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Panasonic Strada CN-GP50N

Strada means street in Italian. This Strada is the CN-GP50N five inch widescreen Personal Navigation Device (PND) with touch screen and voice control, with pan European coverage. Thirty seven countries are mapped and 760 types of Points Of Interest are listed within it. (Literally Millions) Searchable by keyword or how close they are to you. It has a large and easy to read GUI and features three dimensional pictograms for 200 major European landmarks – intended to help in foreign cities.

The sucker screen mount is robust and firm while the unit is slim line at 31mm. It can offer voice guidance in 21 languages, using Navteq mapping and Navigon 'front end' software. The map is NT072 Panasonic Europe v10.map version for the sadly techy and the unit will operate with your Bluetooth phone. It has a socket to connect an optional roof mounted CA-GA60N GPS antenna for those cars with heated front screens which thus have a wire Faraday cage of RF shielding to their unit by default and so can't 'see' the sky. (Certain high end German cars) It can receive and use TMC information but as this is a pan-European product this is done by addition of an optional TMC unit, CY-TM200N, that connects via its own rubber armoured socket. You get spare covers for these rubber armoured port and socket points which acknowledges that a fair lifespan is intended for the product. There is also a USB connector. The 12V adaptor has a large green 'on' indicator led and has a quality Velcro tie wrap on the cable for storage.

- Five inch 16:9 widescreen touch panel control: 391,680 pixels
- Mapping of whole of Europe: 37 countries
- Well designed Graphic User Interface
- RDS TMC Ready
- Handsfree calling via Bluetooth with phone data downloadable to Strada
- Choice of 2D or 3D display layout
- Voice Command where you record a vocal sample to tag a location
- Can programme speed of car type for ETA calculations (we like this)
- 760 varieties of Points Of Interest
- 200 3D landmark icons as part of huge POI library
- POIs appear on display automatically
- POI Direct dialling
- 2GB max SD card, will hold up to 300 folders; 300 albums holding up to 300 files each to 5MB per file
- GPS Assist calculates position whilst in tunnels etc at steady speed
- Lane assist feature instructs as to lane use
- Speed limit indication and user-settable over-limit warnings
- Can play .jpeg and .bmp picture files
- 12 Languages instructions manuals, 21 Languages of voice guidance
- Lithium Ion battery with 300 duty cycle rating 4Hrs use time, 8 days standby time
- Dimensions 129mm(w) x 127mm(h) x 31mm(d)
- 1.5w 36mm speaker on rear
- Power needs: 5VDC 2A
- Mass: 275g
- Supplied with DVD-Rom for map and applications restoration should it be needed

Review by Adam Rayner

First off, if like me, you have a cigar lighter socket in your car's dash that has a sunken type installation, you may have problems with the Strada's power adapter plug. My Strada had some juice in it when it arrived but that ran out and I couldn't power it up again. Thinking the worst, I brought it in upstairs to the Diawa laboratory power supply as one of its features is a big old 12V in-car mains socket type hole. I plugged it in and of course, the clearly labelled and QC passed and checked item worked perfectly. I took it back to the car and plugged her in via the mad four way splitter I use for my ECMs and nav stuff instead of going straight into the dash socket and viola!

It is a pretty unit and above all not too tough to work out, although I had challenges to find the way to change from night to day screen brightness levels. I had found my way into the tools menus and had selected brightness levels for the screen for night time use versus daytime and yet couldn't work out the method to change them over in actual use. (Doh!) A chance tickle made me feel an utter fool for not RTFM as it is of course dead peasy and right at the top of the operations pile functionally.

All of which proves you really can get it out the carton and use it without doing what it exhorts you politely to do in 12 languages on the box lid flaps. Which is Read The 'Flipping' Manual. Said manual is formidable but there is also a short form version to get you started. The big boy is twelve times multiplied in the one 15mm thick polylingual publication.

I particularly enjoyed voice tagging my destinations. If you say 'Aunty' into the one I have just had, it'll take you right to a parking space at BBC TV centre where I went to argue about Top Gear with Simon Humphries of RadioTimes.com's famous TV blog for R5 Live. I slaughtered him btw. Also, if you say 'Mogville' it'll take you to my house (we have three ginger ninja cats) and if you make that 'Eh Eh EEHHH!' noise that Anne from Little Britain makes, then the neatly text-linked destination tag comes up, Julie Office.
Fact is, the 'many languages' described in the demo sequence means you could make Martian noises and as long as the vocal sample matches closely enough each time (you have NO idea how complex this stuff really is) the machine will recognise you. Hence the Anne noise.

Funny when I got it wrong and had to 'eh eh eh' a couple of times.

I did have a minor beef with how long it took to boot up versus my Syrius that also uses Navteq maps but while the Snooper navigator is really an ECM product wrapping map data around a speed trap data base in the UK only, the Strada is not. Thirty seven countries, remember?

Strada CN-GP50N is a massively powerful navigator with some processing speed issues versus a full size main installation product beast of a grand or more's cost but no pan-European compromise on computing power and coverage and sheer smarts what-so-ruddy-ever.

