Magellan RoadMate 3045

by Brad Nelson   5/5/15

Recently I acquired a Magellan RoadMate 3045 GPS for the car. I acquired it in a roundabout fashion. A friend works for a rental car agency. The unit was left in a car and the requisite waiting period expired and then it became the property of whoever had found it. My friend never used it and sold it to me for $20.00. It was a bargain and found money for him.

I’ve used a GPS in the guise of a Garmin eTrex 20 (reviewed here). But that is a completely different beast used for quite different purposes. Still, it did familiarize me with the general product genre.

From the various reviews I’ve read of auto GPS devices, the main sticking point seem to be ease of re-routing. I have to say, the Magellan seems to do this swiftly RoadMate3045in the tests I’ve given it. Granted, sometimes the routes (likely inherent to such devices) that it suggests are often not the best ones. But it will get you there. And if you miss a turn, it will quickly re-route you.

The software is simple…almost too simple. My Garmin eTrex 20 has lots and lots of features and ways to customize the screen. This RoadMate is very bare bones. That’s a good news/bad news thing because you don’t have to fiddle with much stuff. There are a few very basic settings and then that’s it. And as it comes out of the box, it’s easy to figure out and use. This is a good thing for low-techies and people who don’t want to have to fiddle with a bunch of stuff.

I’d need to use a competing product (particularly one made by Garmin) to pass any kind of functional judgment on the GPS unit itself. I’m commenting more on the market niche than on this particular product (which seems more than adequate out of the box). I didn’t think I needed one of these. It seemed a bit superfluous. But for $20.00, I got my feet wet and it’s the proverbial case of “I don’t know how I got along without one.”

Recently I had to go pick up something from a friend of a friend’s house who lives way out in the country. With the RoadMate, I just fed it the address and the unit gave me directions (turn left here…turn right here….etc) while showing a map of where you are at any given time. This means it is very difficult to get lost and it gives you a lot of confidence to drive in areas that you’re not familiar with. Let’s just say the novel The Bonfire of the Vanities would never have happened if Sherman McCoy had one of these in his car.

Now the not-so-good. Whoever owned this device before me never registered it. And that’s good news because it allowed me to register an account with Magellan (wherein it reads the device’s serial number or something). That then allowed me to update the software and, yesterday, buy (for a discount they were offering) an update of the maps. The software update was free and fairly painless, which I had done about two weeks ago. The map update, on the other hand, took about 3-1/2 to 4 hours of my time.

The software (what they call by the highly original name, “Content Manger”) that you load on your computer (Mac or PC) is pretty crappy. It doesn’t work at all on my Mac and barely functions on the PC. For starters, the RoadMate has trouble being detected by the Content Manager software. Second, I had to reinstall it once on the PC because it kept crashing upon startup. (What else to do on a PC sometimes but reinstall? Luckily this time it worked.)

Long story short, after struggling with this myself for a couple of hours, plus another 45 minutes with an online chat-support rep from Magellan, I simply asked them to cancel the order and credit my credit card. I was bailing out. I had put in enough time on this.

Well, the “friendly” people at Magellan tech support said you can’t get a refund for the maps you download. But, I told them, I hadn’t actually downloaded anything, so please give me my money back or else this is like me giving Magellan a $38.00 gift. And why should that be fair?

No dice. So I chatted back and got another techie. I consented to try the map download/update again. Failed again. And I received the same insistence that I couldn’t just cancel the order. I begged to get a supervisor’s email address or phone number. No dice again (although they did take down my number to give to a supervisor).

Having invested this much time, and being naturally stubborn in regards to techie devices, I went ahead and went along with the suggestion of the techie to try one more time. And in all three times the techies helped, they said they did something on their end to make it possible to get the download to work (which wasn’t working on its own via their Content Manager software). Having to flip a switch on the other side didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. Jiggering the works for a seemingly simple thing?

