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Magellan's RoadMate 760 TouchScreen
Automatic Car Navigator -Review
by Tony Mactutis
Release 4, 5 January 2006
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RoadMate 760

RoadMate 760 General Description:

In form and in basic function, the Roadmate 760 is very similar to Magellan's previous offerings in the Roadmate family.  Street priced at $850 or less (check LATEST prices here), this unit is an advanced car navigator with built-in street-level maps of the entire United States (including Hawaii), plus Puerto Rico and Canada. It also includes street-level maps of Europe (which must be unlocked for an additional fee).  It is ready to go out of the box.

However besides the standard feature set common to previous Roadmate models, the RM 760 incorporates a number of sophisticated new features (some of which are not available from any other company), including:

For reviews of other units in the Roadmate line, please see our articles on the RM700 and RM500, the RM360, and the RM300.

This is a solid unit with a large, bright touch screen, great speaker, easy to use controls, and an intuitive interface.  It comes standard with a windshield mount that is a significant improvement over the vent-type of mount shipped with previous Roadmate units (although note that owners of previous Roadmate units can purchase the windshield mount separately).

Note that the RoadMate units are configured more like an "installed" unit (rather than a unit for the "GPS Enthusiast"), since it has no way to record and download or upload waypoints  as with some other Magellan units.

The supplied mapping data from NavTech seems fairly complete.  The NavTech data appears to be about two years old (which is about as recent as any comparable unit).  The main navigation screen shows you all the key information at a glance, and the voice prompts (and tone prompts for turns) are generally timely and accurate.  The "repeat" button on the top of the unit provides an update of the most recent prompt at any time.

Magellan says that the RoadMates are a descendant of the Hertz NeverLost® system where over 4 million drivers have enjoyed the ease and confidence of navigating their driving with Magellan GPS.  It's very user-friendly, and we rate the online manual  as average.

What comes with the RM760 kit?

The RM760 comes complete with all of the parts necessary to mount the unit to your windshield or dashboard and plug it in and operate in your car.  Included are: 

The supplied antenna attaches to the back of the RM760 and swivels up for general use and down for packing.  It is very sensitive and I was able to acquire a signal from inside my home office (although note that in general you cannot depend on being able to track satellites from indoors).  Magellan offers an external antenna for use in situations where the GPS unit cannot be located near a vehicle window, or where the windows contains a metallic glare shield layer which may block satellite signals..  For most people however an external antenna will not be necessary.

A couple of things to note about the supplied antenna for people who may travel frequently and use the unit in various personal and rental cars, etc:
The suction-cup windshield mount holds the unit securely to the windshield.  I moved the mount between my car and a rental car while travelling with no problems. 

The mounting arm is a bit flexible and the unit is fairly heavy so it does bounce a bit while driving.  This was annoying at first but I quickly got used to it and no longer notice it, unless the road is very bumpy.

Note that windshield mounts are illegal in some states (such as California).  Magellan does offer a dashboard mount as an accessory which can be purchased separately.

A cradle is used to mount the RM 760 to the windshield mount.  This cradle allows the unit to be quickly and easily removed from the windshield mount.  Because this GPS unit is not cheap I worry about it being stolen, and this quick-release feature allows me to easily remove the unit from the vehicle or hide it out of sight without removing the entire windshield mount.

The RM760 does not contain batteries.  Map data and configuration settings are stored on the internal hard disk so this information is not lost when the unit is disconnected from power.  However the unit cannot be operating in a portable manner (away from a vehicle or wall outlet) unless the user purchases a separate battery with an accessory cigarette lighter socket.

The unit has a slot for a compact flash (CF) card which can be used to store a backup copy of configuration settings, address book data, previous destinations, etc.  This data will be automatically backed up when the unit is powered down and can restored if the user should have to reset the unit.  The minimum supported size for the CF card is 16 MB.  A CF card does not come with the unit.  Memory for normal operations and maps is included internal to the RM760.

Common Features:
The RoadMate is a well-designed, portable unit, with a large, bright color touch screen and easy-to-use controls.  The user controls are to the right of the screen - Enter, Cancel, Locate, View, Option surround an 8-way thumb pad, with +/- zoom buttons.   There is also an IR port between the "+" and "-" keys (which can be used to transfer addresses from a PDA) and a light sensor between the "Locate" and "-" keys that is used when you set the automatic brightness option.

There is a very effective built-in multimedia tutorial that covers all aspects of operation.  To run it, press the OPTION key and select TUTORIAL.  The RoadMate then provides a very complete tutorial with video and audio describing basic operation of the system.  This virtually eliminates the need to access the CDROM manual for normal operation and use.

