LG is primarily known for the mobile phones and widescreen televisions. However like a host of other electronics companies they have recently entered the GPS market. The LG LN735 GPS is due to be one of the more popular LG models due to the small size and text-to-speech capabilities. I’ve spent some quality time with the LN-735, and here is what I found.
The LN735 comes with a standard 3.5 inch touch screen display. Like most other 3.5 inch models from other manufacturers, it runs at a resolution of 320×240 pixels. However unlike other models that offer 64,000 color displays, the 735 can display 260,000 colors. Thus I had high hopes for the quality of the display. Unfortunately I only found the display quality to be average. The display has a matte finish and looks grainy. Text displayed on the map doesn’t appear to be as crisp as other devices in the same category. When viewed from wide angles to the side the screen performed fairly well, however when tilted up and down the screen colors quickly washed out. Today was a great warm sunny spring day and when the sun was behind be shining on the screen it was very difficult to read. In more common lighting conditions the screen was readable, but not very vivid. The screen isn’t horrible, but other GPS device sin this category have a better quality screen and we expected a little better from a company who makes such nice LCD monitors and televisions.
Surrounding the screen, the GPS itself is a glossy black color and is quite attractive. On the right of the display is a menu button that also serves as a sleep button as well as volume up/down buttons. You won’t use the volume buttons much though! more on that later. On the left side of the LN735 is an SD card slot and USB cable slot. Maps come pre-installed in the internal memory so the SD card slot is free, ready to be loaded with your SD cards containing MP3 music files and photos. The top is clean and the only item on the bottom is a reset switch. Along the right is the on/off switch and the power connector. Thankfully there are no buttons in the way along the bottom. On the back is where you will find the speaker and a mysterious hole covered by a rubber grommet. The manual says the hole is an “external GPS antenna jack” but there was nothing inside there for a GPS antenna to connect to.
When I took the LN-735 out of the box one of the first things that struck me was the size of the GPS itself. Other GPS devices in this class with the same size screen are about 3.8″ in width while this LG GPS comes in at 4.3 inches in width; a full .5″ wider for the same size screen. Overall weight is however about the same as competitive devices weighing about 5.6 ounces.
The suction cup mount worked fairly well. It is is a little bit longer than the ones that come with the Nuvi or the TomTom ONE, but nowhere near as big as other devices. It functioned on a ball and socket joint that allowed for easy adjustability yet held the device firmly in place. Even on rough roads I didn’t experience any vibration problems. I often like to locate the GPS at the very left edge of the dash where it is close to my sight yet out of the way. The power adapter was just barely long enough to reach the plug near the center console of my vehile.
Under the hood this LG GPS is equipped with a SiRFstarIII chipset, and a processor that seems speedy enough for most tasks. Windows CE Core 5.0 drives the applications.
To navigate to a street address you enter the menu by pressing the menu button on the right of the GPS, or by clicking the menu button on the map display. From here you select ‘Address’, and then the state/province you are going to. As is a common gripe I have with many devices, you cannot enter a state abbreviation and instead need to spell out the state name. So once I finally typed in “N E W – Y” it finally got the clue I wanted to go to somewhere in New York. After selecting the state the LN735 asks if you want to enter a city and then street, street and then city, an intersection, or a zip code. I selected City-Street and it prompts you for the city, then the name of the street, and finally the house number. When entering a house number there are no hints available for valid street numbers. Other devices will typically show you a range of valid numbers for that street. It didn’t like the street number for one of the addresses I tried to navigate to and it didn’t offer anything helpful like the valid range or the closest valid value. After finding your address, you can select ‘Go’ to navigate to that address or save the address to a category of saved destination.
Navigating to a Point of Interest
Navigating to a POI can be done by going to the menu and selecting POI. From here you can select from a list of twelve primary categories. Select ‘Food’ for example. In most categories subcategories are available and the Food category was setup like this so I selected ‘Restaurant’. There are some subcategories that have yet another level of categories and here I selected Italian. Finally a list of matching POIs are displayed sorted by distance from your current coordinates. You can also sort the list alphabetically. In addition to searching by POIs close to you, you can also select to search for POIs near your destination or near a different address. The LN735 will search a maximum of 50 miles if you change the default settings.
There were a couple of things I didn’t like about searching for POIs. When subcategories are available you are forced to select one of them to look in. This can be cumbersome when you are not sure exactly which category the POI might belong in. This can become especially difficult when POIs appear in categories that just don’t make sense!. For example Autozone appeared in the ‘Computer & Software’ category but not in the ‘Auto Service & Maintenance’ category. If you are looking for office supplies would you look in Computer & Software, Department Store, Discount Store, Entertainment Electronics, Shopping Center, Specialty Store, or Variety Store? If there was a way to perform a text search across multiple categories it would have helped.
