The $399 R700t offers some impressive extras at a decent price, but its priorities seem off. Adding 3D buildings to the map view is fun, but pronouncing street names would be more useful. Mostly, however, we found the R700t unreliable and glitchy, which diminishes the relevance of its more innovative features.
Design and (Real) 3D Maps
The R700t has a silver and black color scheme and a more industrial look than we’re used to seeing with GPS devices. The device is thin, but it comes with a huge window mount. This navigator’s maps were attractive and easy to follow, but what you’ll really notice are the 3D buildings. We’ve seen this feature before with the HP iPAQ 310 Travel Companion, but that device gave only 3D representations of major buildings in 40 cities. The R700t, on the other hand, drew every building in our New Jersey neighborhood, which is pretty impressive, and we were often surprised that it stored so much building detail. The feature doesn’t necessarily make navigation easier, but it’s fun to look at.
Sluggishness and Other Issues
There were plenty of things that troubled us about the R700t. For one, entering navigation mode took 30 seconds each time, which is too long. Also, the device promises free lifetime TMC traffic (with the included wire antenna), but it frequently got stuck while scanning the FM stations.
Turning off the auto-tuner and then turning it back on helped, but that’s a nuisance to do every time. Also, the device sometimes wouldn’t shut down properly, forcing us to use the manual power switch instead. When we’d turn the R700t back on, the time and date info would reset. Concerned that we had a faulty unit, we tested a second one from ASUS; while it shut down normally, it too, took half a minute to enter navigation mode, and also got stuck searching for TMC info.
The 1.3-million POI database is pitifully small; it couldn’t find several local restaurants and shops that have been around for years. Searching the POI list by name was awkward, as we had to first choose to search around our GPS position, get a list of POI categories, choose to search through them all, and then choose the text search option. That should have been a selection on the first POI screen.
While the map view is strong at surfacing such details as distance and arrival times, the spoken directions don’t pronounce street names, which would have been a useful inclusion. On the plus side, the Bluetooth feature was easy to connect for using the R700t as an in-car speakerphone.
Driving with the Asus R700t
Getting basic directions with the R700t was mostly fine, and we felt confident in the routes it created. One time, however, the device put a Staples in the wrong location—one block too far—and we had to make a U-turn to get back to it. Rerouting was simple and quick, at just 2 seconds.
The R700t has two handy preview modes: The Fly Over mode takes you through your route quickly, and the Simulate mode takes you through it more slowly. When the traffic info is working correctly, it can audibly warn you of traffic on your route and create a detour around it. For example, it alerted us to congestion on the NJ Turnpike and offered to detour around it. We accepted the detour, and we think it saved us a few minutes of travel time.
The R700t has some excellent features and a decent price, but it has a ways to go before it’s the ideal driving companion. For $399 we expect spoken street names and more up-to-date and comprehensive POI.