The Navman Spirit 500 is a solid and dependable satnav that looks good, works well and is perfectly competent at getting you from A to B via C.
The Navman Spirit 500 has a 4.7in touchscreen display and offers some useful local search and POI (points of interest) options that mark it out from the pack.
The Spirit is slimmer and trimmer than some satnavs we've seen - although the Navman Spirit 500 model we review here isn't as sleek as the Spirit Flat which has no raised casing at all and instead has a frameless design, much like the attractive Navigon 7310 we recently reviewed.
Arguably more attractive than some satnavs, the Navman Spirit 500 has a widescreen display filled by a neatly ordered two-deck array of candy-coloured icons and a sleek overall profile. These provide quick access to the main functions: Find, Explore, Map, My Places, Capture; Local Search, Traffic and Mio More. Mio says it has designed the menu so only one or two button presses or flicks are needed to get at the item you require.
The device attaches to the windscreen via the usual sucker and clamp setup and has a thick cable running from the mini USB connection point at the base of the Navman Spirit 500 to the cigarette lighter socket. This isn't as flexible as we'd have liked and found it tended to get in the way of our car's gearstick, but the length is about right.
Switching on takes around five seconds and, assuming the Navman Spirit 500 already has your position logged via its SiRF InstantFixII GPS, you can immediately start to enter route details. If you haven't used the Spirit for a few days, however, it's likely it will need to quickly scan the skies to confirm your current position.
Entering destinations is straightforward with full postcode and streetname information, while one of the defining features of the Navman Spirit 500 is that you can get details of nearby attractions and other points of interest.
Route calculation is fast - as is the back-on-track recalculation should you stray from the suggested route. Should there be a major incident on your route - as proved the case on one of the occasions we used it - the Navman Spirit 500 is pretty insistent that you stick to its preferred route and repeatedly tells you to perform a U-turn or to take its alternative route.
We liked the fact that we weren't just told of incidents ahead but were given details about it via a clear but unobtrusive pop-up message at the bottom of the screen that showed the average driving speed in the affected area as well as the nature of the delay. We were also given periodic updates, allowing us to decide whether to choose evasive action or to plough on ahead in the hope that heavy traffic had eased by the time we got there.
Should you need to deviate from the established route, you'll begin to appreciate how clear the Navman's mapping is: all the roads in the vicinity are shown in pale grey but the one you're on or about to take is thicker and in green. You also get both verbal and onscreen lane guidance - fast becoming a must-have feature in any self-respecting satnav. There's also a visual representation of all placenames listed on motorway road signs when you need to take an exit or switch lanes where roads merge. We found this feature reassuring when negotiating busy motorway intersections in unfamiliar parts of the country.
We were also happy with the way the speed camera alerts operated - it's helpful that you are only warned about speed traps if you're close to the speed limit and therefore likely to run foul of them. You get these alerts for the first 12 months of ownership.
On one or two occasions when we inadvertently took the wrong turn we found the Navman momentarily lost us, even though we hadn't strayed on to brand-new or temporary routes. For example, where a tunnel is currently under construction on the A3 and there's a very minor diversion, the Navman was flummoxed until we managed to get ourselves back on a familiar route. Conversely, it was able to guide us through the complexities of at least one large outlet's parking bays.
When you successfully arrive at your destination, the Navman Spirit 500 is intended to accompany you as you get to know your new surroundings. Pressing an orange Explore button prompts a search for nearby attractions and get reviews of places to your travels and have them pop up onscreen when you get close to them or, of course, navigate to them. Travel guide software is also preloaded on the device.
If you get the hands-free version of this satnav, you can use the built-in Bluetooth function to initiate an online search using Google Local Search. And if you become sufficiently attached to your Navman that you want to use it to log even more information about your travels, you can take a snap using the NavPix function and have it log your geographical coordinates. This can then be used in an interactive diary of your trip or you can store a location by pressing the Pinpoint button so you can quickly re-locate a place you want to visit again in the future.
We were impressed with the Navman Spirit 500. It plots and recalculates routes quickly, gave us timely alerts and diversions when congestion or road closures were an issue and showed us which way to go via admirably clear onscreen and verbal directions. Battery life doesn’t seem great, though, and on several occasions we were prompted to recharge the device are only a day or two between uses.