The Navman MiVue Drive LM GPS reinvigorates an idea that Navman had years ago, and with it, makes the most interesting navigation device I’ve tested in years.
The companies that make GPS devices — I’m thinking here of the dedicated, stick-to-your-windscreen type — might not like it, but the simple reality is that the market that was once theirs alone has been subsumed into the smartphone space to a large degree. That’s seen the prices on premium GPS units tumble, and their desirability tumble as well. Still, it feels like I’ve been reviewing GPS units for a very long time — and that’s because I have.
Many moons ago, I reviewed a Navman GPS — and to give this some context, this was at a point where you could charge $1,099 for a standalone GPS unit — with an interesting hook. Navman threw a simple digital camera into the back of the Navman N60i, using pictures with embedded GPS co-ordinates to provide a different way to navigate to a location. It was a neat idea at quite a premium price, but it didn’t seem to take off, probably because back in 2008, cheap camera optics really weren’t all that good.
The Navman MiVue Drive LM takes that same picture concept, applies a coat of HD paint to it and finally matches it up with a drive recorder not dissimilar to the Uniden iGo Cam 750 reviewed recently.
On the GPS side, the Navman MiVue Drive LM operates in much the same style as Navman’s other premium GPS devices, which means you get monthly map updates, still performed via connection to a PC or Mac, landmark guidance, which gives you actual location directions (“turn left at the KFC” rather than “Turn left” and so on). The Navman MiVue Drive LM has a 5″ LCD touchscreen which is ample for most in-car purposes.
It’s a nicely responsive unit for the most part, although like most GPS systems it’s not incapable of giving slightly odd directions, or waiting a while to reposition you if you go off course by choice or accident. I’ve long been split as to whether TomTom or Navman offered the superior navigation software interface, as for many years it was TomTom’s lead to lose. The reality in 2014 is that both have their benefits and drawbacks; TomTom’s more absolutely tablet-style interface is a little more comfortable for matters such as map scaling, but Navman’s large icon menu display and spoken landmarks give it a slight edge.
Realistically a GPS isn’t something that you’ll refresh every year, especially now that lifetime local map updates have become a standard freebie in premium models. You’ll still have to pay for additional maps if you travel outside Australia or New Zealand, however.
The Navman MiVue Drive LM’s real standout point is the integrated 720p digital drive recorder. This acts to record your drive activity for either your own entertainment purposes, or for the purposes of crash investigation. At a pure technical level, the 720p output of the Navman MiVue Drive LM doesn’t quite match up to the Uniden iGo Cam 750’s 1080p capabilities, but that being said, for the purposes of identifying landmarks — or the license plate of that Landcruiser you just rear ended — it’s perfectly adequate.
The default for the drive recorder is to record continuous loops, protecting those where it senses serious motion (or in other words, a crash), with a supplied 8GB microSD card acting as your recording source. It’s conceivable (but not pleasant) that the Navman MiVue Drive LM could be crushed in an accident, but the enclosure around the microSD card could protect it.
At an asking price of $299, the Navman MiVue Drive LM sits at the top end of GPS pricing in 2014. The question that remains is to whether it’s worth it. If you’re only an intermittent GPS user, then you’re probably not going to need all the features it offers, but by including a drive recorder within the GPS itself, Navman’s made a very strong case for those wanting a brand new GPS that does quite a bit more than the usual budget offerings.