Pilot III Deluxe
23 May 2003
We have reviewed Pocket PC GPS
Products and Handheld GPS Products inside out here at Pocket GPS, but one
thing that has been around for a while now is the Garmin Street Pilot III.
Recently Navman have brought out their iCN630 to try and compete directly with
Garmin's flagship integrated street routing product, so we thought we should
take a look at the Garmin Street Pilot III Deluxe.
Garmin Street Pilot III Deluxe
First of all when you open the box, I was
completely amazed by what was included. Not only do you receive the Street
Pilot III, but like all Garmin handheld GPS Receivers, you receive a Garmin to
Serial connection lead, you also receive a storage card reader as Garmin have
their own proprietary storage cards for loading map data on, this is a USB
reader. You also have two dashboard mounts, one that can be stuck to the
dashboard, the other is a huge bean bag with slide and lock, tilt and turn
mount. You also receive the full MapSource City Navigator Europe CD's in
the European version, or a similar version for North America. The price of
the Street Pilot III comes in at a huge £850. Compared to purchasing a
Pocket PC, GPS Receiver, storage card, windscreen/vent mount and street routing
software, only about 8 months ago you would be looking to pay the same sort of
money, however due to mass OEM involvement into the Pocket PC arena, prices are
starting to come down, and you could pick up a system for £450. This makes
the Street Pilot III pretty overpriced for what it does. So what benefits
do you get over a Pocket PC unit ? The first is it doesn't crash!
Lets take a look at the features that make the Street Pilot III a market leader.
What's in the box ?
Street Pilot III
PC Interface Cable
Portable Bean Bag Mount
External Speaker with 12v accessory socket charger
128mb data card
USB data card programmer
Basemap (Americas AutoRoute / Atlantic AutoRoute)
MapSource (North America City Navigator / Europe City Navigator)
Installation CD with Windows Drivers (and works with WinXP!)
The Street Pilot III comes supplied with a car accessory charger
plug with an integrated speaker, but if you wanted to use the SPIII with
batteries you can. It requires 6xAA batteries, and a set of full Duracell
batteries, after 4 hours drive time you'll see the battery meter below in the
second screenshot. The Street Pilot III will eat batteries mark my words, so it's best to run it from the car accessory
socket, and you will then also receive voice navigation prompts.
Time To First Fix and Satellite Information
With the extensive testing I have carried out in this review, I have witnessed
no extended TTFF's, in-fact most are sub one minute, I haven't noticed the SPIII
lose a 3D fix at anytime or have had to keep an eye on satellite fixes. The
supplied antenna which is detachable and has a BNC bayonet type connector is
more than adequate at bringing a signal into the SPIII and keeping a 3D lock.
With Pocket PC systems I religiously used to check that I had a 4+ sat fix
before planning a route, but found myself not having to do this, which makes the
SPIII very desirable, in effect just plug in, switch on and go!
You'll see some of the screenshots posted in this
review are not as good as others. The reason for this is the tool we've
used to capture screenshots from the Street Pilot III has worked fine on menu's,
but as soon as we tried to do some route calculation, the software would hang
and lose communication. So some of the screenshots, especially the maps
are photos taken from a digital camera, and due to the style of screen used,
like TV's, they look fine when you look at them, but due to the frequency used,
if you try to photograph them you start seeing horizontal and vertical scrolling
lines. The contrast and brightness of the SPIII screen is just like the
first two screenshots below.
In the screenshots above, you'll see the version number and Unit
ID we tested, the GPS status screen that gives you diagnostics on the overall
performance including battery power, and the third screenshots shows the GPS
Status screen (this was taken in demo mode), but equally shows the satellites on
One of the most disappointing items for me on the SPIII was that
I couldn't get the voice navigation working. The volume control I could
move up and down, it beeped at me, but no voice navigation prompts in demo mode
or when driving. It's not plainly obvious until you start reading the
manual page for page, but although there is an internal speaker built into the
SPIII, it's not for voice navigation, it needs to be powered by the supplied
accessory socket to get this sound, -or- you can plug a speaker into the 2.5mm
jack socket on the back of the unit.
Pilot III Menus
Lets take a
look at the Street Pilot III Menus. For anyone who has picked up
a Garmin handheld receiver, the menus will look somewhat familiar with
the tabs for each menu type at the top of the screen and data options
that can be set below this (in a page format)
The first menu you see is General. This is the
main menu where you can toggle between the GPS being on, GPS Off or
Battery Saver mode. Turning GPS to off allows you to demonstrate
routes indoors. The Voice option can be changed to give Guidance
and Status, Route Guidance or SPEAK Key Only. Attention Tone is
a feature that sounds like an aeroplane intercom chime to alert you
that the SPIII is about to give you some information, this can be
toggled on or off. The Units allow you select Statue or Metric,
Battery Type can be changed between Alkaline and NiCad batteries to
give a better battery reading and the KeyPress Tone can be toggled on
or off, but this will decrease battery power when on.