The RoadMate has about the easiest user interface to use  we have seen in a car navigator. There are seven push buttons for major functions (VIEW, OPTION, ENTER, CANCEL LOCATE, + for zoom in, - for zoom out) plus a speaker volume control, repeat voice command key and an OFF/ON switch.  The RM  is designed without internal batteries (similar to the competitive StreetPilot 2610/2650) and operates ONLY when plugged into an external 9 to 18 vdc  power source. The RM unit automatically turns ON and OFF with the power application from its external power cord. A lighted power  switch is provided to turn the unit on and off manually as desired.

'Locate' is used to get a display of the vehicle's current location (both the street and latitude and longitude), plus current compass heading and speed.  This allows the location to be saved to the address book, and in the event of an emergency provides a quick way to tell 911 personnel exactly where you are.

The unit can be configured to display the map in north-up or heading-up mode.  Additionally, while routing the unit will display a split view (when approaching a turn) with a 3-dimensional view of the upcoming turn on the left side of the display and a reduced-size map view on the other.

Operation, routing and re-routing are very fast - much faster than in the Hertz system.  If turns are missed the unit quickly recalculates a new route.

The RoadMate was designed from the ground up to economically replace the  combination  of GPS/Laptop Computer/Mapping Software system that many have used to maneuver around cities in the USA.  Roadmate has nearly seven million Points of Interest (USA and Canada combined) and offers a variety of ways for the user to input destinations.  The user can input ADDRESSES,  select an entry from his ADDRESS BOOK,   select from lists of RESTAURANTS,  ATM, GAS STATIONS,  AIRPORTS, AMUSEMENT PARKS,  BANKS,  BUSINESS FACILITIES,  BUS STATIONS, CAR RENTAL AGENTS, CASINOS, CITY CENTERS, CITY HALLS, COMMUNITY CENTERS and a host of other classifications.  Input of Addresses worked VERY well and VERY easily.  Restaurant, and Gas Station categories  worked pretty well,  but we found the listings for some other categories  for our area pretty sparsely populated.  the quality of the Points of Interest listings does vary dramatically from one area to another.  You can also input an address as a road intersection.  This selection is preceded by the selection of a City or State to narrow the possibilities.

Another major feature is the Trip Computer which provides a running computation on Average Speed,  Trip Time,  Drive Time, and Trip Distance.  At any time,  you can SAVE the "Present Trip Computer Information" in a user named file on the hard drive.  The user can then revisit this trip log "snapshot" at any time by recalling the name.

Now - How Do I Actually Input an Address?
Entering addresses or searching is very easy with the "quick spell" feature.  When you select a letter (by touching the screen or using the thumb pad), only valid choices for the next letter are available.  This makes entering address information very fast.

1) Press the View  button; this brings up the options of the Map -or, Select Address, Address Book, Dining-ATM-Gas, and Intersection.
2) Press Street Address, Search by City, spell the city, select the displayed city, spell the street, spell the street number.
3) Select: Shortest Time, Shortest Distance, Least Use of Freeways, or Most Use of Freeways.
4) Enter, and the unit calculates the route, and displays a Maneuver List with all the expected turns
5) Press View to toggle between the map, the Maneuver List, or turn directions.
6) Press Option to select Trip Computer, Configuration, or Tutorial.
7) Press the Cancel button to cancel the guidance.


Series of operations to route to an address. 
Note that actual display is much better quality than is suggested by these digital photographs.

Sample displays.  Split 3d/map view on left appears before turns.  Note nighttime color mode.
Right image shows daytime routing mode. 
Note that actual display quality is much better than captured here.

Once the route is canceled, its address is stored under:  View, Select Destination, Address Book -where it can be retrieved by selecting Previous Destinations.  On that page is also List Addresses that have been saved, or Create a New Entry. Information is stored in non-volatile storage and is not lost when the power is disconnected or the mapping data is changed.  There is also an IR sensor and a light sensor (used to adjust screen brightness).

On the main map screen, you can zoom to 350 feet, 700 feet, 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile,  and then 1, 2, 4, 10, 20, 50, 100, 150, 350, 700 miles.  The detail close in was good.  Panning can be done with the touchscreen; just touch-and-drag the map.  When the map is panned (with either the touch screen or keys), the street names are displayed for those streets not labeled on the map. 

When a route is calculated, the main screen shows your location, your current street, and a status lines at the bottom of the screen shows next turn/maneuver, street name, signal strength, direction, distance and estimated time to next maneuver, and distance to destination.  You can set the map to always show north and/or scroll, but the default is preferred, which shows your car in the center of the screen.  The colored box surrounding the current direction (in the lower left-hand corner) indicates the current signal strength. Black -acquiring position.  Blue -WAAS signal (best signal), Green -Strong Signal, Yellow -Average Signal, Red -No Signal.  If you lose a signal (red), the unit will automatically switch to the "Maneuver List" view to allow for manual routing and will switch back once the signal is recovered.

