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Road Testing MS Streets And Trips, Product Review (Part II)

August 3, 2008 by Lug_Nut · 29 Comments  
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Last week we looked at the workings and features of Microsoft’s Streets and Tips 2008. (A link to last week’s blog if you missed it LINK)  This week we are taking it to the street.   We’ll be testing the GPS navigation guidance in the real world.  I chose the City of Vancouver, Canada, to conduct the trial run.  In as much as I was not familiar with the areas of this city that I would be navigating, it would mean relying fully on the product’s ability to direct me.  I really did not doubt its ability to find and direct me to the target; after all, they will all do that.  It was how it does it, and the speed and timing.

I set three targets, one after the other, all located in the Vancouver area.  I did this in the hotel prior to setting out.  Instead of doing each as a waypoint, I opted to enter each as a separate route, or trip, using my previous destination as the start of the next.  I made four routes that started with the hotel in Richmond, B.C., and finishing with the hotel as the final destination in the fourth route.  I saved each as a leg number, “Leg1, Leg2,” etc.

The unit was fast to set up.  I put the GPS/antenna module, with tether line connected, onto the dashboard near the bottom of the windshield.  I then plugged the tether line into a USB port on my laptop computer and booted it up.  I selected the program icon and opened the program.  I then activated the GPS and selected my first saved route.  The time for the GPS to acquire the needed satellites was nearly instant.  This was comparable to a late model O.E.M. or like quality in-dash GPS system.  The position shown and the actual were basically one and the same, or what you would expect.

The voice guidance was clear and understandable.  The audio volume, however, was limited.  While operating at slow speeds, windows closed and moderate to light traffic, it was more than adequate.  With the road noise associated with high speeds, the audio became more difficult to hear clearly, as with a window down or in heavy traffic.  This appears to be a laptop audio issue, not the fault of the software.  This seems to be a common problem with other laptop applications.  It can be overcome by the use of a headset or other laptop audio enhancing device.  This did not present an immediate problem for me as the large screen was extremely easy to see and navigate directly visually.

Audio turning notice was at 0.3 miles prior to the turn when on secondary roads and 0.4 miles on motorways.  This is about a 25 second warning based on a motor home’s average speed on these types of roads.   Additionally, the audio/visual queue for the next turn is delivered immediately after each turn event.  This feature works well in preparing the driver for what’s ahead.   The screen provides full navigation information at all times.  It shows the vehicles speed (miles per hour or kilometers per hour, depending on the driver’s preference), the distance and direction of the next turn and the current surrounding terrain.   It also has a reverse route option.  This allows a one step way to quickly set up the return trip.

Summing up the test results yielded the following observations.The Streets and Trips 2008 program performed basically as expected.  This operates in a similar fashion as many other personal in-dash or stand alone GPS navigation devices.   The biggest difference here was the large screen display that the laptop provided.  In the test case, I used a 15.4″ Dell.  This not only delivered much more mapping area, but also displayed  large easy to read vehicle speed, distance to next event and full visual turn information.  The designated navigator in your coach will probably love this product.  It’s easy to plan, operate and understand.  The ability to have it within reach can’t be overlooked either.  Most competitive products are not mounted near the passenger seat and therefore may require driver input during operation.   This is a great two person GPS navigational guidance tool.  These types of computer based solutions appear to be gaining in popularity as more motor coach owners opt to carry a laptop computer with them in their travels anyway.

The overall experience of using this product was very good.  It was relatively simple to use resulting in an end to end zero frustration experience.  And if you can drive in a busy city and operate a potentially complex software package without any frustration, it must be good.

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. 

Reporting From The Street   -   Lug_Nut   -   Peter Mercer

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Comments

29 Responses to “Road Testing MS Streets And Trips, Product Review (Part II)”

  1. He has an RV w/built-in GPS, yet he uses Streets & Trips - Laptop GPS World on August 3rd, 2008 12:44 pm

    [...] He has an RV w/built-in GPS, yet he uses Streets & Trips Part 2 of the review was just posted at RV.NET: [...]

  2. Bill Healy on August 3rd, 2008 2:01 pm

    After trying out Navigon and Tom Tom with poor results a friend let me try his older S&T 2006. It did exactly what I wanted to do. Obviously when driving a rig, saved miles result in saved dollars. We purchased and installed S&T 2008 immediately.

