Atlas beats sat-nav in race from A to BComputing Which? test reveals best route guides

10 November 2006

Cars in a traffic jam

The good old-fashioned road atlas beats modern technology in getting motorists from A to B, a Computing Which? test found.

It proved to be the best when pitted against a satellite navigation (sat-nav) system, a route-finding computer program and the government’s official travel website Transport Direct.

Computing Which? found that, by planning a journey in advance and travelling with a passenger who’s good at map reading, a road atlas is a cheap and reliable way of planning a route. 

One drawback of atlases, though, is that they often lack details about town and city centres.

Transport Direct

Researchers found the Transport Direct website was handy for ‘zooming in’ to print off local street names and city centre details. 

However, juggling lots of print-outs was frustrating and the step-by-step instructions weren't always reliable.

The instructions in Microsoft’s route-finding PC software AutoRoute 2006 weren't always accurate although it offered drivers the opportunity to plan in refreshment breaks.

Researchers found the Garmin Nuvi sat-nav unit – a Computing Which? Best Buy - was easy to use overall. But it was confusing when using the ‘quickest’ or ‘shortest’ route settings and the ‘shortest’ option sent them on a country lane detour.

Traditional atlas

Computing Which? Abigail Waraker said: ‘With all the hi-tech software available to direct drivers from A to B, it’s remarkable that the traditional road atlas came out top. In most cases, though, it’s more likely that a combination of route-finding methods will be quickest and safest.’