The AA is best known for its breakdown and repair services, so it isn’t an enormous surprise that it has used this reputation to hop on the GPS bandwagon. The result is the AA Navigator Vive! – a budget sat nav that manages to pack in a hefty number of features even despite the low price tag.
It has a full touch-screen interface, MP3 player, Photo viewer, full maps of the UK with full postcode search and subscription to the AA’s speed camera software free for 6 months. You also have access to the AA’s extensive database of Points of Interest which includes everything from golf courses to B&Bs, petrol stations to cinemas.
If you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of in-car GPS devices, the AA has made efforts to make programming the device even more straightforward with an ‘Easy’ mode – but there’s still a more advanced version for more seasoned users. Hit the turn to find out what we think.
True to its word, the AA navigator Vive! is easy to program and follow guidance from; using the Easy Navigation mode will have you on your journey after about four extremely basic actions. The Full Navigation mode isn’t exactly going to blind you with science either – it just gives you more a wider range of programming options, but anyone who has used a GPS before should have little trouble getting to grips with it, even without ever once glancing at the manual.
In our tests we found that the quality of guidance and map accuracy to be perfectly adequate to the task and we never had any problems with unclear or incorrect directions. If you decide to defy the unit’s instructions then it is able to recalculate its route very quickly so you aren’t in any danger of getting lost.
The AA’s extensive knowledge of entertainment and motoring facilities is put to good use in the POI database and the result is a vast wealth of stored locations that out does many other POI databases I have seen. One niggle is that when you’re driving, you only get to see a symbol indication what type of POI it is, not any further information, but it really isn’t hard to go in and find what might be.
The mapping software isn’t the nicest we’ve ever looked at. Colours tend to be a little on the bland side and the wild colour coding of different road types can make it hard to follow and the problem gets a little worse in night mode. When travelling, the map refreshes quite slowly, which gives it a jerky, juddering effect that isn’t very pleasing on the eye.
The MP3 player and photo viewer, which now seem to be mandatory additions to anything and everything that has a screen, aren’t really all that exciting and you can’t operate them whilst the mapping software is in use. It is unlikely you’ll ever actually bother to use them anyway as the battery life isn’t so wonderful that the Vive! would be much of a substitute to a decent MP3 player with photo viewing capabilities. Worse, the Vive!’s out-of-car navigation functions aren’t up to much either, so despite the integrated Li-ion battery (which provides around 3 hours of juice from a full charge), this is one GPS that is probably destined to stray from the dashboard only as far as the glove compartment.
PND with built-in GPS receiver
Directions in a choice of male or female voices
Routes displayed via 2D or 3D maps
Fast, automatic route calculation and re-routing for missed turns
Full UK & ROI mapping from NAVTEQ
Full UK 7 digit postcode search & routing
Over 50,000 points of interest inc. AA hotels & Restaurants
24V power adapter
12-24V Car Charger
USB Sync Cable
The AA Navigator Vive! isn’t going to win style awards but what it lacks up for in aesthetics it does make up for in a reliable, straightforward interface. It doesn’t quite reach the high standards set by the likes of Garmin or TomTom, but given that you can pick up a Vive! for less than £150, it is very good value for money.
You can pick one up for £149, but if you’re an AA member you get a further 10% off. That includes full maps of the UK and, at the time of writing, free maps of major roads in Europe. If you want to go for the full-blown European coverage then you’re looking at £249 – still a good deal. As previously stated, you get 6 months subscription to the speed camera database for free and it will only set you back a further £29.99 per year after that.
In the end, the Vive! offers little that sets it apart from the many higher priced rivals on the market, but as it stands it offers a superb value for money and an easy interface that is well suited to first-time GPS users.
Related sites: AA Navigator