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Old 03-10-2003, 10:00 PM
Gary Garland, Esq.
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 85
Default GPS Navigation Shootout Intro Part III: The Tests to Find the Best

In Part one of our introduction to GPS for the Pocket PC, we spoke about GPS in general, terminology, and certain expectations. Our overlong Part two discussed hardware. Now we can finally talk about how testing was done to find which GPS solutions are worth your hard earned cash.

It seems a new navigation package crops out of the woodwork on an almost weekly basis. Some are prettier than the others, and some boast tons of features. Previously, I had mentioned Mapopolis was my top pick. While I still love my beloved Mappy, it botched a route and with it my confidence. If youíve read the other parts of the introduction (with a liberal dose of caffeine) youíll probably know my top pick already. Otherwise, read on!

A quick talk about hardware
I know, you thought you were done with this soapbox in the last article. One thing Iíd like to mention - your choice of hardware should depend on your hardware. Let me clarify - if you have an iPAQ 3630 with a CF card adapter, you wonít likely want to use up that precious CF slot with a CF GPS receiver - a serial receiver (or sleeve) would be your choice - and then store maps on a big CF card. If your PDA needs CF storage, you canít use it up with a receiver - youíd have to go serial or sleeve or Bluetooth. Also, if you donít want to go with a CF receiver, you have to go serial (or Bluetooth) - okay, end of hardware, well, except for memory.

I tend to forget how much memory I need...
These maps can get large - you have to decide how large an area of the Country you want to store, and if you have the capacity for it. Generally, my romps are usually within a 50 mile or so radius from my home. CoPilot is the best of the bunch for selecting data - input a zip or city, select your radius, and munch on a carrot. The other applications either require you to download chunks of the U.S. which are not necessarily divided on a state by state basis, or you may have to download a county (or state) at a time. The amount of RAM used per area is dependant upon how dense the area is - little Manhattan alone takes up the better part of 5 to 10 meg with most applications, while the rest of New York State may take up another 10 meg. Figure 40 meg or so will keep you out of trouble, but programs like Destinator and SmartST may require 70 meg or more if you want areas that may be divided on their selection screens.


Figure 1: Destinator's map selection screen for Eastern U.S. - the green segments cost me 70 meg
Itís barely worth mentioning, but ActiveSync is the easiest but slowest way to get the mapping data into your pocket pal. Some applications allow you to save to a card reader which would be much faster. If you select your maps properly, youíll likely only have to fiddle with the data on long trips.

Wrong turn? Donít shout, auto re-route!
Every application tested has an auto re-route function - some allowed disabling of it. You generally will want auto re-route enabled - if you decide to take a detour while going to Grandma's in order to get some fast food at the golden arches for Mclunch, youíd like your GPS package to then calculate the optimal way to proceed from there. Likewise, if you miss that important turn, you want help and you want it now!

I know for a fact that CoPilot will recalculate the entire route, and I believe Destinator and SmartST do as well. I donít know about the others, but I believe they have the same ability.

You want to recalculate the entire route, rather than just have the software get you back to where you went off route - perhaps there is a better way to go from your off route location, and you donít want software that just wants to get you back to where you went off route.
I scratched my balding head and wondered why anyone would want to toggle auto re-route off - the only things I can come up with include a situation where you go off route just to run into a parking lot and back out - basically I see no reason to turn it off. Teletype is the only package I am aware of that lets you set your off route distance limits before it re-routes, however that feature did not work well for me.

3-2-1 Contact
Each of the packages tested allows you to enter a destination directly from your Outlook contacts - nice! Note, some packages are less forgiving than others - if you have a suite listed, that has to be ignored or it wonít be a valid street address. Likewise the packages have to handle abbreviations for roads and states as well as the full spellings - NY as well as New York. Then, the question becomes, do we call that little island New York City, or New York, New York, or Manhattan, NY, or Manhattan, New York...see the problem? We have to be a bit forgiving in the contacts category. I am unaware of an actual standard someplace that specifies how contacts should be stored in Outlook - maybe thatís something an ubergeek should create someplace? Bear in mind, there can be different countries, etc. - it can get pretty confusing.

It is polite to (way)point
Iíve seen way points used two different ways - as either a brief stop in a trip, or as a user defined location. Previously, I never saw the need to input a way point along my trip - if the software allows relatively easy destination entry, I can just go to the stop over, and then continue to my destination. Recently, my eyes have been opened and I see the light, or way point as it may be. If you input a way point somewhere along the route you would like to travel on a long trip, you are essentially helping the software to pick a route by that way point. What Iím saying is if you pick a way point along the way you want to go, your software should map to that way point (obviously) and then map to your destination - that is a method to prod your software to pick a desired route.

