Pharos’ Pocket GPS Portable Navigator
Just as you thought pocketnow
had covered all of the available Pocket PC GPs systems
out there, Pharos comes along with their Portable
Navigator package, and of course we had to take a
closer look at it! As an aside, last year it seemed
like most GPs systems out there were targeting the
iPAQ, and they forced you to connect a cable to the
ActiveSync port at the bottom of the iPAQ. My hunch
is that GPs makers saw the iPAQ as the only viable
target device, since it was much more powerful than
the other models, until the crop of similar Pocket
PC 2002 devices hit the market. Now that we have so
many (basically identical from a specification standpoint)
worthwhile devices to choose from, the GPs makers
broadened their horizons and began to bundle their
receivers in the CompactFlash form, to benefit all
users. The Portable Navigator system comes with the
iGPS-CF, a CompactFlash Type I GPs receiver. Like
the TeleType WorldNavigator, the iGPS is a NMEA-compliant
receiver and as such will work with most common GPs
software packages out there. Here, we focus on Pharos’
own Ostia 2002.
Unlike all of the other major GPs products we have
surveyed thus far, Pharos does not include a “rich”
desktop client with Ostia 2002. Why? Pharos doesn’t
make desktop applications, that’s why! Such a premise
excites me, because this would imply their Pocket
PC client would be fully optimized for the platform.
We’ll determine soon enough if this the case. The
only desktop component is the “download manager,”
which, despite its simplicity, is rather painful to
the kicker. To install maps, you must insert either
the northeast, southeast, or west map CD-ROM. If you’re
going cross-country, you’ll need to install maps from
two separate CD’s using this process, quite a bit
tedious. MapHelper is straightforward to use: just
right-click on the region your interested in to zoom
you’re at this level, you can’t see further detail.
Click on the name of a town or city . . .
you’ll be asked if you’re interested in the associated
area. No, you cannot select multiple regions, and
you can’t see which regions you’ve already sent to
your Pocket PC, so keep track.
that particular region will pop up as a WinZip Self-Extracting
file. Unzip the files to your hard drive and then
use ActiveSync to drag the files over to your Pocket
PC. The positive part of all this tedious clicking
is that you can drag the maps anywhere on your Pocket
PC (pending it’s in a My Documents folder, in main
memory or a storage card). A region that covered a
10 mile radius consumed almost 12 megabytes of storage
space, about three times that of Pocket
A common denominator of
all my GPs reviews has been a focus on the technical
aspects of the receivers, and as such, I have collected
specification sheets for all.
|Frequency:||1575.42MHz(L1), C/A code|
|Channels:||12simultaneously “all-in-view” tracking|
|Acquisitiontime:||Coldstart: 45 sec|
Warm start: 40 sec
Hot start: 8 sec
|NMEAmessage:||GGA,GLL, GSA, GSV, RMC, and VTG|
|Dimension:||57mm x 49 mm x 21 mm (2.2″ x 1.9″ x 0.8″)|
|Weight:||68gram w/o cable (2.4 oz)|
|Temperature:||Operation:-20 to 80 degree C|
Storage: -30 to 90 degree C
|Dynamics:||Altitude< 20,000 m|
Velocity< 900 Km/h
Acceleration < 3g
With the maps installed
on our Pocket PC, it is now time to check out the
accessories and what not that come in the box. Pharos
sent me a complete package, with not only the receiver
and software but also a car cigarette adapter and
a mounting kit.
of the box.
the box you’ll find the three map data CD’s, an installation
CD, a car power kit, an external antenna (not pictured),
and a mounting kit.
Pharos included an HP Jornada adapter for your convenience.
None of the other packages had this adapter.
is the iGPS-CF receiver. Another huge antenna, but
not quite as enormous as the WorldNavigator.
it’s large, the iGPS-CF is still Type I.
is the tiny insert for the external antenna.
use the antenna, just connect the two gold-plated
ends (male into female).
found the mounting kit to be too much of a commitment–you
need to attach a sticky pad (adhered to a magnet)
to your iPAQ. Because I use a SilverSlider,
I wasn’t going to attempt the adhesion.
other end sticks to your car by way of your car’s
AC vent, which is a fine for those with rectangular
vents, but not fine for those like myself with round
vents. I had to resort to using an Arkon PDA mount
throughout the review.
we have the iGPS-CF inserted into a SilverSlider,
surrounding an iPAQ H3850.
side shot to give you an idea of how far the receiver
size=2>So far, so good. The
next leg of the reviewing trip is where we actually
take a trip with the package. How does the accuracy
and map detail compare to the competition? Read on
and find out.
