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Planning Retirement Online

Time to convert to satnav

September 2016

One way our generation shows its age is our use of printed maps. After all, we were brought up with wonderful hardbound atlases and exciting maps that unfold to show new places and landmarks.

But that was in the days when travel was still exciting; when people still sometimes dressed up to go on an aeroplane and holidays in places like Papua New Guinea or Machu Picchu were unheard of.

How times have changed! Today modern cars will direct you through their inbuilt satnavs down to the local shops or across Europe. But for many of our generation, our cars don’t have built in satnavs and talk to anyone over 50 or 60 and a large number still say they prefer paper maps so you can “see” where you are going.

That can make a lot of sense, but nevertheless  having a satnav on board in a strange town, to give traffic queue information or even simply as a back up can be really useful.

A big aspect is that many people’s first experience with a satnav is with a high spec model that does so many things that the odd inadvertent finger tap leads you to a completely new page of puzzling information. There have also been regular stories of trucks getting stuck up narrow lanes and people driving to completely the wrong town by blindingly following their satnavs.

No wonder many people our age still smirk and get out our paper maps.

But think again. Now a new generation of simple to operate “starter” sat navs have come on the market that offer the perfect breakthrough for dedicated printed map users.

Both two of the leading names in satnavs, TomTom and Garmin, offer starter models that work so well and really do everything that most people need. 

Tom Tom was founded in 1991 as a Dutch start up company but today is a recognised world leading, providing everything from GPS sport watches to digital map making.  Garmin is an American multi- national that was formed from its earlier ProNav company but is now based in Switzerland and specialises in high technology for cars, aviation, marine and all outside activities. They are the company that developed the famous Fitbit wearable technology.

Asking at various shops it was interesting the advice I was given. Some said voice recognition was essential to keep safe while you are driving; others said Bluetooth integration is key so you can pair up the sat nav with your mobile phone.

In fact, it turned out I needed neither of these. Trying out starter models from both companies, as long as you put in the correct address first there should be no need to alter it by voice command. If your whole plans for the day change, surely you can find somewhere to pull off to adjust the satnav.

Of course some of the features were super exciting…the Garmin Hub displays information on your windscreen just like a fighter pilot!

But all in all for general everyday activity, the simple straightforward easy to use satnavs have to be the best. The Garmin Drive 50 LM was interesting and came with some great visual features so help you turn at the correct place. However, I particularly liked the new TomTom Start 50 model; it was incredibly simple to use and had just enough additional features to offer real support to driving. It also offers lifetime maps, so it can always be totally current which is important knowing how road systems keep changing!

Starting up and entering a location, or point of interest, were very easy although it is always worth a double check to ensure you have exactly the right postcode or location entered.

Directions were very clear indeed and perfectly timed, with very clear voice commands, and a simple press of the button changed the clear map from close up showing lanes and detailed information to a wider view to show your position and direction of your route. No chance here of ending up in Stamford Bridge in London when you are heading to Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire!

It also had some good additional features such as clear distances and approximate time of arrival, which I found scarily accurate despite road works and traffic hold ups; and approximate mileage to the nearest petrol station. The three clear beeps ahead of speed cameras was a good add-on.

One hiccup I had was in returning through country roads, the main route home was blocked by roadworks so I had to turn down another road. Following this would in fact have also taken me back home; but instead the satnav directed me down a sequence of minor very dark roads to get back onto my original route as soon as possible after the road works.

I should instead have pulled off where I could and reset the satnav so that it followed a new route home; but I still prefer this than a more complex satnav which can be programmed for a mass of eventualities if you can follow the instructions.

It all comes down to how technically capable you, your driving habits and how long you want to spend fiddling with the machine. If you simply want a useful backup to get you quickly and easily from point A to point B, then go for a starter model such as the TomTom Start 50.  It could save quite a lot of frustration…and also save you money as these are the cheaper models on the market. Visit somewhere like Halfords and they can demonstrate the different models to ensure you are on top of what you buy.

All in all, while I still love paper maps, I have been converted.  Perhaps all this new fangled electronic equipment has some value after all!!

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