Navigon made waves not long ago by introducing GPS units with free map upgrades for a one-time fee, unique among entry-level GPS units. The 2100 Max is an inexpensive in-car GPS add-on with many high-end features, including text to speech, comprehensive POI database, and upgradable maps.
The Good Stuff
The 2100 Max has a 4.3-inch touchscreen that does the job well enough. It has a sturdy feel to it. The overall unit design is quite nice, it’s minimalistic, with only a couple of input buttons to worry about, notably the power button.
There’s an SD card slot on the right hand side that comes pre-loaded with Navigon’s 1GB map-filled card. It also has an antenna mount on the back for a more robust GPS antenna if that’s your thing, but it worked fine without one.
It’s powered by an internal battery and charged via the USB port on the bottom, we always like USB chargeable devices.
The GPS unit comes with a suction cup-style windshield mount that I must say works perfectly fine. Even when I gave the mount’s arm a vigorous shake it stayed stuck to the window. In other GPS units this can be a problem, but not with the 2100.
The 3D-aspect maps work quite well, and refresh time is close to real time. It’d be hard to get lost with this guy as a guide. That said, the map itself is fairly sparse; if you’re used to Google Maps and its outlines of buildings and parks you may find yourself wanting with the built-in maps. I, though, appreciated the un-cluttered look.
One neat trick the device does is it will track your speed, and it has an optional warning when you go a specified number of miles over the limit where you’re at. If you’re heavy footed like yours truly, this is a blessing.
The re-routing works quite well, though it’s not the fastest I’ve seen. I missed a turn getting onto the West Seattle bridge and it took me a way back around I hadn’t known about and now love.
Not so good
While the interface is simple, it’s not intuitive. When I’m getting directions, I want to be able to just input the address or name of the destination. I guess I’m used to the ease of use of Google Maps, but the Navigon UI wants me to put in my city first, followed by street, then number. I’m not sure why, but that’s how it works. It’s very offputting, but not a deal breaker.
The interface itself is sluggish. It sometimes takes one or two seconds for a screen tap to register and return with data. The unit could benefit from a snappier operating system for sure.
Because of these two problems, you should really allow your passenger to do the work with the GPS, or pull off the road. Doing it while driving is far too distracting, even on an empty roadway.
It took me several minutes of configuration before I could start using the device, and all the hoops seemed redundant. A consumer unit should be ready to go out of the box.
While I did like the feature to string multiple destinations into one trip, the lack of interesting points of interest seemed like a waste. Sure, restaurants and gas stations are listed, but many other things, like my local bowling alley, aren’t.
Now, it should be noted here that there’s an upgrade to the built-in maps, but it requires an activation code that my demo unit didn’t come with. It’s possible that the new maps include more things. I know an update is in order because it thinks there’s still a Burger King on Capitol Hill, even though it’s been gone for three years.
If you’ve never had a GPS unit before, this is a great way to start. The price point is great — generally under $250, sometimes on sale for less than $200 — and they’re very useful to have if you travel a lot. But if you’re looking for a way to upgrade the one you have now, look elsewhere. Though it works just fine, the sluggish interface and lack of destinations will make current GPS owners annoyed at best.