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Sony Expands PND Line, Adds Photo Viewer

San Diego — Sony is expanding its selection of personal navigation devices (PNDs) to six models from two and adding such first-time features such as photo viewing on all four new models and video and music playback on the new flagship model.

The NV-U94T, NV-U84, NV-U74T and NV-U44 Nav-u PNDs will be available in September at about $400, $350, $300 and $250, respectively. They join the NV-U73T and the NV-U83T, originally sold at about $300 and $400, respectively. Price changes on the existing models weren’t announced.

All six models feature Memory Stick Pro Duo slots to accept map updates via an inserted Memory Stick card, but the four new models add the display of jpeg photos stored on Memory Sticks. The new flagship also plays Memory Stick-stored MPEG-4 video and music in the MP3 and unprotected-AAC formats. Playback of Memory Stick-stored photos and video were added to the new lineup, said Mike Kahn, director of mobile electronics marketing, because PND-using travelers often bring a digital camera or camcorder on their trips. Sony’s digital cameras and camcorders also store media on Memory Sticks, he noted.

Also in the lineup, Sony is expanding its selection of PNDs with 60-city FM-delivered RDS-TMC traffic updates and selection of models with Position Plus, which uses a built-in accelerometer and compass to update a driver’s position when GPS satellite signals are lost in urban canyons or hilly areas. Position Plus also features a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure, which changes as a vehicle climbs hills or drives through tunnels.

With the introductions, Sony extends RDS-TMC traffic-update service to two of the new models and Position Plus to the new flagship. RDS-TMC is already available in the company’s two current models, and Position Plus is already available in one current model.

In other enhancements, all four new models display almost 150 branded icons representing points of interest (POI), or 30 percent more branded icons than its existing models display. Two new models get hands-free Bluetooth, joining one current model. In another improvement, the Bluetooth-equipped flagship not only offers hands-free Bluetooth, but it is the company’s first and only PND with stereo Bluetooth to complement the device’s video and music playback capability.

Like the current models, all new models feature Sony’s gesture command, which lets users execute function commands, such as “take me home,” by dragging a finger across the screen, Kahn said. In the new models, the feature also lets users display the next or previous photo or, in the flagship, the next or previous video or song.

All four, like the current two, also offer a dual-display function that lets drivers simultaneously view a larger overview map and a smaller lane-guide map, which shows the correct lanes to take when approaching a highway intersection, Kahn said.

Like their predecessors, the top three new models come with Super Suction Cup cradle, which can be mounted to the windshield or dash. It’s designed for consumers in states where windshield-mounted devices are outlawed, Kahn said. Other brands ship with just a windshield cradle, forcing consumers to buy an additional dash-mount accessory if they live in the wrong state, he explained.

Here’s what each of the new models offers:

The $400 U94T features 4.8-inch 16:9 screen, cradle with embedded RDS-TMC receiver, free 90-day traffic-service trial, A/V and photo playback, hands-free and stereo Bluetooth, importation of a cellphone’s contact database, Position Plus and Super Suction Cup.

The $350 U84T features 4.8-inch 16:9 screen, photo viewer, and Super Suction Cup but lacks the step up’s Bluetooth, Position Plus and RDS-TMC with 90-day free trial.

The $300 NV-U74T features 4.3-inch 16:9 screen, Super Suction Cup, photo viewer, hands-free Bluetooth and RDS-TMC receiver built into the main unit.

The $250 NV-U44T features 3.5-inch 4:3 screen and photo viewer but no Super Suction Cup, Bluetooth or RDS-TMC.