Evesham BlueMedia BM-6380 GPS navigator
Review Low-cost GPS satellite navigation systems have largely kept the European PDA market afloat for the past few years. Connecting a cheap GPS receiver to a Palm OS or Windows Mobile-based handheld and bundling some route-planning code has proved a popular, inexpensive alternative to high-end, high-price dedicated navigation systems. But the market continues to evolve, and the focus is shifting once again to dedicated, but still low-cost units.
Take BlueMedia's BM-6380. It's essentially the same hardware as a PocketPC but with the PDA features stripped out and replaced with a more basic, navigation-centric user interface and control cluster. It may not have Windows Mobile, but it's still a Windows CE device. UK and Ireland street maps are pre-installed on the bundled SD card.
Turn the BM-6380 and you're presented with a UI that's positively Mac-like. Selecting Navigation installs the bundled route-planner, Destinator ND 5.1.126. It presents you with a typical map view, with icons on the left- and right-hand sides for quick access to extra information, menus and to toggle certain features. To the right of the landscape-oriented, 3.5in, 320 x 240, 65,536-colour screen is a five-way navigator, though it's behaviour is odd: the up and down arrows scroll the map in their respective directions, but the left and right arrows rotate the map. This makes sense - it allows you to 'drive' over map to follow the route you intend to take - but it's not how you expect the controls to work, so takes some getting used to.
Below the navigation control is a flag key to select Destinator's menu - pressing it over and over cycles through the menu's three pages. Underneath are zoom in and out keys. To return from the menu, press the button above the navigation control. Above it are two more buttons, one to return to the device's own menu, the other to turn it off. All the buttons are dimpled to make them easier to push with the BM-6380's telescopic stylus, though you're unlikely to be using this when the BM-6380's mounted in your car, for which the box contains all the necessaries. Still, I found the buttons too small to be easy to pushed with finger, as they need to be when the unit's fixed to the windscreen. They're flat and flush with the casing, which doesn't help.
But why use the controls on the unit? It's much easier to use the bundled remote control, which replicates all the unit's buttons and saves you having to reach over your steering wheel or across to some other part of the upper dashboard. A nice touch, the remote.
What it doesn't do, alas, is activate the on-screen buttons, which, like the physical ones, are too small and too close to the edge of the display to be comfortably pushed with your finger, particularly if you have large hands.
To complete our look around the hardware, there's a volume rocker control and earphone socket on the right-hand side. Underneath is the power port and as mini USB connector. Round the left-hand side, you'll find the SD card slot and an infra-red port, and on top sits the stylus release, recessed reset button and and external antenna connector.