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Review - OcN - Navigon USA
Posté le 01 février 2005 à 17:49:26 par gpspassion.

Review - OnCourse Navigator 4

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Here's a review by Paul, moderator of our forums and experienced PocketPC GPS user who will share his experience with OnCourse Navigator 4 by Easy PocketNAV - this is the US version of Navigon MobileNavigator|4, one of the top European GPS programs.



Preface - Invasion of the Europeans
The two biggest players in PPC GPS in Europe are TomTom, out of the Netherlands, and Navigon, from Germany. TomTom has been in the US for a while and has had a fair success with their PPC program, and most recently with the GO all-in-one solution. Now it is time for their European competitor, Navigon, to take a shot at the market with OnCourse Navigator 4. OnCourse is being marketed by Easy PocketNav, which has a selection of options from stand-alone software, to bluetooth bundles to an all-in-one solution with a Mio 168 which uses Xtrac 2. I recommend anyone interested in this program take a look at their website, as it is very comprehensive and contains loads of detail, including a PDF of the complete manual (which is one of the most detailed manuals I have seen) and video demos of the program in operation.

Installation
OnCourse can be loaded fully into SD card memory and operates just fine from my 1GB Sandisk card. It uses an activation method of registration. You must load the program and then log into the OnCourse site to get the activiation key. The program is a bit slow to start, compared to other programs, but not unreasonably so. Upon start-up we are presented with a nice view of Chicago, where Navigon's US headquarters are, and an annoying safety notice that you have to agree to each time the program starts. Since the OnCourse website is so comprehensive I'm not going to post a lot of screen shots in this review. Most anything you want to see is on their site. Once the program starts you will immediately notice the unconventional menu structure of the program. It is very visual and takes some getting used to. However, once you become familiar with it you will find it pretty easy to operate.

Settings
There is a fairly large list of settings that let you customize the program. You can turn on or off the Info Bar, POIs and street names; distance, time and ETA to both final and intermediate destinations; control the volume; change the skin colors and set a night display mode; set the autozoom level and map orientation (driving direction or North mode); set the speed profile to car fast, car slow, car standard, motorcycle or truck; enable a logbook; set key assignments; set date and time formats; and a few other options.

Multiple Planning
The home screen allows you to plan a route with one destination. This means that your GPS unit is active and has a lock and the OCN automatically sets your start location to your GPS position. If you don't have a lock you use the "Several Destinations" to set your start and end points. Picking a destination is pretty easy, with a comprehensive list of alternatives, including the ability to pick destinations from the PPC's address book.

Maps - Size matters
One of the major strengths of OCN is the incredible amount of compression that they have obtained in their implementation of the Navteq maps. The map files are limited to about 160MB but you can get a huge territory into that space. On my machine I have WV, VT, RI, PA, OH,NY, NJ, NHMA, MD, MEDC, DE and Ct within that limit. This brings up a couple of things. OCN is sort of like TomTom in that you can only navigate with the map regions that you have cut. When you change regions you have to change maps and you can have several maps on your machine. However, as you can see, the regions can be huge. The CDs included with the program include maps of all the states and also pre-cut regions of the US and Canada. When I say pre-cut, this relates to OCNs desktop program. This program allows you to create maps of any regions you want and then export them to your device or card. That's what I did with custom region I have on my machine. However to do this takes forever. Plan to let your machine run overnight. The PC program really shines when it comes to long distance routing. You can have the program plan a route for you and then do a customized map. The customization allows you to select a radius around the start and end points, as well as for each stopover point. Further you can customize the width of the corridor to be up to 60 miles wide. I planned a route from NJ to Portland, to LA, to Vegas, to Houston, to New Orleans to Richmond, to NJ, with a 60 mile corridor and 50 miles around each city and had no trouble staying well within the map size limitation. OCN is certainly the long distance champion at this point in time.

Speed profiles
There are a couple of other interesting options in OCN. If you set the routing to motorcycle it seems to avoid interstates. I plotted a route from NJ to DC using motorcycle and it avoided every single interstate I would normally travel on. OCN allows you to simulate a route of up to 60 miles so that you can "drive" it before you get into the car. OCN also has a pedestrian mode. This is for city navigation on foot. OCN will ignore one-way streets and plot the most efficient way to reach a destination on foot. This could be neat to use as a tourist in a strange city. There have been discussions in the forums about plotting routes with OCN as the program does not accept route numbers and will only use local names. I have been informed that this will be corrected and a patch is expected shortly.

On the Road

The actual route screen is pretty informative. Here are two screen shots from the OCN website. In this case a couple of pictures is certainly worth a thousand words:

Note that OCN is the only consumer program that I have ever seen that shows the grade (they call it acclivity) of your location. One thing that is very disappointing, however, is the 3d view. It reminds me of the old TomTom view which didn't show any street names. If 3d is important to you then this is not your program of choice. The other big dissapointment is that the driving directions are displayed in a manner which makes them almost useless and the block road function does not let you really block a road. It just lets you block the current road from 300 feet to 31 miles ahead. There is no way of blocking off a particular road you don't want to take.

While OCN does not have text to speech, however it does have the most comprehensive set of pre-recorded voice directions that I have seen. It seems to be inconsistent, though, in calling out exit numbers on interstates. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't.

OCN is also full of little things that make the program more interesting. The program is the only one I've seen that shows you the direction of travel of roads and you can also record voice tags and use them to have the program respond to written commands.



Final Words
I've used OCN for about 2,000 miles and have been very pleased with its routing and stability. Its lightning-fast rerouting has been a life-saver on a couple of occasions. Route recalculation is the fastest of any program I have and sometimes is so fast you don't realize that it has happened. It's retail price is $179 (or $99.95 with a competive upgrade). Given its route cutting capability it is properly, in my opinion, to be compared with PocketMap Navigator ($89.95) and CoPilot ($199 or $99 with a competitive upgrade). Everything I have seen at the Gpspassion Forums, and my own experience, indicates a high level of customer support and committment on the part of Easy PocketNav and I think there are great things in store for this program in the future. It is good to have a completely new player in the US market as competition always means improvement.

 
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