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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Magellan Roadmate RV9145LM GPS a best bet for RVers

Review by Chris Dougherty 
GPS, or Global Positioning Satellite systems aren’t new: we’ve had them for many years. Certain models had options for large trucks, but that routing would often be less than ideal if you were driving an RV. Now, thanks to Magellan, there’s a GPS system designed just for RVers: the Magellan Roadmate RV9145LM. If you’re an RVer, and a Good Sam Club member, than this GPS is the one for you.

This is not your typical GPS system, and it works and looks differently from most other GPS devices. With its large 7.5” by 4” size, and weighing in at 10.5 ounces, it’s definitely not a pocket sized device, which is good, especially for Class A motorhome owners, to whom this unit is primarily marketed. The RV series units come in four varieties, from the basic RV9145, the RV9145-LM with lifetime maps, the Pro9165-T with traffic and Bluetooth, and the RV9165T-LM with Bluetooth, lifetime maps and free traffic. All the units come with a large, heavy-duty suction cup mount for the windshield, which is quite effective, and can be adjusted in about every direction, including length. That said, the large form factor and the size of the mount make using these in smaller vehicles a challenge. We used our test unit in a Ford F-350 and were able to adjust it so that there was minimal visual impairment through the windshield.

Having been a GPS user since the days of having to have it on a laptop computer, this is absolutely the best unit for RV travel I have yet to use. The unit, which is Windows based, has a simple, easy to use interface that reacts quickly to user input. The screen is bright and the volume loud and understandable, and both are easily adjustable at any time by the user. The RV9145-LM has a three-position power/reset switch on the top, and a micro-USB port for future expansion, or adding international maps, according to Sunnie Tsai, director of product marketing , enterprise group for Magellan GPS.

The RV9145-LM comes with a mount, a 120 VAC power adaptor, a 12 VDC lighter plug power cable, and a USB cable for updating the unit using your computer, and the downloadable software from Magellan’s website. This model has lifetime maps, and the Magellan Content Manager software resides on your Windows taskbar, and alerts you if updates are available for your GPS. Currently, this unit doesn’t support downloading any GPS coordinates from the internet or your computer, as any POI’s have to be entered manually. The cell phone contacts for that feature are entered manually into the Content Manager software, or downloaded from the cell phone on Bluetooth enabled units, however.

Entering data into the RV9145-LM is much easier with their patented Quick-Spell feature. Using its database, it recognizes each button you press on the keyboard, and highlights what the next letter could be, helping you spell even the most difficult street names. The computer voice speaks each letter or number as you type it as well.

Three features really stand out for RVers; the Good Sam/Trailer Life Directory is integrated into the Magellan RV series GPS systems, as is a great trip planner with easily programmed and adjusted multi-point routing, and the Highway Exit POI feature.

THE COMPLETE GOOD SAM/TRAILER LIFE DIRECTORY is an integral part of this GPS’ software. Under Points of Interest, there is a button for RV Parks and Services, under which are subcategories including Good Sam Discount Locations, Privately Owned Parks, Public RV Parks, Travel Services, Camping World Locations and Things to See and Do. The data is a combination of Magellan’s data which they incorporate as part of their map updates, and data provide by Good Sam Enterprises. In either case, with the lifetime maps feature, regular updates are free of charge, and Good Sam provides the data to Magellan, which in-turn integrates it into programming for the GPS, according to Tsai. As it has both sets of data, finding POI’s is not limited to the Good Sam data.

For instance, when the Privately Owned Parks button is selected, there is a ‘Magellan’ button and a ‘Good Sam’ button, to select the preferred data set. In the Good Sam data set, once a park is selected, all the Good Sam/Trailer Life Directory information is presented, including ratings, amenities, contact information, and last year’s rates. If you like it, hit the GO button, and you’re on your way. It also identifies Good Sam discount locations with the Good Sam logo. There is also a phone icon on the listing which if pressed, either displays the phone number, or on the units with Bluetooth, dials the number for you. Alternatively, hitting the ‘rating’ key replaces that icon on each listing with the rating for that campground, so you can select a park by its directory rating.

The Pre-Trip multi-point routing feature is a useful feature not found on many GPS units. Using the AC adaptor, you can take the GPS inside and plan an entire trip in advance, including stop-overs like Wal-Marts, Flying Js and Pilots, RV parks, addresses and POI’s and save it in the system for recall when you’re leaving. With six million POI’s programmed in, most things you’d want to find are pretty easy to find. Once your stops are programmed in the unit, an Optimize feature will optimize your route when selected.

