Destinator SP

  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good

Pros

  • Good visual data at junctions
  • neat and efficient GPS antenna
  • fast route calculation
  • integrates with Windows Mobile contacts database

Cons

  • Some spoken instructions not optimised
  • postcode searching is not full seven digit
  • no pedestrian mode
  • activation process is a little irritating
  • no full printed user manual
  • Bluetooth pairing with GPS antenna is not automatic

We first looked at Destinator back in mid-2003, in a version designed for use on Pocket PCs. Like many mobile navigation solutions, this product has subsequently spread its wings and is now available in various formats, including this new incarnation for Windows-based smartphones: Destinator SP.

Installation & setup
The software is supplied on a 256MB MiniSD card, and an adapter to fit an SD card slot is included. The software occupies 128MB, leaving 115MB is free for your own use. In the box you also get a RoyalTek Bluetooth GPS receiver that's small and light enough to pocket easily, a sucker-type car mounting system with clamp-style holder for your smartphone and a cigarette-lighter charger for the GPS unit. You also get a printed QuickStart guide plus a CD containing a backup copy of the software and map data. Destinator SP includes street-level maps of the UK and Northern Ireland. After inserting the MiniSD card into our test device -- an i-mate SP3i -- and powering it on, the software installed automatically. Pairing with the GPS receiver was not an automated process, but the printed instructions in the QuickStart guide were up to the task. You can start using the software immediately, but product activation needs to be completed within 15 days. It can be managed either from the handset in conjunction with a PC, or directly from a PC using the software provided. It's a little tedious but is a once-only procedure. If you remove the MiniSD card from your device for any reason and then replace it, the software tries to reinstall. It should really be able to recognise that it's already installed.

Features and performance
Destinator SP covers the navigation basics well. You can, for example, choose between 2D and 3D map views when travelling, while settings include finding the quickest or shortest routes, in metric or imperial units. Points of interest are plentiful, as is usual, and you can use these as places to which to navigate. Similarly, you can pick up addresses from the phone's contacts book, and the software will offer its best matches between your chosen address and the details in its database -- you chose the one you want by scrolling through the list and hitting the select button. You can plan routes without having the GPS receiver connected, and preview these as a series of turn-by-turn instructions. However, you can’t view your proposed route overlaid onto a map, which some users might find helpful. As you enter each letter of a town or city the software narrows down the possibilities, showing the most likely seven on-screen. Tap a number key to select, and then repeat this process with a street name and finally a house number. Postcode navigation is also possible, but only to four digits, which means you still need to enter a street name as well as a house number. Skipping between these two and other options for ordering information is fast and easy, as is route calculation itself. During a trip, the spoken instructions are generally clear, and about 80 percent of the time we found that they worked well. But that 20 percent concerns us, and we have three issues. On some occasions we felt the software was asking us to follow our nose more than we would have liked. In particular, there were a couple of forks in roads where it wasn't clear which was the main road and which the joining road: in the absence of spoken instructions, we had to a glance away from the road to view the screen, which could be dangerous. The spoken instructions are occasionally a bit wordy -- ‘Continue driving around the roundabout, second exit’, for example. It might not look like much written down, but on the road we sometimes exited a roundabout before the instructions were finished. Finally, the software likes giving the next instruction as soon as the previous one is completed. This is not appropriate when you’ve a good way to go before the next junction, especially when you’ve completed a similar turn. This matters most the first time it happens -- after that we got used to it. Furthermore, you get the instruction and then the distance, when it should be the other way around. Destinator SP makes good use of limited screen space, providing huge visual cues when you are at a junction, so that the merest glance at the screen is enough to reinforce what the spoken instructions are saying. This is a good thing, given the issues we had on occasions with the spoken word. A line along the bottom of the screen -- the ‘Infobar’ -- informs you of details like distance to destination, road you are currently on, present latitude and longitude, speed and altitude, and your estimated time of arrival. This information can’t be shown all at once, so it scrolls, and is actually a bit of a distraction. The Infobar can be turned off, but you can’t configure precisely what's shown here. We’d like to have a permanent estimated time of arrival on the bar, for example, and could do without the other information. You can send an SMS from within the software, which gives an indication of your current location. This is provides the recipient with your street and town and also allows you space to add a little text yourself. It is a very convenient way of sending your current location to someone who is awaiting your arrival. Destinator SP is a reasonably good navigation solution, but it lacks the sophistication offered by some of the competition. A little more attention to the navigation instructions and more configurability would not go amiss. Nor would the ability to set up permanent or temporary road blocks, or a full printed user manual.

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