Budget-priced tech can be a godsend—but only if it actually performs. The Magellan RoadMate 5230T-LM ($169.99 direct) gives you a large 5-inch screen, road speed limits, and other useful features at a bargain price. Unfortunately, it’s just not that accurate, which makes it a poor choice next to the dozens of GPS devices you can find either in the same price range or as discounted models from a year or two ago.
Design and POI Search
The RoadMate 5230T-LM measures 5.6 by 3.4 by 0.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.1 ounces. It’s made entirely of plastic, with a matte finish around the bezel and back panel, rounded edges, and a 5-inch plastic resistive touch screen with 480-by-272-pixel resolution. The screen won’t win any awards for brightness or color reproduction, and it washes out a bit in bright sunlight, but it’s fine in normal use.
The mount is a slightly complex, three-piece affair, with a suction cup for window mounting, a cradle that grabs the 5230T-LM tightly, and a plastic locking nut. You can adjust the tilt as well as the angle. The DC power connector wire is uncoiled, and plugs into the side of the RoadMate 5230T-LM with a micro USB connector. That means you have to disconnect and reconnect the cable each time you dock the 5230T-LM or take it with you—not ideal, but okay on a budget device.
Magellan’s OneTouch interface is as easy to use as always. There are seven million points-of-interest (POI) in the preloaded database. You get free lifetime map and traffic updates, including map updates four times per year. As is typical for Magellan devices, you also get access to AAA TourBook, which features reviews and recommendations for hotels, camp sites, and other useful information. As you enter each key of an address, it speaks the letter out loud and grays out any remaining letters that couldn’t be next, given what it knows about the streets in the current city, which is helpful. It also responds quickly, a nice surprise in a budget device.
Routing and GPS Accuracy
This is the first Magellan standalone device I’ve tested that displays the speed limit of the current road as you drive, which was a long-ovedue feature. Map graphics are a little bland, with washed out color. The map frame rate lags, and feels like a five-year-old unit rather than something more current. Route recalculations are unusually slow, to the point where I had to pull over and wait for it to “catch” again. Sometimes it would recalculate the route even though I never left the original route.
Otherwise, the 5230T’s routing algorithms are fine; it took all of the routes I expected it to during the review period. In addition, and for the first time, the RoadMate 5230T-LM shows 3D lane assistance, including a graphic representation of which lanes to be in, and not just Magellan’s usual green exit signs overlaid on top of the map frame. This worked as expected on the New Jersey Turnpike across multiple exits.
MiTAC claims the RoadMate’s GPS radio is accurate to within 10 to 16 feet, but unfortunately, that wasn’t born out in my tests. In fact, this standalone unit lost track of my location more frequently, and for longer periods of time, than many cell phones I’ve tested, which are known for having less accurate radios thanks to their smaller size. During one route, it became completely lost on 34th street in Manhattan on the way to the Lincoln Tunnel. Another time, in southern New Jersey, it took over five minutes to lock onto my location from rest, and even asked if I was indoors at one point.
As I drove, it also kept losing track of where I was. In one instance, not only did it not know I was merging on the main highway, but it also showed I was on the grass next to the highway, which was fascinating. Several times, it would say an exit is coming up on the right an eighth of a mile ahead, but I’d already be passing it as it spoke. Seeing this kind of inaccuracy both in urban canyons and out on the open road is disturbing.
Voice Prompts, Traffic, and Conclusions
The RoadMate 5230T-LM offers text-to-speech, which is a common feature now but used to be missing from low-end devices a few years ago. Audio prompts are clear and quite loud, if not always well-timed; I’m pretty sure the latter is because the unit keeps losing track of its location. Interestingly, the RoadMate 5230T-LM features a new landmark guidance system that employs more natural language processing than usual. Instead of just speaking street names, it said things like “turn right before the bank.” Unfortunately, there was no bank in sight when it said this, even after the turn. Another time it said “after the hotel,” and thankfully there actually was one that time. On a third occasion, it said, “turn left 450 feet before the Subway,” and sure enough, I could pull over and get a sandwich if I wanted one.
Other features: The RoadMate 5230T-LM shows traffic delays with a little triangle and the length of the delay, and it offers the choice of a different route with the included time savings, which is helpful. Click Traffic Report and it will show where the jam is exactly. You also get free traffic camera alerts for one year, which is good for avoiding speed traps, although it costs extra after that. Traffic reports roughly matched what I saw in practice. Battery life is rated at 2 hours, but at this point few owners will walk around with a standalone PND when their cell phones already have GPS. The battery is more useful when using a car’s lone power jack to charge up a phone while continuing navigation for a bit.
Our Editors’ Choice for budget portable navigation devices is the TomTom VIA 1605TM ($229.99 direct, 4 stars), which costs more, but gives you much more accurate positioning, a larger and sharper 6-inch screen, and easier-to-use traffic information. The Garmin nüvi 2350LMT ($229.99 direct, 4 stars) offers easier POI search and is a great choice if you’re already used to Garmin’s smooth user interface, although it displays the occasional ad and has a smaller, 4.3-inch display. All told, the Magellan RoadMate 2350T-LM is tough to recommend because of its less accurate radio. That’s unfortunate; it would have been quite a deal if it had performed up to expectations.
More GPS Navigation Reviews:
|3D Lane Assistance||Yes|
|Display Type||Resistive Touch|
|Screen Resolution||480 x 272 pixels|
|Dimensions||5.6 x 3.4 x 0.6 inches|
|Multi Segment Routing||Yes|
|Speed Limit Display||Yes|
|Free Lifetime Maps||Yes|
|Bluetooth Hands-Free Calling||No|
|Free Lifetime Traffic||Yes|
|Power to Device||Yes|
|Power to Mount||No|
|Display Size||5 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc