MS Streets & Trips 2008 GPS Product Review (Part 1)
It seems the popularity of GPS navigation continues to grow as more and more people turn from paper maps to LCD screens. Just over two years ago I had four vehicles, only one of which had an on-board GPS navigation system. Today, while I only have three vehicles, it is interesting to note that all three are equipped with on-board navigation. All three have between 5″ and 7″ screen, a services data base, trip routing and voice guidance. They do, however, have some short falls when it comes to trip planning, routing and making changes while on route. So I jumped at the chance to try out the new 2008 Microsoft Streets and Trips full GPS offering. Testing this in Canada would also add to the challenge as it is often found that many mapping software programs and related embedded data bases are not always up to date compared to that found throughout the U.S.A. To properly evaluate the product, we will divide the trial into two sections. First we will look at the general features and user friendliness including street level detail, route planning, data base, available tools and related functions. We will follow that next week with a hands-on trial run, when we take it to the streets of the unfamiliar-to-me city, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
I had used MS Streets and Trips before when I had an earlier version sometime around 2001. At that time I found the program a great help for trip planning, distance calculating and just plain direction look-ups. While it was capable of being tethered to a GPS receiver, I can’t say I ever attempted to use it in that manner, but rather just as an electronic map.
Well, the 2008 version I’m testing comes complete with its own mini GPS plug and play receiver. When I say mini I mean small, not much more than a inch and a quarter square with a height of about a half inch, complete with a securing mini suction cup.
I must say, the 2008 version appears extremely feature rich with many new functions. I was pleasantly surprised to find the program as user friendly as the original. This is rare. Generally, I’ve found when a program is greatly updated with new features and powerful add-ons, it loses a lot of its simple short cuts and quick solution characteristics. Not so here.
The mapping detail and services data base is very impressive. Very newly opened roads in Canada were already loaded. RiverBend Motor Coach Resort in LaBelle Florida was displayed in high quality detail with even the names for each and every street. I’ve never seen a private park ever displayed in this manner, and with such detail, as was Pelican Lake Motor Coach Resort, Cypress Woods Resort, etc. The campground data base and probably much of the related detail was in part, I believe, thanks to Woodall’s, one of the many named organizations that were credited.
Okay, so let’s check out the operational overview and the practical applications. Running it on a laptop, as I am, it is not handy to use alone in a car, however once set up prior to driving, it can supply voice guided direction to a pre-selected destination. It works great if operated by a passenger in any vehicle, certainly a bonus in an RV. One of the big advantages found here is the ability to alter routing or search services while underway. This is not normally permitted on the built-in types as the majority of them are locked out of such functionality while moving. This is normally done as a safety requirement. Additionally, the ability to be able to search, plan and set routes from the comfort of your home, or elsewhere, can’t be overstated. There is also no question that the functionality and larger screen size delivers tools and features unmatched by both built-ins and most of the popular add-on stand alones.
So, how does MS Streets and Trips stack up against the built-ins and stand alones?
- Far more feature rich and application flexible
- Larger display area for easy viewing and configuring
- Can be re-routed or accept user input at any time
- Has practical applications with or without GPS receiver or receiver enabled
- Can be updated at any time through an internet connection
- Does fuel stop calculations including estimated costs
- Can be removed from vehicle reducing both security and/or environment issues
- Requires the user to have a computer
- Not as easy to use in navigation mode while traveling alone
In summary, I feel this product is top quality and certainly appears to be all the manufacturer says it is. I think it makes a great primary GPS guide and mapping program or a super supplement to your existing in dash or stand alone receiver/display. This is truly a great mapping and planning software. One, you probably will not want to give up once you have had the opportunity to use it. As well as offering in-motion real time street/road navigation, it may be worth having this product as an additional tool even if you currently have a built-in or stand alone GPS unit. After all, they say planning a trip can be as much fun as taking it. Believe me, this is certainly one great planning tool. In my opinion, worth the money even if you never used it in the GPS mode function. For this purpose, the program is available alone, that is without the GPS receiver/antenna package. This would allow the purchaser to add the GPS at a later date or perhaps thether it to his or her GPS enabled cellular telephone. Either way, this product has a thumbs up in my opinion
Note: This product is capable of far more than described in this review. Construction area downloads (free for one year), off air updates on local traffic and current fuel prices, are but a few. Testing of these advanced features was not conducted. The review covers the more basic operations and applications only.
Next week we will be taking the Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 out on the road to see how its performance stacks up against similar products. Hope you can join us.
To link to Part ii, CLICK ON THIS
With Your Co-ordinates - Lug_Nut - Peter Mercer