On The Road Again - Tucson News Now

On The Road Again

By: Andy Taylor, KOLD News 13 Live This Morning's Tech Expert


Summer is fast approaching and that can mean a road trip with the family. Traveling in the car whether for business or family vacations has changed dramatically from our family trips with Mom and Dad across the country. Without sounding too much like an old man, dad would drive for hours with the only in car amenity being a radio. No cassette, 8 track, CD or video plug in could make the drive less heroic for my dear old dad. Getting to the vacation spot took weeks of planning, routing on several road maps and pre selecting the points we would stop to allow my sister and I to take the bathroom breaks and pick up snacks. I can remember, the snacks were one of my favorite breaks. For my dad, like any father trekking across the awesome beauty of Arizona heading to the Grand Canyon, he was on a mission - much like a soldier heading into duty. Even on a childhood trip for us while in England he drove to various points for us to see. I remember him getting lost and finally asking for directions to a man standing on a street in a bowler hat. Much like a Monty Python skit, the man spewed directions in the most unintelligible British accent that even my father in his strong cockney accent couldn't decipher. I would never want to give up that moment and look on my dads face as my mom asked him what the man had said, he turned to her like he was just given the directions to build a thermonuclear reactor and shook his head in utter confusion.

The experience is different now with the road trip easier to plan the route and find the way back from those little side trips which can happen on the road. We looked at a product from a company called Nextar which specializes in personal portable audio and video, digital photo frames and for the road warriors, Navigation with products from 3.5" to 7" GPS Units with a variety of features and options available .

The Nextar Q4-04 is a handy size GPS device with features to help navigate the highways and streets across the USA. Surrounded in a rugged black shell, the 4.3 inch display works easily with the touch of finger or included stylus. A built in speaker to the rear of the Q4-04 announces upcoming turns and changes to the routed map with voice guided direction that is easy to understand. A map of the 50 U.S. States is included on a 2GB SD Card which must be installed to navigate; the card also features 1.6 million points of interest for those stops along the way with restaurants, rest stops and fueling stations. If you venture to various destinations, the addresses for these locations can be loaded in an address book which can store up to 300 addresses. Another nice feature of the Q4-04 is the instant recalculation of the route automatically. This can be especially helpful in instances where a detour forces a change in plans and eliminates having to enter information on the GPS device while already on route or driving.

The Battery Life on the Q4-04 will give users about 2 and a half hours of use with a fully charged battery which is internal to the unit and can be recharged fully after about 3 and a half hours. A USB cable, Wall Charger and Car charger is included to use on the road for long extended trips. The Q4-04 from Nextar can mount easily to the included mounting cradle which can then attach with a snap in to a rubber glass connector mounting bracket or dashboard mount disc attached to the mounting bracket. The mounting cradle makes it easy to remove the unit from the car and carry with you or store away from the heat. When storing or carrying the Q4-04, a nice mesh pouch is included to protect the unit from damage.

I like the fact that the Q4-04 is also easy to operate without a ton of configuring needed. A slide On Off switch at the back of the unit can conserve battery life when not in use and a power button at the top of the device can allow for easily entering the unit into standby mode. Another nice feature to the Nextar Q4-04 is the ability to play MP3 and WMA audio off a SD card as well as a photo slide show off an SD Card as well. A headphone jack on the Q4-04 can make this an easy device to serve as a personal music player. With the many different features of the Nextar Q4-04, pricing at under $150 makes this a real nice addition to the road trip. For more Information on Nextar products, take a look at http://www.nextar.com   


While the road can be navigated easily, bringing the tunes to the road trip is something I always plan on for extended drives. On the trip to Disneyland with the family, an area between Exit 94 and Indio Blvd in California can leave a little to be desired from with terrestrial radio. In the past, many of us would create cassette tapes (Ok, that's way in the past) or create CD's of Music which could get the driver and passengers about 35-45 minutes of tunes to pass the time. Satellite Radio is great for long trips however not everybody likes the idea of subscribing to a service.

ISimple is a company that offers solutions for those looking to integrate your iPod or personal music player to your car radio system. The All in One TranzIt system places an FM signal into your car stereo directly from your iPod or iPhone with the connections in the kit. Other connectors, which can be installed in a variety of methods with a recommendation to use professional car stereo installers, are available that could mount a 3.5mm factory look jack to the Dash Panel in most vehicles to allow easy connecting to most MP3 players, laptops or personal media players. While the iPod or iPhone is connected, users could also charge the battery while listening to the device.  For those listening to services such as IHeartRadio or Pandora, they could stream music from the iPhone and play that stream through the car stereo system.

Controls on the iPod or iPhone can be used to scroll, skip ahead, etc. The product is available for around 89.95 and is a Universal Kit. For more information on the TranzIt, take a look at http://www.isimplesolutions.com


Thanks for checking out the Tech Tuesday Column. Have a Question? Need to see how something is done? Send it in! andy@techtalkradio.com  Follow his Twitter at techtalkradio.

Andy Taylor, based in Tucson, is host of the TechtalkRadio Show Sundays at 10am till Noon.  He is also a regular guest on Radio shows across the country talking about Technology. Andy is also serving on an Advisory panel with the Consumer Electronics Association for Conferences from CES 2010 in Las Vegas.


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