The personal GPS navigation device has certainly come a long way and made great inroads, especially in the last half a decade. These days, prices have become competitive, and you can get a very nicely featured unit for a third of the asking price five years ago. And with plenty to pick from, there’s no shortage of choices if you’re in the market for one.

One such device is the gogopal Q5.0 GPS navigator. We received a unit for evaluation some time back, though admittedly there hasn’t been the chance – or need – to use it much, given the familiarity of the Klang Valley and the usual haunts visited. In any case, we finally put the unit through the paces, so we can now finally report on it.

Full story after the jump.

The unit features a 5-inch 480 x 272 resolution TFT touchscreen, a SiRFatlasV 533MHz CPU, 128MB of internal memory, 64MB of SDRAM memory as well as a 2GB MicroSD storage card and a Windows CE 6.0 operating system. The Q5.0 uses a SpeedNavi SQ Version 3.1 software from Korean company Hyundai MnSOFT (part of the Hyundai-Kia Group), with Malaysian and Singaporean maps from MapIT loaded.

The Q5.0 comes bundled with a car charger, USB cable and car cradle. Additionally, the gogopal also comes with a special storage pouch and a house charger (worth RM79) as standard, items that are usually optional extras for other brands. With every purchase comes a year’s worth of free map updates.

Features include support for eight languages (English, BM, Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese), as well as playback functions for video, music and photos, and it also has Flash player support and eight games, for those moments you’re seemingly bored and not needing the use of the GPS.

Functions of the unit include 3D building rendering, which makes for easier on the eye navigation, as well as a separate junction zoom split display, where every junction features a top-down view on approach to afford the driver unmistakable view of where exactly to turn.

There’s also 3D photo navigation, where selected junctions feature a photo rendered from full 3D-models to help you make the right turn. Another unique feature is the provision of lane information to guide drivers onto the correct lanes for an upcoming turn or maneouvre, with the designated lane marked by a yellow arrow.

Additionally, there’s a special house numbers search feature that allows you to navigate to the exact house on the road you’re looking for, and this is available throughout Malaysia and Singapore. If you’re travelling to Singapore, you can even search for a specific location via the postcode search, since all buildings in the Republic have a unique postcode.

In use, satellite acquisition time is fairly quick, even in hemmed in locations – such is the advent of technology that the SiRF Atlas III on the Nuvi 610 is well eclipsed in terms of locking speed. The rather slow take-up in satellite acquisition aside, the Garmin has been a steadfast tool in the four years I’ve had it, even if it really is only called in when travelling out of town these days, primarily for its POIs (read speed trap locations along the North-South highway) and its wealth of eatery options in its directory list, courtesy of the fine folk from the Malfree map community.

Yes, the Nuvi 610 it has its quirks, like in its search functions, and how sometimes keying in a road name doesn’t always get the desired results (which shows up when you go to the general area and zoom in!). And it has its fair share of omissions, like the inability to do way-points and plotting a user defined route, which most units now offer as standard. By and large, however, despite its little foibles, it has been thoroughly dependable. Certainly, coming to it from a Magellan GPS 320 was life changing (those into their navigation devices will know exactly what I mean).

Still, you’d expect that a swanky new thing like the Q5.0 will walk all over something like it. It does, and it doesn’t, actually. The gogopal’s presentation is right up to date with what’s expected circa 2011 – easy on the eye visuals, clear, always reiterated voice instructions and reinforced with that on-screen, so you’ll never be in the dark again about where exactly to turn or head.

Some thoughts about screen clarity and legibility. The 5-inch screen works great at night, and the display has a crisp, vibrant feel to it. But in very bright conditions, especially under say the midday sun, it feels somewhat subdued even with the backlight set to maximum, the rather reflective gloss screen not helping things. Voice command articulation and spread is very good though, as is operational time on battery only.

During a recent round trip to Ipoh as part of a SUV group test, the gogopal got to where it was asked in clean fashion, and it all feels very polished if you’re coming in from the Nuvi 610‘s more straightforward presentation. You do have to get used to the rapidity and frequency of the unit’s voice navigation – there’s plenty of clearly issued commands, which will never get you lost or wayward, but it does sometimes feel a bit unrelenting.

The OS’s menu on the Q5.0 is easy work, and moving about within and setting up a navigation route is a fairly easy job. Address searching is quick, and the MapIT map is comprehensive when it comes to home and building addresses, with the house address search an added boon, though in terms of places of interests (POI) the scope is a bit limited compared to what Malfree serves up.

Food in particular can be somewhat trying – for example, say you’re in the mood for chicken rice in Ipoh, and want to head to Lou Wong or Onn Kee, both in Jalan Yau Tet Shin. You won’t find them in the POI search under ‘chicken rice’ or by their shop names, so you’ll have to know they’re on that particular road.

Ditto Ipoh Chicken in Jalan Gasing in PJ, though Satellite right next door is listed. But never worry, you will find a Coffee Bean or a 7-Eleven anywhere, because the Q5.0 has it all neatly categorised and compartmentalised. gogopal says it’s working on completing the list of good makan places, and it will be released in the next update.

Another thing the company says it’s definitely looking into is with the availability of speed trap locations. Granted, it shouldn’t be why you’d use a GPS, but there’s no denying that the feature is very handy. The Q5.0 does however have an audible highway speed limit warning, which helps keep you honest and well within the line.

Little quirks and omissions aside, the gogopal Q5.0 has a lot going for it – it’s easy to use and is well equipped, and is a considerable amount of kit for the price, which lists for RM499.

The company is offering a promotional price of RM389 for the unit this weekend at Mid Valley Megamall, at the Lelong.my E-Commerce Fair that runs August 12-14. Head on over to Superbuy’s booth (2109, located in Hall 2 at the MV Exhibition Centre on Level 3. Additonally, the same offer is available online at Superbuy.my. Visit gogopal’s website for more information.