While the standard screen size for GPS navigation devices is 4.3 inches (diagonal), a number of devices now have larger screens. Magellan launched a limited number of devices with 4.7-inch screens last year and expanded the number of different RoadMate 4.7-inch devices to seven, including the RoadMate 3065. But for my driving, I prefer a GPS unit with a 5.0-inch (dia.) screen. The new RoadMate 5045 series features such a 5.0-inch screen and most, but not all, of the features needed to make it an ideal navigation companion.
The current trend in GPS marketing is for a manufacturer to create a base model, and to populate the product line with slight variations on the base model. The base RoadMate 5045 includes lifetime subscription-free, advertising-supported traffic alerts and sells for a list price of $220. Although TomTom’s similarly-featured 5.0-inch XXL 550-T, which also includes lifetime traffic, sells for a $10 premium over the RoadMate 5045, the base model XXL 550 that lacks traffic is $20 cheaper. The top-of-the-line RoadMate 5045-LM has a list price of $250 and is $10 cheaper than the corresponding TomTom XXL 550-TM. Both of the top-end models include lifetime live traffic and map updates.
The RoadMate 5045 shares the same user interface and feature set as virtually all other RoadMate products except entry-level models. Navteq maps for the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico are included. You can purchase maps for Mexico, but if Mexican maps are important to you, the TomTom XL and XXL products include them. The 5045 lacks a Bluetooth interface found on some of the more expensive RoadMates as well as the soon-to-be discontinued Maestro products, but from my experience with Bluetooth on the 3065, that’s okay—Bluetooth didn’t work too well on the 3065.
All of the newer Magellan RoadMates, including the 5045, have a “One Touch” interface that lets you easily navigate to a saved favorite or search. You could, for example, save a search for the nearest McDonald’s, and wherever you are, a single tap will bring up a list of nearby “Mickey Ds”. Other features unique to Magellan products include the AAA Tourbook, highway-exit POI search, and the ability to compare four routing options when calculating a new route. The 5045 also includes multisegment routing as well as highway-lane assist—features included on similar competing products, as well.
While the size difference between a 4.3-inch screen and a 5.0-inch screen may not seem very large, if you do the math, the 5.0-inch screen has a whopping 34 percent more screen area. Although the 5045 has the same 480-by-272-pixel screen resolution as most 4.3-inch devices, the additional screen real estate allows you to zoom out one or two levels, and the content on the screen is still visible. To me, that translates into a better navigation experience.
The routes calculated by the 5045 were, as you’d expect, identical to those calculated on the 3065. I did note, however, that once during navigation, the 5045 rebooted to “optimize for better performance.” Fortunately, I was between highway maneuvers, and the device rebooted before I came to my next turn. Still, I don’t expect that the device that I’m depending on for directions will reboot—possibly when I need it the most.
Macworld’s buying advice
Despite the flaky performance, the 5045 is a solid GPS device. Though you might want to spend a few more bucks on a GPS that offers more.