Is a PDA and the latest version of Destinator the best way to go for Sat-Nav? Jonathan Bray finds out.
Many skills have died out over the past 100 years due to the onward march of technology. As GPS navigation becomes cheaper and easier to use, the latest to bite the dust looks like it’s going to be map reading – though some might argue it never really took off as a widespread competence.
And why not? For people like our very own Benny – who loves his TomTom GO so much he uses it to find his way to bed once he gets home ”(have you been spying?…ed)” – it takes the stress out of finding the way in unfamiliar and stressful environments. For me, it helps to avoid those arguments in the car with my wife over whose fault it is when we’re hopelessly lost.
The latest product hoping to improve the lives of the stressed, lost and the cartographically challenged is Destinator 6 with TrafficSam – PDA navigation software that will not only tell you how to get where you want to go, but also help you avoid traffic jams along the way.
For a £50 premium over the standard software (£140 in all) you get access to ‘premium’ TMC (Traffic Message Channel) services, which is transmitted to compatible receivers via RDS over FM radio. The information is transmitted and managed by TrafficMaster in the UK, which get its information on jams through a network of roadside cameras and those infrared sensors you see on motorway bridges and signs.
This works well, routing you automatically around problem traffic incidents – or simply providing alerts for those who like to remain in control – but the caveat is that you do have to partner it with capable hardware. The HP PDA and GNS’ Bluetooth 5843 receiver I tested it with had trouble locking onto a TMC channel with the automatic search function switched on. This was sorted by manually tuning to the appropriate radio station (Capital FM in my case), but this isn’t ideal on long motorway journeys, where you’d need to keep stopping and searching for TMC stations as you went along.
Fortunately, route-finding is much less hassle. The first thing I noticed was that Destinator 6 has had a facelift since we reviewed it last, and looks better for it. Everything seems easier to read on the map screen now, with bigger and easier to punch buttons arranged at the top and bottom of the screen.
As before, the main map screen can be viewed in 3D or 2D. There’s also a night mode which turns the background from brown to black (sounds gimmicky, but it does reduce reflections off windows at night). And you can also display mapping in portrait or landscape, depending on your preferences. Either display works well, especially in conjunction with the high resolution TFT displays found on modern PDAs.
And once everything is fired up and connected, with an address tapped in, the software does a good job of directing you to your destination. Even if you take the wrong turn it recalculates your route automatically without fuss, while audio directions provide a clear and accurate-enough guide that you don’t have to keep squinting at the screen.
I did find it out on a few occasions – often the audio didn’t quite match up with the visual directions – but as with any GPS system, you also need to use your common sense and checking with the visual directions always cleared things up.
But it’s not all good news. Apart from the usual hassles associated with in PDA-based navigation systems – having to keep two devices charged up, or two runs of cable trailing from the cigarette lighter socket – there are other issues.
My main gripe was that the software regularly needed ‘reminding’ to connect to the Bluetooth GPS receiver, which occurred after switching PDA and receiver off then on again. It should do this automatically – I don’t want to spend five minutes after I get in the car fiddling around with the settings before I can get going.
The interface also takes a little getting used to. Though easy enough to navigate around – the system uses nice big finger-sized buttons, instead of the normal Windows PDA-sized ones – menu items appear in odd places, often two or three layers of options deep, and sometimes change position. Also, the address entering screen features a non-qwerty keyboard for entering destination details, which is a bit weird.
The main problem with a TMC-enabled Destinator 6 system, however, is the cost. Once you factor in the price of adding a TMC receiver, it’s going to set you back at least £220. Buy a Bluetooth receiver/TMC module and you’ll be paying more like £320.
For that sort money, you can pick up a TomTom GO 510 – with TMC receiver included. It might be an extra box to carry around, but for my money at least, it’s still the more convenient option.
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