Eventually I did get it to work. And later a supervisor from Magellan did call me. And I was polite as polite could be. I felt no need to rub his nose in it. But I did tell him in no uncertain terms that the Content Manager software was crap, the policy of not allowing cancellation of a purchase mere hours after it was made was bogus, and that using any kind of “Content Manager” was a kludge compared to just being able to download a map to your desktop, mount the GPS as a USB drive, and stick the map manually into a folder (which is exactly how you can easily add maps with the Garmin eTrex, although there are other methods as well).

So, if you’ve skipped all of the above (as I often do when reading reviews) and want the short story: By all means, get yourself a GPS device for your car. They’re very handy, and the costs of these have come way down. Second, steer clear, way clear, of any product by Magellan (unless you run across one for a song, such as I did). If you want to update the software or maps, it will be a pain…if you can get it to work at all. I’m just going to assume that Garmin (or some other manufacturer) has road-tested their software.

This is my pound of flesh indeed for the lousy customer service I received and the very bad policy by Magellan. I did find out from the supervisor who called me that they have no way of knowing whether or not a map is downloaded. And they have no way of canceling your credit card transaction. Again, except for the unit itself that seems to work just fine, nothing fills me with confidence about Magellan, especially when the Garmin software I’ve used for the eTrex is so relatively polished and easy to use.

I told the fellow that at the very least, if they couldn’t offer me a refund then they should have had a way to put the damn map on a mini SD card (which the unit will read). Geezus. I mean, talk about people not even trying to go the extra mile. I told the guy I would have gladly sent the damn mini SD card back after having loaded it. All I wanted was a map update. I wasn’t trying to rip anyone off.

And so it goes. I highly advise that you stay away from Magellan products for the time being. And if this one ever breaks, I’ll likely buy a Garmin sight unseen and review that here as well.

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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8 Responses to Magellan RoadMate 3045

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    With customer service like that, you’d think they worked for the government. Maybe that’s where they come from. You can develop a lot of bad habits that way.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The truth is, Timothy, this is a nice product and works well…outside the bounds of upgrading the software and maps. I try not to be the Fussy Consumer. You know that type and I’m sure you’ve seen him or her in Walmart or just about anywhere else. They put up a fuss about the smallest of inconveniences as if you were talking about losing your right arm. I’ve caught myself many a time getting caught up in this extremely fuss-budget mindset. And it’s not pretty.

      So kudos to Magellan for a product that works well out of the box. But there is something rotten in Denmark on the back end. After having spent several hours, on my own and with tech support, trying to get the map to download, I just told them in effect, “No hard feelings, but I want you to cancel the order. I’m tired of dealing with this.”

      And note I wasn’t asking for a refund. I had looked online at my online banking and the credit card charge was still pending. There’s no good reason they couldn’t have canceled it, or called someone else who could. They would have then had a happy customer who then might have been patient enough to wait for their alpha software — and it’s not even advanced enough to be called beta — to be improved.

      Had I written software of this caliber, I would have been proud. It does run. It’s ugly as hell, but I would be pleased that I could do something as basic as get the program to (sometimes) connect with, and sync with, a USB device. Cool! But that’s how basic the external software (used for loading new maps) is. This is not software that should even be seeing the light of day. And if they have to specifically twiddle with something in the background on the side of tech support just to have the possibility of a map downloading, that doesn’t fill me with much confidence either.

      I would love to get my hands on a Garmin product in about the same price range and put it through its paces and see how it worked. There are some big gaps in the software on the front end (inside the Magellan 3045 GPS unit) that leave me to believe that I’m probably missing out on some nice features. For example, let’s say you add a new address/contact in the Magellan 3045. No problem. You enter all the fields (one at a time in one screen at a time…and this seems to make sense in the process) and that works pretty well. Except when you want to return to the main map screen after having finished adding a new address/contact. There is no “Home” button or anything like it. But there is a “back” button. To get to the map screen you therefore have to go back, back, back, back, back (seeing all the previous screens that you’ve used to enter data) until you back out to the home screen. This is primitive, at best. So I think you can see by this one example that even the front-end software is a little lacking.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Dear me, this sounds like they hired the Obamacare website developer to do much of their work.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I was just reading reviews at Amazon for the most popular Garmin GPS device. And the complaints sounded exactly alike: Difficult to update the maps because of the crappy software (and the problems sounded much the same). And it had the same problem with no “Home” button. To get back to the main screen you had to hit “back, back, back, back,” etc.

