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Dash Express : Connected GPS
Posté le 28 mars 2008 à 21:39:06 par gpspassion.

Part I - Introduction - The Unit - Settings - Coverage

Article written by Paul, moderator of our forums and experienced user of GPS Assisted Navigation, first on PocketPCs, then on AIOs and smartphones. If you have questions or comments you can use this topic in the forums.
Advanced Traffic - GPRS - SiRFstarIII - Yahoo Local - TeleAtlas - $10/month - WiFi

INDEX : I. Introduction / II. Routing / III. Traffic / IV. Connections and Conclusion


I have been writing about GPS for a little over 5 years and have worked for a GPS software company for a year. The reason I mention this is that in all that time I have never made a statement like the one I'm making now: the "Dash Express" by Dash (website) is, in my opinion, a paradigm changing machine. Automotive GPS will never be the same after the release of this unit. It takes GPS from a "get me from here to there" paradigm, to a paradigm in which GPS is integrated into one's daily life and becomes just another tool to make all sorts of travel and non-travel related stuff easier and more convenient. I'll discuss this more later in the review. If you have questions or comments you can use this topic in the forums.

The Unit

The Dash Express is a fairly large and heavy unit, weighing in at 13.3 ounces. You can see it perched on my dashboard in the picture above. It comes with car and home power adapters, a suction mount, an adhesive disk, an extension arm for the mount and a carrying case. Included, also, are a printed installation and quick start guide. The quick start guide is actually pretty good and will answer most of the user's questions.

The unit uses a 4.3 inch screen with a resolution of 480 x 272. According to the published specs it can run for about 2 hours with the WiFi, GPS and cellular receivers all on. The specs say it will last 72 hours in the suspend mode. It uses the SiRF III chipset and Linux for the operating system.

Above you see the Dash next to a couple of similar-sized units - the Cobra 5200 and the Ipaq 310. As you can see the Dash is substantially thicker. According to the Dash FAQ the size is necessary to accommodate the three separate antennas - GPS, WiFi and cellular. I also suspect that there is a pretty heavy battery in the unit as WiFi is a notorious power hog and this thing is also in constant cellular contact as well. To get two solid hours with both running probably accounts for the unit's weight.

Finally we see a company that actually thinks about the mount for it's unit, rather than buying the cheapest thing they can find. Here are some shots:

The mount is made by PanaVise and has an extremely powerful suction. I doubt that it will fall off your windshield. Also, the power connection is through the mount, so you just pull the unit up and off the mount and leave. No unplugging cords. It makes life more convenient.

What does NOT make life more convenient is Dash's choice to use flush touch-sensitive buttons for the Menu and Volume settings. Whenever I try to readjust the mount I can't help but brush against these buttons and call up the menu or volume screen. This happens even when just reaching across the unit on my dashboard. It's sexy, but not very practical. On the right side of the unit is the on/off switch and a mini-USB connector. The mains power is connected through this USB port. The unit doesn't actually shut off when this switch is hit, but goes into a suspend mode. You can turn the unit off completely from a menu choice in the Settings menu. It also seems to keep the cellular connection active, because when I send something to the unit it is there waiting for me when I turn it on.

The SiRF III performance is on a par with other units I've tested. I took it into NYC and it had no trouble maintaining a lock in Midtown, but I didn't get a chance to subject it to my Wall Street test. One suggestion I would have is that Dash push updated ephemeris information to the unit to allow for a quicker lock time. Since the unit is always receiving I don't see why this couldn't be done rather easily.


Here is the Settings screen

The 2D map view can be set to car up or North up. The traffic view can be set to show all traffic, show only live traffic (that which is reported by Dash units) or show only traffic along the route. Here is where you fully turn off the unit. In the manage WiFi screen you have a number of settings

The Network 1 and Network 2 settings allow you to enter specific network information such as WEP keys and SSID to allow for connection to specific networks.

Report a problem is interesting as it highlights the fact that this is a connected device. Why not report directly from it. This raises another important point. The Dash Express, I was told, is designed to be left in the car. There is no reason to connect it to your computer. Software updates, firmware updates and map updates are all pushed by Dash (if you have a subscription) directly to the unit. TomTom Home, for example, is an excellent program that can do all this, but you have to remove your unit from the car, boot up your PC or Mac and connect, etc. With the Dash you just leave it alone and everything happens in the background. This is part of the paradigm shift - the machine is meant to be used, not to be connected and disconnected from stuff. It's maintenance is transparent to the user.

The geek screen is simply the display of currently used GPS satellites.

Notice what is missing from the settings. For routing there is no "fastest", "shortest", etc. I'm not quite sure what their thinking is on this omission, but to be honest I so seldom change my settings on other programs that I don't find its omission a problem.


Dash uses Jasper Wireless to provide cellular service. Jasper is an aggregator and can provide coverage over a variety of networks. However, coverage across the US is not complete. In an out of coverage area you still will be able to navigate, because the maps are on the unit, and use the basic POIs. You can check coverage on Dash's website on the Service page.

I'll divide this rest of the review into three parts, Routing, Traffic and Connections.

If you have questions or comments you can use this topic in the forums.

  Part II - Routing >>

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