Pharos Drive GPS 250 Review

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$299

Pros: Large 4.3-inch screen; Street name pronunciation; Budget price

Cons: Slow processor; Small POI database; No Bluetooth, media player, or live traffic option

Verdict: This navigator has some features typically found on more expensive units, but it doesn't take full advantage of them.

Pharos keeps its Drive GPS 250 simple without a lot of extras, but it offers a few eyebrow-raising features for the price. You get a 4.3-inch screen and street name pronunciation for only $299. How does this navigator stack up against the bigger brands?

Design

Pharos has a history with GPS-enabled phones and PDAs, and the Drive GPS 250 extends its plug-in GPS line. With its basic black-and-gray color scheme, the Drive GPS 250 has mainstream looks. Its 4.3-inch screen is rare for a budget model, but space is used poorly on the map view: It tells you what road you need next but not the road you're on. Information is grouped at the bottom of the display, using hard-to-read, small, black text.

Pharos Drive GPS 250 Features

Street name pronunciation is a handy feature, although there's only one voice to choose from, and it's heavily computerized. Don't look for other extras: Bluetooth, a media player, and live traffic are all missing from the Pharos Drive GPS 250. And the 1.2-million points-of-interest database is paltry compared to other navigators in this price range. The Magellan Maestro 3210, our Editors' Choice for budget GPS devices, comes with 6 million POI.
One unique feature lets you set individual roads to avoid. We weren't sure why you'd want to block out individual streets, but then an illustration in the manual showed us how you could use it to avoid Castro Street in San Francisco, which has been home to many a political protest. We were thinking more in terms of avoiding a mall during shopping season, but it should work for any situation.

Finding Our Way

Navigating with the 250 wasn't always a pleasure. The menus are well-designed, but the touchscreen required an extra-firm push. The 250 uses a slower processor than most navigators (266 MHz versus a standard 400 MHz), which slowed down route calculations and POI lookups--around 5 seconds, in some cases.
We didn't always care for the directions we were given: When we were driving on Route 1&9 South in New Jersey, the 250 directed us to the express lanes, not the local lanes, when the road split. As a result, we couldn't make our turn and were taken on a wild detour through Newark Liberty International Airport. Rerouting kicked in about two seconds after we went off route, and took another few seconds to create new directions. Rerouting times were on par with other units, however.

Pharos Drive GPS 250 Verdict

Pharos has made midrange features affordable with the Drive GPS 250, and while it has some trade-offs, it's a decent value for a large-screen unit. Still, we'd rather travel with an easier-to-use device from Magellan, Mio, or TomTom.
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Wi-Fi No
Bluetooth No
Touch Screen Yes
USB No
Serial No
Size 4.8 x 3.3 x 1 inches
Weight 7.2 ounces
Company Website www.pharosgps.com