Posted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 4:28 pm Post subject: Navman, Garmin, Magellan or Tom Tom - Decisions, Decisions!
Well I couldn't remain a lurker any longer as I've now decided to go with the Navman ICN510 and simply had to chime in for those sitting on the fence!
I have used (rather extensively) Bluetooth GPS transmitters with my Sony Clie UX50 and Powerbook, the Garmin Streetpilot 2620 (which I almost settled on), and the Magellan Roadmate 700. This reply will focus on these and my decision to stick with the ICN 510.
To start, while I simply love Bluetooth devices and ease of use, however this simply wasn't going to fit the bill (for my needs) and I realized it quite quickly. I had purchased an EMTAC Bluetooth receiver and while impressed with it, the Clie simply had too small a screen to meet my needs and a laptop wasn't really practical for regular use in my truck even with all the space it affords (a Hummer H2).
I then gave the Roadmate 700 a go and overall it was a rather decent product! The screen was large, the menus intuitive, and the screens easy to understand. It's downfall was that the device was rather large, the windshield mount rather clumsy with it's long extension arm, the lack of waypoints, and the POI's were quite limited and not user customizable. I did like their use of a quick disconnect (hot) mount however that none of the others I tested offered. Bottom line, the search continued.
After going to the web to do some extensive research on what others thought, the Garmin 2610/2620 seemed like a natural choice and a highly popular unit. While my first impression was a bit soft as I had been spoiled by the Roadmate's large bright screen and very easy to understand 3D turn pages and alerts. However, after delving a bit deeper into the Garmin's capabilities, menus and features, I was beginning to feel the love.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Garmin was the well thought out and flexible mounting options. The beanbag mount (while never actually used by me) seemed perfect for travel, and the permanent mount and simple, clean design made the Garmin seem almost factory like when sitting on my dash (aesthetics DO matter). Also I liked the fact that Garmin included both auto and home power supplies and the ability to program it without actually having access to sats.
The biggest problem I found with the Garmin was with its internal antenna. Even with the steep rake of my windshield, the Magellan had no difficulties attaining and keeping a fix, however the Garmin simply wouldn't hold a consistent sat fix and I was ultimately forced to purchase an external MCX antenna to fully enjoy the Garmin. Overall I liked the Garmin (sorry for the long diatribe on the Garmin but it almost won for me), but I felt that the maps weren't quite as current as they should have been, and as discounts were beginning to show up for the 2610/2620 units, I suspected that a newer or updated model was on the horizon. I also wanted 3D perspective (I know many feel it's a gimmick, but I like having the options of both 2D & 3D). Bottom line, I was close but not quite ready to commit to the Garmin.
As for the TomTom Go, I never actually tested one, but its size and shape were detractors for me right from the start. Also, since I didn't know anyone that had one or a single store locally that offered them, I never really had a chance to play with one and my only exposure was at CES so I simply never tried it out (even with all the great feedback on forums). I excluded the Quest from my options as the screen seemed too small and didn’t really impress me from what I was reading, so was disqualified from my selections.
Last Friday I bumped into a shiny new unit on display at a local CompUSA, the Navman ICN 510. While I was skeptical and doubtful that this little unit would even come close to meeting my demands, I was soon leaving the store with their only one (they had just gotten it in and only a single unit was shipped). After getting my anxious little hands on it, I quickly ran into a problem, the software would properly load on my 17” Apple Powerbook running Windows XP Pro. Like many other Windows based PDA’s this was going to be a problem, but I wasn’t deterred. I found a source for a PC to use and after loading the software and maps onto the 510 (the software was well designed and easy to use however I do wish it would allow me to load map configurations onto the PC so I could more quickly switch them easily on the SD cards depending on my travel needs; the USB upload to the 510 is quite slow).
All this aside, after getting my unit up and running, I have to say that I was more than a bit impressed! Here are my opinions of the 510’s pros and cons:
* Small highly portable size
* Battery operation (useable on foot or in car)
* Bright crisp screen (albeit with a bit of reflectivity)
* 3D & 2D operation
* User customizable POI’s
* Compact, simple & flexible auto mount
* Home & auto power supplies
* Touch Screen
* Generally excellent satellite reacquisition times
* Excellent built in antenna (even with my steep windshield doesn’t require external)
* Superb value!
* Speaker a bit small for use over car radio (but easily addressed with audio out jack)
* POI menu cumbersome to use with too large text and not enough menu choices
* Off route recalculation seems to only take you back to original route, not give you a new route from existing location
* Address entry screen isn’t QUERTY style and make entry slower
* When entering address numbers or postal code, doesn’t automatically go to numeric screen
* No Macintosh support (Come on guys!)
