Given that you can now pick up a decent GPS device for less than $150, it's not easy to justify spending $599 on a premium navigator. So what makes the Navigon 8100T that much better? In addition to free real-time traffic updates for life, it features a gorgeous Panorama View 3D feature and the ability to enter destinations with your voice. However, the voice recognition doesn't work very well, and the topographic maps--while very cool--aren't as informative as they could be.
Navigon broke with its glossy black designs to give the 8100T a brushed-metal bezel. It's rich-looking, but we prefer the black. It comes with a large one-piece window mount that might not fit your glove compartment but allows you to pivot the screen in any direction.
When we initially plugged the power cord into the mini-USB port on the 8100T, it wouldn't start up. Only after much head-scratching did we realize there's a second mini-USB port on the mount that's used for power. A Navigon rep told us there would be a sticker on the package of shipping models explaining the difference.
Interface and Input
The 8100T offers a spacious 4.8-inch screen and the same easy interface as other Navigon devices, with buttons for selecting a new destination, a saved destination, or your home address. The 8100T also offers voice input via a large button. Entering an address by hand was perfectly easy, but the voice entry was a challenge. Even in a quiet car, with no traffic or radio noise, it simply didn't hear us correctly most of the time, even after the calibration test, so we had to repeat information many times.
Driving with the 8100T
As mentioned, the new Panorama View 3D feature gives shape to the country around you as you drive, and it's something you won't much notice while driving in a city (unless your city is San Francisco). We took the navigator on a long drive to the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut, however, and loved how the 8100T showed the shoreline and the hills around us, giving a broader vision to the country we were driving through. This feature doesn't aid in navigation, however, as the Panorama view lacks street names.
More bad news: the 8100T has 5 million POIs, which is small for a premium navigator. In fact, the Foxwoods Resort Casino wasn't even in the database, despite being open since 1986. On the plus side, the Navigon 8100T has more than 27,000 Zagat listings.
The 8100T offers multipoint routing and Navigon's excellent lane-assistance features such as Reality View, which offers a photorealistic view of tricky jughandles and turns. Unfortunately, rerouting after a missed turn was a little slow, often at around eight seconds.
Traffic and Extras
The 8100T includes two voices, but only one that pronounces street names. The <i>T</i> in the name is for traffic, because this device receives subscription-free traffic information. However, the traffic info should have been better integrated. Tap the traffic icon on the map view and you first get a text description of the traffic incident that doesn't help much to determine how bad the traffic really is. From that screen you can tap for a more useful map view. Having the traffic icon go directly to a map view of the incident would have been more helpful.
Navigon 8100T Verdict
On paper the 8100T seems like the ulitmate navigator, but the unreliable voice recognition and incomplete topographic maps give us pause. Some may prefer the Navigon 2200t ($229), which has a smaller 3.5-inch display but also offers lifetime traffic and the excellent Reality View Pro and Lane Assistant Pro features. If you want the bigger screen, along with the eye candy that the Panaroma View 3D provides, the 8100T is worth considering.