The Fifth Passover Question: Why is this GPS different from all the others?
What am I looking for in a GPS solution? (Remember, Iím pegging myself as a fairly typical Pocket PC afficionado - Iíll use my Pocket PC for all the tasks it does well, and won't add on pieces just for the sake of adding on). That means I want a GPS solution that will work predictably and reliably. There will likely be some addresses that nobody has mapped yet, and the user will have to be understanding about new unmapped areas. Likewise, if the Navtech or other underlying mapping data is flawed, you canít necessarily blame the routing software. However, if using the same Navtech data, there is no excuse for some applications to ignore turn or road restrictions. That, to me, is one of the major features that really separate the applications.

It is my understanding that vendors get the same 50 or so CDs of Navtech data, and then use their proprietary methods of data compression (or data stripping) to make the mapping data usable. It appears some vendors throw away too much when they compress their data, thus losing turn and road restrictions.

Beauty - only skin deep?
One of the best packages is, in my opinion, outright ugly. Now, I donít expect software to have a picture of my baby pop up, and then have artificial lips mouth, ďturn right, DaddyĒ while her hand artificially points in the same direction (though it would be cool, and a bit disturbing). If you look at CoPilot, you will potentially fall into one of two camps - my camp which feels that CoPilot is outright ugly, and then the other camp, which feels CoPilot is clear and concise. Iím a big enough man to say, I think weíre both right I think CoPilot is ugly. But then, if it can get me to my destination, I donít care if it looks like Medusa! ALK is also correct, CoPilot is very clear, concise, and easy to read, and it is probably the best package if you drive extremely long distances and has very powerful routing so I have to say, ďletís give the ugly duckling a chance!Ē In a recent trip to Pennsylvania, it performed flawlessly, on the highway and in the confusing streets of downtown Philly.

Figure 2: Ugly, or clear? Powerful either way.

Conversely, some of the pretty packages just didnít have enough routing or mapping muscle, and one in particular was overly fond of u-turns. I, on the other hand, do not particularly care to make a u-turn, so that package got a big thumbs down for a variety of reasons (names not mentioned to protect the innocent, but youíll see all in the reviews!)

Alright, enough fluff: How were these tests conducted?
Glad I asked. After putting batteries in the Ouija Board... <kidding folks - serious tone now:> There were several routes I looked at with each package - from my fictitious home address to my fictitious New Jersey office, from my fictitious home to my fictitious New York City office, and finally a particular area in New York City. All these addresses are real; they are just not my addresses, so donít waste the postage on the letter bombs.

Here are some New Jersey streets you never knew you wanted to learn about: Kentucky Way is roughly 1 mile around, horseshoe shaped, and has about 240 homes. It is located in Freehold, New Jersey, and is distinctive on the map based on its shape. Kentucky Way has 2 entrances/exits, and they both intersect with Route 537, which later becomes East Main Street. Sherrif Street is a tough little street in Freehold as well, located almost exactly 1 mile west of Kentucky Way - Sheriff Street also abuts East Main Street/537. You can not make a turn onto Sheriff Street from East Main Street (although some packages will say otherwise). Sheriff Street becomes two ways when you go north of Main Street, but that is not important for our tests. When youíve had enough for the day and want to go home, Sheriff Street has a left turn restriction, so you have to go out of your way to go home.

Figure 3: No left turn - any bigger and the signs would hit you in the head. Not pictured - additional no-left turn sign, and one-way street sign.

Only two packages correctly routed to and from the New Jersey office - Mapopolis and Destinator.


Figure 4: Why couldn't more packages do this? Mapopolis easily routes with an optimal and correct route.


Figure 5: Sneaky Destinator - technically not a left turn, but I'd say the Navtech data does not accurately reflect the street. Kudos to Destinator for observing the no-left turn restriction by commanding a straight and then u-turn in a parking lot!


Figure 6: Same trip - Destinator's Superman mode provides a unique view.

As you can see, Destinator used a tricky approach that I would not. I believe the Navtech data is slightly faulty as it implies you can drive directly across the street, when in reality you have to go slightly left. I do see cars go that way, but I for one would rather not spend my time litigating a traffic ticket. Nevertheless, nods to Mapopolis and Destinator for correctly reacting to the no-left turn restriction. Jeers to CoPilot - my development was not on the map, so I used a nearby address - the software ignored all turn restrictions. (The map has been updated, and Iíll show it in the CoPilot review.) I used the following addresses for our tests: 108 Kentucky Way, Freehold, NJ, and 8 Sheriff Street, Freehold, NJ.