Conclusions: This is a keeper for me! While not quite perfect, it offers the best combination of flexibility, price and utility! I just ordered one of the new 2GB SD card so that I can have every map (the entire US, Canada & Mexico) onboard without having to go back to the PC.
I hope this somewhat extended diatribe useful to anyone still sitting on the fence. So sorry for the length, but there was a lot to cover and I didn’t even get into as much detail as I easily could have.
Well I don't like replying to my own post, but since I don't have the option to edit my original message, I felt obliged to do so.
I just got off the telephone with one of the engineers at Navman regarding the ICN 510 with some of my/our questions and issues. He was not only helpful, but also very interested in my feedback and provided some answers that you might find of interest.
He told me that within 30 to 60 days a patch should be forthcoming to address some of the usability issues that I mentioned in my original post. They include (likely but not guaranteed):
1. For the software to go directly to the numeric input pad when entering postal codes or street numbers.
2. POI listings may be resized to provide better information usability.
3. I also made some other suggestions that he acknowledged either are or would be looked into.
As for all you Mac users, they are seriously looking into producing a Mac OS X version of the desktop software and if you are interested in such, should DEFINATLY call Navman and tell them (they are making note of the number of requests they receive for this).
He also cleared up or confirmed several questions I had on the US version. One is that none of the US models come with an SD card packaged in box. Even if an online retailer states otherwise, at the 13th hour prior to releasing the US version, they decided against it. All units only come with 4 CD's and you need to purchase an SD card separately to use the 510.
To load the entire US CD set would require about 1.5 GB, but he indicated that to increase integrity, speed and efficiency on the unit, you should disable (in the menu options) states that aren't being used outside of your current local region.
I also mentioned that I had ordered the new 2GB SD card and he stated that while I would likely work, they had not tested or certified it to do so. Some SD cards they have tested had problems and lost their data integrity and as such required reformatting. He couldn't tell me which ones, as they didn't have a list of confirmed problem cards. He suggested that most 512 cards are fine; that he in fact uses a 1GB card (as I too am presently using) without problem and that the 2GB card simply may or may not work.
One last note, they will soon be releasing for sale the remote control. Also, if you wish to use an external antenna on your 510, your antenna will need an MMCX connector like those used on Pocket PC's.
Thanks again for your indulgence and happy GPS’ing!
The software provided will download to macintosh virtual pc 7. But the active sync takes an age to install - like hours! I set it up and returned next morning to find it was all working well. I also did a reset before I downloaded the sofctware. Hope this helps. I am using all the softweare and acrive sync on a G5 with VPC.
"Thanks again for your indulgence and happy GPS’ing!"
'Tis us who should be thanking you Ditch, please keep up your "extended diatribes" , they are at the least informative, but also interesting. I too went for the 510 after trying the GO and Quest, and am damn glad that I did. Only the GO comes anywhere near it in terms of ease of use and as you say is worth every penny (cent ?)
I trust that you will inform us when you next get any Hot Tips from your mole at Navman ?
Thanks one and all for taking time to read my little posts and to those with the kind words of encouragement and appreciation as well!
It's just the frustrated writer/reviewer in me that needs a forum (so to speak) from time to time...
As for getting your 510 to work with your Mac (albeit VERY slowly), perhaps the fact that I was using VPC version 6 is the reason why I couldn't get mine to work (or even fully load the software). However, I'm only running a 17" G4 Powerbook, I don't even wish to think how slow it would be compared to your G5 Tower; although the bottleneck is most likely the USB port in large part.
I did make a call to Navman to leave two other tips that I would like to see added (but likely doubt it will find its way anytime soon).
The first would be a menu choice to have the upcoming street listed at the top or bottom of the screen when in normal (non-guidance) mode. The Garmin Streetpilot has this feature and it's invaluable when you're simply driving about and are looking for a street. Sometimes it's very difficult to see the name of the street ahead on the 2D or 3D maps, but it's a highly useful feature that I would love to see added.
The second would be the ability to work with maps on the computer without needing to have the ICN 510 connected. Since you can load maps using a SD card adapter, it would be a nice feature to add flexibility and ease of use. However, I suspect this will not happen as the software relies upon syncing the 510 data on board to update maps.
One last note, I found that if you wish to be able to see the upcoming streets more readily, turn off the "auto zoom" feature (which can be somewhat annoying at times), and simply zoom in for a closer view of the maps (in 2D or 3D). You'll be able to read the upcoming streets much more easily in this mode. I now keep mine at one of the two closest view setting in 3D mode and find it provides more useful data when looking for a close by street. Just a thought...
Thanks all for the great forum and I'm truly pleased that my 2 cents (or quid) has been of help to someone trying to decide on the right GPS unit for them!
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