By default, the display automatically switches to a split 3D/map turn view shortly before a turn is required and will switch back to the map and "zoom in" just before a maneuver is required.  Different tones for left turn ("ding dong"), right turn ("dong ding"),  and keep straight ("ding ding") are used in conjunction with the voice prompts to guide you.  If you miss a voice prompt, you can hit the repeat button to update/repeat the last direction.  You almost never have to look at the screen!

Address book data and user settings can now be backed up to a compact flash card.

New Features:


The 'SayWhere' feature is something many have been waiting for.  Although GPS units with spoken turn-by-turn directions have been available for some time now, none (except the recent Garmin SP2720 and Nuvi) were able to actually announce the name of the street the next turn was to be made on.  For example, in the course of driving a programmed route, previous units might offer the following voice prompt:

"Approaching right turn"

However the RoadMate 760 will  say,

"Approaching right turn.  South Star Lake Road"

This is a great feature which can make navigation much easier.  My experience with other gps units is that directions like "turn left in .4 miles" are sometimes ambiguous in city driving because it can be difficult to judge exactly which turn the unit is referring to.  In those cases it was necessary to look at the screen while driving.  With the 'SayWhere' feature it is not necessary to look at the screen because the voice tells you the name of the street.

This feature is not perfect.  The way Magellan has implemented this is to use a recorded voice for the 'generic' part of the directions.  In this example the 'Approaching right turn' is pronounced very clearly and understandably by a recorded female voice (note that a male voice can also be selected).  The street name however is pronounced in a more mechanical way.  Click here for an example.  While this works acceptably in most cases, the computer-generated speech can occasionally be difficult to understand (especially if background traffic noise is high).  Even when it is understandable, the pronunciation can be awkward.  Click here for another example.

The user can optionally turn this feature off.

Multi-destination routing
The RM 760 now incorporates a multi-stop Trip Planner.  A trip is created by clicking on a button in the Address Book screen.  New destinations are added as is done for normal one-stop routing.  When all stops have been entered, the user can optimize the route (ie. sort it in order from closest destination to farthest).

The RM760 has a number of options for handling detours:

Automatic night view and volume
The unit automatically changes between day and night color schemes at sunrise and sundown.  The unit also has a light sensor for automatically adjusting brightness and contrast for best readability. 

Also, the unit automatically increases the volume when the vehicle speed is over 45 mph.

POI Icons
The unit can display icons representing points of interest (there are 37 different categories, each with its own type of icon, such as banks, restaurants, health care, etc.) right on the map display while driving.  This is a very useful feature.  The user can configure the unit to display only the desired categories.  I was not able to find my local church (which has been there many years) but there were a number of others listed.

IRDA interface for PDAs
This allows the user with a Palm, Pocket PC, or other device equipped with an IR port to transfer addresses directly into the GPS unit's address book.  I was able to do this successfully with my phone (running Windows Mobile 3.0) but it is finicky.  There seemed to be problems both on the GPS side and on the phone side.  After each complete transfer, the GPS had to be powered off and on again to get it to respond to further transmissions.  Also, if the transmission failed for some reason, I had to stop the 'Contacts' program on my phone and restart it. 

Screen Captures:
This option does not appear to work on this unit.
  On previous RoadMate units, you could capture screen images as bitmaps to the CF card. 

Specific Questions Answered:

1) Does the RM760 come with USA and Canada Maps?  Yes.  They are installed on the disk drive (a separate map CD is not supplied) and ready to go.
2) Can the RM operate with an external amplified antenna?  Yes,  the built in antenna "pops off" toward the rear (USE CARE) and you can purchase an external antenna for use with the unit.
3) How do I put in a lon/lat as my destination?  You cannot.  The RM only allows destinations to be input as addresses, road intersections, or as selections from one of the special Point of Interest Categories.
4) How many routepoints can the RM store and how do I download them to my computer?  The RM has no capability (that we can find) for storing waypoints (other than the multi-stop TripPlanner feature described above).  It DOES have a slot for a Compact Flash Data Card which is used to store user settings, address book, etc. and for screen shots.
5) How often will updates be available? Currently Magellan plans to publish new updates for the maps approximately every 18 months.  Unit firmware updates will be available whenever changes are identified as necessary for continued proper operation of the unit. Notification of the firmware updates will be posted on their website.
6) What is the process to have the unit updated with the latest information?  Magellan plans to offer the updates via their website or a CD (depending on file size) as they occur. You can use your USB and power cable to connect the Magellan RoadMate to your PC and power the unit.
7) How can I load my own maps (Delorme, Topo, USGS,  etc.) into the RM760?  You cannot.  Only maps furnished by Magellan can be loaded into the RM and they are already supplied.

