Hardware & Infrastructure
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11/2/2006
12:05 PM
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Review: The Averatec Voya 350 GPS Device Will Drive You Sane

This GPS and its killer price make it a no-brainer for anyone seeking reliable navigation without a bunch of fussy, overpriced extras.

With a direct price of $380, the Averatec Voya 350 offers lots of bang for the buck. I expected that this bargain price, which doesn't include a $30 rebate if you order before the end of the year, would mean a boatload of compromises but was surprised to find Voya provides all the essentials: a SiRFstarIII GPS receiver, a generous points-of-interest database, and a simple touch-screen interface.

At 4.5-by-2.9-by-0.8 inches, the Voya could easily be mistaken for a PDA, until you spy its protruding "stub" antenna, which makes the GPS a little less pocketable than some other models. At least weight isn't a problem: The unit barely tips the scales at 5.6 ounces. That's in part because it eschews a built-in hard drive in favor of a 1-Gbyte Secure Digital memory card, which comes preloaded with map data for all 50 U.S. states and Canada.

A bank of controls resides to the right of the Voya's 3.5-inch touch screen. These include power, home, and zoom buttons and a five-way navigation pad. It's disappointing that Averatec chose zoom buttons instead of volume controls when you can also zoom by tapping the transparent plus and minus buttons that appear over the map. To adjust speaker volume, you have to retreat from the map to the home screen, tap Settings, and then tap Volume.

Thankfully, most everything you can do with the buttons you also can do via the Voya's touch-screen interface. I found this easy to use, starting with the novice-friendly main menu, which has just three options: Destination, Go Home, and Settings. Possible destinations include an address, intersection, city, or one of the 1.6 million points of interest included with the map data.

Averatec supplies a 5-inch windshield mount, a car charger, and an AC adapter for charging the Voya's battery. Even so, don't hit the road without the car charger. Although Averatec promises up to four hours of operation, in my tests the Voya petered out after about 90 minutes.

I took the Voya with me on highways and suburban streets and found it a reliable navigator. I had no trouble viewing the screen, even in direct sunlight. The map data proved admirably current. I like the little chime the Voya produces when it's time to make a turn. (This is particularly helpful when the streets are close together, and you're not sure if it's this road or the next one.) Equally helpful is the "countdown gauge" that shows in real time the next turn's proximity. I do wish, though, that the Voya's announcements were in miles rather than feet.

Another minor complaint with the Voya's operation is speed. It's a bit slow to establish a satellite lock, and there's a delay of several seconds before you can start entering an address. The unit also crashed a couple of times; the resulting dialog box revealed its Windows CE underpinnings.

Fortunately, those glitches aren't deal-breakers. The Voya 350 is a solid GPS with a killer price, making it a no-brainer for anyone seeking reliable navigation without a bunch of fussy, overpriced extras.

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