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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.
General Design >>>>>>>>>>>>> The first thing that strikes you with the U92 is it's very impressive 4.8" display screen. Although much larger than the average display, the design of the unit in no way makes the satnav look oversized or cumbersome. Unlike some, it is quite slim in design making the unit look quite stylish rather than a reproduction of an old CRT television (mentioning no names...cough cough... tomtom). Having already dropped my satnav on a couple of occasions (not advisable though) the U92 is also very robust and seems to be solidly built. When you buy the U-92T you get what it says on the box, basically a "Satnav". There are no gimmicks such as MP3 players or picture viewers (why exactly you would want a picture viewer when you should be concentrating on the road ahead is another matter). In essence the processor and memory inside is totally dedicated to doing what it was designed for, namely to get you from A to B. Mapping is provided as standard at street level for the whole of Western Europe. Highly accurate UK addresses are obtained by using full postcode or full address searches.
Display >>>>>>> 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.
Ease of Use >>>>>>>>>>> Very very simple! For anyone with a fear of technology, this is right up your street. menu options are extremely simple and clear to use. Likewise inputting addresses for navigation is made very easy allowing either full address via street name, town etc or just a simple postcode.
Navigation >>>>>>>>> In a word "Superb!!" Sony have used Navtec mapping on their units, not knowing much about the benefits from one mapping software to the next, I can only go by my experience of the results it produces. I use my satnav to find both business and private addresses several times on a daily bases across the UK. To date I have yet to enter an address (including newer housing estates) that the U-92 has not taken me to within a few feet of. As a comparison I have used other brands of satnav with so called up to date mapping that have resulted in the destination being shown as miles away or in the middle of a field! As with other satnav's there are a variety of user preferences as to which type of route you prefer. These include the usual avoidance of motorways and toll roads etc, shortest / fastest or more scenic routes if required. In addition you can also select a route to suit your particular mode of transport. The one I find very very useful is the "lorry" setting. I must admit when I first saw this I was highly sceptical. Having used similar settings on other satnav's my initial reaction was "Yeah right" as the routing still tries to send you down poky little lanes. To my amazement, the routing for lorries on the U-92 does seem to have had some serious thought put into it. With the very - very odd exception, the route calculated by the U-92 for lorries may not be the shortest but is 99.5% the most appropriate. What is even more surprising is that the ETA displayed with this setting appears to have taken into account the lower speed restrictions for HGV's and is 99.9% of the time, accurate to within 4-5 minutes. Likewise the ETA given when set up for normal car driving also seems to be as accurate.
GPS >>>> 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.
Traffic Management >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> As stated the U-92T has the ability to access and use traffic updates. I should point out however although not mega money, this is not a free service (a point not exactly made overly clear on the box). To activate traffic updates you need to obtain a licence from Sony's website. The cost of this for the UK is currently (March 2009) £20, however this is a one of payment for a licence which is valid until the year 2035. This useful tool that can warn you of delays, accidents or even road works along your designated route. There are two options regarding this, you can either have the satnav automatically re-route around the problem, or choose to re-route upon request. As well as advising of traffic problems along your route, details of all other delays across the country can also be displayed. Calculating a route around traffic problems does seem to be carried out very quickly by the satnav. My only slight quibble with this is that the traffic information does not seem to reset itself very quickly when on a pre-designated route. The traffic alert icon will remain on screen for several miles beyond the congestion rather than clearing once you have passed the problem.
Mounting >>>>>>>> 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.
Useful Extras >>>>>>>>>>> When you buy the U-92, you get a free 12 month subscription to speed camera locations. Again this is done via Sony's website and involves downloading a file once activated. There is no information from Sony however as to what happens after the 12 month subscription expires or what if any costs are involved.
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.
Updates >>>>>>> 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.
NV-U92T Pitfalls >>>>>>>>>>>>>> I have to say there are only four points I have found to date.
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.
Thirdly, as stated above, map updates for these are ridiculously overpriced by Sony. The cost of ordering a map update from the official Sony website is very close to the cost of buying a new satnav.
Lastly, for some reason best known to Sony, although supplied with a 12/24v charger, there is no 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.
Summary >>>>>>>> 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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