Thursday, April 4, 2013

GPS Review: Magellan bolsters RV offerings with RV5365T-LMB

By Chris Dougherty
If you’re looking for a global positioning system to guide your RV travels, you owe yourself a look at Magellan’s RV series of GPS systems, all of which include, the Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory. The company has just released its all new RV5365T-LMB model. It's five-inch is sized perfectly for smaller motorhomes and tow vehicles.

"Driving an RV or towing any size recreational vehicle can be very challenging on today's crowded roadways and Magellan is dedicated to giving RV drivers the best navigational tools for the safest journey," said Stig Pedersen, Associate Vice President of Product Management for Magellan. "We are pleased to offer the RV community the most innovative navigation features plus a choice of RoadMate RV GPS devices to best fit their needs."

Those familiar with the larger 9145 and 9165 series 7-inch RV GPS’s will have a similar experience using the 5365, just on a smaller scale, but with some noted improvements, according to Sunnie Tsai, product manager for the Magellan RV series. The improvements include:

•Junction View - displays a realistic image of the road and highway signs to help guide RV drivers to the correct lane that the vehicle needs to be in for safe merging and exits during their trip.
•Next Turn - visibility prepares drivers with valuable information about which lane to stay in or to enter when approaching the next turning location.
•Landmark Guidance - gives RV drivers an easier way to navigate to their destinations by telling them to turn at familiar landmarks such as gas stations, department stores or other large, easily-seen places instead of only street names that may be hard to locate and read. You’ll hear instructions like “In 200 feet, turn left at the Shell Gas Station.”
•The Magellan RoadMate RV5365T-LMB includes one year of free service to Traffic Camera Alerts powered by PhantomALERT™, to warn drivers about upcoming red light and speed cameras on their route.
•OneTouch™ - another Magellan-exclusive feature, enables drivers to bookmark and assign a special button to their favorite destinations or searches for faster access.

Inside two-box, sleeve wrapped package is the GPS unit, a windshield suction cup mount, quick start guide, USB cable, and cigarette lighter plug adapter. The company recommends first charging the unit, and installing Magellan’s Content Manager software on your computer to update the GPS.

The Content Manager software, an always-on program installed in your computer, alerts the owner to available updates to GPS units that are registered with it, and, when opened, implements the updates, as well as allowing the user to enter contact information into the address book. This is a useful feature for this Bluetooth equipped device, if the device it’s paired to is a simple cell phone.

Speaking of Bluetooth, the Magellan Bluetooth application is well designed and works well, with our test Blackberry 9650. The GPS can quickly download a large contact list from the Blackberry, and supports SMS messaging, voice activated dialing, and a speed dial feature which the user can program. The sound quality is good in both directions. Once the contact list was downloaded from the Blackberry into the GPS, it remained there in memory, even when the phone was not connected to it. Unfortunately, phone numbers in the Good Sam listings or Points of Interest can’t be dialed from the listing. Instead, you must write down the number and then go into the Bluetooth menu and enter the number, or use the voice dialing option if it’s supported by your phone.

The Good Sam Guide is probably the most notable feature for RVers. The itinerary feature is the second. This is where the rubber meets the road with this unit. While many of us may be able to travel in a ‘less planned’ sort of way, most of us have finite ‘vacation time’ and like to plan our trips ahead of time. Of many tools I have seen to plan RV travel, this ranks among the best. With the Magellan RV GPS, a user can sit in their living room with the unit, and plan their entire trip, from routes, to travel plazas, to shopping, to campgrounds with ratings… the list goes on and on.

FROM THE MAIN MENU, the user presses the Itinerary button, which reveals a screen offering three options; single-stop trip, multiple-stop trip, and daily trip. The user then selects stops from another ‘main menu’ offering lots of options for inputting your choices, from POI’s to addresses, from a variety of pre-programmed or user input selections. Once the destinations are input, the system will optimize the list of destinations for efficient travel.

Just because you have set your travel plans doesn’t mean you can’t change them on the fly. En-route destinations can always be added or deleted. So, if you’re traveling down the highway, and decide you need a campground for the night, a quick search of the Good Sam listings will find you all the parks in the area, with their listings and ratings.

Another good feature is the Exit POI feature. While traveling on a limited access highway, an icon will appear on the screen that once touched, lists all the services available at the next exit, including food, lodging, fuel, and mechanical services. Of course, POI’s can be searched in just about every way thinkable, including ‘along route,’ but this is a nice shortcut feature.

The included POI database is quite large. While it is unlikely you’ll need to add more POI’s, the Magellan RV GPS’ still do not support adding, deleting, or downloading POI’s from your computer or the internet, a feature some find useful, especially for geocaching. In addition, these units don’t have a pedestrian or walking mode, which some other devices have. The walking mode is good for taking the unit with you as you walk around town on foot, or for geocaching, for example. The RV5365T-LM has the right size, and I believe just enough battery power to support this, and it’s a feature, in addition to POI download capability, that might be a good add for the future. Still, most users don’t need these features, and the One Touch feature for user-programmed destinations is great, and easy to use for frequently visited destinations.

