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When it arrived in the post, I couldnt believe just how small it was. It measures just 8cm x 4cm x 1.5cm, and drops easily into your pocket if you want to use it on foot.
The setup instructions were simple to follow and got the software loaded onto my pc, and from there onto my ipaq within a few minutes. You have to charge it up for a few hours before you can go off playing with it, and so I took this opportunity to read the manual which is only on the cd, no hard copy. However, I have to say, the best way to learn how to use the navigator is by actually playing with it while you read. It all makes sense a lot quicker then.
I soon got to grips with the basics, and powered the unit on in my office. I sat the little unit on the window ledge, and immediately it found 8 satelites up there in the cloudy sky, and pinpointed my position on a map on the screen of my ipaq. I was impressed !
So far, so good. I was due to take a business trip the following morning, I usually print out a route using Microsoft Autoroute, but I thought I'd jump in with both feet and 'go for it', so I didn't. Instead, the next morning I tapped in the address I was heading for and hit the button to find my best route. Then off I went. I had put the unit on the front of my dashboard, and the ipaq was sat on the passenger seat. I plugged both units into an inverter, as I knew the batteries wouldnt get me there and back.
Clear voice instructions direct you as you proceed on your journey, and the screen displays a 3d map which is really quite impressive. A quick glance gives you all the information you need, and the positioning is highly accurate. I drove round a brand new mini roundabout which wasnt marked on the map, and watched as the little arrow went left off the road into the field, then back onto the road again !!!
The display also tells you an ETA, which was correct to within 5 minutes for my 2 hour journey. It took me to the door, and cheerfully announced as I pulled up there "You have reached your destination."
I've played with the unit a lot now, and made a few long journeys. So what's good, and what's bad?
Well the whole concept is good. I bought a holder for the pda which is attached to the corner of the windscreen. I can now glance at it without taking my eyes from the road, and when you're driving down windy country lanes, its so accurate it actually helps you as you can see hidden bends coming up and anticipate them better.
The bluetooth unit now lives in the glovebox out of sight. It seems to be able to see the satelites just as well from in there, and it plugs into the power socket in there. It finds where it is so quickly its untrue.
If I ignore an instruction, and take a prefered route, then it instantly sorts itself out, and adjusts to the new route. If I come across a closed road, or blocked motorway, a couple of taps on the screen alerts the unit to my plight, and it works out a new route within a couple of seconds, and I'm still motoring. Fantastic !
On the negative side, I have to say the method of putting in where you want to go is overcomplicated. You can start off by putting in a postcode, but you cant put it all in. You put the first couple of letters, then have to scroll down a list to find the one you want, then scroll another list to find the road you want, then put in the house number. If all you have is a company name and a postcode, then you're struggling.
Actually viewing the route isnt easy either. Obviously the small screen doesnt help, but the map view zooms in and out far too quickly as you slide the bar, and its a struggle sometimes to get the view you want.
With Autoroute, I'm used to looking at my route and fine tuning it by tapping places on the map I want to go via. You can do this with TomTom, but it takes a long time. Otherwise you have the 'quickest' route that it suggests, or a number of alternative routes which it will generate each time trying to use the least number of roads it used for the previous route. Not really ideal. There is an option to get the 'shortest' route, if you can find it, its hidden in the map screen, but unless you're walking or cycling, you wouldnt want to use this option.
The unit is supposed to last 4 hours on battery. I left mine on for 2 hours and it stopped working and displayed a red light, which I assumed meant that it had gone flat.
I've had a couple of occassions where I switched on and it wouldnt connect to my Ipaq via the bluetooth link. Playing with it for a while switching it off and on seemed to sort it, but its a slight concern.
So thats the pluses and minuses. I would also say when I first got the unit it felt a little strange not studying my route beforehand, as I always have in the past. Just getting in and driving, following instructions but never knowing more than the next turning, takes some getting used to, but it is easy.
I bought an SD card to store the maps on in my ipaq. The basic maps take up over 100mb. There is also main routes of Europe supplied, which can be added if you want to drive abroad, but it wont get you to the back of beyond over there unless you purchase additional maps. One of the great things about satnav I've found is the ability to get you to the back of beyond. I can drive from London to Manchester without any maps at all, but finding a quadbiking centre at a farm on the welsh border, now thats where it earns its corn.
If you drive, you should have satnav. It will get you where you need to go effortlessly, and will route you round problem areas saving you possibly hours of grief. If you already own an ipaq, then this unit will only set you back £170. Its the cheapest way to get satnav, and it has the added advantage that it doesnt have to stay in the car, although dont go too far from a power supply.