Wayne Thorp will speak at the 2015 AAII Investor Conference this fall; go to www.aaii.com/conference for more details.
I have never used a dedicated GPS navigation system before. My only experience has been with the AT&T Navigator on my cell phone. So for my first stab at this category, I went big. REALLY BIG. As big as the Magellan Roadmate 9055, with its seven-inch high-definition display.
Getting the Roadmate 9055 up and running was relatively easy. Attaching the mounting arm to the windshield was simple, thanks to the super-strong suction cup that keeps it firmly in place. The strength of the suction cup did become a bit of a problem when trying to detach it, something to keep in mind if you plan to use the Roadmate 9055 in multiple vehicles or wish to remove it after each use.
With its 12-inch extension arm, the Roadmate 9055 is designed for RVs and trucks, where the windshield is further away. However, I used it in a compact car, so the long arm allowed me to position the unit below the dashboard so as not to block my view.
The only real difficulty I encountered in setting up the Roadmate 9055 was installing the mini-USB power plug on the mount. The plug slides onto the mount, so the unit is powered whenever you install it on the mount, without having to plug anything into the unit itself.
In my small rental car, the large display was a little overwhelming. At 4.5 x 7.5 x 0.6 inches (height/width/depth), I found it challenging to position it without blocking the radio controls or the vents. In a larger car, with a roomier interior, I don’t believe this would be as much of a problem.
The seven-inch resistive LCD is very easy to view in sunny conditions. Furthermore, it shows up very well at night. The unit also has an A/V input so you can plug a portable video (or music) player into it.
The top-left corner of the display shows the next maneuver along with the distance to the next turn. Top-center is the name of the street you are being directed to turn on. At the bottom-left of the display is the distance remaining to your final destination. If you tap on this, a pop-up displays your estimated time of arrival (ETA), direction of travel, elevation, speed, and time to destination. You can zoom in and out using the zoom buttons found at the bottom-center of the display. Lastly, there is the main menu button at the bottom-right.
One quirk of the display is that you are not able to display your ETA and current speed at the same time. Also, the current time is not displayed.
The Roadmate 9055 comes pre-loaded with maps for the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. I used it on a road trip between Chicago and St. Louis, and it performed very well. Entering my destination was easy with the help of QuickSpell, which grays out invalid characters when you are typing in an address, city, or point of interest (POI). Also, the Roadmate 9055 calls out letters as you enter them, alerting you to any mistakes. Given the large display, buttons are large enough that “fat-fingering” is a rarity.
When you enter a destination, you are able to select the route offering the quickest time or shortest distance or one that makes the most or least use of freeways. There is also an overview map so you can compare your route options.
As you are driving, the Roadmate 9055 is very good at displaying cross streets and their names. Turns are called out well in advance; including the name of the street you are turning onto, with an added chime immediately before the turn. I did not experience any routing errors and it seemed that the Roadmate provided me with the most direct route. If I did deviate from the route, or if I made a wrong turn, the Roadmate automatically re-calculated the route and got me back on track. The automatic highway lane assist function was useful when I was passing through highway interchanges, preventing me from having to make any last-minute lane changes.
If you are making multiple stops, the Roadmate’s route optimization feature provides you with the most efficient route.
However, although the option appears to be available, speed limits were never displayed.
One time-saving feature of the Roadmate 9055 is the OneTouch Menu. With it you have easy access to frequent destinations and popular searches without having to sort through multiple screens. You can also assign specific destinations or points of interest (POIs) to categories or sub-categories.
The Roadmate 9055 also comes pre-loaded with Magellan’s AAA TourBook, which allows you to find hotels, restaurants and other attractions and provides descriptions and ratings. As you are driving, you can access key points of interest (POIs) for upcoming freeway exits. This was handy when trying to satisfy my Starbucks cravings or when it was time for a fill up. You can view POIs by category for a chosen exit, making it easy to find what you are looking for.
Real-time traffic is provided by the Total Traffic Network, and the Roadmate 9055 gives you lifetime traffic reports for no additional cost. As you are driving, a green icon on the display indicates clear roads, while a red icon warns of nearby traffic. You can tap this icon to see a listing of nearby traffic jams. Entering St. Louis during the evening rush hour on a Friday, this feature was very useful and accurate.
If the need arises for roadside assistance, the Roadmate 9055 can provide you with your precise location so you can tell someone where to find you.
You are able to pair the Roadmate 9055 with your Bluetooth-enabled phone for hands free calling. The Roadmate has a noise-cancelling microphone that performed reasonably well.
The Roadmate 9055 is definitely intended to be used with the USB-powered mount—the battery life is a paltry 30 minutes. This became an issue when I needed to unplug the Roadmate in order to charge my cell phone.
I found the Roadmate 9055 to be very easy to use and was pleased with the way it performed. I was impressed with the way it displayed the names of cross streets, which prevented turns from sneaking up on me. The seven-inch screen was very easy to see and navigate, although those with smaller cars may want a smaller model.
My only real gripe was the lack of speed limit notifications.
In all, if you are looking for a GPS navigation system that is easy to use and offers a large, high-definition display, the Magellan Roadmate 9055 is worth the look.
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of "Gadget Corner." All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.