It’s a not completely unfathomable fact that sat-navs often mirror the car they’ve been bought to navigate. TomToms are often found on the dashboards of company Audis, the Garmin nuvi 3790T looks at home in the Toyota Prius, and anything by RAC is more likely behind the directions of an estate on the school run.
Following this logic, Navigon’s flagship 8450 Live will soon be found in Lexuses and top-end Beamers. It’s big, clever and packed with so many features you half expect a pair of cupholders to pop out the side at any moment.
The Navigon 8450 Live really does do it all. In terms of navigation, this means switching periodically to a 3D render of the landscape whenever it has information about the topography of your surroundings, whether you're in the city or the great outdoors.
Lumpy 3D city views that give you a rough idea of nearby architecture have been around for a while, but only Navigon's top two sat-navs turn the centre of London into a Quake-like first-person view with reasonably accurate photographic details of the buildings ahead.
It also comes with information on local landmarks, parking spaces (in some European cities, at any rate), Google search and traffic information from FM RDS/TMC or data network.
If you know where you're going, the 8450 Live has a pretty good built-in media player, so you can yank it off the windscreen and use it to keep the kids quiet. There's even an optional module, which turns it into a mobile TV tuner.
Clever but compromised
The problem, though, is that nothing quite lives up to expectations. The glass screen and surround, for example, are let down by the plasticky bulk of the rear of the case.
In order to get the data updates you have to daisy chain a modem module between the sat-nav and the cigarette lighter. It's not essential, as the TMC updates go to the main unit, but it’s a slightly irksome setup.
The biggest problem, though, is that the Navigon just isn't equipped to cope with its heavy workload.
Compared to newer devices with more modern processors inside, its Windows CE interface feels slow and unresponsive, working itself to the bone to create layers of complexity that you don't actually need. The 8450 Live keeps a good satellite lock, but it’s just a little slow to respond.
If standalone devices are to survive the onslaught of GPS-enabled mobile phones, it's not going to be by competing for extra features. The Navigon 8450 Live is impressively specced out, but we'd always choose the speed and simplicity of a Garmin nuvi 3970T or TomTom Go Live 1000 instead.