Ye ole test route #2
Test route number 2 involved going from fictitious home 108 Kentucky Way, Freehold, NJ to 475 5th Avenue, New York City. Two things to look for - as you can see on the maps, the logical route is to get to Route 18 (65 mph speed limits) which then joins with traffic light laden Route 9, and then somehow get to NYC (there are a couple of minor variants). 475 5th Avenue does exist at the corner of 41st Street, although for some reason Mapopolis has a problem with that particular address (so did the Garmin StreetPilot III) - for Mapopolis and Garmin I used Lord & Taylor which is 424 5th Avenue, located roughly at 39th Street.)


Figure 7: 5th Ave & 42nd St, NYC - enough no-turn signs for ya? There are at least 6 signs at the intersection, most are not pictured here. That's the Empire State Building's smaller cousin, the Chrysler building, in the background.
Spider-man fun fact: 475 5th Avenue is directly across from the research library that has the two lions, Patience and Fortitude, The Lionsand it was directly in front of the library (and across the street from 475 5th where Uncle Ben was shot).
Anyway, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street is a rough area - you canít turn. Cops wait there, cops give tickets. Every day. Unless youíre a bus you canít turn from 5th onto 42nd in either direction, and you canít turn from 42nd onto 5th. Fifth Avenue is a large one-way street going south. The test was to pick an address on 42nd Street a block or so west of 5th Avenue, and then request an address to the south on 5th Avenue - without a turn restriction the software would just tell you to turn right, but following the restrictions, youíll have to go out of your way to get there. Mapopolis (using a different address), Destinator, SmartST all performed well in this category.

Buddy, have you seen my lake?
I took screen pictures of each application featuring a small nearby body of water, Lake Topanemus. I tried for the same screen orientation and same zoom level - some applications are more visually friendly than others. For some reason, Pharos had the lake on a prior map (sent to me by my buddy) but itís not on the present map - strange.

Figure 8: Now you see it - Topanemus lake on older Pharos map.


Figure 9: And now you don't! Topanemus lake missing on more recent Pharos map. Strange. The unhappy face says it all!

Anyway, Iíll include the appropriate screen snapshots in each review so you can help compare the visual imagery of each package. Teletype would not work with my mobile screen capture software, so each image was taken at the desktop without the GPS operating.

Um, anybody going to review these things?
Me! Now that Iíve finished with the introductions, I think itís time to meet our software packages. And thatís what the next article is about - we finally start the reviews.

Sale Notice
I try for the readers! Here are the discounts I've been able to wrange so far - if I can get more, you'll see them in future posts. I get nothing from these. Pocket PC Thoughts gets nothing from these. As I will mention in the third introductory article, Mapopolis dropped from my top choice in favor of Destinator. Not because of the sale price, but because Mapopolis let me down on a route. Destinator is presently my top choice. Regardless, here are the sales for you lucky people:
Exclusive Offer to Pocket PC Thoughts Readers:
  • Destinator 2.0 hardware/software for only $296 - that's 10% of the published price
    This one-time offer will not be repeated. Call Destinator at 866.798.0905 ext. 248, mention promo code PPCT0403, offer expires April 1, 2003.
You have to call that number and use that code to get 10% off the full hardware and software package. This is the link for what's in it (the Destinator Navigation System - $329), but don't order from the link or you won't get the discount: Destinator Navigation System.

Also, my friends at yourmobiledesk have told me about the following specials (Iím trying for more, for Thoughts readers):
  • Pharos Pocket PC 2002 Ostia Navigation and Routing Software Only - USA Edition NAV-02 Regular price of $78.95 on sale for $68.95, now further reduced to $64.35 until March 31, 2003, hereís the link: Pharos software only special
  • Pocket GPS Navigator Kit for T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone PK035 Regular price of $219.95 on sale for $209.95.
In my opinion, Pharos software for $64.35 is a sweet deal. This is the lowest price of the full blown GPS software package I have seen.

Youíll still have to wait to read my reviews though

So what were the test results, anyway?
Iím wishy-washy between Destinator and Mapopolis, and CoPilot for various reasons has been catching up in the race. Read on MacDuff, and all shall be made clear...
 
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  #2  
Old 03-11-2003, 06:50 AM
Cliffbrooks
Pupil
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 13

Hey man, where were you when I was GPS shopping? You have done a great job of introducing us to the hardware -- I'm eager to hear your assessment.

I purchased CoPilot, and I like it quite a bit. When it's on, it's on. But sometimes it doesn't use a lot of logic. On a recent trip to SF, it suggested I leave the freeway and enter the city way too soon. So I ignored the request, it recalculated, and wanted me to take the next exit. This happened half a dozen times until I reached the exit that was appropriate for my destination. Of course, it recalculated and took me there...

Anyway, I can't complain too much, because I'm pretty much brain-dead when it comes to finding my way. CoPilot has always gotten me there, even if it wasn't the most optimal route (or even close in one case -- I was having Deliverance flashbacks as I drove through miles of dirt roads in Michigan).

