The number of portable navigation systems coming out these days is pretty astonishing, but the thing is, we're finding that when it comes to the core navigation functions, they pretty much all offer the same thing--text- and voice-guided directions, extensive POI databases, automatic route recalculation, and so forth. So in order to differentiate itself from the competition, GPS manufacturers are adding more distinct and advanced features, and in the case of the Magellan Maestro 4250, this comes in the form of voice commands. With this function, you can operate the in-car GPS device with the sound of your voice. For the most part, it worked well during our test period, and we think it's a great safety feature. However, the functionality is a bit limited at this time, (e.g., you can't enter addresses via voice) and you have to create a pretty quiet environment in your car for optimal results. Voice commands aside, the Maestro 4250 is a solid mid-level portable navigation system that also offers text-to-speech functionality, integrated Bluetooth, and accurate directions. It's available now for $499.99.
At 3.2 inches high by 4.8 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and 6.8 ounces, the Magellan Maestro 4250 is more compact and lighter than the Magellan Maestro 4040. While the difference in size isn't significant, we definitely noticed that the Maestro 4250 felt less clunky and the slimmer design makes it that much more portable and easier to slip into a bag during travels. We also like that the company throws in a soft carrying case to protect the screen and case.
Though the overall size of the system may have shrunk, fortunately, the screen size didn't shrink. Like the Maestro 4040, it sports a 4.3-inch touch screen that shows off 64,000 colors at a 480x272 pixel resolution. Maps and text looked sharp and vibrant, and the display was readable in various lighting conditions. For the most part, the touch screen was responsive, but there were several occasions where there was a bit of a delay from the time we tapped an icon to the time the system actually registered our command. The system also froze in a couple of instances (see Performance for more).
The user interface is intuitive and simple to master. As with past Magellan products, the Maestro 4250 also includes the QuickSpell feature to aid in text entry. As you start to enter addresses on the virtual keyboard, QuickSpell grays out any characters that don't match the city or streets located in the system's database. It's quite handy and worked well during our test period.
On the right side, you will find an FM antenna input, a mini USB port, and an SD card expansion slot. The power button is located on top of the unit, while there's a reset hole on the bottom. Finally, the backside houses the speaker and external antenna jack.
The Magellan Maestro 4250 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a car charger, a USB cable, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a protective pouch, and reference material. The vehicle mount is sturdy and easy to install, but the side-mounted cable connections make the overall setup a bit of an eyesore.
The Magellan Maestro 4250 is equipped with an SiRFStarIII GPS chip and comes preloaded with Navteq maps of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska. To start planning a trip, you can enter a specific address; choose a point of interest; or select a location from your address book, recently visited destinations, or favorites list. The system has the ability to calculate routes based on fastest time, shortest distance, least or most use of freeways, and toll-free roads. Alternatively, if you don't need directions to a specific place, you can just tap the Show Map icon to get a general overview map, which can track you as you drive around the area.
The system provides guidance by way of text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, plus text-to-speech functionality, which Magellan calls SayWhere, so the system will speak actual street names. There's also a simulator mode that you can turn on to view a running demo of your trip before you actually hit the road. Maps are presented in 2D or 3D mode with day and night colors and a split-screen mode that shows the map on one side and your next maneuver on the other. For those who are interested, there is a trip computer that collects data, such as average speed, trip time, drive time, and trip distance.
So far all of the Maestro 4250 features have been pretty standard, but the unit does stand out from its competitors for one reason: voice control. While we're seeing this technology pop up in upcoming models, such as the TomTom GO 920, this is the first model with voice commands that we've actually been able to test. Unlike the GO 920, the Maestro 4250 doesn't allow you to dictate street addresses, but you can perform a limited number of tasks with the sound of your voice. This includes rerouting; finding points of interest; routing to your home address; and getting your current location, distance to destination, and roadside assistance. You can check out the Performance section for experience with this feature.