The Navalert's case is a dark matte color, best at resisting windshield glare. No provision is made for windshield mounting; it's dash mount-only. A magnetic base must first be stuck to the dash. Then the Navalert sits atop the mag-mount.
This arrangement works well but you only get one shot at choosing a mounting location; the adhesive isn't reusable. I'd suggest a site that's directly in your line of sight, for the pale green display disappears in sunlight and requires concentration to interpret at other times. It's easily read at night, though, and closer to optimal that the others on dark rural roads.
This is obviously a product designed for world consumption, witnessed by no fewer than one dozen time zone settings—GMT plus or minus hours—by its metric distance display and non-U.S. menu items.
Aside from the customary GPS features—current direction of travel, road speed and GPS coordinates—the Navalert has some useful extras like an altimeter, trip elapsed time, trip odometer and average speed.
Two operating modes are available. Safe mode warns not only red light cameras but also of "possible mobile speed cameras", high collision areas and "school zones (during school hours)". Cam mode warns only of speed cameras. After enduring almost constant alerts, nearly all warning of suspected hazards other than speed cameras, I chose the latter mode for its quieter operation.
Audio volume is controlled by a thumbwheel switch. A menu button controls all functions and since there's no separate option-selection button, it must be pressed for varying lengths of time to call up menu items and select an option. Choices are audibly confirmed by various combinations of beeps and chimes. It's a slow, non-intuitive and clumsy method and I wouldn't suggest leaving home without the user manual.
Alphanumeric visual alerts include camera ahead, current speed, the speed limit, and distance to a marked location. Distance is in meters, requiring a bit of practice to make quick conversions from metric to American units of measure.
In Cam mode, voice alerts are limited to system-ready, camera locations and overspeed (road speed compared to the posted limit) warning. An all-clear chime sounds when the danger point is past. User locations, or points of interest (POI) can be marked by the user but can't be flagged according to their nature. Upon returning to a marked location, the Navalert gives an audible/visual alert, but it merely indicates you've arrived at a user POI—no way to tell if it's a red light camera or something inconsequential that caught your fancy the last time you drove past. This trait is shared by all of the units tested. In contrast, the best of the radar detectors, like the Escort Passport 9500ci, Escort Passport Max2 and Beltronics GT-7, permit users to mark locations by the type of threat, a more useful approach.
Updating the database is a straightforward affair. After downloading and installing the update program, I followed the manual's directions for database updates and plugged the unit into my PC with its mini-USB cable. Then I downloaded the most recent update and installed it, a brief, painless process.
- Eye-friendly, non-reflective housing
- Simple updating procedure
- Dim display
- Clunky user settings
- Error-prone camera database
There were some hiccups in the Navalert's performance. For instance, it sometimes displayed speeds in kph units rather than mph. Warnings of "overspeed" near camera locations frequently were wrong because the database's speed limits were incorrect. And I found that the "overspeed" voice alerts can become annoying. Raising the speed threshold is possible and the feature can also be disabled, but first it'll need to be linked to a PC that's logged-on to the corporate website.
The default alert strategy gives an extremely long warning distance, 500 meters followed by a second alert chime at 200 meters. This is more than is necessary in many urban situations and only adds to the cockpit distraction. This item can also be adjusted, but only while the unit is logged-on to the Internet.
The Navalert only alerts to stored locations if your direction of travel coincides with the intersection approach that's camera-monitored. This is a smart strategy—also employed by the Cheetah C100 and the Cheetah GPS Mirror—and vastly reduces the number of alerts to cameras that pose no threat.
The Navalert database is clearly not as complete or as current as the others'. Updates are less frequent than the competition's and seem to appear irregularly every four months or so. More emphasis seems to be placed on adding new sites than in removing obsolete sites from the registry. It frequently alerted me to camera sites that had been deactivated or removed two or more years previously. And it was more prone than the its competitors to omitting camera locations.