Harman/Kardon has been busting out plenty of consumer electronics lately, and their GPS models, if priced right, are seeming like they serve up a viable alternative to the big two brands.

The “Guide+Play” GPS-510na is a widescreen choice that handles navigation, traffic with a built in TMC receiver, text-to-speech instructions and audio/video playback with SD and SDHC card support.

One thing I liked about the 510na was that it found the satellites right away, locked onto my position and was ready to rock in under a minute.

One thing I noticed about the 510 was that it has a lot of parts, and that tends to get a little complicated. Even the power adapter comes in two parts. You have to plug the prongs into the adapter and then plug a USB cable into the adapter. I guess, technically that means there are less cables to deal with since the USB pretty much handles everything, but I can see people losing those two little prongs.

I don’t see much of a use for audio and video playback on a GPS unit, but it does support MP3, AAC, WMA, MPEG-4 and WMV formats, so you could technically keep the passengers entertained with a video. You’ll never, ever use it for audio playback in the car, so let’s just skip that part.

The speaker is decent, and the video quality is very good, and if you’re one of those gadget folk looking for an all-in-one device that will cook you dinner and tuck you in at night, you’ll be happy. I just want navigation. If I want to spend $400 on audio/video features added to a product line not traditionally made for audio/video, I’ll buy an iPhone. Or for $200 cheaper, an iPod touch.

The tragic thing about the GPS-510 is that it has excellent navigation, accurate maps, tons of points of interest, a sharp, color display, vital text-to-speech (it says street names and stuff) functionality, handles traffic and is very easy to use. Why tragic? Because at $399, no one is going to buy the Harman/Kardon GPS-510 because they can buy a Garmin for about that or a TomTom for much less.

That’s why Amazon and other retailers have slashed the price of the 510 by $100, and it’s still priced right out of the market. The GPS-only GPS-310 model was also slashed, and it’s available for $250. Harman/Kardon should make a widescreen GPS like this for $149 or $199 with the traffic receiver. That should have been their approach. Nail the navigation; lowball the price; cash in when people like me say it’s great.

The GPS-510 is great, and should have been a great value-priced GPS, but instead it’s an overpriced toy. It has a few minor drawbacks like the bucket-o-parts it comes with is the fact that the the docking cradle doesn’t charge it. You have to plug and unplug the power cord from the device when you remove it. Also, the touchscreen isn’t as responsive as it is on Garmin and TomTom devices. On my Garmin, I can fly through 3-4 commands in a second and be ready to go. On the 510, you have to kinda methodically make sure you fully press each command, and that’s a bitch while driving

Not that you should do that…

Quick hits:

Publisher: Harman/Kardon
Launch Date: October 17, 2007

Overall: [rating:3/5]

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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