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Magellan RoadMate USA Review: The Best in Reliability and Value

Once you realize the potential your iPhone holds to double as your primary GPS navigation device, you’ll definitely want to know your options, and that’s why we’re bringing you the second in a series of three reviews. First we covered TomTom’s app, and found that the well-known company did a great job with its iOS app, despite some glitching and inconsistency. Now we move on to Magellan RoadMate USA by MiTAC Digital Corporation. There’s a better chance that you haven’t heard of this company, but rest assured that Magellan is just as capable of guiding you to your destination; in fact, we feel that it edges out TomTom thanks to its reliability and special offers (relating to pricing). Let’s get deeper.

Just like TomTom, Magellan does not present an interface that is wildly different than what we’ve experienced on other handheld GPS devices. The top option on the menu is “address,” where you can input where you want to go and tell the app to take you there. And if that’s all you want to get out of this software, you’ll be pleased. The real-time map interface is clear and uncluttered, though not as polished or stylish as what we get from TomTom (maybe because MiTAC knows that all you really care about is getting there quickly and safely). Land, water, and points of interest are presented in muted greens and blues, with a fork/spoon, logo, gas pump indicating relevant locations along the way. Whether you opt for 2D or “3D+,” you won’t notice that much of a difference, but either is perfectly functional.

One distinct advantage Magellan holds over TomTom is the inclusion of a “menu” button on the map. We iOS folk are trained to pinch to zoom and interact with the screen, but TomTom functions such that you are taken to the menu whenever you touch the screen. Perhaps they did this to cut back on the usage of screen space, but you’ll find that you always want to touch the map to zoom out or in. With Magellan, pinching to zoom is fully functional and works like you’d expect. The map also includes a “OneTouch” icon that will take you immediately to a list of pre-assigned points of interest, gas stations, locations, etc.

Like TomTom, Magellan aims to expand on the navigational experience and become a sort of travel companion that will do everything for you except wipe your nose. There’s an “offers” icon in the menu that presents nearby special deals from retailers, in case you’re just driving around and looking to save money somewhere. The “City Center” and points of interest sections of the app both exist to help you find something interesting to do. But I don’t find that any GPS tool has really nailed this sector of travel. For whatever reason, I’m still more likely to head over to the built-in “maps” application when I need to find a Starbuck’s or specific store. There’s something clumsy about searching through the categories offered by the app, and while it’s hard to put into words, it doesn’t feel as effective.

But that goes for all the GPS apps I’ve tried, and it still stands that Magellan RoadMate USA is the most reliable option out there. We didn’t experience any of the glitching/vortex irregularities that occurred when using TomTom, and when you’re traveling, reliability is about the most important aspect you can ask for. Sure, it’s not as slick as TomTom, and the points of interest section still needs work, but Magellan is $39.99 well-spent toward peace of mind about driving. The company also recognizes that this is a fairly large investment in your phone’s software (and space, taking up over 1 GB!), and they appear to offer fairly regular special deals, like the option to register before January 9, 2011 and receive a $39.99 credit toward the Magellan Premium Car Kit. So, if you value function over form, Magellan is the way to go. It offers all the features you’d expect, and does an excellent job of bringing them consistently.

Our Score: 4.5 Out of 5

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