Advantages Excelent navigation tool
Disadvantages Very poor battery life
|Ease of Use|
|Look & Feel|
|Durability & Robustness|
|Value for Money|
My old Tom tom finally decided to go to Satnav heaven at the end of January so I decided to take the plunge and purchase a new one.
Driving for a living, one of the main criteria I was looking for was traffic updates. The Sony range of traffic enabled units (signified by the "T" at the end of the model number) I found to offer this facility for approximately half the price of the equivalent Tomtom units.
Driving heavy goods vehicles I have used most of the leading brands of satnav such as Tom tom, Magellan, Traffic Master, Navman, Garmin etc etc. but nothing has possessed the wow factor that makes them stand out from the crowd so to speak.
Of course like any other product, the Sony NAV-U does have it's pitfalls, but overall Sony have ventured into the satnav market with flying colours for which I will elaborate further.
Sony it has to be said are renown for their display screens. The U-92T is no exception to this. Apart the obvious advantage of the larger screen, the image is crystal clear and remains visible even in bright sunlight. A clever little device located at the rear of the unit is a light sensor which can be set to automatically adjust the screen brightness from day to night driving.
Being wide screen there is a good view of the streets surrounding your present location. This can be particularly useful if you come across an unexpected obstruction as you can see instantly where the side roads lead to as a way round.
The zoom level in 3D mode remains very clear showing precisely which road from islands etc you need to be taking, whilst at the same time displaying a long range view towards the top of the screen giving you a general direction of where you are going.
The GPS receiver flips up from the back of the unit and has a dual purpose. It can be used as self supporting stand (although not very practical) and also acts as a locking mechanism onto the windscreen mounting unit.
Sony have used the SiRF star III receiver in the U-92. Once again unless you are are a bit of a satnav boffin, this means nothing to me or the average Joe, all I can go on is the results.
Likewise with other brands, warm up time can seem to take a while if the unit has not been used for a time. However in reality it only takes a few seconds and does seem to be very accurate and quick to respond. This is particularly useful when navigating islands with multiple exits as you always know exactly where you are without any time lag.
A clever little feature incorporated into the U-92 is a virtual GPS system. By using pressure sensors, speed monitoring and some sort of technical wizardry, the satnav can actually track your position in the absence of a GPS signal. This is designed to keep you on track when entering tunnels. I have found two examples of this so far where it has worked superbly. The first example was travelling through the Tyne tunnel where despite the absence of a GPS signal, my position on the satnav display remained spot on throughout. The second instance I found was using the Hatfield tunnel. Once again the U-92 maintained my location throughout which was very useful. As I needed to use the exit right at the end of the tunnel, navigation was made easy without having to wait for the GPS signal to catch up.
Whoever designed the screen mount for Sony really does deserve an award! Anyone who uses a satnav will be all to familiar with the traditional plastic suction cup that sticks to the windscreen (apart from when it falls off again when least want it to!). You will also be familiar with the round marks that they leave on the windscreen telling the burglar or smash and grab merchant that you have a satnav hidden in the glove box!
The mounting device used with the U-92 uses a type of soft rubbery sticky gel that is far more flexible as to where it can be positioned. The first big advantage with this is that it doesn't need to be mounted on the windscreen at all!
Unlike a suction cup, it is not essential that a perfect seal is made around it to make it stick. As it doesn't have to be a perfectly flat surface, the satnav can be quite easily be mounted on the dashboard even if it has a textured finish. If however you prefer to have you satnav screen mounted, the gel base does not leave behind the familiar circular tell-tale signs behind when it is removed.
The U-92 is pre-loaded with a wide variety of POI's (Points of Interest) ranging from pharmacies to fast food outlets. A useful feature is that these are all searchable from within the options menu. For example if you wanted say the nearest Mc Donalds, hospital, chemist, Asda or Tesco, the satnav will give you a list of what is close to you, including contact phone numbers and then direct you there if required.Very useful if you are running low on fuel or want something to eat, one touch of the "View" button will give you an instant list of the nearest petrol station or restaurant and guide you there without having to exit or re-enter your pre-defined route plan.
The U-92 has its own built in address book where you can save frequently used addresses which can be used for navigation. These can either be input manually or simply by storing your current GPS position.Optional extra storage capacity can be utilised via the memory stick pro duo slot located underneath the satnav. This is useful if you want to store additional maps on the satnav or transfer numbers into your address book. With 2GB of internal memory built in however, there is more than enough space for normal usage.
As well as navigating to a single address, the U-92 can be used to input several addresses for a multiple point route. Adding / deleting additional stop points or changing the order of points is very simple via the options menu.When giving guidance instructions, the U-92 will actually speak the names of major roads and motorways, for example "Turn right onto the A402" rather than just printing the text on screen.
Sony at present are stating on there website that mapping updates will be available until 2011 for this particular model. Map updates do seem to be quite costly and can only be ordered from Sony on DVD rather than a simple download. However rather like Tom tom, Garmin, Navman and others, if you trawl the internet they can (although in strict contravention of copyright laws) be downloaded easily.
The first and biggest one is the battery life. This I have found to be somewhat pathetic. Sony quote a meagre two and a half hours of battery life. However I have found that in reality with the screen set to its brightest , battery life is at very best around one to one and a half hours. I can only presume that this is the downside to having the larger and brighter display screen. Having said that since the satnav is permanently plugged into the lighter socket, it does not pose a serious problem.Secondly, on very odd occasions, guidance instructions could be improved upon. An example of this I found was on approaching the end of the M6. Although quite clearly shown on the map I needed to join the M1, no voice instruction was given. This may sound trivial, but when traffic conditions are busy, an audible voice instruction would eliminate the need to take your eyes off the road ahead. On a busy motorway, a lot can happen in the few seconds it takes to look at the map on screen to work out where you should be going. mains charger included in the box. This can be a pain for initially setting the thing up as you need to charge it up in the car first. I can only assume this was omitted on a cost basis, however as mains chargers are available on ebay for less than £3, I believe this was being a little short sighted and mean by Sony.
Despite the pitfalls listed above, I have to say that for me the NV-U92T is way above the competition in terms of both its design and performance. For many years if you wanted the bees knees in satnav, Tomtom was the only choice. However Sony have produced a product that certainly gives Tomtom a run for it's money. I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone in the market for a satnav especially anyone using one for commercial use.
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