Navman Panoramic satnav review

4 June 2012

Navman Panoramic undocked

Good: Clear, bright screen and a versatile mounting arm
Bad: A bit bulky to easily stow or carry around
Price: £130
I’d been told to expect an extra-large satnav unit, but when I unboxed the Navman Panoramic it still felt absurdly big and chunky in my hands. The thickness of the unit, the broad plastic frame around the screen and the extra-large screen mounting kit, all combined to make it seem like a small product made mistakenly large, rather than something designed to be this big from the outset. As if the factory might accidentally have mixed up centimetres and inches on the blueprints.

Those specifications, accidental or intentional, are 116mm high, 196mm wide and 18mm thick. The undocked unit weighs just over 320g, and houses a touch-screen that’s roughly 175mm or just under 7 inches from corner to corner. The dimensions quoted on the Navman website, by the way, don’t match the above, which I arrived at with a ruler and kitchen weighing scales.

Navman Panoramic main menu

Once carried out to the car and suckered to the windscreen, however, the Panoramic began to seem less outlandishly large. On-screen keys proved to the size of actual fingertips, as opposed to dainty fairy digits, making it easy to type in a new destination correctly.

The long and extendable mounting arm, meanwhile, made it simple to position the large screen so that it sat easily to hand, above the top of the dashboard but not obscuring the road ahead. The long arm is particularly well suited to cars like my Honda Civic, with a steeply raked screen that tends to place an ordinary satnav unit annoyingly just out of reach.

Navman Panoramic guidance screen

And once on the move, the big and bright screen made it simple to understand the shape of upcoming junctions at a glance.

Ten minutes into using the Navman Panoramic in earnest, and all my initial misgivings were history. This size of unit really does make sense in the car.

The big Panoramic is not without its problems, however. When fully extended, the long mounting arm struggles to keep such a heavy unit still. Drive over ordinary lumps and bumps in the road and the screen will wobble up and down like a nodding dog.

I got around this issue by adjusting the arm until it rested firmly on the top of the dashboard, creating a braced position that kept the screen perfectly steady and secure.

Navman Panoramic mounting arm

The arm feels well designed and solidly constructed, with a pair of big thumbwheels for clamping things into position, but it could perhaps benefit from a bigger screen sucker. I recently bought a PanaVise 809 windscreen mount for cameras, which features a sucker that is half as big again as the Navman’s and once attached feels rock solid – as if it might comfortably lift up the car.

Also on the downside, the touch-screen action requires a fairly firm prod to register presses, and no attempt has been made to alter the Navman software to benefit from the bigger screen.

Factory fitted guidance systems with screens this size typically divide the display into two, showing the unfolding map on one side and upcoming junction information on the other. The Panoramic, by contrast, is as single-minded as any of its smaller cousins. When telling you to leave a motorway, for example, it fills the screen with a giant lane-guidance diagram and the map disappears, typically robbing you of information such as whether you’ll be going left or right at a looming roundabout.

Navman Panoramic thickness

The other problem you might face is stowing the unit out of sight when parked. The screen unit fitted neatly into an armrest cubby in my car, but whereas smaller screens will go in while still attached to their mounting arm, the Panoramic had to be undocked and the arm stored separately in the glovebox.

This wouldn’t be so annoying if undocking the screen from the arm were a little easier. The two slide together smoothly enough, once the USB-style power cable has been slotted into its niche – but separating screen and arm again requires a very firm wiggle-tug-wiggle action that you simply can’t hurry.

The more important business of getting where you’re going is less of a hassle, with a guidance experience that always feels of reasonable quality. The spoken directions are at the choppy, computer-generated end of the spectrum of such things but are perfectly clear, no doubt benefiting from a larger-than-average speaker. And I found the recalculation speed to be excellent, frequently requiring no apparent pause to switch to a new route after a wrong turn, as if my ham-fisted mistakes might have been anticipated.

Navman Panoramic route options screen

I did also appreciate the ability to choose between four different route profiles before setting off – either fastest, shortest, easiest or most economical – each with its own distance and estimate of duration.

The software isn’t always too smart, though. As my photo shows, the supposely fastest route wasn’t necessarily the quickest, even by its own estimation.

The Navman Panoramic can be bought online for about £130 including a full set of European maps, which seems like a very reasonable price to me.

It isn’t clever but it is big. And in this instance at least, bigger does seem better.

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