It has the most awesome POI list and they come up on the map as you drive. A plethora of information is presented in such a way that you can choose to look at it or ignore all but the crucial guidance information. It's an intelligently designed GUI. (Graphic User Interface)

The graphics themselves are gorgeous in the mapping mode and the views and self-scaling and lane advice and stuff and even the voice guidance that knows to say 'bear left' with a bend when she needs to reassure you, is just brilliant. The picture quality on stills pix is also fabulous You have to run the demo now and again just to see the wonderful few images at the end!

The only minor niggles stem from this inherent massive continent-eating power, which is that the TMC (Traffic Message Channel) item has to be added on at extra cost as it is not Europe-wide. Likewise it can seem pointless telling it you are in the UK every time you enter a destination when you mostly always are anyway. But that is to miss the point, as a single key stroke will get Strada offering you UK as a place to navigate around and you go from there.

The unit can be made to crash if you stab mindlessly at it and offer it's innards too many big sums at once but once you are not a thumb fingered dolt at the controls (and that won't take long, it's simps & I'm just an idiot) then this issue will melt away.

I did find one honest to goodness software glitch in my one. I am exactly the right age to work in both metric and imperial units. Dividing France north to south or the whole of Germany is easier in one hundred Klick chunks emotionally as they fall faster than Miles but Yards and Miles are what hold the flavour for me.

So when I repeatedly got into screen 6 of 9 in the tools section and asked it to change from metric to imperial units, it locked up sullenly every time and wouldn't operate at all unless I completely rebooted the whole system by the clunk micro-switch on the bottom instead of using the simple on/off key on the side.

Powerful, well made, good looking, easy to use and fun with photographs. But for a UK Buyer who doesn't drive abroad, it may be a sledgehammer for a nut

As Rifiki the Wise Old Baboon in The Lion King used to say so often, "It Is Tiiime!" Time to use a navigator in anger abroad in a land where I am only partly able to read place names and where the Duality of road names is only vaguely grasped. (The Nii can also be the C32 at the same time in Spain, which is confusing.)

We booked a week in Malgrat De Mar on the Maresme, which is the coastal plain bit just below the craggy part of the Costa Brava. Its still a Catalan spot and so road and place names are in a different language from regular Spanish. I was only happy to rent a car and drive to the hotel on the provision that I could use a sat nav. It was horribly late at night when we got out of Girona airport with our diesel Citroen Berlingo van-with-windows, cunningly disguised as a car. It had huge luggage capacity and steamingly potent Mediterranean-rated aircon. It also did an insanely high mileage per litre. Five hundred miles in we had half a tank left.

Spain has been the busiest building site for decades and has the only economy in Europe still showing growth, by one percent I gather. Benidorm has risen as a glossy high rise after the horrors of the Seventies and urbanisations are still being developed in all directions. At one point while busy failing to find a shopping village which was too new to be in the database, we ended up quartering an estate with no houses by a golf course. The roads were laid, even the trees were planted to be bigger for when the houses were built but it was most odd.

We landed, grabbed our baggies from the carousel and in moments we were landside. Minutes later I was in possession of a key and a contract and we trollied off with our stuff to go find the car in a small multi-level car park that was just for the rental cars. Girona airport is itself a building site at time of writing and we had to exit via twisty traffic-management which dumped us out onto a carriageway leading off site. It was late and we had been up for ages due to the daft nature of air travel. The actual flight was less than one third of our time taken for it. The transfer to the hotel was something we really needed to be easy.

I was fearful for a few moments that the damn car might have tiny wires in the windscreen - might have front heating elements - and then realised. Rental 'Car' van really, basic and cheap and not likely to have this still luxury feature that can interfere with through-screen GPS reception. As I parked and calmed gently (still thinking I must be a moron for not thinking to ask for an external GPS antenna just in case) Strada found the sky.

Prior to that I had taken it out of the box the night before to re-affirm my knowledge of it. It transpired that the Hotel Maripins has been in Malgrat since 1956 and all the town has grown around it, so despite going a bit high rise and there being literally dozens of hotels, ours was actually in the database and was recorded as a POI. I programmed our hotel in Spain in less than thirty seconds. She took a few minutes and started to navigate from the M1 by London! I even programmed a voice tag. So I spoke to it and off we went.

Unfortunately there was also some newness just off the first roundabout with the Nii not being the first but now the second exit from the roundabout. I duly did the you turn and as we got back to the roundabout took another go and got it right. After this, the nice lady took us 45km to our hotel. Oddly enough, when we drove down the street right to the seafront, the system told us to go the wrong way and had the end point on the wrong block by 200 yards or so. I found the underlying database to be lumpy like this for roads, too. With a whole collection of those first turnings off roundabouts to obviously matured and well worn industrial estates simply not on the maps. Like some Spanish student had had a case of the can't be arsed do-it-tomorrows when employed to drive the roads to make the first map database. I have been out with the crews when making new maps in a new housing estate on the site of an old Victorian asylum so I know.

But Strada was wonderful. She knew where everything was and is a truly effective piece of kit with none of the delays and malappropriate voice instructions I have so often found. It was a truly reassuring thing to have around and made me wonder if getting utterly lost was part of the adventure before. I like Strada, she's not trying too hard be a media player, she's just a brilliant navigator with extra stuff.

Appearance/Display 7.0
Ease of use/HMI 9.0
Features 9.0
Effectiveness 9.0
Value For Money 8.0
Overall rating 8.4