The Magellan RV5365T-LM offers lifetime traffic services and map and data updates, which Tsai says can be updated up to twice a year. While infrequent, the updates insure that the user gets the new Good Sam RV Guide listings every year, and that mapping and software updates are also installed.

Another great new feature of the RV5365T-LM is the landmark guidance feature. This unique feature will tell directions to the driver using landmarks for guidance, like “in 200 feet, turn right at the Shell gas station.” People I have demonstrated this feature to love it, and especially when road signs are small or non-existent, this can be a huge help.

The Magellan Roadmates have two useful highway features, the Junction View and Lane Assist screens. These screens provide a realistic view of the lanes ahead where you’ll be traveling, or the exit you need to take, with images of the highway signs where appropriate. This is a great feature for RVers with larger rigs that may need more time changing lanes. In addition, a small icon on the left side of the screen shows the user what the second upcoming action will be. For instance, your next action will be a right turn onto XYZ street, which is displayed at the top. Below that on the left is a small icon of the same type as pictured for the next action, telling you that your following action will be a turn to the left, for instance, which is again a nice feature for RVers to be able to plan their actions ahead of time.

As introduced with the first series of RV GPS’ by Magellan, the RV5365T-LM continues to be compatible with the company’s wireless backup camera system. This is a great system for smaller vehicles, or for pickup trucks that need to back up to a conventional type trailer for hooking up. The camera is activated by the backup light circuit of the vehicle, and when the camera activates, the camera image takes over the GPS. Due to limited range, and the fact that the camera can only be on when the vehicle is in reverse (without modifications) it is not usable for motorhome/towed vehicle applications. Tsai says that the company’s R&D team is looking into a different type of system that would work well for towables and motorhomes, and still interface with the GPS screen.

AS PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, the RV5365T-LM’s high definition screen is neatly laid out and easy to see, with minimal glare issues. The unit automatically changes to night mode for better low light viewing, and remembers the user selected screen light setting for day and night. The screen layout is set by the factory, but there are some map options in the menus that allow for adding visibility on the map of POI’s by category. The system is programmed at the factory with one voice and one vehicle icon, and like the POI’s, no additional voices or icons can be installed, however there are multiple system sounds to select from, and a multi-channel volume control to adjust master, Bluetooth, and navigation volume, and along with screen brightness, can be selected from the map screen.

Routing methods, like fastest time or shortest distance, are similar to most GPS’, and can only be selected or changed through the navigation menu, before programming a route. Once a route is in progress, it must be cancelled before changing routing method. The ability to select routing method as part of the route programming process would be a nice option, although some people clearly don’t like the extra step each time they enter a route.

See caption below.
Of course, vehicle routing is at least partially dependent upon the size and type of vehicle being driven, and like its predecessors, the RV5365T-LMB has a vehicle profile setting specifically for the vehicle you’re driving. With this, the user can define what type of RV or truck they’re driving, the height, length, width, and weight of the vehicle, and any hazardous materials on board, which for RVers is primarily propane. When the unit is in “car” mode, a car appears on the bottom of the home screen. Tap the car, and it asks if you want to set a vehicle profile. If you check it, all the parameters appear for programming, and once programmed, they remain in memory until changed, allowing the user to switch back and forth between car, and the set profile. When the vehicle profile selection is used, an RV appears in place of the car on the bottom of the home screen.

The windshield mount is a suction cup design, with a simple snap in C-bracket for the GPS. There is a clip on the back to help hold the power cable, or cables in the case of the backup camera transmitter. The power connection is the standard mini-USB type, which also serves as the computer connection. While the unit doesn’t come with an AC adaptor, the battery life on a full charge is adequate for most trip planning, and if more time is needed, an optional AC adaptor is available from Magellan. Other accessories include a number of different style GPS mounts, adhesive dashboard disks, various power supplies and cables, and a case, and are available on the company’s website.

Magellan has a complete support section of their website, and in the event you can’t find the answer you need, you can submit an email for customer assistance, or call the company directly. All the product user manuals and software are available for download from the site. Should the unit fail for some reason, full instructions for return under the one year warranty are outlined on the site. According to their website, Magellan does not repair units that are out of warranty, but instead will replace the unit at a reduced cost with a new or refurbished unit. In addition, should the screen get broken, Magellan will offer a new or reconditioned unit at a reduced cost, in or out of warranty.

For RVers looking for a complete RV trip routing solutionthat’s simple and easy to use, the Magellan RV series GPS’ can’t be beat, and the RV5365T-LM with its smaller size is ideal for the smaller size cabs of small motorhomes, pickups, and towed cars.

The Magellan RV5365T-LMB retails for $299.95. For more information, visit www.magellangps.com.

Photo above: The RV9145 9-inch screen, next to the RV5365 5-inch screen. The two operate similarly but the 9000 series is sized better for larger motorhomes, and the bracket is designed for a longer reach.


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