Navigon is a relative newcomer on the portable GPS scene, which is already crowded with dominant players such as Garmin and TomTom. But breakthrough innovations don't always come from the largest companies. And while Navigon portable GPS navigators have only recently appeared on the consumer market, the company has been designing in-dash navigators and GPS map software for the automotive industry many for years.

The new Navigon 7200T and smaller Navigon 2200T portable GPS navigators have been generating quite a buzz for its combination of low price and rich set of features. More on that in a minute, but first a little background.

Navigon GPS

Navigon GPS receivers have been rapidly gaining in popularity due to their low price, thin, stylish design, and easy-to-use addon features. The best of these add-ons is the Navigon FreshMaps option which (as the name implies) provides regular GPS map updates. Customers pay $79.95 [Update: now down around $50 on Amazon] for the Navigon FreshMaps package, which provides 12 GPS map updates over three years. In contrast, to update Garmin city maps, users must wait for a once-a-year GPS maps software release. [Update: See how Garmin has responded with the new, nuMaps Lifetime package.]

Navigon FreshMaps is available for all of Navigon's receivers, including the popular 4.3 inch Navigon 2100. That means the navigatgor AND GPS updates package can be purchased for less than the cost of a single map update for some pre-installed automotive GPS navigators.

But what do these inexpensive Navigon 2100 GPS units really deliver? A lot! Text-to-speach technology gives spoken street names, allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Even more impressive is Navigon's 4.3 inch screen with RealityView 3D images. Drivers can glance at the Navigon 2100's 4.3-inch screen and see realistic imagery of upcoming lane changes, offramps and highway interchanges, including actual road sign text.

In addition to FreshMaps and RealityView, a third major feature of Navigon GPS units is called Lifetime Traffic, which provides real time GPS updates on traffic flow patterns--a feature that many much more expensive GPS navigators still lack. As the name suggests, Navigon Lifetime Traffic is purchased as a one time payment for the life of the unit, not an annual subscription.

Lifetime Traffic is included free in the more expensive 5100 and 7100 receivers, and can be purchased as an add-on for the Navigon 2100. One of the best deals in GPS right now in the "under $200" category is the Navigon 2100 max, which comes bundled with both FreshMaps and Lifetime Traffic.

With all of these features Navigon may be at the cutting edge of GPS affordability and usability. The older top-of-the line Navigon 7100 GPS receiver with Lifetime Traffic included can now be bought online for under $250, and delivers nearly all the features found in much more expensive in-dash automotive navigational systems. Amazing.

Now let's look at the new releases.

Navigon 2200T GPS

The latest Navigon releases for 2008 are the new high-end, 4.3-inch Navigon 7200T--slated for release later this month--and a new improved budget model, the 3.5-inch Navigon 2200T. Like the more expensive models, the 2200T will come with the Lifetime Traffic option included. That's real time traffic reports for life in a unit Navigon intends to start selling for $229--and the price is likely to drop following the initial release NOW SELLING FOR UNDER $175.

I think the reviewers at engadget say it best: "While many GPS manufacturers seem to be still seeing how much they can milk out of minor feature updates and monthly subscription fees, Navigon is going for the jugular with the new 2200T."

And Crunchgear writes: "It’s safe to say that now’s the time to purchase a GPS after Navigon’s announcement today...The 2200T is not only economical at $229, but you’re getting real-time traffic updates for free."

The release date for the Navigon 2200T has not yet been announced, but is expected soon. The Navigon 7200T is scheduled for release on September 28, but pre-orders are being taken now.

Navigon 7200T GPS with Bluetooth, Text-to-Speach and Live Traffic

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