- Works with any geo-referenced map
- provides good navigation information.
- No cycle mounting kit
- newer, smaller iPAQs don’t support the GPS jacket.
Navman is known for its range of in-car navigation systems that combine GPS receivers and handhelds to provide route planning without a paper map. Now the company has come up with a solution for people who like to travel off-road, in the shape of the Navman GPS 3300 Terrain.
What’s in the box?
The full GPS 3300 Terrain bundle includes Navman’s Smart Explorer software for working with maps, a car charger and vehicle mount system, plus a GPS jacket for HP iPAQs that support the standard jacket system (some of the newer iPAQ models are smaller than the old iPAQ design, and don’t support standard jackets). The jacket incorporates a CompactFlash card slot, so you can store larger maps than the iPAQ’s internal memory can manage. If you have a Pocket PC that doesn’t support the iPAQ jacket, or you already have a GPS receiver, you can buy the SmartExplorer software on its own for £99 (inc. VAT).
Maps & route planning
Along with SmartExplorer comes a set of maps of European countries and other areas for you to experiment with, but it’s unlikely many of the samples will be very useful in the real world. For that you’ll need to obtain maps covering areas you want to visit. The Ordnance Survey (www.ordsvy.gov.uk) is a good starting point for the average off-roader in the UK. At the Web site you can buy standard maps or choose the location you’d like a map to centre on, while selected stockists will produce a variety of maps at specific scales -- all for a fee, of course. All you need to do is ensure that any maps you want to use are ‘geo-referenced’. The GPS system claims accuracy of 5 metres -- enough to get you within eyesight of your destination whether it’s the top of a mountain or somebody’s front door, which is good news. But planning routes is a somewhat more tedious process than with more traditional journey planners. Instead of letting you mark out a start and end point, and then working out a viable route between the two, SmartExplorer requires that you plot your journey by specifying what it calls ‘waypoints’. In effect these are an overlay onto the base map, and you need to mark a waypoint every time you want to change direction, for example at a track junction or the top of a hill. You need to set out your intended course accurately in order for the GPS system to follow it when you’re out in the field. Route creation is possible both on the PC and Pocket PC. If you define a route on the PC, you can copy the relevant map section containing it to your handheld. You can also send a larger map section across, which you can use as the basis for planning routes on the handheld. Before you start a transfer from PC you are told the size of the portion to be transferred, and offered a choice of between the data storage options available on the device. As well as the GPS jacket’s CompactFlash slot, our test iPAQ’s ROM FileStore was identified as a potential storage location. When you’re ready to follow a route the GPS system tracks your movements -- provided it has a clear view at the sky, of course. There are some extras. The software tells you your direction of travel, calculates an estimated time of arrival at your destination, offers the distance of your route, and will sound proximity alarms when you get close enough to a waypoint you’ve designated on your journey. According to the documentation, proximity alarms are provided to help you mark and then avoid hazards. It would also be useful if the software issued an alarm should you stray off your the marked route.
Who's it for?
So what’s the target market for the Navman GPS 3300 Terrain? Off-road drivers are one group Navman is keen on – the presence of a car mounting kit and cigarette charger testify to that. Cyclists are also an obvious target, either on or off road. The trouble there -- as we found to our cost during testing -- is that there’s nowhere to put the iPAQ to keep it in view when cycling along. Inevitably that means stopping at road junctions to take a peek at the screen. Using the system when truly off-road, and off-track too, was pretty much impossible without constant stopping and checking. Until Navman comes up with cycle mounting kit, we’ll stick to paper maps. Pedestrians are another obvious client group. Anyone looking to find their way around a unfamiliar town who’s prepared to waymark routes could find the software useful. Leisure walkers might also benefit, although referring to a pocket-stored iPAQ is little different to consulting a map when plotting which route to take at a track junction. But for the bigger picture, leisure walkers may still want a paper map. Paper, after all, does not rely on batteries that can run out of juice; also, one of the main pleasures of walking is to stand at a viewpoint, OS map in hand, identifying all the hills, conurbations and other notable features they can see in the near, mid and far distance.
There’s little doubt that the Navman GPS 3300 Terrain is a clever tool, and its ability to cope with a range of map types and create routes on both handheld and PC are real plus points. It certainly has a market, and we suspect that off-road drivers will be its main clientele until suitable cycle mounts are developed. Even then, we’d certainly want a paper map with us too.