Too much information: That's the Magellan SmartGPS' problem in a nutshell, reviews say. Sure, it's the "smartest" car GPS on the market -- if you take the time and trouble to install/register/connect everything, and if you can wade through the resulting mishmash of stuff on the Magellan's 5-inch screen. It's just too much hassle for reviewers, who recommend simple-to-use Garmin GPS navigators instead.
Navigates fine, but maps aren't quite as nice as Garmin's. Navigation itself works fine in tests. The Magellan SmartGPS grabs satellites quickly and routes flawlessly in Antuan Goodwin's San Francisco testing for CNET. In Jamie Lendino's New York City test for PCMag.com, "Routing performance was fine, although not spectacular ... The map animates smoothly, though not as nicely as the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD (Est. $350) . The SmartGPS includes free map updates (up to four per year) for the life of the unit. A couple of customers at BestBuy.com say the latest maps are outdated, but experts and other owners don't notice a problem.
"Smart" features are frustratingly complex. The SmartGPS is designed to pair with your iPhone or Android smartphone, piggybacking on its data plan to cull information from the Internet -- Yelp reviews, Foursquare locations, gas prices, local weather and more -- and push it directly to your nav screen. You won't have to look at your phone while driving, and you'll be able to navigate directly to the cheap gas, best-reviewed restaurant or whatever. That's the idea, although it can be frustrating to use (see Ease of use). The SmartGPS pulls its "free lifetime" traffic alerts from the web. They work just about as well as Garmin's in tests -- good on major highways, but little info on side roads and city streets. Routing features you'd expect in this price range (lane assist, auto sort multiple destinations) are present and accounted for.
Space-hogging design, and no voice commands. This is the cheapest car GPS system with a pinch-and-swipe touch screen -- a responsive, 5-inch glass display, although reviews say the clunky surrounding bezel makes the whole thing look outdated and blocks a big chunk of the windshield. The SmartGPS speaks directions smoothly, but it's not voice-controllable. Meanwhile, the "Smart" features strike some experts as frustratingly awkward to use. After setting it all up -- apps, accounts, logins, phone pairing -- testers find the "bizarrely complicated home screen" (as Engadget.com's Darren Murph calls it) almost impossible to use while driving. Ironic, since the SmartGPS is supposed to be a safer way to access all this info behind the wheel (rather than using your phone).
"A dubious payoff." If you like using a pinch-and-swipe screen, the Magellan SmartGPS is the cheapest way to get one on a stand-alone navigator. However, its hyped "Smart" features work best if you already have a smartphone -- which pinches, swipes, navigates and delivers all of that same "smart" information for free. "Overall, the Magellan SmartGPS forces you to jump through lots of hoops for a dubious payoff," Jamie Lendino concludes at PCMag.com. "For all of the bluster surrounding its cloud-based ecosystem, it doesn't actually do a whole lot, aside from delivering updated Yelp, Foursquare, and weather information." He -- and other experts -- recommend the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD or Garmin nuvi 2597LMT (Est. $220) instead.
Editors here rate the Magellan SmartGPS alongside other car GPS systems. Testers judge each GPS navigator's ease of use, routing, info for driver, mount design, display and traffic interface, and give each one an overall score. Short write-ups describe each model's pros and cons.
Review: Magellan SmartGPS, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
It's loaded with features for the price, but the Magellan SmartGPS proves "overly involved and fussy to use," making it an also-ran behind Lendino's favorite Garmin models.
Review: Magellan SmartGPS, Jamie Lendino, April 18, 2013
Although he agrees that the screen is "busy," Goodwin appreciates the SmartGPS' connected features enough to make it one of his top picks. Navigation is quick and spot-on, too.
Review: Magellan SmartGPS Review: Web-connected GPS Navigator Is a Triple Threat, Antuan Goodwin, April 19, 2013
After a weeklong road trip, Darren Murph dismisses the Magellan SmartGPS as "simply not worth the asking price" (Est. $200). It's so big it blocks his view, looks dated, doesn't always work smoothly and crams too much complicated information onto the screen.
Review: Magellan SmartGPS Review: Further Proof Your Phone Is the Only Navigator You Need, Darren Murph, June 14, 2013
About 30 users here give the Magellan SmartGPS a solid overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Eight out of 10 would recommend it to a friend, but a few complain that Magellan's "updated" maps are too old, or the features don't work properly.
Review: Magellan - SmartGPS, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of October 2013