Configuration Settings:
The user has access to a variety of configuration settings for customizing the operation of the system.  Options are:
1) POI SELECTION: Select POI categories for display on the map.
2) CUSTOM POI's: Manage custom POI files which have been uploaded via the USB cable and provided software.
3) MAP OPTIONS: Heading up,  Scrolling map,  Map Smart, Map Always, Map Manual.  These last three control how the map is displayed during turns and as you close on your destination.
4) MAP COLOR: Default, High Contrast, Night Mode,  Black and White,  Paper Map.  These control the map presentation.
5) ROUTE PREFERENCES:  Avoid Toll Roads and Automatic ReRoute are the options here.
6)DETOUR OPTIONS:  Enter distance to detour, plus time limit (while driving in traffic congestion) before the automatic detour option is displayed on the map
7) VOICE OPTIONS: Allows selection of a Male or Female Voice.
8) COLOR OPTIONS: Allows selection of Default, Forest,  Pastel, and Desert color schemes.
11) DISPLAY OPTIONS: Allow selection of automatic brightness and contrast control if desired.
12) TONE OPTIONS: Select BELL, CHIME or BEEP for turn announcement.  Missing (and sorely needed) is OFF.
13) LANGUAGE:  English (US or UK), plus Spanish, Portuguese, French, and numerous other European languages.
14) DIAGNOSTICS: Video Test, Touch Screen Test, KeyPad Test, Audio Test, GPS Status, Product Info, Initialize GPS, and Set GPS Position
15) EDIT USER NAME:  The system provides for THREE separate Users by NAME.  Here you enter your User Name,  Joe, Jack, etc.  Each user can have a separate address book of up to 100 entries.
16) MAP REGIONS: for unlocking European maps on a North American unit, and vice versa.
17) SAFETY LOCKOUT: disables user input while vehicle is in motion.
18) PASSWORD: can keep other users from changing your address book.
19) AUTOMATIC VOLUME: enter how much the volume will increase when the vehicle travels over 45 mph.
20) BACKUP AND RESTORE: save user data to a compact flash card.

Some notes on performance:

When the unit has not been used for several days, or when it has moved a long distance (such as when flying to a destination and then using it in a rental car), it can take an excessive time to lock onto the satellite signal (10-15 minutes).  This means that you must get your rental car, mount the unit inside, then take the car to a spot away from buildings, power lines, etc. and wait for it to acquire the satellites before you can use it to navigate.  The user can speed this process up by manually entering the new GPS position (Option->Configuration->Diagnostics->Set GPS Position).

The unit seems to have a bug where if the unit is on and the user presses the power button to turn it off, but does it too quickly, the unit will freeze up.  In this state the screen is blank (but very dimly lit), the button backlight is on, and the unit is unresponsive.  Once the unit is in this state the user must reset it by unplugging the power cord and plugging it back in.  On another occasion a too-quick press of the power button caused it to continue operating, but without speech.  Again I had to pull the power plug and reinsert it to get the unit to function normally again.

The unit's receiver is very sensitive (more than any other gps model I have seen), and I was able to navigate downtown areas (ie. around tall buildings) successfully.  The GPS signal would come and go intermittently, but the unit was able to lock on quickly enough to continue to maintain my correct position.  Other GPS units I have used were completely useless in the downtown area (Garmin 2620, i3).

Previous destinations can now be deleted.  This is an improvement over the RM700/500 series.

Areas for improvement:
1) Some of the voice prompts do not match the text on the screen.  The text says "Select Address", prompt says "Street Address", Text says "Dining, ATM, Gas ...", prompt says "Points of Interest".
2) There is no way to flag POIs as bad if the address in the database is incorrect.
3) "Perform the Action" should be context specific - e.g. on the Cancel Guidance screen, "Yes" choice should read "Cancel Guidance?" or "Cancel Route?" and "No" should say "Return to Route" or "Do nothing" or something like that.
4) The ability to view the map at the destination without having to pan (as is possible with Garmin units) should be available.
5) The unit seems to be very picky about how the on-screen buttons (ie. buttons which appear on the touch-screen) are pressed.  The user's finger must be centered squarely over the button to actuate it.  This is sometimes awkward, especially for the 'close' button which appears in the upper right corner of the touch screen.  Along the same lines, panning the display by pressing and dragging across the touchscreen often has to be attempted a couple of times for it to register.
6) The map can also be panned by pressing the circular navigation button, but this is extremely slow.

For More Information

You can find Magellan's webpage for this product here.
You can download the user manual here.

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