As with other GPS units, you can select your routing preference, including shortest distance, fastest time and most or least use of freeways. The unit has an automatic re-route feature that will seamlessly re-route you if you miss a turn, although the spoken street names, and the pictures of interstate overhead highway signs makes it pretty difficult to miss one if you’re paying attention even a little bit. The spoken street names are clearly and accurately spoken (It recently pronounced ‘Onesquethaw Creek Road in Feura Bush NY’ correctly!). The unit also features a speed warning (don’t worry, it’s adjustable) which will show you a flashing speed limit sign and give you and audible tone and tell you ‘WARNING’ if you’re exceeding the speed limit above your preset allowance. The tone and the voice warning can be turned off should you wish it.

The RV routing feature allows you to set parameters for the vehicle you’re driving which are completely customizable. You can select the type of motorhome (Class A,B,C, or Super C), RV/truck with one or more trailers, semi/tractor with one or more trailers, or truck camper, and then enter height, width, length, weight and HazMats if applicable. When the unit is on the main menu, a small car or RV appears on the bottom of the screen to tell you which profile mode the unit is on. Touch the car or RV and the vehicle profile screen appears. With the RV9145-LM it’s easy to switch between your RV and towed car or tow vehicle; just select the ‘Set Vehicle Profile’ button on the bottom. When it’s checked, its set up for your custom RV profile. When it’s unchecked, it’s set for a passenger car. It’s that simple. An added feature that would be nice for travelers to have would be a pedestrian mode to guide you around a town and back to your RV, but that feature is not currently available, and the internal battery on this unit only lasts for a few minutes, so it would be of little help on a walking trip, not to mention the large size of the unit, that makes it ideal for RV use, would make it less than ideal to carry.

THE HIGHWAY EXIT POI's feature is another RV travel friendly feature that stands out above the rest. While on a limited access highway, a small icon appears on the map with a fork and knife and a fuel pump. Touch that button, and a list of the next several exits appears with icons for food, fuel, lodging and other services. Touch one of those icons and you’ll get a list of what is available at that exit with all the pertinent data.

From the main menu is an Emergency Services menu that includes Fire, Health, Police, Diesel Fuel, Repair and Towing, which is great for peace of mind. Again, when the list comes up, hit the phone icon and the phone number appears.

Magellan has another unique feature called ‘One Touch.’ One Touch is a GPS favorites list that you can program for the 20 most traveled to destinations in your GPS. On the map screen there is a One Touch button in the upper right corner of the screen. Touch that icon, and the One Touch screen appears with your favorites, which are programmed from the same screen.

While on the map screen, which is clear and well detailed, the time/ETA button is on the lower left. Touch that icon, and a data bar appears vertically from it with information such as direction of travel, time to destination, speed, and elevation. Screen brightness and volume are easily adjusted from the map screen by touching that icon on the right side of the screen.

The RV series of GPS units also have an available wireless back-up camera option. With a 45 foot operating range, this camera should work well with most motorhomes and tow vehicles. The camera is designed to be attached to the license plate, and a cable is run to a transmitter which is connected to the vehicles back-up light circuit. A receiver is slid onto the GPS mount on the space that is provided, and a new 12 VDC split power lead is included to power both the GPS and the receiver. A pin style AV lead is plugged into the bottom of the RV9145-LM, and you’re done (providing the wiring is done correctly at the taillight assembly.) Since most trailers don’t have a backup light circuit installed, use with a trailer will require wiring one along the chassis frame. Seven-way trailer connections have a center pin which is used for backup lights, so this connection can be found on the RV end of the cable and run back to power the camera. Mounted on the F-350, the camera worked well, and is absolutely great for hooking up to a regular trailer.

In summary, the Magellan RV9145-LM is an excellent GPS for RVers, making trip planning and RV travel a breeze.

1 comment:

  1. I want to first thank you for this review of the [Magellan Roadmate RV9145LM GPS] as I have been looking and thinking about an upgrade in my current Gps. I do like what you have stated about this Gps during your time with it, but I do have a question? Have you had any time with any of the [Rand-McNally Gps?] I know they also offer a "RV" type Gps with some of the same features as the unit you tested, but in my experiences in the past [working with paper maps] I have found Rand-McNally to be a better map with more info than Magellan. So I am sure other people would also like to know if you have any preference and why to this question.
    P.S. My current Gps is a Garmin, and I have used Co-pilot in the past for work, which I ran on my laptop and it was great.
    Thanks in advance