Lost & Found:
Pocket PC GPS System Comparison
||"...whatever you do, stay away
from TeleType's World Navigator! It's evil, we tell you! Evil!"
While GPS systems should
help you find your way, the flood of new Pocket PC GPS
products on the market can leave potential users lost and dumbfounded.
Since you have already spent $500 on a PDA, why not spend a few extra
dollars and add one of the the most powerful features that an everyday user
might enjoy: a Global Positioning System. But which GPS system is
right for you? And what products coming out in the future should you
be aware of before making a purchase decision?
QUICK INTRO TO GPS
If you haven't heard,
there are dozens of satellites orbiting the Earth. These satellites have
been put in to space and are maintained by the U.S. Military. Each of these
satellites emits a unique radio frequency signal down to Earth. GPS (Global
Positioning System) devices listen for these signals and can fixate on each
satellite in the sky. Once a GPS device has located four satellites,
software can calculate your exact position, the time in your time zone and
even your elevation.
And, when combined with
mapping data, a GPS device can establish the fastest route to a
destination, provide turn-by-turn directions as you drive and helps ensure that
you are on course at all times. But, best of all, there are no monthly fees
involved when using GPS, since the government pays for the satellites. This
means once you purchase your GPS system, you'll never have to pay another
penny to keep it running.
THE FOUR PRODUCTS AVAILABLE TODAY
The GPS systems in our review (from left to right) - PowerLOC Destinator, TravRoute
Pocket Co-Pilot, Pharos Ostia, and Teletype World Navigator
Currently, there are four
different commercial GPS products available for the Pocket PC. The first
three systems (Pharos Ostia, PowerLOC Destinator and TravRoute Pocket
Co-Pilot) all use custom cable systems to connect to the synchronization
port of the Pocket PC. This keeps the device's memory port free so that you
can copy the large maps to a memory card. The fourth product,
designed by Teletype, (the most experienced GPS manufacturer in our review), is the recently released World Navigator, a solution
designed exclusively for the iPAQ with a PCMCIA card sleeve.
The most important part of
a GPS system is the software. The ease-of-use combined with a clear and
concise driving screen are essential to following turn-by-turn directions.
Each of the applications takes a slightly different approach to the User
Interface and to establishing a route. To be fair, they must be examined
Destinator map screen
Note the turn indicator with distance remaining until turn (153
yards) at the bottom of the screen.
Destinator satellite screen
This satellite screen is the coolest and clearest of all the
products in our review.
Destinator, the newest GPS
system in our review has -by far- the most options and the fewest taps
required for entering an address. (The
Features At-A-Glance chart below has a complete comparison) The application also does a wonderful job
of warning you of a turn at 500 yard, 200 yard and 10 yard increments. The
application has a clear and easy to understand voice and -in our extensive tests-
the program was bug free and performed very well because of a quick screen
refresh as the map scrolls during driving. Another feature we really liked
was the use of the action button to zoom in and out on the map.
However, Destinator does
have a few problems. The icon bar at the top of the screen is difficult to
understand and menu system is a massive set of buttons that make it tough
to use in a vehicle. Moreover, the one fatal flaw is
that Destinator did not list itself in the Pocket PC uninstall window,
making the application impossible to remove without manually deleting all
of the program files.
Pharos Ostia map screen
Although lackluster, the map screen shows the route and a rotating
The Pharos Ostia
Includes a very large compass (top) & the remaining distance
(bottom) of your trip.
One of the very first GPS
systems to debut for the Pocket PC (as well as the one with the strangest
name), Pharos Ostia is short on features but long on stability. This
application is the most stable of all four products, and provides a clean,
simple interface. The voice prompt gives you a single warning before your
turn and then plays a pleasant chime when you've reached street or exit
you need to turn onto.
The Ostia displays are the
simplest and easiest to read, but they also lack information. The program
calculates ETA (estimated time to arrival) for the entire trip (displayed
on a separate "directions" screen), but lacks the ability to show current
ETA as you're driving. We would have made this application the editor's
choice, if they had included ETA and had a map screen as nice as Pocket
Co-Pilot, our next
Pocket Co-Pilot v2.0
This screen is the primary reason Pocket Co-Pilot received the
The Pocket Co-Pilot
Where the map screen shines, the sat. screen is greatly lacking.
Because Pocket Co-Pilot
has just released v2.0 of their software, they have had the time and the
ability to fine turn their application to perfection. However, it is
important to note that this is the biggest memory hog of all the
applications we tested and that simple fact prevented us from giving it a
That said, this product is
absolutely top rate. With a map screen that shows distance to next turn,
total trip mileage remaining and a clear direction arrow, this screen is
absolutely unmatched by any other GPS system available today. In fact, the
design is perfectly suited for the Pocket PC, giving the right amount of
map space combined with a generous amount of text information. The street
name at the bottom of the screenshot shows you the name of the road you
currently traveling on and the compass in the upper-left side of the map
reveals your direction. While we could go on for hours about this
product, check the
Features At-A-Glance chart below to see how the system stacked up.
World Navigator map screen
The screen flashes
World Navigator position screen
Not much to talk about here either
This product is so bad
that it makes us wish that we had a zero stars rating. The hardware is the
slowest to locate your position (see the Features At-A-Glance chart
below) and the software is absolutely unusable. Getting a map from the CD
to the Pocket PC was an extensive and exhausting procedure (even for our
superior intellects) and setting the system up used the last of our
patience. The software is cludgy and poorly designed.
Just so you don't think we
have anything against TeleType (or if you already own the software and want
to feel better about the purchase) there are some bright spots... But they
are few and far between. Tapping on any city reveals the population and
location information in a pop-up window. From there, you can load/unload
detailed maps of the city, as well as setting it as a destination in just
one tap. It also has the ability to quickly measure distances with
the stylus. Finally, this is the only application that allows you to use
the addresses from the Pocket PC contacts database to create a destination.
Of course, since TeleType designs
solutions for laptops and PDAs, they are the only
company that does not make a GPS system which plugs directly into the
synchronization port. But when you add the iPAQ PCMCIA sleeve and memory card
expenses to the facts that Teletype does not include a mounting bracket
($69 extra) or external antenna ($59 extra) and they have the highest
priced unit ($499), anyone can conclude that this system is outrageously priced.
THE FUTURE OF GPS
The Talon Technology NavMan for the Compaq iPAQ
Talon Technology is just
finishing work on their NavMan GPS sleeve for the iPAQ. Although we
downgraded the score of the Teletype World Navigator for its use of the
PCMCIA card format (which necessitates the purchase of the iPAQ dual PC
card sleeve to add external memory cards), we praise Talon for their use of
the iPAQ sleeve complete with a CF memory card port. The company was
not available to disclose further information on pricing and availability.
However, we did learn that the NavMan will use Pocket Co-Pilot software,
our Editor's Choice in this review.
Unless you own an iPAQ and
want to wait for the NavMan,
your first choice should absolutely be Pocket Co-Pilot by TravRoute. The
software will provide the best overall driving experience once you overcome
its need for mucho memory. If you know your Pocket PC is low on space, consider Pharos Ostia, the close runner-up in our GPS review.
But whatever you do, stay
away from TeleType's World Navigator! It's evil, we tell you! Evil!