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Sony Nav-U Satellite Navigation System Review

A Touch of Clarity

by James Riswick

In 2004, more than 850,000 new vehicles were sold with a factory-installed navigation system, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Today, that number is certainly higher as more models become available with this handy bit of constantly-improving technology. Most of these in-dash sat navs cost around $2,000, which to many, is simply too high a price to pay for having an interactive Mapquest in their car. For them and for those (such as couples) who would like to share the technology between two vehicles, there are a number of perfectly good aftermarket navigation systems. One of these is Sony’s Nav-U, an attractive portable device with crisp graphics that resembles a mini television. Utilizing the most user-friendly interface (a touchscreen), the Nav-U is easy to program with software similar to that used by Honda and Toyota. People with larger fingers might struggle at times with the small on-screen buttons, but the system is surprisingly sensitive and rarely is the wrong command selected. Unlike most other sat navs, the Sony utilizes no physical buttons—scanning the map, for instance, is done by sliding your finger on the screen. For the most part, it’s actually more intuitive than most factory-installed units.

If there are drawbacks, they are the inherent problems with any such portable system. The Nav-U’s small 3.5-inch screen can make it difficult to read at a glance, but having a ten-inch monitor propped on top of your dash is out of the question. Second, although the Sony mounting platform is sturdy and can be put in a wide variety of positions, you’re still at the mercy of your car’s interior design. For instance, the unit perched perfectly atop a Mini Cooper’s dashboard (pictured), but with more sloping modern designs like the Infiniti G35, there is no logical, ergonomically friendly place for it. These are reasons why in-dash, factory-installed versions are inherently better. But for what it does, the Sony Nav-U is a well-executed, top-notch navigation device that’s easy to program, looks nice and most importantly, will get you where you want to go.

Price: $500

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(Updated: 12/13/11 NW)

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