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Thursday, October 07, 2010
Review: Magellan Premium Car Kit & the iPhone 4
Review: Magellan Premium Car Kit & the iPhone 4

This week we’re testing for you the Magellan Premium Car Kit. We’re primarily focusing on the collaboration of the iPhone 4 and the kit, because it was announced recently that the two are compatible.

In the past we have reviewed Navigon’s Design Car Kit, which broke after using it in spring temperatures. Let’s see if Magellan has built a better Car Kit.

iPhone Accessories - Magellan Car Kit - GPS inside

Magellan is directly competing with the TomTom iPhone Car Kit if we look at the feature set.



Both the car kits have an integrated GPS chip, for even more accurate navigation, both have an integrated mic and speaker for hands-free calling, and both have AUX out and can be rotated from portrait to landscape. Note that for the TomTom Kit you need a special iPhone 4 adapter that isn’t needed with the Magellan kit.

A big difference is however that when you have the iPhone and your partner an iPod Touch, you can both use the Magellan Car Kit, while with TomTom’s solution you both need to have a special Car Kit. Looking up the prices at Amazon, the Magellan kit is almost 3 dollars cheaper.

First impression

When unpacking the Magellan Car Kit, I found the following items:

- Cradle
- USB car charger with a long cable
- Arm with suction cup
- Adhesive disk for optional dashboard mount
- Documentation

I connected the cradle with the arm and noticed immediately the excellent build quality. Everything feels very decent, the way it rotates, the way it locks and handles.

iPhone Accessories - Magellan Car Kit - GPS inside

 

Installation

I decided to connect the Car Kit to the windshield instead of the dashboard, that is because my car is leased via my company and I am not sure if I can remove the adhesive disk later when I need to return the car. If it was my own car I most probably had chosen the dashboard mounting.

Once connected to the windscreen, you can fine-tune it’s position by turning the big ring at the back side, move it in the perfect position and lock it again with the ring. Okay that looks good and works well. The iPhone slides in very neatly, the connector at the bottom of the cradle isn’t fixed and this way it moves when you insert the iPhone into the cradle. On the top of the cradle there is an adjustment part to even better align the iPhone in vertical position. (See instruction booklet).

iPhone Accessories - Magellan Car Kit - GPS inside


Let’s try the Bluetooth connectivity. Switch it on in the iPhone menu: Settings > Bluetooth > On. The Magellan Car Kit shows up in the Device list and once selecting it, the blue led at the bottom of the Cradle shines to confirm to me that I am ready for Hands-Free calling (when the blue led flashed it means that the power is connected and Bluetooth is waiting to be connected to a phone). Note that the second time you step into the car and enable Bluetooth on the iPhone, it automatically pairs with the Car Kit.

The Bluetooth integration has the following feature list:
Call answer and reject
End call
Send call to iPhone or Car kit
Bluetooth connect
Redial last number
Activate voice commands
Works with any Bluetooth device

 

Hit the road Jack

Now the fun part starts, hitting the road with my shiny new gadget. I live in a big city where GPS reception is sometimes difficult because of the high buildings. I hope that the integrated GPS chip gives me an even smoother Turn-by-Turn navigation experience.

Which satnav apps am I going to test?
Navigon Mobile Navigator
Sygic Aura
Sygic Mobile Maps
TomTom
CoPilot
iGo My Way
Ndrive

iPhone Accessories - Magellan Car Kit - GPS inside

Magellan supports US and Canada maps for the moment so that leaves it out of my test, but I’m sure it works well because they designed it especially for this app and made it compatible with other apps.

In the early iPhone GPS days, some of the software didn’t pickup the GPS satellites signal very fast. I remember that TomTom was sometimes impossible grabbing the satellite when I left from my indoor garage. Over time and versions the applications have improved and I must say now in combination with this Car Kit, you really have instant signal. The wait is over.

While navigating through my city, the cursor follows my position very nicely, better than without the Car Kit. Note that where I live the buildings are 4 to 6 levels high on average. On small roundabouts the cursor still has some lag to follow, I tested the same roundabout with all the different GPS apps, with all the same result.

One of the best improvements that I noticed in high building areas was with Sygic Aura, which lagged sometimes in the past without the Kit. I guess it was the combination of intense 3D graphics and the processing power that was left over for the GPS sensor.

 

Hands free

Because of the build-in speaker, I use this Car Kit even more than my Navigon Kit for the Hands free calling function. The connection is made over Bluetooth. Now routinely I put the iPhone in the holder for safe navigation, even for short trips. The voice quality is good and the sound level can be adjusted with the wheel on the left side of the kit. It can be set to very loud which is probably good for some people in some circumstances.

Since I have received the bumper for the iPhone 4 from Apple, I started to notice that the Car Kit didn’t charge my iPhone while driving. The only solution is to remove the bumper, so the Apple-USB connector is deeper inserted into the iPhone 4. This is a little drawback, I am not willing to take off the bumper all the time from the iPhone while driving. So now I only do that for longer trips, and for the shorter trips I keep the bumper and live with the fact. The box claims that it supports iPhone cases, but I guess that is with the iPhone 3 and 3GS. Also note that the iPhone 4 is not mentioned on the box although it is compatible.

There is even an Aux connection to connect to your car stereo, unfortunately I couldn’t test it because my Audi A4 early 2009 model doesn’t support it.

iPhone Accessories - Magellan Car Kit - GPS inside
iPhone Accessories - Magellan Car Kit - GPS inside

 

Conclusion

Magellan has delivered a rock solid in car mounting / navigation / hands free solution for the iPhone 4 with an extreme high built quality. Now that I have tested it, I understand the high price and appreciate its value much better. Not only does it give me a better navigation experience because of the GPS chip inside, also its hands free function is something I can’t do without anymore. The only downside is the not charging with the bumper issue, but who could have predicted the Antenna-Gate and the free bumper program?

Highly recommended!


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