    We found out that it was not necessary to keep the GPS antenna module on the dashboard as it worked just as well on the floor under the small table that we mount the laptop to. We had no problem with sound even at higher speeds. Use an old HP Pavilian ze4427 from Wal-Mart.

    One feature that we accidently found was the ability to change a route from one highway to another by just clicking the mouse on the planned highway and sliding it to the preferred highway.

    We also found that it is extremely fast in trying different routes even when we did not have an address. Just click anywhere near the point that you desire and it pulls up an actual address.

  3. Lug_Nut on August 3rd, 2008 2:22 pm

    Bill, Great info. I’m sure there are many built-in short cuts and tricks to yet discover. I also experienced satellite reception within the coach without the antenna/receiver module being on the dash. This is probably due to the coach having a fiberglass roof and the large window openings.

  4. Lug_Nut on August 3rd, 2008 2:52 pm

    Bill, Just a comment on one of your points that I missed. I noticed you claimed fuel savings by being routed more directly. That is a great point, particularly in these times given the spike in prices. Thanks for your valuable input.

  5. Connie on August 3rd, 2008 4:22 pm

    I have 2007 Delorme Street Atlas USA. I used it last year with Windows XP but now I have a new laptop with Vista. After emailing Delorme, they tell me my version does not support Vista. Guess I will have to buy another program, but it won’t be there’s. connie

  6. Lug_Nut on August 3rd, 2008 4:32 pm

    Connie, Sorry to hear that your ‘07 Delorme Street Atlas is not compatable with the Vista operating system. It is certainly more disappointing that it is so new a version. As you are probably aware, the Streets and Tips ‘08 is XP and Vista ready. I would have to think that there are others, including Delorme ‘8, that also work with Vista.
    Thank you for your input.

  7. Gary Nelsen on August 3rd, 2008 6:45 pm

    I have the Microsoft System in our HP Laptop. Great system, however I had to deal with “screen wash out” which is typical of laptop screens.

    I went out and purchased the Garmin 5000 that has a great clear screen even in bright sunlight. Bottom line, I don’t need a 17 inch screen that cannot be seen clearly. I much prefer the Garmin 5 inch that is placed close to the instrument panel for easy viewing and clear voice navigation.

  8. Lug_Nut on August 3rd, 2008 6:54 pm

    Gary, I agree. Some of the new stand-alone systems produce a sharp picture with light that can actually be used in direct sunlight. Too small a screen can be challenging for some, for example cell phones now with navigation on their 1.25″ or so screen. It is not really practical for most RV type people. Thanks for the input.

  9. W. Harper on August 3rd, 2008 8:16 pm

    We also have MS Streets and Trips 2008. We like the program, it seems to work real well for us. Our problem is trying to see the laptop screen during the day. We do have the voice feature but we are hard of hearing. We were hoping for a solution for viewing the screen during the daylight hours. Thanks for any help you can give.

  10. RV LAD on August 3rd, 2008 11:18 pm

    HI PETER, I HAVE BEEN USING THE GARMIN 99S SYSTEM AND SOFTWARE FOR 3 YEARS NOW AND LOVE IT. IT ALSO DOES EVERYTHING I WANT IT TO DO. LAST YEAR I PURCHASED A TOSHIBA LAPTOP WITH A 17″ SCREEN TO GUIDE US ON OUR FIRST CROSS COUNTRY TRIP (JUST RETIRED). WELL I FOUND THE BATTERY WOULD ONLY GIVE ME ABOUT 35-40 MIN SO I PURCHASED A 100 WATT INVERTER THAT WOULD PLUG INTO THE 12 VOLT POWER OUTLET (CIGARETTE LIGHTER) IN THE RV. THIS WORKED GREAT—- UNTIL ——-I MISTAKENLY LEFT THE LAPTOP CHARGING AND THE LAPTOP ON WHEN WE WENT IN FOR BREAKFAST IN A SMALL BACKROAD TOWN, AND WHEN I RETURNED AND STARTED THE VEHICLE I IMMEDIATELY REALIZED MY MISTAKE. THE LAPTOP WENT DEAD. COULDN’T HAPPEN IN A WORSE PLACE. WE SPENT HOURS FINDING OUR WAY AND SEARCHING FOR A REPAIR SHOP FOR THE LAPTOP. FINALLY FOUND AN OUTLET THAT WOULD SEND THE UNIT BACK FOR FACTORY REPAIR WHICH DIDN’T SERVE MY NEED, BUT IT TURNED OUT THAT ONLY THE SCREEN WAS DESTROYED. I WAS VERY HAPPY TO HEAR I DIDN’T LOSE THE HARD DRIVE WITH MY 2000 PIX AND SINCE IT HAD AN EXTERNAL MONITOR PORT, RATHER THAN BUYING ANOTHER LAPTOP, I BOUGHT A 19″ BRIGHT SCREEN MONITOR THAT IS MUCH BETTER THAN THE LAPTOP SCREEN. THE CAUTIONARY TIP IS TO NOT RUN YOUR INVERTED FROM THE ENGINE BATTERY POWER OUTLET, BUT USE THE COACH POWER OUTLET IF YOU ARE GOING TO CHARGE ANYTHING ELECTRONIC. REASON BEING THAT YOU GENERATE A HUGE VOLTAGE SPIKE WHEN STARTING YOUR ENGINE, AND IT’S POSSIBLE THIS SPIKE COULDTRANSFER TO YOUR POWER OUTLET. ALSO MAKE SURE YOUR INVERTER IS A TSW (TRUE SINE WAVE) AND NOT A MSW OR YOU MAY BE TELLING A TALE SIMILAR TO MINE LARRY DAMBA

