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OnCourseNavigator 5
Posté le 20 septembre 2005 à 18:00:52 par gpspassion.

OCN 5 - Navigate Across the USA

Here's a review by Paul, moderator of our forums and experienced PocketPC GPS user who will share his experience with OnCourseNavigator 5 by Easy PocketNAV. If you have questions or comments, you can use this discussion thread in the forums.

When OCN 4 arrived it was a welcome addition to the stable of old favorites that had been available for quite some time. You can find our original review of the program here. Well, shortly after OCN4 was released OCN5 took over and it is now Navigon's flagship product in the US. Let's take a look and see how this product stands up to the competition.

Compression is Everything
OCN 5 is unique in that Navigon has managed to engineer an incredible amount of compression into the latest NavTeq maps it uses. The entire seamless United States can be kept on a 1 GB card! The only other product that can do this is the Mapopolis NavCard, and that is for the Palm platform. While some other products, such as TomTom, can have all of the US on a 1 GB card, their maps are not seamless. That is, TomTom, for example, is divided into regions and you can't navigate between them (ed - except on the GO 700). You have to use a major roads map if you want to go cross country, and then load your destination region to get street level directions when you cross into it. CoPilot 5 will get the entire US on a 1 GB card, but you have to cut the map on a PC and copy it to the card. With OCN 5, however, you can plot street level routes anywhere in the United States without the use of a PC to cut maps or routes. This raises another point. The Mapexport program that came with OCN 4, which exported maps of various sizes, is no longer included in the package. It isn't necessary, anyway, because of the new seamless map ability of OCN 5.

Many Choices
The sales model of OCN 5 is interesting. You can order one single region: the M version of the program; all regional maps plus Canada (but not in a seamless version), the L version; seamless USA, the XL version; and finally seamless USA plus Canada in one completely seamless map, the XXL version. The XL version will fit on a 1 GB card, but you need a 1.5 GB card for the XXL version (a 1.28gb card will do too). Also included in the DVDs that come with the program are maps of Mexico, Europe and the Persian Gulf, which can be activated by buying a key from Thus, you have an incredible amount of world at your fingertips whenever you decide to buy the maps. You really should check out the OCN site to see the various maps and what they cover. This is the only program that I know of that is currently offering maps of Mexico.

Unusual Interface and Installation
If you have used any other GPS program you will have to get used to the very unusual interface that OCN5, and OCN4, uses. It simply is completely different from anything on the market. At the beginning I really hated it, but as I participated in Beta testing and used it for other purposes I got used to it and don't think too much about it any more. Newbies won't know the difference, but experienced users are going to be in for a bit of a shock. Rest assured, though, that you will get used to it in time. Once mastered I don't think it is better or worse than the traditional interface so I wouldn't let it put you off.

Installation follows the usual routine and you can install the program into main memory or on the SD card. In this regard, OCN 5 is a bit of a memory hog and I would strongly recommend that you install to the SD card and keep as much main memory free as possible on your PPC. Also, be aware that the program is very sensitive to the speed of the card which holds the maps. Route calculation times and general operating speed are slowed down mightily if you use a "regular" SD card. You certainly should invest in one of the high speed cards if you are going to use OCN 5. Microdrives, by the way, are specifically NOT recommended and we saw in beta testing that they slowed the program to a crawl. Don't use one.

Unfortunately, OCN5 uses an "activation" scheme that requires you to install the program, get a number that is tied into your PPC and then connect to the OCN servers to get a final key to activate the map. This is a pain, and also means you will need the website's intervention if you change your machine. TomTom and CoPilot use similar schemes and none of them are very user friendly. Mapopolis and iGuidance do not require this extra step.

Basic Operation
One thing you will notice about OCN5, compared to other programs, is that it is slow to start up. It takes about 30 seconds on my Toshiba and is a bit faster on my iPaq. Then, after startup, you are presented with a silly legal screen to click on agreeing to their disclaimer. This is required each time you start the program. This makes the program less likely to be used if you are going "just around the street" and I admit I tend to use a faster program for short-distance driving (see this thread about city driving). This is exacerbated by the fact that plotting even a short route takes about three times as long as it would in other programs. Navigon is aware of these problems and it is my understanding that they are working to try to fix them (except for the disclaimer).

Once the program is started you are presented with this screen: "Navigation" is used to plot a route from your current location, the arrow and house is used to plot a route to Home, the little man is clicked if you want to use voice programming and speak out where you want to go, and "Route planning" is used to plot a route from A to B when you are not starting out from a gps-located location. "Show map" takes you to the map so you can pan around, "Map" allows you to choose which map to load. The little icons at the bottom are for traffic information (not available in the US), GPS connection status, using a logbook of your route, and calling up the Windows bar if you want to go back to the home screen with the program open.

As you can see, everything can easily be done with the fingertip and no stylus is needed. A typical map screen is here . The icons at the top for scrolling the map with finger or stylus; N is for north up, arrow in circle is for direction of travel up, 3d mode and "navigation" mode is the circle on the top right. The zoom level is shown at the right. No route has been plotted in the view here. You can scroll the screen by tapping and holding and then dragging around. This is not easy to do, however, because if you tap and hold on the screen another menu shows up. It gives you mute, night mode, settings and close map. If you are in a route it gives you Block road, a route simulation (which drives you through the route), route options and next destination (if your route has several destinations). This menu scheme, however, makes it hard to use OCN5 as a map. When trying to scroll the map I am always holding too long and bringing up this menu. OCN5 is not easily used by someone who need a "map function" type of program like Mapopolis. Note that OCN5 is one of the only programs I know that actually shows you the direction of one-way streets on the map!

