Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Text-to-speech technology, ease of use, design, Destinator ND software, price, bundled accessories, red light and speed camera warnings
- Screen has poor viewing angle, sluggish re-routing times, no headphone jack
At this price, the LN500 is an excellent choice, especially for a first time user. Text-to-speech technology, solid Destinator software and a stylish, slim design are enough to put this near the top of your list if you are on a budget
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
LG has jumped into the portable GPS market, and their entry level LN500 unit certainly provides bang for your buck. Featuring text-to-speech technology, an MP3 player, a picture and photo viewer and Destinator ND software, the LN500 is competitively priced but doesn't skimp on features.
Looking to buy a GPS device? Visit our updated Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Buying Guide before you buy!
The LN500 has a straightforward, simple interface with clearly labelled selection boxes. The 3.5in, 320 x 240 pixel display makes it easy to navigate through the unit, although you do have to tap your finger quite firmly to make a selection. The LN500's display is adequate on the whole, although it isn't as bright and clear as some competing models. It has a poor viewing angle and we did have some issues with sunlight glare. Our only complaint with the interface though is its speed. It is sometimes sluggish when browsing through the menu to enter an address, or change settings.
Destinator ND software powers the LN500, and it's a similar interface to the one used on Hitachi models MMP-401 and MMP-501. When searching for an address, suburbs aren't filtered by state. Instead you'll get a full list of suburbs in Australia, with the state in brackets, for example, Fairfield (NSW) and Fairfield (VIC). Conveniently, the LN500 allows two options when searching for an address; via city and then street, or via street and then city. This is handy when you may only have a street name, and not a suburb, or vice versa. Street names are filtered by suburb, reducing the list of streets during searching to a manageable number. The LN 500 also allows navigation directly to a house number and intersection and there is an option to search via postcode too, however this is blanked out and thus unusable on this model. Perhaps on more expensive iterations it will be enabled.
The main menu of the Destinator ND software consists of six large boxes with text and coloured icons, so first time users shouldn't have any issues understanding what is what. There are icons for address, recent places, my places, points of interest (POI), and route manager. Tapping the setup button in the main menu allows you to adjust all navigational and map options, while the route planner menu can play a multi-stop trip and even record a route for playback on the screen later. A host of POI's are also available, such as airports, shopping centres, parking stations, hospitals and cafes. The LN500 also comes with red light and speed camera warnings out of the box.
The LN500 uses the popular SiRF Star III GPS chip seen in most navigation units on the market. It takes about 30 seconds to acquire a GPS signal, and we didn't experience any drop outs. We did however find route re-routing times to be a little sluggish; they often take a couple of seconds longer than we're used to.
The maps are simple and easy to read and can be zoomed in and out of easily using the large + and - controls on the touch screen. Users can select either a 3D or 2D view, and switch between day and night mode. The LN500 also has an avoid area feature; you can program the unit to avoid certain areas when you plan your trip, such as known traffic hot spots, for example. One complaint with the maps is the size of the text for arrival time, as well as the buttons on the touch screen while you are on a route. They are quite small and are often a hit and miss affair while driving, especially if you have to lean forward in your seat to tap the screen.
The LN500 features text-to-speech technology, which means that it can say street names as you approach them. It works quite well and does a solid, if unremarkable job with translations; although it does struggle with long and confusing names. There is only one voice English voice option (US English) that can be used with text-to-speech, but it is quite loud at the highest volume level.
LG also includes a photo viewer and music player on the LN500. MP3, WMA and JPEG files can be stored on the unit's 64MB of internal memory, or an SD card (not included). Fortunately unlike some other units, the LN500 stores its maps internally, rather than on an SD card, meaning you can utilise the slot while still taking advantage of the GPS functionality.
The MP3 player is very basic with only repeat and random play options and no equaliser, but it is simple to use thanks to large, easy to tap controls on the touch screen. Sound quality from the external speaker is below average though, and we were perplexed with the fact that there is no headphone jack for private listening.
Measuring 108mm x 82mm x 18mm the LN500 is compact and slim. It is finished in a gloss black plastic and it feels both sturdy and well built. LG promotes the "quick three button access" as one of the unit's best features and we agree. The LN500 has just a power/menu key and volume buttons to the right of the display, and they glow bright red when the unit is powered on. The right side sports an on/off switch and a DC input for charging, while the left side has a disguised standard mini-USB port and the SD card slot.
LG is generous with bundled accessories, offering an easy to fit window mount, an in-car charger, an AC charger, a USB cable and a convenient drawstring carry case. Battery life is rated at up to four hours of use, which is slightly disappointing considering this is an entry-level model. Keep in mind that use of the photo viewer and music will diminish battery life further.
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