It sounds like Mapopolis and Destinator are a little more accurate from your coverage...I'm eager to read the rest of the review because my brother-in-law is in the market and looks to me for advice.

Thanks again for all the hard work. Anyone who's tackled a project of this scope realizes how much work you put into it. You done good.
 
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  #3  
Old 03-11-2003, 06:53 AM
Duncan
Pontificator
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,468

It's a pity you don't seem to be testing the TomTom Navigator software (then again I don't know if there is a US version of it!). For the UK I find the maps brilliantly laid out, intuitive to use and it's smart enough to use while walking!

I can only judge by the pictures - but I wouldn't fancy trading for any of the map styles shown in your review!

(This is not, of course, intended as a criticism - I realise you can only review what you can practically review).
 
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  #4  
Old 03-11-2003, 08:47 AM
emjay
Pupil
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 12

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan
It's a pity you don't seem to be testing the TomTom Navigator software (then again I don't know if there is a US version of it!). For the UK I find the maps brilliantly laid out, intuitive to use and it's smart enough to use while walking!
Navigator is very good, but it did have a few quirks when I was using it (UK version). The map data appears to be quite old, as the street where I live changed one-way priorities a few years ago, and Navigator still has the old layout. Also it doesn't seem to realise that I can take the 3rd exit on the local motorway roundabout, and instead routes me to the previous junction!

The worst of these is that on some routes, instead of telling you to take the slip road to change motorways, it instead tries to get you to turn while you're on the flyover above the road you should be on!!!

Apart from that, it's still a fantastic piece of software... definitely the most important thing I miss from my PPC (switched back to Palm)
 
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  #5  
Old 03-11-2003, 12:26 PM
beto
Pupil
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10

Quote:
Originally Posted by emjay
Navigator is very good, but it did have a few quirks when I was using it (UK version). The map data appears to be quite old, as the street where I live changed one-way priorities a few years ago, and Navigator still has the old layout. Also it doesn't seem to realise that I can take the 3rd exit on the local motorway roundabout, and instead routes me to the previous junction!

The worst of these is that on some routes, instead of telling you to take the slip road to change motorways, it instead tries to get you to turn while you're on the flyover above the road you should be on!!!

Apart from that, it's still a fantastic piece of software... definitely the most important thing I miss from my PPC (switched back to Palm)
Well, it seems like all those minor issues have been fixed and the new TomTom Navigator 2 looks very impresive!!! Take a look at the press release here



I have been using Navigator 1.5 with an Emtac Bluetooth GPS for some time and by far is the BEST software I have in my PPC. If you live in Europe THIS is the GPS software you should get :werenotworthy:
 
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  #6  
Old 03-11-2003, 12:30 PM
Duncan
Pontificator
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,468

beto,

I think I love you and I want to have your babies (sorry - probably a piece of English humour that doesn't translate well! :wink: ) - this is excellent news! AND - they are offering an upgrade for us 1.x users! :P
 
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  #7  
Old 03-11-2003, 12:35 PM
beto
Pupil
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan
beto,

I think I love you and I want to have your babies (sorry - probably a piece of English humour that doesn't translate well! :wink: ) - this is excellent news! AND - they are offering an upgrade for us 1.x users! :P
Thank you Duncan, but I think I will pass on the babies thing :wink:
 
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  #8  
Old 03-11-2003, 01:15 PM
hollis_f
Thinker
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 382

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan
beto,

I think I love you and I want to have your babies (sorry - probably a piece of English humour that doesn't translate well! :wink: ) - this is excellent news! AND - they are offering an upgrade for us 1.x users! :P
But is it for all 1.x users? This -
Quote:
If you purchased TomTom Navigator prior to the 1st of March 2003:
You are eligible for our special TomTom Navigator 2 upgrade price of Ä39.95!
Suggests not
 
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  #9  
Old 03-11-2003, 01:21 PM
Duncan
Pontificator
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 1,468

Well they are offering an upgrade price of Ä39.95 for those who purchased TomTom Navigator prior to the 1st of March 2003 and free for those who purchsed after.

Not a cheap upgrade admittedly - but I don't believe they offered one at all last time - and the cost compares well to the full price of Naviagtor 2 (Ä169?).
 
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  #10  
Old 03-11-2003, 01:26 PM
MadAxeMan
Pupil
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18

Quote:
Originally Posted by beto
I have been using Navigator 1.5 with an Emtac Bluetooth GPS for some time and by far is the BEST software I have in my PPC. If you live in Europe THIS is the GPS software you should get :werenotworthy:
Slightly OT, but where did you get your Emtac?
 
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