LG LN-735 portable navigation system. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Russell Purcell
Vehicle navigation systems were once reserved for buyers of high-end luxury automobiles, and only those that were willing to invest several thousand dollars to add one to the options list. The arrival of portable units has made this technology accessible to the average consumer. Buyers are attracted by the ease of operation that comes with touch-screen entry keys and voice commands, not to mention the added plus of being able to quickly remove the system for security reasons or to use in another vehicle. The portable navigation sector is now so competitive that entry models from some brands can be had for under $200.
As an aging Gen Xer, I have grown up amidst the whirlwind of technological advances that came with personal computers, video game systems, the arrival of CDs, DVDs, and MP3s, as well as the proliferation of cell phones and digital cameras. In short, I have no fear of opening a box, plugging something in, and investigating its capabilities on the fly. My parents, on the other hand, seem to like to call me when they get perplexed over how to set up their home theatre or format an image so they can order prints online from their local big box store. I have no doubt that they would eventually figure these things out for themselves, but they do display a more cautious approach than I do when faced with new gizmos and doodads.
Maybe it’s all just part of their parenting style, and they just want me to feel needed.
The pile of maps and guide books replaced by the LG portable navigation unit was taller than the unit itself. Click image to enlarge
Back to the plan: my parents were planning to spend a large chunk of the summer exploring the roads of the American southwest, as well as several of the big national parks along the route. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to see how a recently retired couple with a love for paper maps would get along with a portable navigation system. I was interested to see if they would embrace this new technology, or at the first sign of a shortcoming would pack it away in the glovebox? I contacted a relatively new player to the portable navigation arena, LG, to see if I could secure the use of a long-term loaner for this trip. Having had experience with many of today’s most popular systems I was curious to see how the LG unit would hold up when it came to map accuracy and ease of use. Remember, this was a Canadian sourced unit that was headed south of the border, so there was always the chance that its accuracy with regards to local points of interest and changes to secondary roads could prove a headache to my test subjects – oops! I mean parents.
The unit supplied by LG was a nice entry level model (LG LN-735) which proved to be a solid performer, and was just the ticket for my parents, as it featured voice guidance, but not a lot of extra features to clutter its menu and steepen the learning curve.