The Guidance tab is nice and easy. It gives you
the option to change how Off-Route Recalculation works, this can be
set to Prompted, Automatic and Off. The Next Turn Pop-up can be
toggled between Off, SPEAK Key Only, Automatic Only and Both (latter
being the default).
The Routing Tab gives the Route Preference of Faster
Time, Shorter Distance or Off Road. The Calculation Method gives
Quickest Calculation, Quick Calculation, Better Route and Best Route.
Better Route is defaulted. Ask Me My Preference will allow you
to be asked what your preference will be, you can also calculate
routes based on if you're driving a Car/Motorcycle, Truck, Bus,
Emergency, Taxi, Delivery, Bicycle, and Pedestrian. Now I
haven't tried using say Emergency Vehicle, but I suspect it will allow
you to drive the wrong way down one-way systems, take shortcuts where
you're not really supposed to. I suspect that a Truck or Bus
will only be able to take major routes defined by the geodata.
You can also select to avoid taking U-Turns, Toll Roads and Highways.
This tab brings you what you would expect and that's a
12 or 24 hour format clock, a Time Zone, Dayl;ight Savings, Time,
Date, and a Sunrise and Sunset calculation which I like the look of,
and does seem to be fairly accurate for the location I was using the
The Safety tab gives you the option of turning Safe
Mode on or off. When turned on, you will not be able to go into
any of the menus whilst driving.
Track Log Tab
The Track Log screen allows you to record a track of
where you're driving, showing you the percentage of memory available,
and the option of clearing the track.
This allows you to choose the language from English to
Deutsch, Francai, Italiano, Espanol, Svenska, Dansk, Portuges,
Nederlands, Norsk, Suomi, Polski, Cestina, and Magyar. You can
also change the Voice Language depending on which languages you have
installed to the SPIII on install.
This is something you would expect to see on a Garmin,
it allows you to change the format from Garmin to Garmin DGPS, NMEA,
Text Out, RTCM In, RTCM In/NMEA Out, RTCM In/Text Out and None.
This is useful for when you need to connect the SPIII up to a PC, or
if you want to examine NMEA data output.
Outside of these menus you can have other features like
the volume control which can be set by pressing and holding the
SPEAKER key, other menus can be accessed by pressing the menu key
once. You can also set using the MENU key which type of screen
display you would like, for example a full screen map or half screen
map with directions.
Pilot III Maps
installed and loaded the City Navigator maps to the SPIII, you'll
receive rich maps at various zoom levels. The maps are supplied
by NavTech under the current agreement Garmin have with NavTech.
The maps appear to be pretty accurate like we've seen in other NavTech
map solutions in the past. There will be errors, or some roads
that won't appear, this is life, it's always difficult for the
mapping/geodata companies to keep on top of this, and they do well,
but sometimes this can lag behind somewhat.
The above maps are full screen maps. When you get
close to having to change direction, the full screen map will go into
a half screen map like the Ashley Heath Roundabout screenshot above.
If you want further directions you can.
selecting a destination you're given 6 different ways of routing.
You can choose your destination via a Points of Interest option,
manually enter the address which includes House Number, Street, City
and Postcode! By Intersection, Waypoints which are frequently
saved positions, route by city, or exits. The Street Pilot III
also has a Recently Found Places option which makes life easier for
the frequently visited places.
always tell when you're using NavTech maps or TeleAtlas because of the
way it routes you. Something over time I've noticed is that
travelling from London to Poole, take the M27 onto the A31. The
first thing NavTech maps try to do is take the first available option,
even though it's sometimes the longest route, TeleAtlas prefers to
stay on track for as long as possible. Comparing the Routing
Quality on the Street Pilot, it's very similar to Navman SmartST Pro
routing. One thing you've got to remember, which most people
completely forget after day one of using a GPS Street Routing system
is, you purchased the system to get you from A to B successfully.
It really doesn't matter if it takes a longer route, or a shorter
route, or it doesn't take the route that you would have preferred, or
you would normally drive. If you didn't have your trusty map
book with you, you'd be following road signs, and how many times have
you driven in a complete circle thinking that the road signs were
correct ? Providing a GPS Street Routing system does get you
from A to B, then it's done it's job. You can tweak them for
faster or quicker routes, but they may still not take the route you
would have plotted. For most people this theory completely
flies out the window, and they expect to be taken what they believe to
be the correct route. The Street Pilot III routing is pretty
good. If you do go off track it will re-route you and you have
the option of letting it tell you to take a U-Turn, or it will
redirect you down several other roads before it gets you back on
Pilot III Specification
||Automatically calculated with
turn by turn instructions and up to 50 stored
||Navigation instructions and
||500 with name and graphic symbol
||2000 track log points
||Resettable odometer, timers,
average and maximum speeds
||RS232 (9 pin serial) NMEA 0183
||3.2"H x 6.8"W x 2.6"D
||1.4 pounds (635g)
||3.4"W x 1.8"H
||Infinite, no memory battery
||Data cards store detailed map
data from MapSource
||6xAA batteries or 12v car charger
||2-20 hours based on backlight
Pilot III seems like an ideal system, one that can sit there on your
dashboard and direct you with ease to your destination, but we did
find several problems that should be addressed here.
