Navigon has got some cojones, entering into the saturated UK sat-nav market after most manufacturers have consolidated or shipped out.
It already has a wide range of products on sale here, but the high-end 8110 has a couple of talking points that might just see it get on people’s Christmas lists this year.
Full metal front
Firstly, in true Stuff fashion, looks. It has a solid metal front and hefty feel that shames other best sellers. Not so good if you’re leaving the car and want to keep it in a pocket or in your bag, but it’s nice to spend nearly £400 on something that feels well-made.
Its windscreen cradle is massive, a solid, long item that seems preposterous but actually suits most modern cars that have steeply raked windscreens and deep dashboards. If, on the other hand, you have a classic Mini, you’ll have to lean back to see the screen. But it holds solid on the glass.
One gripe is that the 8110 won’t charge through its own USB port once it’s plugged into the cradle; you need to plug into the difficult-to-reach USB port on the cradle. Presumably, the TMC aerial is built into the cradle, and also needs powering.
The 8110 also manages to have useful hardware buttons for volume and muting, without messing up its lines. Even with a TomTom, the established master of simplicity, it can occasionally be a pain to adjust the volume through on-screen sliders.
The second talking point is in the software. In addition to standard 3D viewpoint, the 8110 renders terrain, so you see hills, valleys and tunnels just as they are out the window. Navigon call it Panorama View 3D.
This is unique: some 2008-onward sat-navs register the height difference between bridges and the roads that pass under them, but not the rolling landscape. It works very well, although it’s more clever and stylish, than useful for navigation.
We were concerned that landscape rendering would slow the 8110 down, but it has a Samsung 533MHz processor and a dedicated graphics accelerator and managed very well.
Which actually leads to a gripe: if you miss a junction the 8110 so quickly re-routes and re-renders your position you often miss the fact that it has done so – there’s no audio feedback when it does so. (Many sat-navs audibly sigh, announce that you’re an idiot and ponderously re-calculate your route.) With the 8110 you might not realise that you had missed a turn and added time to your journey.
Elsewhere the software is decent, if not up to class-leading standards of Navman, Garmin and TomTom. The menu colour schemes are grey and orange, reminiscent of the now-departed-from-these-shores Sony Nav-U devices.
The on-screen keyboard is a little fiddly, but there is a stylus slotted in the back of the device if you prefer. Some key functions are difficult to access, but none dangerously so. The speaker is strong, and the voice instructions mostly clear if occasionally a couple of heartbeats later than was comfortable when approaching complex junctions.
So, does the 8110 arriving in the UK pose a problem for rivals? Very nearly. It’s a solid lump of technology with Panorama View 3D smarts that might make it irresistible for gadget fans, but it isn’t quite special enough to threaten TomTom, Garmin or Navman. If we were them, we’d be more worried about the Navigon 8110 v2.