Review of Magellan 4040 and 4250

As I documented in my recent trip to Palo Alto, I had expected to use the Garmin 296 car kit to navigate my way through the silicon valley area. Unfortunately, the Garmin proved to be too smart for me. It also requires transferring map information of areas you expect to travel from a PC into the limited memory of the Garmin 296. After a few hours of unsuccessful attempts to get the Garmin 296 to work (I admit, I didn’t have a manual handy, but come on, I’m a software engineer!), I drove down to a local Costco and picked up a Magellan 4040.

Magellan 4040

My first impression was WOW. And this device only cost $299 (at Cotstco)? How can that be! The 4.3″ touch-screen slim Magellan 4040 is extremely easy to use. Entering addresses is a piece of cake and it provides voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions to anywhere. It also has millions of Points of Interest including the essential Starbucks in case you couldn’t spot one in the corner of the current road you’re on. It contains maps for US, Canada and Puerto Rico without the need to transfer anything from a PC (although this is common among all the portable car GPS systems, it was a pleasure to see when compared with the Aviation GPS systems).

Coming from airplane avionics and equipment pricing, the price of the Magellan is hard to believe. At $299 it’s less than 1/4th the price of a similar device for aviation. Even built-in car navigation systems are generally $1,500 – $2,000 and often provide less functionality. The Magellan kit includes a suction-cup based windshield mount. At first, I assumed the suction cup would be relatively weak and cumbersome to work with, but the device has a latch that when clipped hugs the windshield so tight it’s nearly impossible to pry off and it’s rock solid. The included car charger is also great and it senses when the charger is turned off (usually because the car is turned off) and will automatically turn the device off after 30 seconds to conserve battery when your car is off.

Although the built-in rechargeable battery should be good for about 2 hours of continuous operation, I rarely used it on battery power because most of the time it was in my rental car connected to the cigarette lighter.

Bluetooth and Speaker Phone Included

One of the major surprises was that the Magellan 4040 included bluetooth wireless and the ability to act as a speakerphone for any bluetooth enabled phone. That was a welcome surprise, but I figured there is little chance that this little unit could actually do a good job with sound quality and practicality of using it as a phone. I was dead wrong. Amazingly, the speakerphone was loud and clear on both ends of the conversation. Pairing my phone was relatively easy, although bluetooth in general is still a pain to synch.

Upgrading to the Magellan 4250

This past weekend, I noticed that Costco had put the Magellan 4250 on sale for just $349, so I promptly went back and upgraded my unit. The interface of the 4250 is nearly identical, however, it’s a slightly more attractive unit that is a little bit slimmer and provides built-in voice recognition capabilities. You start the voice recognition (which is impressively always on) by saying “Magellan”. It responds with “Say Command”. You can say things like “Nearby Restaurants” and a list of the nearby restaurants appears with assigned numbers. At that point you can say “one”, or “two” to make your selection. It works very well because of the limited vocabulary that it has to recognize.

Magellan 4250

Overall, I have been extremely impressed by the Magellan GPS systems and pleased with my purchase. Both devices seem to be solid and a great addition not just for a traveler, but also for the day-to-day use for any car that doesn’t have a built-in navigation system.

If there was one complaint I would say the system was a bit slow when using the touch screen to move the map. That was my experience with both the 4040 and the 4250 units. It just doesn’t seem to follow your finger as fast as one would expect when you want to move the map to look around an area. It would also be nice if you could choose the information that it displays on the main screen (such as your current speed, elevation, etc.). I was unable to find an option for that.

But if you want a nice portable GPS for your flight bag, this is the way to go. Don’t bother with the car kit upgrade of the Garmin 296.

19 responses to “Review of Magellan 4040 and 4250

  1. Just a quick word of warning: CA (and possibly other states) have laws against windshield-mounted devices like the suction cup you mentioned.

    Garmin provides (seperately) a heavy, sticky-bottomed bean bag for mounting your product on the dash which gets around the CA laws. I actually prefer this since I can move the GPS from car to car to rental (when traveling) and back.

  2. Matt, thanks for the info. Leave it to lawmakers to create stupid laws. I’m sure the law was originally intended for radar detectors back when nobody could imagine any other kind of windshield mounted device. However, today, even my car’s rear-view mirror is mounted on the windshield (although not with a suction cup :) It’ll be great when I get pulled over for having a rear-view mirror.

    I have the bean-bag system for the 296 and I definitely prefer the suction cup to the bean bag. It’s very easy to take from car to car. It’s also lighter for travel.

  3. jut got the 4250 magellan but paid 400$at Costco;
    nevermind that tho; have to play with it every day to learn to use it.Where is the manual?
    Put my address book in order, need to add telephone numbers; never tried to talk to it? will try soon;need to get blue tooth, think it would be great to answer the cell that way.
    not one of those people that talk in the stores every minute with the Blue thing in my ear!
    want to try it every day so that when I have to go somewhere that is foreign to me I’ll be used to it.
    would like to hear/see more about the 4250/

  4. I purchased this unit in December and in March the screen stopped functioning. Magellan expects me to pay to ship it back for 1 month to repair! I would not recommend this unit or Magellan to anyone. The customer service is horrible and for the price of the unit is unacceptable.

