Portable vehicle navigation (GPS) units have come a long way since their introduction over 10 years ago.  They’re so small and lightweight and the technology can be embedded into so many other products, from watches to mobile phones.  However, standalone portable nav units still rule for seamless, always available service.

Magellan’s new Maestro 4040 is a next-generation unit, their seventh generation unit that I’ve tested and is highly recommend.  As a follower of the fine Magellan GPS lineup for several years, it is safe for me to say these new models are highly refined. The company has learned and progressed from previous technology and designs.

To the point, the Maestro 4040 is one fine little unit, and with a retail price of just $500, it represents value, and I like that.


From the company that brought the highly acclaimed NeverLost system to Hertz rental cars, this new unit teams with AAA (American Automobile Association) and incorporates their tourbooks right into the device  – including AAA Diamond Rated Restaurants and Accommodations, Show Your Card & Save® Locations for member discounts, Approved Auto Repair Facilities, and more.   I like that it also includes the Show Your Card and Save places.  If you’re a AAA member as I am, it’s a welcome bonus. If you’re not a member of AAA, now is a good time to explore the benefits, but even if you are not now and have no plans to join, you will still benefit from much of the info.

It also includes AAA member roadside assistance details that show your exact location and provides the AAA member toll-free help number.  And since the Maestro 4040 includes Bluetooth, it can connect you directly to AAA through your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone.

How often have you been on the road and it would have been nice to know at a glance AAA recommendations for all of this!  It’s a stroke of genius, along with Bluetooth connectivity.  In my tests, all of this works perfectly.

It has new user interface that is designed to require minimal key strokes – and menu icons are prioritized so drivers have faster access to the features they use most. It comes with preloaded maps of the 50 United States, Canada and Puerto Rico plus an expanded Points of Interest database containing millions of business and service listings, from ATMs and service stations to coffee houses and local eateries.

The user interface is an area I am always concerned about.  In a meeting with Magellan representatives at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, I was told they were working on something spectacular, with special features I would really like and a new, easier to use interface I would appreciate. They were right on both.

Maestro 4040 features a new wide 4.3” WQVGA full-color, anti-glare, touch screen display and that new, intuitive User Interface guides drivers to any destination via voice and on-screen prompts.  These voice prompts speak the street or off ramp name in a pleasant synthesized voice that works well most of the time.  There is just no way for such a device to be perfect in this department.

Maestro can be set for multiple destinations along a trip route and can alert you to a wide assortment of points of interest that you determine. In addition, you can go online to create your own custom points of interest and then, though USB connection to your PC, you can send those custom POI to the Maestro 4040. It has updated radar detector capabilities as well as a host of other 3rd party apps a driver can find useful in many situations.

In addition to the normal Bluetooth calling and answering capability within this Maestro, AAA members can enter their member number (as I did) and, in the event roadside service is needed, a call for assistance is a few screen clicks away.  This is very cool!

One of the most pleasant features is this – take it from its packaging, follow the step-by-very-few-steps set-up guide and for most users, that’s about it. Plug it in and go with no further instruction. That’s the beauty or Magellan’s GPS devices. Operating them is highly intuitive and, in my view, quite easy. Scores of consumers have written me to agree with my assessment on Magellan’s ease of use. This is why Magellan has been my own go-to brand of GPS products, the brand I buy and use and with which I am most comfortable.

I did not test the SD card add-in feature. This slot allows users to transfer custom POI using a Windows PC. I wish Magellan’s products were also Mac-friendly, but this is not happening any time soon.  So, adding one’s own Point of Interest remains a Windows-only option.

Another use for the SD slot is backup and restore, accomplished through the user settings menu item.  I did not test this feature, either.  It allows users to back up custom POI and address book entries so that, if, for any reason, the unit requires a total reset or is replaced, those address book entries are only a click or three away from being restored. It is important to note that restoring from an SD or MMC card wipes out what is in the unit’s memory and does not add to it. Good to know!  I doubt that most users will ever touch that slot or use these capabilities.

Also not tested is the new, accessory TrafficKit which adds real time traffic alerts and automatic re-routing around most major road delays   This is a subscription-based service and operates in selected markets only.   Three months service comes with the cradle purchase, which I found for about $70 online. The cradle and service was not available at the time of this test.

These nit-picking concerns aside, I thoroughly enjoy this new Magellan GPS unit.  My recommendation is solid for any user. I just can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with this new product.  Great product, priced right!

More information is at www.magellangps.com or call 1-800-707-9971. You’ll find the Maestro 4040 at Best Buy and Circuit City stores, but also search online to find your best price.  I found it for as little as $400 or a bit less.

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