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Navman DriveDuo SUV Review

The Navman DriveDuo SUV offers navigation and dashcam recording for offroaders.

GPS TECHNOLOGY has come a long way from the times we hooked up basic Garmin bushwalking units via serial cables to Windows 95 PCs. Now we have Navman’s Drive Duo SUV unit, which offers an array of features, the main ones being:

  • Dashcam with optional rear view camera and collision sensor
  • Safety feature – lane keep assist, driver fatigue and lane departure warning
  • Onroad navigation with traffic updates
  • 4WD tracks with monthly updates
  • Travel guides from Lonely Planet and others
  • Points of interest – parking, restaurants, landmarks
  • Bluetooth hands free
  • Digital logbook
  • Camera

The unit comes with a 12v adpator, quick start guide and suction cup mount. It has an internal battery but isn’t designed for extended running without a 12v power source.

The first challenge was mounting the unit. The suction cup isn’t as heavy-duty as I’d like for offroad use given the size of weight of the Duo, and the arm is quite short. But the bigger problem was finding a balance between a good camera angle for the dashcam, and readabiity of the screen for the driver. Ideally, you’d want the unit low so you can read it, but the best position for the camera is up high near the internal rear vision mirror. And the camera needs to be on the end of a cable so you can choose the best position for both. The camera itself on the back can be angled relative to the unit though. At least the Duo can be easily removed from the suction mount for hiding when parked.

Once set up the Duo has a decent sized screen that is easy to use, but nowhere near the resolution or clarity of a modern smartphone. The tracklog is overlaid nicely so you can see where you’ve been, and the display is uncluttered. However, it’s not the easiest of screens to use, with some icons being a bit small for a touchscreen, and it’s not particuarly quick to respond. Zooming in and out, perhaps the most commonly used feature, is not easy as I tended to end up in a menu or pan the map instead of zoom.

From the map menu you have Volume and Zoom, and then another button to press to get to the real menu. I don’t think that first menu is necessary. Once you’re into the main menu it looks like this:

The Coordinates offers lat/long only and doesn’t specify which of the three notations it wants, not a good look for an offroad GPSR that should be more specific and offer UTM as well, and it should offer a choice of datums. The address lookup is not the smart auto-complete, typeahead feature we’re used to. The voice recognition doesn’t work for me in a quiet room, nor for my more clearly spoken partner.

What is good is the points of interest (POIs) such as cashpoints, parking, food and motels. There’s even SOS covering medical centres and hospitals. All POIs come with address and phone numbers too. The search spans out from your current location, and it can take a while to find something in another state. There is a genuinely useful amount of POIs in the unit which are well-organised and accurate, judging by my testing of my local area. You can also set up multiple My Places such as your work, home, favourite campground and the like. The Cityseekr, Lonely PLanet and Zomato guides are useful too.

Click any image to see different zoom levels at a road junction.

You can plan a trip on the Navman – adding a series of waypoints or POIs – but to be honest I’ve never liked doing so on small-screen devices. Nevertheless, if you do, the facility is there and it works well. The unit can optimise the order of the waypoints for minimal time taken.

Screen shows a clear tracklog, but even zoomed in it is hard to see where the tracks are.

Offroaders are going to be interested in the Duo as an offroad mapping unit. Navman claim 120,000km of 4WD tracks, but after scrolling around some Victorian regions I know well I have to say the mapping is not great. It takes a long while to search, and doesn’t have many minor but important tracks, for example around the Marysville/Big River area. It does have the likes of Blue Rag and does a decent but slow job of searching its database. Once found though, the screen display lets the unit down, barely showing the track as a light brown colour on a green background. It’s also hard to zoom out to gain situational awarness, something important for offroaders who cannot rely purely on turn-by-turn directions without any idea of the bigger picture.

Finding Blue Rag:

The safety features aren’t very useful. Even when built-in to cars, lane departure warning is a bit hit and miss, as is collision detection and driver fatigue detection is more of a gimmick with today’s technology. The Navman cannot flash up any warnings on the dash, nor can it correct or warn via the steering wheel.

Here’s a short video showing the dashcam quality:

Summary

I would suggest that you’re better off splitting the functions of navigation and dashcam purely so you can get the best mount location for both, and also so your dashcam can go into park mode. You don’t want to leave the Duo attached to your windscreen, it’s too tempting for thieves.

A big question anyone who buys one of these units needs to ask themselves is whether they want a dedicated unit like this, or merely to run software on something like a cheap Android device with a 5 or 6 inch screen, for example Oziexplorer or Hema’s mapping system. In my view this option gives you a multi-purpose smart device, a brilliant screen and choice of maps. It’s my personal choice, but the advantage of a unit like the Navman is switch on and go, no software to install, no third-party mount to source, it’s all in the box.

I think the Navman Duo SUV could work as an offroad mapping system provided it is backed up with paper maps, and you intend to make use of the excellent POI database. I would not want to navigate with it as a single device due to the screen resolution and display.

RRP $479.

https://www.navman.com.au/products/car-gps/drive-duo-suv

Looking for an dual-camera dashcam? Check out our review of the Navman Mivue698 on practicalmotoring.com.au.


Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper