Navman Panoramic £149.99
14th Feb 2012 | 15:43
A 7-inch touchscreen sat nav to rival your smartphone
Overview and features
What do you want from a modern car sat nav? How big should the screen be?
These are questions that the Navman Panoramic drives home as you eye up its attention-grabbing 7-inch display, along with: will this even fit in my car?
Don't worry on the last one - thanks to an excellent car mounting system, it will.
Modern sat navs are facing a rising challenge from smartphones, including iPhones, as well as some tablets. One way of protecting the market from these young upstarts is to focus on what dedicated sat navs do best.
Another is to push the concept of the sat nav, and the Navman Panoramic falls into the latter camp, boasting the largest screen of any sat nav.
The display itself measures a healthy 6-inches by 3.5-inches (producing a 7-inch diagonal), although the chassis does add an extra one and three quarter inches onto the width and an inch onto the height (or if you'd prefer, 195mm x 115mm).
Add in the 20mm thickness and you have a surprisingly bulky unit - not something you'd want to carry everywhere with you.
Unfortunately this bulk isn't matched by its weight - at 350g, it's surprisingly insubstantial. Combine this with the unashamedly plastic casing, and you have a device that feels somewhat cheap.
This is only really an issue when you've got the unit in your hands, though, which is when you're entering your routes - most of the time it'll be in your car.
In use, the screen is an obvious highlight of the Navman Panoramic. Most sat navs tend to be five inches or so, and we don't really see the need for something this big - except if your dash board is further away, such as in a truck.
The device uses large, brightly coloured buttons for the main interface, which make using it while on the road fairly easy.
The unit boasts a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, which is a little on the crude side, but the resultant image is bright and easy to see, and the transmissive (back-lit) LCD display works well to differentiate the screen from the outside world.
We had no problems viewing the screen in 3D moving map mode or in traditional 2D displays.
Since this is a TN LCD, we did notice some vertical viewing angle issues, but the chunky mounting bracket always enables you to get the perfect angle.
Speaking of which, the mounting bracket may be big and bulky (you'll want to leave this in the car most of the time), but it does adhere to the windscreen well, and is a solid, unmoving holder for the Navman Panoramic.
Our only issue with the mounting bracket is that you have to clip the power connector to the bracket before dropping the Navman Panoramic into place.
Given the Navman Panoramic's measly one hour battery life, this can make short journeys a fiddly affair as you plug and unplug the power cable between entering your route and using it. While we're on the subject, the lack of a USB cable for connecting the unit to your Mac or PC is also an annoying oversight.
Despite its size, the Navman Panoramic is surprisingly spartan when it comes to connections and buttons. A power slider can be found at the top of the unit, while the standard mini USB port can be found on the bottom for powering it when on the road.
The cradle slots can be found next to this, while at the far-right on the underside of the Navman Panoramic you'll find a microSD slot, although the built-in 128MB of memory and 2GB ROM seem sufficient for normal use.
The Navman Panoramic is, of course, a touchscreen sat nav, although many of the usual ways of using touchscreens are ignored in favour of simply pushing buttons - this can feel clunky if you're used to pinching your way around maps on your phone or tablet.
The main reason for this is that this isn't a capacitive device, which is generally considered a good thing in sat navs, because you don't want to pick up accidental clicks, only definite ones. The Navman Panoramic does require a surprising amount of force to register a selection, though, which takes some getting used to.
The screen is a major draw for the Navman Panoramic, but it isn't the device's only selling point. Apart form employing IQ Routes to avoid congested sections of road, the sat nav also offers up four preset route types for each journey.
Enter your destination and start points (using the post code, address, coordinates or keywords), hit the large 'Go' button and you'll be offered four different routes for any journey - fastest, most economical, easiest and shortest. Shorter journeys may produce similar results in some of these categories, but on the whole, it's nice to be offered so many options.
The options aren't quite so generous elsewhere. Points of interest appear to be limited to London, for example, although thankfully petrol stations do appear to cover the whole country.
Navman has used a Samsung 6443 400MHz CPU paired with the SiRFstarIII GPS chip for the navigation features of the Panoramic. Finding routes is quick, as is getting a GPS fix.
More importantly, deviating from a route results in a quick (a second or two, at most) recalibration of the journey - meaning a missed turning can be quickly rectified. At no time did we feel that the Navman Panoramic was slow to respond to what was happening while driving.
Another nice touch while on the road is the couple of beeps of warning you'll receive if you exceed the speed limit, which is particularly useful as you go from a fast speed zone down to a slow one.
The amount of leeway you give yourself over the speed limit (if any) can be configured in the software, and means that you have an extra guide when it isn't so obvious what the road's speed limit is.
If there's an area of the Navman Panoramic that frustrated us, it's in the voice guide. We may have been spoilt recently with the likes of the TomTom Go Live Top Gear Edition, but resorting to computerised text to speech voices isn't a move we welcome.
The voice here is oddly slow, bassy and female, and struggles with some pronunciations. Getting the volume right on this voice proved a tricky affair, complicated by the lack of a hardware volume control button, and a web of option screens to alter it in the software.
The last few things to consider with the Navman Panoramic are subscription services. If you've bought it for its Truck mode, be aware that you only get a single month's worth before you'll need to purchase a Truck Mode activation key for a further £69.99.
Likewise, the Safety Camera (or speed camera if you'd prefer) coverage is for three months only, with a Safety Camera subscription costing £19.95 a year for the UK once that runs out.
Despite some flaws, the Navman Panoramic puts in an impressive turn, proving why dedicated car sat navs are still worth buying.
Fast journey planning, quick recalculation of routes and multiple route types combine to make up a balanced overall package.
The big selling point of the Navman Panoramic is the 7-inch screen, and this is definitely the highlight of the navigation device. Not everyone needs such large visual clues though, and we would suggest that for the vast majority of drivers, a 5-inch screen is just as good - and generally £50 cheaper.
Being able to pick a more economic or faster route for a journey is a welcome addition, especially when it's backed up by IQ Routes to ensure slow traffic is avoided.
The car mounting system is excellent, and ensures that the big screen can be positioned in a way that doesn't block your view.
The Navman Panoramic puts in a good turn in the value for money stakes, too - at least it does until the extra subscriptions come into play.
The Navman Panoramic's size combined with its plastic casing and light weight makes it feel far cheaper than it really is. It's also a bit too bulky to just slip into your pocket when you leave your car.
The lack of a hardware volume control is a real shame, particular when you're left trying to use the fiddly interface. The voice isn't the easiest to listen to either.
Points of interest aren't particularly useful if you live outside of London.
Not everyone needs a 7-inch sat nav, and ultimately that marginalises the Navman Panoramic. If you do find a standard sat nav a little hard to see, then this is worth checking out.
Even here, though, the Navman Panoramic shows how important the voice guide is - and it's in this area that the likes of the TomTom series outperform it.
Despite these flaws, we're impressed with the speed of the Navman Panoramic, the versatility of the mounting system and the flexibility of being able to plan different routes on a range of criteria.
It's not quite the rounded package it could have been, and we'd love to see better points of interest localisation, but it still offers decent value for money, especially given that it includes maps for the whole of Europe.