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Magellan RoadMate 1470 Review

by The Review CrewJune 6, 2010

Design
The RoadMate 1470 doesn’t deviate from the tried-and-true portable navigation device form factor. Measuring 3.3 inches deep by 5.2 inches tall by 7 inches wide, the RoadMate’s thinness easily makes this unit one of the most pocketable devices in its class. Like nearly all PNDs, the majority of the RoadMate’s visage is occupied by a color touch screen. Most units in this price range make due with a 4.3-inch screen, but the 1470 is equipped with a massive 4.7-inch unit. And we appreciated the extra real estate when viewing turn-by-turn directions out of our periphery at highway speeds.

The screen features a matte finish that does a good job of diffusing glare which, along with the bright backlighting, keeps the unit usable when viewed in direct sunlight.

Along the unit’s top edge is the power switch. This slider returns to a neutral position when actuated and powers the device on or off. When powering off, the user is presented with a 5-second countdown and the option to cancel or shut down immediately. If no option is chosen, then the shutdown is completed. A similar countdown timer is displayed when the device is disconnected from its charger, but the length is increased to 30 seconds.

Along the bottom of the unit is a microSD card slot and the Mini-USB port for charging and connecting to a computer. On the back is a speaker and the connection for the windshield suction cup mount.

The 1470 ships with a Mini-USB/12-volt charger to keep the vehicle powered when used in a car, and a suction cup windshield cradle, which attaches to the 1470 with a tongue-in-groove type connection. In the box, you’ll also find an adhesive disk for dashboard mounting, a Mini-USB cable for connecting the 1470 to a PC, and a user’s guide.

One of our major issues with the RoadMate 1470 is with its windshield mount cradle and the way it fails to play nice with the vehicle charger. The charger connects to the base of the 1470 with a 90-degree Mini-USB connector. However, the connector interferes with the sliding motion that is necessary to attach the device to the cradle. As a result, you have to mount the device and then attach the power cable. This would be a minor issue, but the bottom-facing location of the USB charging port makes attaching the power cable a frustration, requiring a good deal of fiddling and wiggling. If that weren’t bad enough, the suction cup isn’t very secure and is prone to falling off of the glass while you’re fighting with the charger.

Once you’ve gotten the knack of attaching the RoadMate 1470 to the windshield, the user experience gets better. However, considering the well-designed cradles from TomTom and Garmin, this is an area where the RoadMate has tremendous potential to improve.

Interface
The main menu’s home screen is reminiscent of the interface of the Garmin Nuvi line. Where the Garmin presents a pair of icons and an option bar, the RoadMate presents three–Go To, View Map, and Local Options–and a bottom bar that contains the settings menu, where more advanced options are located, and a cancel route icon.

Go To takes users to the destination selection menu, where they are given a choice of address entry, points-of-entry (POI) search, or address book browsing.

Entering an address or searching for a POI is quick, thanks to the 1470’s responsive touch screen and QuickSpell system, which attempts to predict what you’re typing and blanks out invalid letters and numbers to prevent mistyping. However, the keypad screen’s alphabetical layout slowed our inputs considerably and doesn’t offer an option to switch to a more familiar QWERTY layout.

Once a destination is chosen, the destination confirmation screen gives users the option of simply hitting a large GO button to start their route or, through a route options menu, comparing a variety of potentially different routes. Available options include Fastest time, Shortest distance, Mostly freeways, and Least use of freeways. Users are presented with estimated times for each of these routes and can even compare all four routes on the same route screen. Typically, these granular routing options are hidden deep in the menu structure. We like that the RoadMate makes them easily accessible.

The second button on the main menu is the View map button. The RoadMate’s map screen features a volume icon on the right side, which brings up a volume slider. Along the bottom is a bank of soft keys, one of which is customizable to display current speed, current time, elevation, time remaining on route, estimated time of arrival, and direction of travel. There are also buttons for zooming in and out, and a menu key.

