- CompactFlash interface
- easy setup and configuration.
- GPS hardware is somewhat unwieldy, especially if you’re on foot
- bundled software is missing some key features
- car attachment kit could be more solid.
NavMan, the specialist manufacturer of GPS (Global Positioning System) products, has shrunk its Pocket PC add-on to fit in a CompactFlash slot -- the last NavMan device we looked at, the GPS 3000, was a bulky expansion jacket for Compaq iPAQ handhelds. When we say that the GPS 1000 ‘fits’ in a CF slot, that’s not entirely true, as the bulk of the electronics and the antenna are housed in a bulbous protuberance (which looks rather like the radar pod on an AWACS reconnaissance plane) with a CF interface stuck on the bottom. Still, it’s a step in direction of miniaturisation.
The £204.25 (ex. VAT; £239.99 inc. VAT) GPS 1000 comes bundled with two SMARTPATH route-finding applications -- Trip (13 European countries) and City (90,000 European towns and cities) -- along with an application that provides support for the GPS hardware. These programs need to be installed on your Pocket PC device (via a host PC with an ActiveSync connection) before you can plug in the GPS 1000. When installing the route-finding applications, you can choose which country or city maps are loaded onto your handheld, and in what level of detail. Additional maps can be loaded subsequently (handheld memory permitting), and you can switch between loaded maps as required.
Once the software is installed, you can insert the GPS 1000 into your Pocket PC’s CompactFlash slot and turn on the device. When you run SMARTPATH Trip or City, the GPS hardware should be detected automatically.
Since you’re most likely to use your handheld/GPS receiver combination in a car, the GPS 1000 is supplied with an in-car mounting kit. There are two ways of attaching the system to your car: using a suction mount or a vent-clip mount. The suction mount comprises an adjustable arm with a suction cup on one end and a mounting bracket on the other, which fits into the supplied PDA holder. Normally you’ll attach the suction cup to the windscreen, which needs to be clean prior to attachment. A word of warning: if your car has an athermic heat reflecting windscreen (such as in the new model Renault Laguna), all electromagnetic signals -- including the GPS signal – will be blocked. The vent mount bracket and vent clips allow the PDA holder to attach to a suitable vent in your car’s dashboard.
Of the two attachment methods, we found the vent-clip mount the more solid, although it’s obviously less flexible in terms of positioning. An in-vehicle power adapter is supplied, which connects to the car’s cigarette lighter, to save your handheld’s battery being drained.
To activate the GPS receiver, you fire up SMARTPATH Trip or City and select View/GPS, which brings up the GPS dilaogue box. The GPS tab within this box lets you configure the device, selecting how your position and speed is represented, and whether or not the handheld powers down when the GPS receiver is in use. Once the receiver has located at least four satellites (a process that requires a clear view of the sky and can take up to 15 minutes the first time), the Status tab displays your position, approximate direction of travel and speed. The lower part of the Status screen shows how many satellites are in view, and which ones are being used to determine your current position.
The SMARTPATH route-finding software is pretty straightforward, if somewhat limited. SMARTPATH Trip will calculate the quickest or shortest route between your departure and destination points (and back if required), with up to four stopovers allowed. You can view the results in three ways: the map (with the route highlighted); the driving instructions; or a split screen showing the map and the driving instructions. You can drag a rectangle over the map to signify an area you wish to avoid, and add your own collection of important locations in an overlay file -- overlays for airports, stations and tolls are provided. Your current GPS-determined location and direction of travel is indicated on the map by a pointer, which is automatically kept within the map display. Driving instructions scroll down the screen as your journey progresses.
SMARTPATH City works in a similar manner to the Trip product, but adds street-level planning, supports walking routes, displays detail such as one-traffic systems, and lets you store your favourite routes.
We tested the GPS 1000 using a Toshiba Pocket PC e570, which has a built-in CompactFlash slot. Setup and configuration went smoothly, and the system worked as advertised. However, there are several ways in which the product could be improved. First, there's no support for an external antenna for the GPS unit, which could mean that signal quality is not optimised in challenging situations. Second, the map and text display in SMARTPATH Trip are hard to see when driving -- a situation that's not helped by the marked wobble of the suction mount assembly in our test unit. Spoken instructions, which could alleviate the last criticism, are not yet supported, and nor is the ability to recalculate a route dynamically if you should depart from the initial itinerary. Both of the latter features (spoken instructions and dynamic routing) are supported by TravRoute’s competing Pocket CoPilot software.
As far as service and support is concerned, there’s only a limited FAQ on NavMan’s Web site, plus a form for submitting technical support requests via email.
NavMan’s GPS 1000 makes welcome use of the CompactFlash slot present on many Pocket PC 2002 handhelds – although there will be competition for occupancy of that slot from devices like wireless networking and Bluetooth cards. It’s not an especially elegant piece of hardware, but it gets the job done well enough. However, the bundled route-finding software is looking increasingly weak, and needs updating as soon as possible to include features like spoken instructions and dynamic routing. The in-car attachment system could be improved too.