Space Machine is a
member and sponsor of the GpsPasSion Club and has agreed to bring special offers to other
club members. This review will include references to these offers.
Machine also has a
in the GpsPasSion forume
represent that all efforts have been made, to ensure that
all the comments and opinions present in this review would have been similar
if Space Machine had not been a member of the GpsPasSion Club
2003 R1 was released in October
2002. Building on their previous mapping
programs, Space Machine set out to build PocketMap Navigator with a pretty
aggressive timetable as the alpha stage started in mid-June 2002 with a
tentative a late summer release. As a result, the UI (User Interface) could
not be modified significantly during the process and was pushed back to R2
that comes out hot on the heels of R1
PMN retails for
and there are also several attractively priced
for a one-stop-shop. As a side-note, the GpsPasSion Club has some
special offers running
is of the US with 16
European countries to be added in 2003 (July)
PocketMap is compatible with all GPS
receivers capable of outputting NMEA data This means that all current
receivers should be compatible.
As with R1, I could not get the Socket Bluetooth CF/Emtac GPS combo to work
testing took place over several days and several hundred miles. I used an iPaq
3670, an iPaq 3955 and a Dell Axim X5 with a variety of GPS receivers (CoPilot
jacket, Navman Jacket, Holux CF GPS, etc...)
Routing and directions:
This is an area where PMN really
shines even though it comes at a "cost"
PMN is the
only PocketPC navigation program on the market today that
offers "real" waypoints. What I call "real" waypoint are waypoints that
you can use to customize a route that's been calculated by the program,
while maintaining overall guidance, i.e. Distance until you arrive (DTG)
or ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival).
- Why is this
Those who have experience with navigation programs (laptop or
PocketPC) know that while it's useful to have a route calculated
automatically, there's just so much algorithms can do and sometimes
routes will look odd. This is generally due to incomplete routing data
included in the maps or simply to specificities of the area. For
instance in the San Francisco Bay Area, I-280 will generally be a
better choice than Hwy 101 (less traffic, better condition, wider,
etc..), although on paper there's no good reason for that as both are
freeways and it thus can't easily (or economically) be included in
- So the way to alter a
route and still keep active guidance to your arrival point from the
get-go is by having PMN calculate a route and if need be "bend" it
with a waypoint before you get going. With other programs, all you can
do is set out on your trip and ignore turns you think are not
appropriate and let the program recalculate your route. It's a poor
solution mainly because you won't get a good estimate of the actual
distance and therefore ETA.
Routes are generally very good.
While it's hard to quantify that, there are two things I look out for when
I test navigation software. Do you notice an "odd" route from time to time
and does it give you better routes than those you'd been using for years
and though couldn't be beat? I'll update this as keep on using PMN, but so
far, #1 is NO and #2 is YES.
appears to be accurate and is available (with DTG) from each step/leg of
the road (in the direction list mode)
Re-routing is fast: Starting
with R2.10, rerouting is automatic and generally very fast and efficient
distance routing is possible on the PPC
the inclusion of a good set of highway maps that weigh in at 13mb for the
West and 16.5mb for the East. I was able to plan a route from San Jose, Ca
to Las Vegas, Nv with no difficulty by loading the Western Highway Maps,
the Santa Clara County and the Clark County.
as with other such solutions, you won't have access to street level detail
if the county map isn't loaded.
can be saved for future use.
A useful feature for repeat trips or for routes created on the PC.
an icon (green icon at the top) for a quick access to the direction list
from any other screen
The list uses a pleasant format,
with colors, icons, distance and more important, very accurate written
indications for turns and exits .(more on this later)
desktop version lets you print the directions if need be
There is a
flipside though and all these impressive features come at the cost
of at routing that's on the slow side. In my test routes, I found PMN to take about x6 compared to
the speed champs (Mapopolis and Pocket CoPilot), about x5 compared to the
Intellinav OEMs and x2 compared with
SmartST and Destinator. For an initial route calculation, I think this is
a small price to pay. Since R2.10 this is no longer a problem for rerouting (more on this later).
PocketMap have chosen to use TeleAtlas maps.
Before some of you start frowning, let's backtrack a bit.
myself) pretty much takes for granted that NavTech has the "best
maps". Hard to tell why this is, especially since until this year NavTech
didn't really offer detailed coverage out of large metros. This has been
fixed in the US, but not yet in Europe. This "Best of Breed" reputation is
probably due to clever marketing: "all high end car systems use NavTech"
and impressive numbers "NavTech has spent close to $1 billion on their map
database"...but also to the fact that up to now TeleAtlas based navigation
programs in the US offered fairly poor routing
too early to tell if this is about to change but up to now my testing has
shown that there are two things that PMN does much better than most
other systems I've seen and as well as the Intellinav OEMs:
Exit information on freeways is accurate, i.e. it's what you see on the
sign, which is never a bad thing ;-)
Changes in road segments are not announced as "turns" by the routing
engine. Most other programs (especially the NavTech ones) will announce a
turn on a freeway when in fact it's presumably just the routing info built
in the maps that's different on that road segment, i.e. there's no actual
change in direction. While this is fairly minor inconvenience, it's a lot
"cleaner" to not have these parasite directions.