Tapping anywhere on the map screen puts the map into an exploration mode. Here you can change between 2D and 3D views, zoom in and out, touch and slide to move around the map. Tapping a location in this mode drops a pin and displays an address along the top of the screen. Subsequently touching the icon next to the address chooses that point as a destination and takes you to the destination confirmation screen.

Getting back to the home screen, the third option is Local options, a submenu that displays the device’s current position as a street address–complete with nearest cross streets–and as GPS coordinates. Here users are also able to browse a database of events, attractions, restaurants, gas stations, and destinations near the current position. Attractions, events, and destinations feature descriptions and contact information.

Features
The RoadMate 1470 hits enough bullet points to make it competitive with PNDs in its price range.

Text-to-speech turn-by-turn directions enable the unit to read street names and exits aloud. Three languages are supported out of the box (English, Spanish, and French) with only one voice per language. Graphic lane guidance helps with navigating complex freeway interchanges by displaying a representation of the intersection and highway signs, while indicating what lanes are valid for the current route.

Maps and POIs are provided for all 50 United States, plus Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. In addition to the millions of POIs in Magellan’s database, the 1470 includes a AAA database of approved auto repair shops, AAA branch offices, TourBook Destinations, and POIs that offer discounts to AAA members. If you’re a AAA member, the RoadMate 1470 can also help to get you in contact with Roadside Assistance, but without a Bluetooth hands-free connection built in, we presume you’ll have to do the dialing yourself.

One of the most useful features–and one that is, as far as we can tell, unique to the RoadMate series–is the OneTouch menu. This is a customizable shortcut menu where users can store up to six quick links to commonly accessed searches and locations. For example, we were able to store a link to the CNET offices and a search for our favorite fast food restaurant. In addition to the six user-customizable links, the OneTouch menu also features permanent links to Home, Previous destinations, Local Info, GPS status, and Emergency services.

On most of the map and menu screens, the OneTouch icon lives in the upper right-hand corner. Tapping that icon causes the OneTouch menu to slide down.

The unit doesn’t include traffic monitoring out of the box, but can be upgraded with an add-on FM receiver.

Performance
Starting with a cold boot and a clear sky, we powered up the Magellan RoadMate 1470. It took a scant 30 seconds from the flip of the switch to the display of the home screen. Selecting View Map and waiting for our position to be confirmed took another 34 seconds, which is rather impressive.

Searching for a destination, we settled on a fast food restaurant a few miles away. Within 5 seconds, we were presented with the GO button and an ETA of 12 minutes. This is where we first noticed the Route Options button. After a quick press and a 5-second wait, we were greeted by four potential routes, each with their own ETA. Clicking the preview map button in the bottom right-hand corner, we were presented with four color-coded routes overlaid onto the same map. That the RoadMate could calculate four routes in the time most units calculate one is impressive in its own right, but the level of flexibility this feature affords the driving enthusiast is quite cool.

After taking into consideration that the fastest route was only a minute quicker than the shortest route and that the shortest route looked more interesting on the map, we chose the short route and locked in our destination. That this whole search and deliberation happened over the span of about 2 minutes is a testament to the speed and efficiency of the RoadMate’s interface.

In sum
The RoadMate 1470 matches (or exceeds) the performance of the competing TomTom and Garmin units when it comes to basic functions (such as routing, booting, and positioning), and we can really appreciate the extra interface real estate provided by that huge 4.7-inch screen. However, while the RoadMate gives driving enthusiasts and map geeks a good deal of granular control over their routes, Garmin and TomTom both have systems in place that automatically find the fastest or most fuel efficient route with no tinkering involved.

This isn’t to say that the RoadMate is difficult to use. Its interface features large icons for the most commonly used functions; and the OneTouch menu allows users to make the interface even easier to navigate.

Compared with, for example, the TomTom XL 340S and the Garmin Nuvi 255W, the RoadMate 1470 represents about a $20-$40 savings on the MSRP. So for less money, you get comparable core functionality and a bigger screen. If you can deal with the wonky car mount, this Magellan unit is a pretty good deal.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.