Continue to software exploration
back to page one
Ostia 2002 is a Pocket
PC-only product, so you’ll be relieved to know that
it feels like it was designed for Pocket PC, and it’s
not a rough port from their desktop version.
first run, Ostia presents you with a splash screen
and steps you through the process of configuring your
told that if we crash, it’s our fault. Very comforting.
we choose the style of receiver we will be using.
The first is the CF style, which does not require
a COM port. The second is the device-specific receiver
that plugs into the proprietary port at the base of
your Pocket PC.
we select the device we’re using. Not completely sure
why we are asked for this information, though it likely
auto-senses how to access the GPs receiver. To begin
accessing satellite data, select GPS–Enable GPs (the
red frown will change to a yellow ambivalent facial
a considerable amount of time (satellite acquisition
time from a cold start often took up to ten minutes!),
you’ll finally get data, and your little friend will
turn green. These pictures are not retouched; there’s
actually a smiley face in the command bar. You can
view your current position by selecting GPS–GPS Info.
During the wait, why not read a chapter of your favorite
Info shows you which satellites are accessible (gray
bars) and which you have properly connected to (blue
bars). I typically had access to eight satellites,
though if you are lucky you can access twelve satellites
start doing anything in Ostia, we need to open a map
file. Note that you can have more than one map can
opened at a time, if, for example, you need to create
a cross-country route. The idea of having one regional
map for an entire trip makes a lot more sense than
opening up several maps for a long trip, which has
a big impact on performance.
throughout the map is a matter of clicking the blue
arrows and dragging your stylus across the screen
to draw a zoom box. I’m ready to drive. Let’s create
“Find,” you can define a route based upon
an address, intersection, POI, or Waypoint. We’ve
seen each of these options in previous reviews. Here
we’ll look at a route based upon an address.
a piece of the street name (don’t include street specifics
like the part of the road, else you’ll get no “hits”).
Instead of clicking several times, as in the other
programs, highlight the entry you want, and hit “Next.”
the town or city.
the address and hit “Finish.”
you can store this destination as a Waypoint for future
reference. We’ll rely on iGPS to set the origin, so
select Destination from this screen.
you’d expect your route to be immediately calculated
at this point, you must first select Find–New Route
for the calculation to take place. If iGPS is running
and enabled, the trip origin is automatically set
to be your current location. Conversely, if you are
planning this without GPs access, you can point to
places on the map and define your selections as a
trip origin or trip destination and create a route
based upon those two points. Either way, once that’s
done, you are presented with your first driving instruction.
map presented has three colors: green surrounds your
origin, blue defines the length of the trip, and red
denotes the destination.
you’d like to zoom in on either the origin or destination,
do so from the View menu.
View–Directions gives you a turn-by-turn output of
your trip. Make sure you look for “NO NAME”
street, else you’ll find your way to NOWHERE!
a route by intersection brings up the same street
explorer as above, but route by POI is a bit different.
Unfortunately, Ostia’s POI database is pretty limited.
Though the categories are broad . . .
aren’t many items within each category. Hopefully
this aspect of the program will improve with time.
size=2>Cold start acquisition
time was unbearably slow for the iGPS-CF. It was so
slow, in fact, that I complained to Pharos that my
device was broken because I would stare at the Satellite
Info pane for several minutes and see only three satellites
get accessed, assuming that something was wrong. I
even tried driving several miles into a more open
area, and the same thing occurred. My problem, of
course, was that I wasn’t allowing the receiver enough
time to set itself up. Once the software is running,
re-enabling iGPS takes only ten seconds or so for
data to begin pouring in.
was taken care of by a soft-spoken female voice without
any huge arrows telling me where to turn, though large
signs are something I’ve come to appreciate. My only
notification came from the voice and information in
the direction pane at the bottom of the map screen
(not full-screen like Pocket CoPilot or TeleType).
Accuracy was on par with the Copilot system, though
not as stellar as the WorldNavigator from Teletype
size=2>I’m sorry to report
that no paper manual comes in the Portable Navigator
box, a trend that most software companies seem to
be following today. If you want to read the manual,
you’ll have to snatch
it online. Other online offerings include a FAQ
page and a support
size=2>After complaining about
not being able to connect to more than three satellites,
I received an e-mail back from Pharos within a business
you have registered
your GPs product, you can freely download driver updates
as well as updates to Ostia and the map database.
quick overview of basic Ostia functions is available
in a Help file.
Since there aren’t any
exotic package bundling options, we’ll spend this
section talking about software options; several are
worth mentioning that affect the use of Ostia.
likely want to keep Auto Reroute enabled at all times,
though I find that it wasn’t too quick to suggest
a new path (it would repeat “Off Path! Off Path!”).
