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PowerLOC Destinator Software Review for the Pocket PC

18th August 2002

Reviewed by Darren Griffin

 

Destinator, a product from PowerLOC Technologies Inc has been around for some time now in various revisions.    Although the latest release is v1.8.0, the version I have reviewed here is v1.7.2.0b.

 

Destinator is a fully featured in-car navigation system.  It can be purchased as a bundle with supplied GPS hardware or as maps only.   Some of its many features are Route Calculation, Voice Navigation, Automatic re-routing should you wander or be directed off the intended route and Points of Interest (POIs).

 

The first thing that impressed me was the installation program, it launches on the PC with a simple system that allows you to install the PocketPC application and choose which maps you wish to upload.  (Right).

 

This made the installation of the software and maps very straight forward. 

 

Maps can be selected for download to the PocketPC’s main memory, to an installed storage card or to a card reader on the PC.  The UK is divided into 8 segments ranging in size from 14Mb (Southern Ireland) to 58Mb (South-East England) Depending on the amount of memory you have available and where you will be traveling you can choose which segments you need.

 

Once installed, it is a simple matter of launching the application and accepting the standard warning that drivers should not operate the software whilst the vehicle is in motion etc.  (See Fig 1).

 

On first use you select the GPS Info screen, choose the correct GPS settings and off you go.  If you do not know which COM port your GPS runs on you can ask Destinator to search all available ports and Baud rates for you.  (See Fig2)

 

Fig 1

Fig 2

 

The signal status screen will then spring into life and this provides Lat/Lon, speed, altitude and the number of satellites in view information (Fig 3).

 

TTFF (Time to first fix) is a revelation compared with SmartPath software.  I acquired a satellite lock within 30 seconds of its first cold start whereas this would normally be between 5-10 minutes with SmartPath.  It also held lock under moderate tree cover where others would lose signal and if signal was lost because of transit through tunnels etc, it would rapidly re-acquire lock on exiting the tunnel. 

 

This benefit of this cannot be over emphasized; there is nothing more frustrating than losing signal just when you need guidance most.

 

The next step is to switch to the navigation screen.  This displays your current location and from here you can enter a destination, find POI’s (Places of interest) change system settings etc.

Fig 3

 

A button bar at the top of the main map screen allows you to access the menu, zoom in/out of the map and access GPS Status and information option.  (See Fig 3a)

 

Selecting a new route is simple and quick.  Destinations are input by selecting City – Street – House.  (See Fig 4)   

 

As you begin typing a list appears allowing you to either type the full name or choose from the list.  Once you have done this select the Navigate button and the route is calculated and you’re ready to go.  The initial route calculation can be quite ponderous but once done it is clearly indicated by a bold blue line.  An information area at the bottom of the screen shows the direction of travel, next junction and road name.

 

Fig 3a

Fig 4

 

The voice navigation is in a clear female American accent but has a number of quirks, eg. Roundabouts are called ‘circles’, on a number of occasions it directed me off the motorway only to reach the top of the ramp and be directed to rejoin the same motorway! And screen updates are very slow, happening about once every 3 seconds.  Another issue was that as you approached a junction the screen would often not update in time leaving you to rely on the voice navigation for guidance, this is OK but often happens a little late for you to prepare and position your vehicle safely.  If you deviate from the chosen route Destinator will re-calculate the route, this can be very slow in practice. 

 

A recent road test I undertook for a 40 minute journey where there is a clear route via major roads had Destinator take me on the most fascinating mystery journey through hill and dale, I followed it’s instructions to the letter and arrived at the correct destination but it had taken 1 hour 20 minutes and involved travelling along single track roads through places I had never heard of and probably will never see again!

 

Another issue is navigating across map segments.  When you travel across a maps segment the map does not load automatically, instead detail defaults to major A Roads and motorways.  You must switch map segment manually.  To navigate to a minor street on another segment you have to load the destination segment, choose your route and then begin the journey using basic map information only or load your start segment and create a route to the segment boundary and then repeat this process once you reach the map segment boundary. 

 

This is to put it mildly a real pain. (See Fig 4a)

 

 

Fig 4a

 

Fig 5

Settings that can be configured include day/night screen colours to avoid glare, auto zoom which zooms in as you approach a junction the zooms back out again after it has been passed.  North Up or Route Up, Miles/Kilometres and Quickest/Shortest route (although changing this made little difference to routes planned).  (See Fig 5)

 

You can save commonly visited locations to a favourites list for quick recall, you can also switch to a pedestrian mode for use when on foot. 

 

Finally Destinator comes with a huge POI database with information on bus stations, casino’s, cinemas, restaurants, hospitals, car parks, petrol stations and much more. 

 

I haven’t been able to verify the accuracy of all the information (even I can only eat 3 time a day!) but petrol stations built within the last 3 years are on the map for my area.

 

 

Highs and Low’s

I can’t fault the software’s ability to acquire and hang on to a satellite signal, it’s been very stable in use and I’ve only once had to soft reset the system to get things back up and running.  The map detail is too basic for my liking, all the necessary information is there but the roads are thin and not as clear as TomTom maps.  Also the map cursor would be much better if it used an arrow to indicate direction of travel.  I liked the Info button which when selected gave useful data on street numbering, which side was odd numbered/even numbered and what the number range was, this was a real boon when attempting to locate an address in London.

 

Conclusion

A good effort let down by slow screen updates, and poor handling of map segments.  If Destinator can improve the screen re-draw speed, route calculation and re-route speed and resolve the requirement to switch map segments manually then this will be a much better product, for me with the competition in this area demanding near perfection, Destinator has too many compromises to make it my choice.

 

 

Conclusion

Manufacturers Website

http://www.destinator1.com 

Pocket GPS Reviewer Darren Griffin
Pocket GPS Reviewer Website n/a

Rating

 

Ability to plot route and follow
Voice Navigation Quality
Re-routing Quality
Map Detail
Time To First Fix (TTFF)
Overall Rating 66%
How did we achieve these ratings ? Review Ratings

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