liked the way TeleNav managed to display a wealth of information, such as the estimated remaining time of a trip (constantly updated), on the screen without obscuring the map. When I missed a turn, however, I wished that the Shotgun would not completely obscure the map with a message saying it was calculating a new route. It would have been helpful to see the map and the turn that I'd missed.

Overall, the Shotgun is a reasonably good navigation aid for the price--and I would definitely recommend it to frequent business travelers who are likely to use the data service often enough to make its cost worthwhile.

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At a Glance
  • The Telenav Shotgun is a reasonably good midrange GPS device with an excellent, but pricey, optional connected service.


    • Good screen and text-to-speech directions
    • Lets you sync addresses from a computer


    • Connected services aren't cheap
    • Touchscreen data entry could be easier
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