Review by Kar98
You can't get there from here! Or worse, drive down on old Highway 80, then
turn left-ish where the old rubber-boot factory used to be. Mmm-kay, can
you show me on the map?...No can do...Freaking figures. That's why
adult men don't stop and ask for directions.
Experience has shown that "Sending lost strangers on wild goose chases 101" is
something found on the curriculum of every pump attendant college in the world.
But...we do trust gadgets!
So let's see if gadgets are really ready to lead the way yet. I've tried out a number of programs which, incidentally, all claim to do
the best job in the way of GPS-guided road navigation. I'll just focus on two of them for this
review. The candidates are Ostia from PharosGPS and CoPilot Live 5 from
Installation of the programs is similar and has been covered elsewhere. The
method of selecting the needed maps however couldn't be more different.
In Pharos' MapFinder, you have to double click on any county you may be
driving in, then download it to your memory card. County by county, that is.
CoPilot on the other hand, allows you to zoom in on your hometown, draw a circle
of any radius around it and download the whole chunk at once.
For ease of use and selection of relevant map data, definitely
an advantage for CP.
Well, let's go on a road trip. I'm using the iGPS-360 from
Pharos here, also available from Microsoft as part of the Streets and Trips
software and a Toshiba e335. The PDA and the GPS receiver are professionally
duct-taped to the dashboard and we're ready to go.
In the new version of Ostia (v7) the start-up screen (left) has
been updated to include the finger-friendly buttons found in other PDA
navigation software. It is alas, still hard to read, cluttered, and not at all
intuitive; especially when you compare it to the start-up screen of CoPilot Live
(right). As a note of interest, Ostia does not include a single POI, as it comes
out of the package. You're supposed to subscribe to the SmartFinder program
offered by Pharos. CP on the other hand comes with a huge selection, and many
customizable categories, already included.
Both programs start in just about the same time; but CP loads
the installed map on start-up, and Ostia wants you to open every single county
map manually through the file menu. This can be really annoying: if you don't
know in which of the 254 Texas counties your target is, you'd have to open all of them,
which is a rather time consuming process and of course the more maps you open,
the slower the program runs.
By the way, when it comes to entering the target address,
CoPilot Live5 appears to be only program to adhere to the American standard of
writing an address; i.e. house number, street name, orientation.
For some strange reason, you're required to go through an extra
step to enable the GPS receiver in Ostia, where CP scans for it automatically on
start-up. Also, if you just exit the program without disabling the receiver
first, Ostia gets all confused and you pretty much have to re-install the
driver. None of those steps are necessary with CP, which is pretty odd. After
all, one would expect better co-operation between hardware and software when
both came from the same manufacturer.
As clearly shown by this pair of screen shots, the CP display
wastes less screen real estate, is less cluttered, much easier to read and
offers more information at a glance.
Both programs offer a "driver safety mode", where everything but
the most essential information is hidden. Guess which program I like better ;)
Both programs exist for the same purpose: to guide you to your
destination. Despite having the higher version number, Ostia 7 leaves a lot to
be desired. Screens are cluttered, menus convoluted, maps are ancient. POI's and
live traffic require a subscription. Maps have to be opened manually. Re-routing
takes forever. My biggest
gripe however is the fact that the program pretends to lose GPS reception
whenever you pass certain spots on the map. Yes, I did in fact drive back and
forth to verify this behavior, and sure enough, every time I passed this
intersection, or that bridge, Ostia locked up and could only be
revived by resetting the Pocket PC. While driving. If Pharos was the only company
to offer GPS navigation for PDA's, the concept would still have nothing more than
Initially, CoPilot Live 5 has a steeper learning curve. Once you
wrap your mind around the different approach though, using the program is quite
intuitive. Automatic day and night mode, easy-to-read directions, clutter-free
screens are just some of the impressive features. The longer you use the
program, the more you appreciate the effort and thought put into it, as you
discover little handy details. Should you stray off the calculated route, CP
will calculate a new route almost instantly, first in back-on-track mode, after
that, a new route will be suggested. Map appears to be a bit more up to
date, but not much. In both cases, data seems to be at least 4 years old.
In addition to the application for the Pocket PC., the software packages comes
with a full desktop route planner for your home computer. There you can plan
long-distance trips, calculate fuel cost, find directions etc and, for instance,
export a multiple-state route corridor to your Pocket PC., thus saving you the
effort of doing it all on your handheld and preserving the precious memory on
your storage card. The "Live" part of the product name refers to live traffic
data which can be downloaded through GPRS; and
the vehicle-tracking option in the desktop program. Lacking a data plan for my
cell phone, I didn't test those.
Overall, I think we have a
clear winner here ;) CoPilot 5 Live is a powerful navigation software; loaded
with useful features, yet easy to use. System requirements are rather reasonable
as well: any PDA that runs Pocket PC 2002 or later is sufficient. I'd give it
three stars out of five. It would have gotten five, but occasionally the map data
bears only cursory resemblance to the real world. See
here for examples.
At other times, it calculated a route from one town to another, I stopped at a
store in the first town, chatted with the owner for an hour, came back to the
vehicle: CoPilot was still open and the next turn displayed on the screen as
expected, but as soon as I moved, the program shut down! In the same town, it
attempted to guide me from downtown to the highway and it took a dead-end
residential dirt road ending near the highway for an on-ramp. In the
second town, it ignored the courthouse that has only been there since 1901 and
wanted me to to drive down its lobby, I assume.
Also, CoPilot does lock up on occasion, but not nearly as often as Ostia, and on
restarting the program, it will still show your last destination.
Other than that, it would be well
worth its money.
Ostia on the other should be given away for free with a purchase
of a GPS receiver from Pharos, so users who are new to PDA navigation can learn
the basic concept and discover what their actual needs are, and then switch to a
more mature package. 2 out of 5. Lock-ups while driving are inexcusable, even
more so when the recovery process is as complex as with Ostia.
Between the two of them, CoPilot Live 5 dazzles with features
and a superior GUI, but once it's put to some real life usage, it disappoints
with very shoddy map data. It will probably get you there, but I'll carry a
print-out from Mapquest just the same, thank you ever so much.
Recommended accessories: a memory card with a capacity of at
least 512 MB, a card reader for your PC, external speaker for voice guidance.