don't know how much of that is due to the TeleAtlas data and how much is
due to the data manipulation done by the Space Machine team. In any case
it seems to work well, this time at the expense of fairly
large maps, see Weaknesses.
navigation screen introduced in R2 offers a lot of useful information:
transparent "slide-up" Navigation Console banner can be toggled on and off
DTG (Distance To Go)
TTG (Time to Go), ETA
compass to indicate what direction you're driving in (more on this later)
transparent "slide-down" Guidance Mode banner can be toggled on and
off and contains
green arrow with the direction of the next turn,
distance to go to the next turn, the name of the street/ramp/exit you'll
be turning on and
diamonds that act as a countdown to the next turn and that you can have in
your field of vision without being distracted, 4 green diamonds indicate
that there are 2+miles to go, 3 indicate 1.5m+, 2 indicate 1m+ and none
means less than 0.5. In addition, within 100ft of the turn PMN will sound
a little chime to indicate that the turn is imminent.
There's a transparent banner showing the name of the street you're on with
the range of street numbers, which can be handy to locate an address.
small satellite icon indicating the quality of the GPS position (3D. 2D.
none) and a meter with 6 bars to indicate how many satellites are active
chip icon indicating the status of RAM
A nice touch too is the WAAS
indicator in the GPS console to show when your GPS is getting such a fix.
There are also three big blue non-transparent icons NEXT/QUICK ROUTE/BACK
TRACK. Honestly, I don't find these very useful and have yet to
fully understand how they work. The NEXT icon is certainly helpful when
you're planning your route because you can see (it's slow though) the
succession of turns you'll be making. When you're driving though it's of
little use and sometimes prompts the routing engine to recalculate your
position. The QUICK ROUTE will recalculate your route...to your current
destination. I think that in the future this could be used to get a new
route based on interactive information, but right it uses up precious
screen real estate.
Starting with R2.10 this has reached new levels. Prior to that, it was a bit of a mixed bag because while the overall UI
was very well
thought out and convenient (top bar with icons for each function, i.e.
settings, planning, direction and navigation) the overall operation was
slow, mainly because of the map redraws that take anywhere between 2s and
8s. With R2.10 this is no longer a problem with overall speed being on par
with other programs. They apparently use an efficient caching technology
and a modified display method. Regardless, it works very well! Kudos for
With the release of R2.10, a lot of the
weaknesses that "hurt" the great features of the program, such as slow map
display, slow rerouting and problematic GPS tracking are gone. Kudos to
the PMN team for fixing that and giving us an excellent overall user
Slow Route Calculation on the
This is one area where R2.10
hasn't been able to improve on previous versions. In my test
routes, I found PMN to take about x6 compared to
the speed champs (Mapopolis and Pocket CoPilot), about x5 compared to the
Intellinav OEMs and x2 compared with SmartST and Destinator.
Hard to tell what what the issue is, memory, the size
of the map data? For an initial route calculation
or if you can plan your routes on a PC, it's
not too problematic, but it will slow you down if you're planning on the
can't be searched:
PMN has a solid POI database but unfortunately you
can't search it and when you ask for "Nearby POI's", they get shown in
alphabetical order accompanied by an icon showing their category
PMN uses very memory-weighty maps that would seem to be about 3x those of
other programs like Mapopolis (Santa Clara County is 6mb vs 2mb) and
Destinator (California is 202mb vs 65mb). In days of tumbling CF and SD
memory card prices, it's not necessarily a major problem, but this is a
definite drawback and it might also account for the slow route
calculations and map display
You can find some in the
PocketMap Section of the GpsPasSion Forums
- Future upgrades
PocketMap have communicated informally (phone, message
boards) that they were working on the following enhancements
(some may have been mentioned in the review)
Maps for 16 countries to be made available in
- POI Search
- patch available in 2003
- Making the most of
the Waypoint Feature:
When you are trying to create a waypoint to customize
a route, move the map so that the spot where you want to place your
waypoint is approximately centered. Then you can zoom in and select the
exact spot, by tapping and holding. You can then insert that waypoint in
your route. If you don't zoom in, you'll find yourself possibly
selecting a side street, because even though you may not see it at the
zoom level where you are, the underlying data is still selectable by
tapping and holding.
- Map hardware button
As a workaround for the occasional instability of PMN (see
W.4.b.), you can map a hardware button (the one on the left for
instance) to PMN. Hitting it after PMN has seemingly exited will get you
back in the program. Sometimes the program will complain that the GPS
COM port is already in use though, so it won't always help.
Calculated Routes and Directions
- Ultra-fast rerouting -
- Very Good
calculation on the PocketPC is slower than the competition by a factor
of x6 to x2
- Maps are
very large compared with the competition (provide good directions)
- No POI
- Overall evaluation (compare)
- Short distance in town:
- Medium (<200 miles) distance:
- Long (>200 miles) distance:
- Want another opinion?
no other review
Still have questions, try this
Added info about the patch released on 12/23 - W2 moved to W6
12/29/02: After a trip
of several hundred miles and significant stability and slow response
problems, I've temporarily removed the overall evaluation and will reinstate
it when the stability issue has been solved
review to account for R2.10 improvements. Major contribution by
Paul Biba for all the live GPS based testing.