As mentioned before, route planning can either be done from the "Navigation" button, if you have a fix, or from the "Route Planning" button if you don't. Here is the Route Planning screen . The "+" button allows you to add stops to the list. You can add as many as you want, making OCN5 one of the easiest programs to use when you have multiple waypoints. Take a look, again, at the screenshot and you will see arrows that allow you to move the destinations up or down to re-order the stops on your route. This makes the program very useful for anyone who needs to plan several destinations on one trip. OCN5 will not, however, optimize the entire route, i.e,, re-order the stops to optimize the overall route, itself. The only program that will do this type of optimization is CoPilot 5. Nevertheless, OCN5's ease of use in this area is outstanding. Combine the versatility of the seamless US map with this function and OCN5 is the only program I know that would allow you to plan a driving vacation around the United States and include all your daily stops on the route – just on your Pocket PC.

On the other hand OCN5 has an unforgivable flaw to me in its routing abilities. There is absolutely no text display of the route. You can't see a route listing at all. This was available in OCN4, but it was nearly useless there because of the way it was displayed, and now it is completely absent in OCN5. The beta testers screamed loud and long about this, but to no avail. This makes the program really difficult to use in some regions. For example, in the NY, NJ metropolitan area, where I live, there are so many alternative routes that it boggles the mind. It is unacceptable not to be able to see a listing of the plotted route and have a chance to change or correct it when so many alternatives are available. Especially so given the fact that scrolling the map is so hard to do. I certainly hope this will be corrected the next version.

The routes, themselves, are typical of any GPS program and are no better, or worse, than any I have encountered. Once you start to plot a route you are given speed profiles for car slow, car standard, car fast, motorcycle, truck bike and pedestrian. You can choose fastest or shortest routes and permit, avoid or prohibit interstates, ferries and tollways. As mentioned above, route calculation is slow compared to other programs. One major flaw in OCN4, which caused a lot of comment in the forums, was that it couldn't really plot routes on numbered highways, "Route 10" for example. Navigon promised to fix this in OCN 5, and it has indeed been done. This is no longer a concern.

Once you are under way, re-routing is as fast as any other program and does not try to force you back to the original route even if that would take you out of the way, or make your route longer, like iGuidance often does. OCN5 also has an excellent block current road fuction that is easily accessed from the main screen while driving. It makes changing the route on the fly pretty simple.

The Display
OCN5 has a really beautiful display in terms of colors and eye-candy. I find it extremely pleasent to use. Here is the 3d display of my route to work, with the route marked in green. There is an incredible amount of information here. On the right you can see the ETA, the time the trip will take and the distance to go. Below that you see the name of the next street I will turn on and the name of the current street. If you are on an interstate this line will also show you the name of the town you are passing through. On the left is an arrow telling me how far I have to go till the next turn. At the bottom is the zoom level, the grade of the road (nobody else has this bit of data), the altitude and the current speed. The green dish shows I have a good gps signal, and if I tap on the dish I could get a screen showing the number of satellites locked, lat/lon, etc.

You can see that there are no street names in the 3d view. At first this really annoyed me as I had become accustomed to this in TomTom and other programs. However, much to my surprise, I soon got used to it and don't really miss them any more. As a matter of fact, OCN5 has the best 3d view I've ever seen. Somehow the perspective used gives you a much better view of the road than any other one I have used. If you look at the screen shot you will see that I will have to curve to the right at the top of the screen. TomTom, which I used to think had the best 3d view, does not show this, as it doesn't look so far ahead. Kudos to Navigon for the display. The 2d view is fully populated with road names, just like any other program.

Other features
Voice prompting is first rate and often, but not always, speaks the exit numbers off of interstates. In addition, OCN5 is excellent is showing the exact exit name and number off of interstates. One nice feature is that on interstates it shows a little speed limit sign showing you the posted limit where you are driving. I just wish it did this on local roads also. You can also set a speed alert to ring if you go over pre-set speed. The speed data is very accurate and I've noticed the little sign change at almost the exact moment when a new speed limit sign shows up on the highway.

The program has a "standard" mode that is supposedly meant for beginners and an "extended" mode for experts. This is supposed to make it less confusing for a newbie, but personally I think it does just the opposite. I just leave it in extended mode. OCN5 easily detected my Globalsat 338, and a couple of other bluetooth receivers I threw at it, and had no problem handling my CF unit, also. It also comes with something that most companies are ignoring nowadays - an excellent manual.

Bottom Line
OCN5 is a program that is setting its own route through the industry. It is quirky and has a number of flaws. It is also reliable and does a number of things nobody else can do. Sometimes it is too easy to look at the problems in a program and ignore the good things. Reviews tend to do this, too, because it is much easier to point out what is wrong, rather than what is right. We've seen some of the wrong things above, and some of the right things are: industry-leading seamless maps, excellent 3d view, good routing choices and re-routing plots, excellent 2d display and intelligent presentation of a large amount of information on a small screen.

OCN5 has become my standard PPC program, supplanting Mapopolis, iGuidance and CoPilot. It's great to know I can go anywhere in the US with my machine and not have to fool with regions, maps, home computers, etc. I'm looking forward to see what they come up with in OCN6.

If you have questions or comments, you can use this discussion thread in the forums

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