Exploring the bleeding edge of SatNav functionality

Recent improvements in SatNav technology have seen the adoption of live traffic information for use by the dynamic routing functionality to minimise the impacts of traffic delays. The Kenwood unit fitted to my van by Murvi incorporated such technology but it had become unreliable. The system in my car did not suffer reliability issues, so I was determined to find a way of achieving the same reliability when travelling in my Murvi.

The Kenwood/Garmin system requires a separate app to be run on a smartphone (iOS or Android) making for a fairly complex set up with plenty of opportunities for failure. Unfortunately having experienced such a failure neither Kenwood or Garmin could/would assist me in finding a solution with each referring me on to the other. Reading the online reviews of the app revealed that I was not alone and that at best this system was rather ‘hit or miss’. So time to investigate the alternatives.

Unfortunately it soon became clear that there was nothing I could do with my existing Kenwood head unit so I was faced with either replacing the head unit or supplementing it with a stand alone SatNav. My preference was for an integrated solution which although more expensive would avoid the clutter of multiple devices surrounding the driver. One further objective I set myself was to find a head unit which would allow the navigation software to be upgraded or even changed as with my previous Murvi had to change head units to get the benefit of lane guidance when that was introduced to SatNavs.

Many current head units offered Android Auto facilities which would work in with my phone but only a limited range of navigation software and typically none of the Truck based navigation software. Maybe in time this might change but for now I had to rule these units out. An alternative to this approach was an Android based head unit typically sold under Chinese brand names. The only European brand I could find selling such a unit was Aguri which had been reviewed in the MMM and C&CC magazines so I decided I would order their RV7000M head unit. The unit itself was a Chinese unit running Android software to which Aguri had added a comprehensive suite of navigation software suitable for motorhomes/caravans supported by online updates for the maps, software, speed cameras and POIs. On paper this unit seemed ideal.

My initial experiences with the unit did not deliver all that I had been hoping for and in the end despite excellent support from Aguri in trying to finding solutions I sadly decided to return the unit. For me there were just too many compromises given the price of unit.

Time to reconsider. Should I relax my requirements or was it time to consider a Chinese head unit? My main concerns were customs duties and difficulties with obtaining product/warranty support if the unit needed to be returned at any stage. Further research led me to some Chinese brands which were distributed from European warehouses via Amazon UK and eventually resulted in a decision to order an ATOTO A6Y2721PRB head unit which arrived within 2 days. Once installed in my Murvi I added the Sygic Truck Navigation app with a RV/Caravan licence and Live Services to complete the system.

So far so good but time will tell. The upgrade has taken rather more time than I expected but despite a setback and a need to slightly amend my requirements there hasn’t been too much blood shed. Once my next trip is complete I plan to compile a detailed review of this head unit.

For now the lessons I have learnt are that only head units with integral FM/DAB tuners are likely to offer automatic DAB/FM change over as signal levels vary, the quality of radio reception can vary greatly between units, screen specifications need careful checking and finally it is only units with an Android based operating system that allow a free choice of navigation software or any other Android app for that matter. Units with Android Auto facilities all suffered limitations in what software could be run/displayed on the head unit.

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