  5. In addition to the comment by Rob regrding the customer service from Magellan, my unit unit ROADMATE 360 stopped working for unknown reason. Magellan customer service for assistance, and I was “Kindly informed that there was nothing that they could do for me” I was offered a new unit at a good discount. I called back and the so called discount was non existent. After this experience, I do not reccomend Magellan produts to anybody.

  6. “…the system was a bit slow when using the touch screen to move the map.” Try putting the device into 2-D mode to enhance response. As best as I can tell from the manual, the drag-map mode was only intended to work in 2-D.


  8. I just buy the Magellan 4250 GPS an I am very disappointed of the way Magellan is using the GPS to force peoples to use the AAA roadside Assistance, I pay 400 dollars for this GPS because one of the best fixture is the ease of use on their menu for the roadside Assistance , my wife that is no technically incline if it have more than one button she is in trouble, but you cannot change the number on the roadside Assistance you are force if you want to use the emergency icon to use the AAA roadside Assistance, I do not have AAA roadside Assistance or want it, I have another company better than AAA roadside assistance ,but I cannot use there phone number on that page , You cannot Edit the AAA road Assistance number .If I pay 400 dollar for this unit, I want to be able to use all the pages especially the emergency page and no been forced to use the AAA ROAD ASSISTANCE. I am returning this GPS and looking for one that does not force me to use their services.
    You can be sure I will post this complain on as much web sites as I can.
    Thank you
    Irving Jovellar

  9. Just bought mine last week and was very excited until I really needed it. It tells me to go around the next block and then come back to the street I just passed to get on the highway. One time I was on a road and it tells me I’m on a highway. Then When I finally got on a highway, it tells me I arrived on my destination in the middle of the highway.

  10. Well not sure what to think now. I received my 4250 as a birthday gift. I’ve had it for a week and So Far SO Good. This is my first portable unit and the only other GPS unit I can compare it to is my GPS system in one of my vehicles. The 4250 actually has more features then my built in vehicle GPS system. I wish that the reviews here were a little more positive; I guest I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed.

  11. Would not recommend. Froze after 3 months of use just after the period Costco would take it back. Been waiting 1 month for it to be repaired. My Garmins never break. I still have my ique3600 after 5 years and it still works. Same with my Garmin handhelds.

  12. I bought mine on Apr-21-08, right out of the box it started to freeze up and had to reset a few times, the touch screen has ~ a couple of seconds delay. It looked nice but did not seem healthy to me since the buttons and the touch screen would not respond consistently and would freeze very often. I also called the tech support and got the feeling from them that this was a normal thing to do and it was all attributed to the low signal level which I don’t believe. I returned it the today. Even the demo they had at the store was too slow to respond.

  13. I just received the 4250 brand new. The screen was already defective. I called their customer services and they keep telling me that if I want to get it repair and the screen is not in warranty. I told them it’s brand new and I just got it. They repeated the same message for 3 times and got me really annoyed. It’s like a robot talking on the other end of the phone. I finally told her I am returning back the device to where I purchased it and get a replacement. I already have a TomTom One XL which I use almost everyday and I am generally very please with it. But, the TomTom doesn’t support my Palm Trio 700w on Bluetooth. That’s why I got the Magellan. Luckily it works. I am just not sure if it is as flexible as TomTom and have as much programming capability. So far ther Gui interface is not too promising.

  14. In desparate need of 4250 operation manual, willing to buy manual.
    Very disappointed in the poor customer service I have been reading. Magellan does not seem interested in repeat business. If I read 1 or 2 negative comments, I would say “unhappy people”, but there are 7-10 complaints. Most would not have complained if customer service responded w/ a sincere desire to remedy the problems.

  15. Just researching gps units, and been reading what I can find on the 4250. One very common theme has been poor customer support. Also the map updates don’t seem to be nearly as frequent as the ones for garmin. Factor in the cost map updates to the value of the gps when you buy it! A lot of units get sold with older maps and then magellan expects you to pay for an update, even if you just brought it home from the store that day!

  16. Im a long time Garmin eTrex Legend user. Was a holdout on buying a color, talking GPS for the car (“What’s wrong w/ the good old eTrex?”). But having bought one, and recently field tested on a week long trip to downtown Houston, I’m sold. I love it. The one tweek I had to make was to replace the “car” icon with a more standard arrow (I could never tell which direction the car was pointing; I run the GPS w/ North up). The icon was easily replaced w/ a download from the Garmin site.

  17. I have used magellan 4250 successfully until recently. On atrip to Arizone, it just froze in the car. The on – off switch gave in. Then the carcharger don’t work. Is there any reasonable repair shop I can pay and get it fixed? I want
    to buy a new or used carcharger too.

    rgds, — vrv

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