          That sounds as if both Garmin and Magellan use the same open-source software — on the front and back end — and then simply customize it. This raises, relatively speaking, my rating for the Magellan because it could be that this is the state of the art, such as it is.

          The other major contender is the Tom Tom brand.

          Out of the box, I can’t see how you could go wrong with the Magellan. Just know that you could be in for a lot of work trying to update maps via the external (runs on your Mac or PC) software. And it sounds as if these software issues have been known for years and little or no development is occurring. That’s strange. I figure you and me (if we were conversant in the language) could knock out a fix in a weekend. It’s that bad.

  2. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    I bought a Magellan Roadmate 5340T-LM about a year and a half ago. I have used the Content Manager and updated it one time with minimal trouble (no new maps though.) I find Brad’s description to be generally accurate. I will say this, it is like everything else in that it is not perfect. Mine is like a PC. When it works, it really works well but on those exceptions when it doesn’t, it is a real screwball. What I have found annoying the most to me is that it will not recognize the names of some roads (i.e., addresses, yet they are labeled on the map.) I would vote for the ability to manually input them yourself or to contact Magellan and have them to do it. I tried to get the first error I encountered fixed by them but it was too much of a hassle. I agree with Brad in that I now I wonder how I will ever get along without one (I can’t see the darn little screens on the new “smartphones and don’t own one anyway.)

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Looking at some of the sample screens of the 5340T-LM, it looks as if they updated the interface. I assume the 5430T-LM is a newer model than the 3045.

      I’ve read about other lamenting how difficult it is to get corrections made on the map. I assume there is some official channel, although I wouldn’t expect any changes to show up until the next major map update.

      And one reviewer notes: “The 5430 Android OS uses a home hard button, at many screens you may be stuck at wondering how to get out of them, there is no BACK or cancel soft key. Use the hard home key at the top of the shell.” That would seem to somewhat solve that problem, although I have no idea why there can’t be an on-screen “Home” button.

      I think this reviewer has a point:

      Very un-intuitive software to set locations. Very often the destination search simply doesn’t work — you have to know whether something is “North Bridge” or “N Bridge” or just “Bridge”. Even when it works, 9 times out of 10 when I find what I want it disappears when I try to save it.

      I haven’t done all that much with setting destination. But some of that rings true. How nice if you were simply able to input longitude and latitude. But there is no way on my unit to do that. That would be very handy in conjunction with Google Maps, MapQuest, etc.

      Thanks for your further thoughts, Cynic. Like you, I would say the things do work. But they all seem to come with some built-in annoyances, no matter the brand.

  3. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    I was rereading this article and upon reading how the company was in no way interested in refunding your money. The internet allows sellers a certain amount of anonymity and there are those that were not brought up with the honesty most of us were. I have run into two occasions where I have paid for something that did not pan out as advertised. In both situations, (I am a bit hard headed when I think I have been screwed over) what I did, is politely advise them that if I did not get my proper refund that I was going to contact my credit card company and have them do a charge back. I think it cost somewhere around $35 to do this. It was not necessary because I was given my refund in both cases. Neither of my situations was much over that amount but my sense of right and wrong is so strong that it would not have mattered to me if it cost twice that to make my point. Which is, you will not steal my money if I have any recourse and I did have that action available to me. So, Brad, keep in mind that I suggest that you pay by credit card and not debit card so that these charlatans can not have their way with you. P.S. I read a lot of your stuff on ST.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for the advice, SC. I did pay by credit card but hadn’t thought of threatening them by getting the credit card company involved. But I can assure you that I would not have let them stiff me for the $38.00. I would have taken that $38.00 out in blood, if need be, by spreading the news far and wide and recommending that no one deal with this company.

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