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 in 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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