The LN735 offered no way to set your starting location. This is a feature not found on a huge amount of GPS devices, and I still don’t understand why. Let’s say I’m flying to Denver this afternoon and will be driving from the Denver Airport to my hotel. Sitting here on the East Coast I have no way for the GPS to tell me how long my drive will be this evening from the airport to my hotel.
There is a detour function. If you are coming up on a blocked intersection you can click menu, Route Manager, Detour, and then select from four settings on how far you want your route to be detoured ahead of you. You can select from 0.1, 0.3, 1, or 2 miles.
You can also select specific intersections/turns to avoid in your route. Clicking on the next turn graphic brings up a list of instructions. You can select one of the instructions and then click the ‘Avoid’ button to avoid that area.
Multiple Destination Routing
LG does offer multiple destination routing in the LN735. They call this function the “Multistop Planner”. Here you can add multiple addresses or POIs into a list of destinations creating one itinerary. I’m really glad to see this feature added as many GPS “power users” couldn’t operate efficiently without this function. Their Multistop Planner doesn’t work as well as the TomTom Itinerary planning feature, but at least the offer something. My gripe with out they implemented this functionality is that you cannot see how long or how far the entire list of stops is. So it really doesn’t create “one route” with multiple stops but rather a series of individual routes. Once you “arrive” at one destination it creates a new route to the next destination on the list. You can also only add five locations to the Multistop Planner.
The primary navigation screen is setup very similar to other competitive devices. Along the top text is displayed showing the name of the next street. You can also zoom in and out on the map. At the bottom left is a graphic showing the next turn direction as well as the distance to that next turn. Along the bottom center you can see how far your destination is as well as the time it will take you to get to your destination and your current speed. Below that you can see the name of the current street. You can also click on the time to destination display to view the estimated arrival time. Personally I would rather see that information in place of my current speed!. I have a speedometer in my car that does that job nicely.
As you approach an intersection the LN735 will zoom in closer on the intersection. However it didn’t zoom in as much as I would have liked to see the necessary detail in complex intersections. Mapping data on the LG LN-735 GPS comes from NAVTEQ and is based on their second quarter 2006 release.
You can see POIs on the map display if you choose. Using the POI menu (as if you were navigating to a POI) you can select which categories you would like displayed and those items will appear on the map.
Perhaps one of my biggest disappointments on the LN735 was the audio. The speaker was very quiet, even at the loudest volume settings. Turn the volume up as high as it will go and you will never touch the volume buttons again. At highway speeds I had a difficult time hearing the directions at the loudest volume settings. I couldn’t find a button to have it verbally repeat the instruction either. To make matters worse, the text-to-speech quality wasn’t as good as competitive devices. Sometimes it just says silly things like “turn right on route 3-ahh” instead of “3 A”. One neat feature though was a setting where you can have it announce both the route number and the name of the road. Often both types of signage are not displayed so you might not know that Main Street was also Route 101. This was a nice touch and a good option to include.
There is also an option to warn you if you are going over the speed limit. Other GPS devices allow you to specify a certain “grace” period of a certain amount of miles per hour or percentage over the limit. The LG GPS will warn you if you are just a little bit over. I found one street where the posted limit was different than what the map on the LG thought it was and it keeps reminding you every few seconds “You’re over the speed limit!” every few seconds.
Finally, a night mode does exist, but you must change the setting manually yourself.
The LN-735 does include an MP3 music player, but note that it doesn’t include a headphone jack! So unlike other devices like the Nuvi you can’t load some music, grab your headphones, and stick it in your pocket like a traditional MP3 player. And with the speaker quality as poor as it is I wouldn’t purchase this device over another because of the MP3 player. The MP3 player functions as a separate application and is turned off in order to get back to the navigation application.
There is a tutorial program that operates on the device and shows you basic operation of different functions. However in places the tutorial itself showed inaccurate instructions such as asking you to tap a button called actions and the associated graphic doesn’t show a button called actions! instead there is a button highlighted called ‘options’.
I also was a little surprised reading the warranty information. The cover parts for one year like most other manufacturers, but only offer labor for 90 days. So if something breaks between 90 days and one year it looks like they will pay for any parts, but you pay for the labor involved in the repair.
The GPS market is getting fierce, and for a company even of LG’s size to make a splash they need to do so with a device that can at least match the established competition. Unfortunately LG has fallen short with this line of GPS devices. The LN735 doesn’t offer any big features that would cause me to pick it over devices it competes directly against such as the Garmin Nuvi 350 and TomTom ONE.
Despite the same size screen the LN735 is less portable, has a lower quality screen, has an underpowered speaker, and the only real feature bonus it has is the Multistop Planner.