Re-Calculation on the default option (Better Route) takes its time.
At best we found that on a 40 mile journey after covering half the
distance, the Route Re-Calculation would take about half a mile when
travelling between 50-70mph. This plainly is too slow. If
you were driving around the streets of London, I wouldn't want to rely
on route re-calculation at this level. You can set this to a
quicker option, but it then does open up more margin for error in
sending you down some strange routes. To me it would suggest
that the processor within the SPIII needs to be faster
is non existent. What the Street Pilot III needs is an on-screen keyboard that you could either tap the keys on screen with a
stylus, or have a virtual keyboard where you move the cursor over and
select the keys. What you have to do is select the first space
for a character, then scroll up or down the alphabet until you find
the first character of the street, when you've done this, you press
the cursor right key, and do the same scrolling up and down the 26
character alphabet to select the second character. This is very
slow and tedious. Once you start using frequent destinations you
can store these as Waypoints before you navigate to these, and the SPIII will support up to 500 which should be enough for most people to
store, but on the other hand, would you want to scroll through 100
waypoints you've saved, let alone 500 ?
is loud and crisp, but there's no in-built speaker within the SPIII.
If you want to use the SPIII on batteries, then you have to plug a
2.5mm speaker into the back of the SPIII which adds to it's bulk.
The way that
the SPIII updates the screen is it wipes the screen, then gradually
draws the screen through several levels of detail. The screen
will automatically zoom in or out depending on your speed and
approximation to the nearest turn. When it does this, the screen
can take 2-4 seconds to re-draw a screen. When driving in the
city it can be a bit tricky when this starts to happen just as you're
approaching a turn
the Garmin Street Pilot III Size
compared the size of the Garmin Street Pilot III to a regular Compaq
iPAQ and also the Navman iCN630. You can see that the Street
Pilot III is the largest of the three both in length and in depth.
Part of this is due to the battery housing on the rear which houses 6,
yes 6 AA sized batteries!
Pilot III Compared to a Pocket PC or Palm Colour Solution
So how does
the SPIII compare to a Pocket PC or Palm Colour GPS Street Routing
solution ? The SPIII is an integrated product, which means less
cables which is a big advantage of a system like this. However
due to it's size and weight, the only place you can put it in-car
without having to drill holes and mount brackets is to place it on the
dashboard, and it can obscure your vision a little. One advantage
of the SPIII is that you're not going to get any Pocket PC crashes, or
weight times when suddenly the Pocket PC has gone slow. One huge
disadvantage is that the screen supplied with the SPIII doesn't have
touch screen capability so you have to select a letter, then scroll
through the alphabet until you reach the correct letter, press right,
then scroll through the alphabet to the next letter of the street you
want to look at. Because you have to do this for street and
city, long names can become tedious very quickly!
System (less cables)
brightness is the brightest I have seen in a portable screen
supplied by NavTech
quality in fastest mode is pretty good
PC slow downs or crashes
sensitive screen where you can tap out using an onscreen keyboard
for route entering. The onscreen character selection is very
tedious and slow
have to have cables draping off the dashboard
two crashes whilst routing which required a complete power down by
unplugging the power socket (and removing batteries if inserted)
As you can
see, the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages. The only
real difference is the price, weighing in at around £850 inc VAT, it
is an expensive system, but you have to ask yourself, if you haven't
used a Pocket PC, do you really want to have to start as there is a
steep learning curve when you start looking at PDA systems and GPS
thing I know I'm going to receive is a flood of emails on whether this
is better or worse than a PDA GPS system. It really depends on
what you want out of a system. If you have absolutely no
experience in GPS Street Routing, or PDA's like Pocket PC's or Palm
devices, and all you want is Street Routing, then the Street Pilot III
I believe is the product for you. It caters nicely for the
novice, someone who doesn't want to get bogged down into having to
tweak memory, install drivers, constantly check the GPS Status screen
to see if you have a 2D or 3D fix. In short, great for people
who need to rely on a system in anger like taxi drivers or couriers.
you have used PDA's like Pocket PC's or Palm's and you might want to
look at Topographical maps for hiking or walking, perhaps even for
marine use, or you're not shy in wanting to right the steep learning
curve of GPS products and you would like to gain a huge knowledge of
behind the GPS scenes, then a Pocket PC or Palm GPS system would be
better for you.
Pilot III is also waterproof which means it's an ideal either in-car
or even on a motorbike. One of the other benefits with MapSource
is you can manually define the route to take, drive from A to D via B
One of the
best points about the Street Pilot III is it has an anti-reflective
coating on the screen. Coupled with it's superb brightness and
contrast, this really is one of the better screens I have seen in a
PDA type system. Even in the brightest of sunlight where a
Pocket PC (even a Compaq!) starts to white out, the Street Pilot III
seemed to be unaffected, and I was really amazed at the quality of the
screen! Also the Street Pilot III does support postcode routing,
which is starting to become a must for most routing products.