Heading Up keeps the top of the map pointing in the
same direction as your traveling. Turn off the voice
if she bothers you.
you opt to use another receiver with Ostia, you can
manually select the COM port here. Teletype is more
friendly to other GPs systems in that you can actually
view the NMEA data being transmitted by the receiver.
It’s more of a guessing game with Ostia.
size=2>Ostia 2002 (v3.30) is
a mere 700 kb installation and uses around 800 kb
of program memory when active, about half the requirement
of most other Pocket PC GPs software products. Maps,
however, tend to be quite large. A region with a ten
mile radius surrounding Philadelphia took up twelve
megabytes on my iPAQ. If you use an SD card, you’re
in luck; else, you’ll be scrambling to uninstall some
applications. Too bad these CF cards don’t have a
chunk of ROM memory! Portable Navigator works on any
Pocket PC or Pocket PC 2002 device with a CompactFlash
Type I card. It does not run on a desktop or laptop.
BUGS AND WISHES
acquisition time off a cold start is inexcusably long.
I’ll tolerate up to two minutes. But up to ten minutes?
Unacceptable! Again, I tested the cold start time
from various points in my region (each separated by
at least ten miles). I am confident my location wasn’t
the problem because once I had satellite access (a
green smile), I had full-strength access to eight
or more satellites. Warm start time was better than
any of the other packages I’ve used, which surprises
me given the cold start wait.
you are planning short trips, where you remain within
one map’s boundaries, you’ll have no problem, but
getting several maps’ data onto your Pocket PC is
a tedious process. First, you must click on each region
within MapHelper, which will launch a WinZip Self-Executable.
Then extract those files to a local directory. Then
move all of those files over to your Pocket PC. Pocket
CoPilot’s execution of this is far superior. I reckon
I’m dodging an important issue: the map files are
very large. Though they compress about 50% using ZIP,
once on your Pocket PC, they are (sophisticated math
here) twice the size of the original ZIP file. So
each of the three data CD’s has about a gigabyte of
data on it. Not sure how many of you have anywhere
near that in internal memory, but I’m stuck with 64
mb, most of which is already used by other stuff.
Don’t expect to keep many maps on your device at a
time. It is for this reason that the device-specific,
non-CF version of Portable Navigator might be a wiser
purchase, so you can slam a CompactFlash card into
the CF slot.
pretty significant quirk is that if you happen to
be somewhere that has no map data (for example, a
new residential street that is tangent to any number
of older, major roads listed in the Ostia database),
Ostia gets confused and refuses to create a routing
for you, not even one that starts at a predefined
point closest to your current location. Even when
I manually selected a close road as the origin and
another point as the destination, I got the same complaint.
Perhaps I was doing something wrong here, but it would
make sense that since I was forcing a known origin
to be used that my current position wouldn’t be factored
cuts us all some slack by selling the Portable Navigator
at a reasonable price. Dream Pages sells the Mobility
Pack, which includes the iGPS-CF, Ostia 2002 with
US maps, an external antenna, a PDA mounting kit,
and a car lighter power adapter. All of this is
available for $289.95, about $50 less than the
Pocket Copilot and $50 less than the Teletype WorldNavigator
with software. For $219.95, you
can get the Starter Kit, which has everything
mentioned above minus the antenna, mounting kit, and
car lighter adapter.
- Points ofinterest included automatically
- Client issmall and undemanding
- Warm satelliteacquisition is fast
- Regularsoftware/database updates free online
requires up to ten minute wait
- POI databaseis very limited
- Reroutingfeature is easily defeated
- No largearrows to indicate suggested turns
maps to Pocket PC is tedious
For $250, Pharos’ Portable Navigator
is a great deal, but the insane cold start acquisition
time is difficult to ignore, unless your normal use
for a GPs system is to plan long trips where a ten
minute wait is insignificant. I typically use a GPs
product to take me somewhere much less than 100 miles
away, so I don’t want to be waiting that long. The
software is competent and feature-full, and does everything
I need, though a richer POI database would be nice.
I would also suggest that MapHelper more easily allow
for data downloads to the Pocket PC, meaning you don’t
need to manually send things over. Ask me where I
want to store the maps (main memory or storage card
if I have a built-in SD slot) and do the transferring
without having me go through the ActiveSync file movement.
Should you prefer other Pocket PC software to Ostia
2002, because the iGPS-CF is NMEA-compliant, most
products will accept the receiver. Experiment and
find for yourself a database that has the newest gaps
in your region. Please let us know in the discussion
thread if you have worked with Ostia and found the
database to be particularly weak or strong.