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Bring your beater car into the 21st century with Magellan's SmartGPS

TechHive staff | May 3, 2013
As more and more smart cars come online, perfectly good older cars start to look...old. You can bring some of that connected-car experience to your beloved beater with Magellan's new SmartGPS.

As more and more smart cars come online, perfectly good older cars start to look...old. You can bring some of that connected-car experience to your beloved beater with Magellan's new SmartGPS. It takes a different approach to in-vehicle navigation, combining a SmartGPS tablet with a free app and cloud synchronization to bring you all sorts of useful data while you're driving.

An app and a mini tablet

The SmartGPS experience consists of a couple different parts, but the SmartGPS itself is an actual device. The $250 SmartGPS is a small tablet with a hard plastic backing and a 5-inch capacitive touchscreen. It runs on a 1GHz TI processor and has 4GB of built-in memory along with a microSD card slot for expansion. The tablet has a speaker output jack (for plugging directly into your car's audio system, though it's also got a built-in speaker), an AV output (for connecting to a Magellan wireless back-up camera), and a microUSB port for charging. The device comes with a super-suction windshield/dashboard dock, a car charger, and a regular wall charger.

The SmartGPS device connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (through your iPhone or Android device) to display weather, gas prices, Yelp reviews, Foursquare info, and traffic and safety alerts on small, constantly-updating tiles. It uses Wi-Fi connections to download heavy data, such as new Yelp and Foursquare reviews, and it uses your phone's Bluetooth connection to download minor updates (so it can connect location data with your actual location, I assume). Oh, and it also syncs addresses and location-relevant content across the device, the app, and the cloud.

Navigation includes turn-by-turn directions

At first glance, the SmartGPS looks pretty basic. On the left side of the screen, there's a map with a big blue arrow that marks your position, and on the right side, there are four tiles, each displaying different types of information. The map side is pretty run-of-the-mill: You can zoom in and out using on-screen buttons, you can tap and drag to move the map, and you can display the map in 3D, 2D, or 2D oriented to your direction. The SmartGPS offers turn-by-turn directions with landmark recognition, which is useful if you're in an area that you don't know very well. For example, instead of saying "turn right on Moorpark," the SmartGPS will say, "turn right by the Shell gas station on Moorpark." This feature can be toggled on and off.

The tiles on the right side are what make the SmartGPS stand out. These tiles--and there are eight of them, though you can use a little dial at the top of the screen to display four of them with the map, all of them without the map, or none of them with a full map--display different types of information relevant to your location. There are safety and traffic alerts (such as red light camera alerts), courtesy of Magellan's subscription Phantom Alerts feature, weather and fuel prices, and there's even social network integration.

 

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