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Good GPS Unit, OK For Planning, Not Great For On-The-Fly
Sep 24, 2009
I tried MS Streets & Trips on my Asus Netbook with 2 GB of ram during a recent road trip. Installation of the software on the notebook went well, and I plugged the small GPS unit into a free USB port on my Asus put the netbook on the passenger seat and headed out.
The software interface feels dated; I wasn't entirely impressed with either the design or functionality. Many functions weren't very intuitive, with multiple panes opening and closing providing different data. Once I sorted it out and programmed my first trip in though, things got a bit easier.
The GPS unit picked up satellites quickly and easily, besting the GPS unit in my phone as well as a dedicated handheld Magellan unit I had brought for comparison. My trip progress was tracked accurately, with a readout of estimated mileage and ETA updated on the fly. The major problem was finding things nearby.
With freestanding GPS units, it's easy to simply ask it to display nearby gas stations, hotels, etc. However, there's no way to do this easily with S&T. The only way to get that information is to go to the turn-by-turn list of directions, figure out which step you are near, select THAT, and then request nearby places of interest. Not only wasn't it intuitive, it was useless to me: I used my G1 and its GPS unit for that functionality most of the time. One other problem I had was a few software crashes. I was unable to determine if this was bad code or an underpowered netbook - though mine is easily able to run everything else I've thrown at it.
I suppose if you sat in a room and planned your trip, then loaded those trips as you traveled, this would work fine. Alternatively, if you had a navigator with you running the computer, you might be in ok shape, if not a bit puzzled at times by the interface.
But for use as a GPS on the fly while traveling solo, I'd give it a pass. It just doesn't provide the ease of use or functionality I want in a GPS.
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