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Navman PiN: get GPS and a Pocket PC in one tidy package.

As soon as I received the Navman Personal Interactive Navigation (PIN) Pocket PC, I was eager to put it to the test. I've been hunting around for a GPS navigation system, so I was happy to find an alternative that falls welt below the average price tag of more than US$2,000.

The unit itself is light. The GPS antenna adds a little bulk to the Pocket PC device, but the PiN doesn't weigh much more than my iPAQ.

I wish this device had built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. In fact, it struck me as a little odd that it lacks those popular features. I would consider simply purchasing the Navman GPS 4410 antenna (for less than $250 and the SmartST software is included) and hooking up my iPAQ with the same GPS and navigation capability via Bluetooth.

Rocky start

Installing the Pocket PC software is as routine as it is for just about all other Pocket PCs, and it went off without a hitch. When the time came to install the SmartST mapping product, my excitement and admiration for the product came to a screeching halt. Although the desktop software and the Pocket PC application installed just fine, activating the software was extremely difficult. I left the program running for about 20 minutes, but the process never progressed beyond about 80 percent completion. It simply couldn't connect to the Internet. After trying different things such as disabling the firewall on my network connection and installing it on a computer without Windows XP Service Pack 2, I gave up. The activation software got stuck at the same point no matter what I tried.

The most logical conclusion (and what I thought all along) was that the activation service was down, which brings up a valid point: Never force customers to activate your product over the Internet. Consumers should never be prevented from using something they bought simply because the vendor is having technical difficulties. Phone- or e-mail-based activation is necessary, but Navman doesn't offer it.

I tried the activation again about six hours later and got through to the last step (license download). That failed three times, but after a short time, I tried clicking on the Next button one more time and it worked.

The package 1 received contained three CDs with maps on them. My first choice was to pop in the western United States and transfer maps for the states of Washington, Oregon, Central California, and Southern California. This was 145MB of data for the 256MB SD card I purchased for $44. The 32MB card that comes with the product isn't going to cut it for anyone living in even a moderately populated area. For example, maps for Southern California are 45MB. You are most likely going to need more space right out of the box.

The maps I selected took about 15 minutes to transfer. After I copied them, I fired up the SmartST software on the Pocket PC and was presented with a map of what turned out to be an area in Oregon. The status message at the bottom indicated it was "waiting for GPS." It took me a minute or so to realize nothing was going to happen. After going outside and trying every COM port at several port speeds and not receiving a GPS signal, I gave up for the evening.

Had I not stumbled across a single photocopied page of documentation errata that was folded and placed with all the other materials, I would never have known that I had to place the unit on COM 2 with a speed of 4800. After I did that, the unit was able to pinpoint my position in about ten minutes.

Up and running

My first trip was a short two-miler and I was pleased to see how remarkably easy it was to install this device in my car. The PiN's small flexible arm has a suction cup on one side so it can stick to the windshield. It worked on the first try and it held on like a champ.

The route guidance was about 95 percent accurate. Sometimes the unit wouldn't pick up the direction 1 was facing, but it would correct itself within ten seconds. The voice guidance worked perfectly, and the sound quality was more than adequate. When I purposely took a wrong turn, the unit planned a new route to my destination within ten seconds. I was impressed to see that gas station, hospital, and restaurant icons along my route were precisely where they were supposed to be. The included car charger is an absolutely wonderful idea and makes it possible to have a fully bright screen for the entire trip.

UpShot

When you compare the PiN's $500 price tag to the $2,000 units car dealerships want to sell you, the PiN is a great deal. Plus, it isn't just a GPS and navigation system, it's a Pocket PC as well, so your e-mail, contacts, schedule, MP3s, and all the other functionality is included. I tend to travel a fair amount, and to have GPS and navigation at my side right on my Pocket PC is a nice feeling. Once you get past the installation issues, the Navman PiN Pocket PC is an impressive unit.

ADVISOR[R] EVAL[TM]

BUSINESS BENEFITS

Get your GPS and PIM on one device.

+ GPS and Pocket PC in one device

+ Car charger

+ Price

+ Map accuracy

- Installation and setup

- No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth

Navman PiN Pocket PC

http://www.navman.com

US$499

DIMENSIONS: 4.4" tall, 2.7" wide, .95" deep; 4.2 oz

PROCESSOR: 300MHz Intel XScale

OPERATING SYSTEM: Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC

INCLUDED SOFTWARE: SmartST Version 2 professional mapping software, Map CDs, Quick Start Guide, User Manual, and Adobe Acrobat Reader, Pocket PC 2003 companion CD-ROM

INSTALLED MEMORY: 64MB

DISPLAY: 240x320 color touchscreen

INPUT METHODS: Navigation buttons, stylus, touchscreen, voice recorder

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: IBM Compatible Pentium PC or higher, dual Speed CD-ROM or faster, Microsoft Windows XP/2000/ME/98SE, Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher

GPS ACCURACY: Within 15 feet

MAP SOURCE: NavTech

ACQUISITION TIME: 5-15 minutes cold; less than a minute hot

Russ Nemhauser has served as an architect, developer, team leader, and project manager for several years. His projects have included enterprise applications, online commerce sites, and corporate intranets for Wall Street firms, Universal Studios, Microsoft, Seagram, and others. Russ actively participates in the development community through public speaking and technical writing. He also contributes to (and serves as a moderator of) the popular .NET forums and lists. Russ is a Microsoft ASP.NET MVP and a Microsoft Certified Professional.
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Title Annotation:Navman Personal Interactive Navigation
Author:Nemhauser, Russ
Publication:Mobile Business Advisor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Words:1106
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