Pharos is best known for its GPS add-ons for PDAs and smart phones, but it's also making a name for itself with solid stand-alone solutions such as the Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator. The company's latest model, the Pharos Drive GPS 140, is aimed at mobile professionals who want a sleek all-in-one portable nav system that can keep up with their road warrior tendencies. In addition to the standard navigation tools, the unit offers integrated Bluetooth for hands-free calls, accurate directions, multimedia capabilities, and the option to add traffic updates. It's all a good value at $549.95. That said, the GPS 140 does suffer from sluggish performance, and the interface could be easier. So for our money, we'd go with the Magellan RoadMate 2200T or the Garmin StreetPilot c550.
The Pharos Drive GPS 140 features a nice portable design (5.8x1x3.5 inches; 9.5 ounces) for easy transport between cars, and it's slim enough that you can use it as a portable video player if you're in an absolute pinch. (See Performance section for more.) It's also very sleek with its touch-sensitive controls, which line the right and left sides of the screen. Like the LG Chocolate phone, these controls, which comprise shortcuts to the main menu page, video player, and music player on the left, and volume up/down keys on the right, light up with a cool red backlighting and feature a nice, concave groove that makes it easy to touch with your fingertips. There's also a quick-launch button for the navigation app and a speaker on the lower left- and right-hand corners of the screen.
The center of attraction, however, is the 4-inch diagonal touch screen. It has a sharp 320x320-pixel resolution, shows off bright colors, and was responsive to our commands. The display was also still readable in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, we found the menu interface for the navigation app not as user-friendly as some of the other systems we've tested, such as the Navman F20. It's not immediately apparent where you should go to start entering addresses to get directions and so forth, but from the main map view, there are two tiny icons on the bottom right of the screen that read Go and GPS. The latter is more obvious as it brings up a page that shows the status of the GPS receiver and current satellites. Tapping the Go icon launches the section of submenus where you can enter destinations, find points of interest, view text directions, change preferences, and more. Adjusting any of the settings takes multiple taps, rather than checking off boxes or selecting from a list. There are a lot of extra steps to accomplish any task, and we think it could be simpler. In addition, there's a Power User option that brings a drop-down list of more advanced features. It's all a bit confusing, so we strongly recommend reading the user guide before heading out on a trip.
Also, the onboard keyboard is a bit cramped, so we were thrilled when we found a stylus included in the box, but we weren't happy about the fact that there's no holder for the stylus on the device. These skinny sticks are already hard to keep track of, so without a placeholder on the device, we're sure to misplace them.
Along the left side of the unit, there's a headphone jack and a power connector, while the right spine has an SD card expansion slot and a port for an optional FM transmitter. To turn on the device, there is a power button on top of the system, and a mini USB port, the main on/off switch, and a reset hole on the bottom.
The Pharos Drive GPS 140 comes packaged with a healthy set of accessories, including a vehicle mount, an AC charger, a car charger, a USB cable, a wired headset, an SD card preloaded with maps, and reference material. A note about the car mount: Pharos includes only a suction-cup windshield mount, and not a dashboard option, which is problematic for California and Minnesota drivers where such apparatuses are prohibited in cars.