For nearly a year, I’ve been looking for a good PC-based routing and live navigation solution that will work with UMPCs. I bought Autoroute 2007 but the touch enhancements were not good enough that it could be used on the go. Then, back in Dec 2006 I tested out CoPilot 10 but again the features just weren’t good enough for UMPCs. Meanwhile in the U.S. iGuidance 4.0 was getting good reviews and at the same time it was being discontinued at V9 in Europe. Oh frustration!
Then, out of the blue, Mapfactor contacted me to see if I wanted to test PC Navigator 7. Of course I agreed and they sent over the latest version which sat on my shelf while I focused on the Solar ultra mobile PC project. Only recently was I able to get it installed on the Everun ultra mobile PC and start testing it out. And what a breath of fresh air. A simple-to-operate, finger friendly live navigation solution at last! [read on…]
Mapfactor is based in Prague and works solely on navigation solutions. They use the TeleAtlas map base and offer just two products. Navigator software in PC and Windows mobile versions and ACTIS 3 a hardware based navigation solution. PC Navigator is obviously the software solution and it includes all the usual features you’d expect. Voice navigation (in a number of languages,) door-to-door routing, automatic re-routing, point of interest, day and night modes and some extra features like business/private odometer, real-time traffic info via TMC and a speed camera database. There’s even a version that supports Internet based messaging and tracking and integration into other software via an API. All quite exciting really!
I’ve installed PC Navigator on my Raon Digital Everun which , in terms of modern day computing, is a very low end PC. It installed easily and offered a choice of map installs along with a choice of location for the maps – important on the SSD/HDD drives in the Everun. I don’t have the version with tracking or API and unfortunately I don’t have a TMC-capable receiver. Actually TMC is something I would have really liked and I was rather hoping for an Internet based solution given that I’ve got an HSDPA modem installed in the Everun but unfortunately its not a service that’s on offer yet.
So lets move on to some details about the software. Here’s a video demo that gives you a far better idea about the software than another few paragraphs of text!
…and following that, here’s a demo of a couple of other features. The first is the auto-rotate feature of the Everun which allows you to run PC Navigator in portrait mode. The second is a short demo of the Road Runner skinning application and how it integrates with PC Navigator.
As I mentioned before, there is a desktop application that comes with the software called Map Explorer. It can be used to import places of interest and has a nice feature whereby you can schedule updates. Unfortunately, as you can see on this short video, its no good on an 800×480 screen. I am told that you can actually copy the uploaded POI files from a normal PC so that’s probably the way to do this.
….and finally the in-car demo. Here’s the software in use.
Problems and issues.
There are always problems to report!! Fortunately none of them are show stoppers. The first and probably most important issue is that the snap-to-route/road feature tends to drift every now and then. Normally on navigation software, the car is shown driving on the the nearest road until the car deviates by a pre-set margin. On PC Navigator I noticed that the car drifted off the set navigation path or the road. This could be a GPS problem (BMW’s are notorious for poor dashboard GPS reception due to the heat-reflective coating on the front screens) or it could be a PC Navigator problem. I’m not sure but the problem affected a couple of routing turns in the early minutes after turning on the system.
Secondly, as I mentioned before, It would have been nice to be able to pick up TMC data over the Internet although I forgive MapFactor for not having this feature. its a pretty leading-edge thing to want to do. Not everyone has a handheld PC with HSDPA built-in!
Finally I would have liked to have seen tailorable on-screen POI’s. It seems that you get only all or nothing which, if you’re in the middle of a city, can be very confusing. I don’t particularly want to see swimming pools when I’m driving to a meeting at a hotel!
As for wishes, I’d certainly consider paying extra for the following: MP3 player integration, Local search (using Google or Windows Live), TMC over Internet (as mentioned above), weather reports over Internet.
Running navigation software on PCs is never going to be as easy or as safe as a dedicated device but if you’ve got a touchscreen ultra mobile PC or CarPC that you want to use in the car for entertainment and navigation, why not! I don’t particularly want to go out and spend 300 Euro on a dedicated solution if I don’t have to and this is where PC Navigator comes in. It works well, is nicely optimised for a ultra mobile PC touchscreen and its very good value. A UK-only version costs just 50 pounds and the complete Europe map version just 70 pounds (around 100 Euros.) For the American market, you can get the U.S. and Canada version for around $160. For Europeans especially, its one of the few options there is. Speaking of which….
While I’ve been testing PC Navigator, JKKMobile has been testing out Navigon. This is the solution that’s pre-installed on the Q1 Ultra ultra mobile PC (but only usable with the Samsung GPS solution … which isn’t available in Europe yet…how silly) You’ll find his review of the full version of the software on an Amtek T770 over here. The other solution I’m actually going to take a look at over the next few weeks is Sygic CarPC. No, I hadn’t heard of them either! Stay tuned for a review of that one though. We’ll see how it fairs up.
Many thanks to Mapfactor for sending over the software for review. Its been a pleasure testing it. More details can be found on the Mapfactor websites. Mapfactor is also for sale through a number of resellers. Contact Mapfactor for more information.
If you’re using a solution on a ultra mobile PC or CarPC, and I know there are a number of options outside Europe, drop a note in the review comments section below and it will make a good reference point for others looking for a solution in their own area.