Navman MiCam GPS REVIEW
PAT PILCHER reviews a gadget that will not only get you where you want to go but film it for evidence – all with an Aussie accent.
It turns out that I have a unique super-power. As much as I’d like to be able to wear my undies on the outside and join the ranks of the X-Men, this super-power isn’t much use when it comes to fighting crime. In fact, it’s not even useful for wearing a snug-fitting leotard and cape. You see, I can get horribly lost without even trying. Heading out beyond my suburb sees me going in ever-decreasing circles as I look in vain for my destination.
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Thankfully, Navman’s MiCam GPS is the kryptonite to my wayward navigation skills. It’s an integrated dashcam and GPS, which triangulates my position using orbiting GPS satellites and a comprehensive map database to ensure I get to where I’m going.
From a design perspective, the MiCam resembles a typical car GPS widget. It’s a compact black plastic slab with a glass front. Where it differs is through the addition of camera lenses on its rear (more on this later).
The thing with car GPS units is that size can be both a blessing and a curse. A decent-sized screen allows the driver to read on-screen maps at a glance, but if the GPS unit is too big, it can obscure the view of the road. None of this has been lost on the folks from Navman. They’ve kitted the MiCam out with a generous 5-inch screen that allows the driver to easily see the road and their navigation route. Compact bezels, however, also mean that the actual unit is about the same size as most competing brands with smaller screens.
One design feature I really liked was the map themes baked into the MiCam. These include high-visibility and high-contrast schemes for vision-impaired drivers. How vision impaired you’d need to be before you’re not allowed to drive is, however, another question. That aside, being able to tweak the displays colours for less eye fatigue is a great idea. Another goodie that adds to the MiCam’s usability is pinch-to-zoom. For getting a clear idea of your route, it’s brilliant.
A design tweak that deserves special mention is the windscreen mount. Attaching it to the windscreen of our car was a doddle thanks to a twist-to-mount mechanism. It saw the MiCam staying put, and equally importantly, being easy to remove. Because the MiCam attaches to the mount magnetically, it’s easy to remove should you need a closer look at your route. The mount’s cigarette lighter adaptor thoughtfully has two USB ports, so you can charge your phone while using the Navman.
The MiCam comes with plenty of bells and whistles. It can show phone notifications (messages can be read aloud). It’s also a capable Bluetooth speakerphone. This means drivers can use it to make and receive calls, staying focused on driving (and not getting ticketed for using their phone). I particularly liked the shortcut for my home address which allowed me to find my way home from anywhere. Shortcut buttons can also be set for other favourites, including recent trips, petrol stations, money machines, shops, parking buildings and other destinations.
Pairing the mobile app (IOS/Android) with the MiCam allows it to display traffic conditions as intuitive colour coding of your trip route. Green means light traffic, while red means heavy traffic. Equally handy is a trip planner, which lets you plan multiple stops – great if you’re planning a roadie. The one thing I particularly liked was the use of landmark guidance (e.g., “Turn left at the BP…”). It really helped reduce the number of missed turn-offs. Drivers can also see their speed/the speed limit and get verbal alerts for speed cameras, merging lanes and school zones.
Then there’s the Dashcam which records everything in case of accidents, which means you’ve got insurance evidence if needed. The camera records in 1080 Full HD and has a 140-degree viewing angle. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well it worked at night, which Navman attributes to the STARVIS image sensor. The whole setup is powered by an ARM Cortex A7 Quad Core 1.7Ghz CPU and 8GB of RAM. It’s also the first device by Navman to use Android. All told, the combination of Android and the hardware spec equated to decent performance with no noticeable lags or stuttering.
In use, I was impressed by how quickly the MiCam was able to acquire a GPS fix. Our previous GPS often took upwards of 5 frustrating minutes. By comparison, the MiCam typically got a GPS signal lock within 30-40 seconds.
There are some frustrations, though. I found entering destination addresses fiddly. Instead of entering the address so the MiCam could search and find my destination, I had to first enter the suburb and then the street address. This isn’t terribly intuitive. It also makes searching for a location clumsy. Still, the move to a cleaner Android interface does make a huge difference to the MiCam’s overall usability. The other annoyance is the use of a jarring Australian accent. We call the MiCam Sheila because she sounds like a bogan extra from Kath and Kim. So how about a Kiwi accent, Navman?
When summing up the MiCam, I’d have to start with its feature set. About the only thing missing is a kitchen sink. Literally, all the bells and whistles you’d be ever likely to need are all there. Considering its very reasonable sticker price, you get a lot for your money. The MiCam’s features are provided as part of its retail price (including free map updates). Other brands usually charge a recurring premium. This, coupled with its excellent design, makes the MiCam a superb choice for anyone needing a GPS for their vehicle.