  11. Lug_Nut on August 4th, 2008 4:29 am

    W. Harper, The screens on most laptops do not work that well in bight light. There are two solutions that come to mind, add an additional screen that is capable of operating in a brighter enviroment or relocate the screen itself to a more shaded area.
    If you go the additional screen way, there are a wide choice of sizes and brightness levels available. All laptops will power an additional display and still display the same on the original screen at the same time. Locating the screen, or laptop to a shader place may be more difficult unless just the navigator is required to see. If that is the case the navigator could actually be somewhere back in the coach, or vehicle, where it is naturally darker.

  12. Lug_Nut on August 4th, 2008 4:33 am

    Hi RV LAD, Thanks for the warning. Your point on the inverter being TSW (trus sine wave) is certainly good advice, however most small plug-in type inverters are, I believe, MSW type. (modified sine wave type)
    Thanks for the great input.

  13. Leo on August 4th, 2008 8:25 am

    Thanks for the write-up. Does S&T zoom in when approaching a change in direction? We use Mapsource with N-route by Garmin and have had it several years. We find it very convenient for routing and planning. The 15″ laptop sitting on the E-450 console takes up a bit of room and flops around somewhat to the point of breaking the laptop hinge on one of our trips. My next computer will be the WIND by MSI or something similar with a 10″ screen.

  14. Paul Janosik on August 4th, 2008 3:48 pm

    bought this a few weeks ago before we bought the laptop, in the next two weeks can use voice actived programs or do you have to enter it on the computer. We planned a trip to Lake Louise in Alberta Canada from Las Vegas . The directions were great and once you arrive in Alberta the directions are also in Kilometers thanks for a great review looking forward to using this to find our way around Paul & Sharol Janosik

  15. Royce Wyrick on August 5th, 2008 10:46 pm

    We are using a Garmin stand alone. We drove from New Mexico to Alaska this year and took it with us. It works great and eliminates confusion – MOST OF THE TIME.

    However, it will sometimes send you out to the middle of nowhere. I have watched this thing and it acts like a pc with insufficient memory i.e. it is operating much too slowly. It tells you to turn after you have driven past the turning point. Sometimes, the little car icon indicates that you are driving down the bar ditch or across the middle of the bay.

    My first thought was that the data base memory is faulty – later, when the GPS is working wonderfully again, I suspect that there may be a problem receiving satellite signals depending on the weather and the angle that the signal is comming into the GPS.

    If the GPS behavior that I have observed is either data base error or problems with receiving signals, then I believe that it is very likely that the units connected to lap tops are likely to “misbehave” under certain circumstances.

    Has anyone else experience these type problems with the lap top GPS systems?

  16. John on August 11th, 2008 5:44 pm

    Hello again Lug_Nut,

    Thanks for the results on the MS Streets & Tips 2008 GPS application.
    I like the idea of the plug in antenna and the large screen on the laptop.
    Definitley the way to go, it will also give my wife something to do and prevent her from dozing off. Also much less expensive than buying a GPS unit.

    Cheers,
    John

  17. Lug_Nut on August 21st, 2008 6:34 pm

    Thank you, all for your input. There certainly seems to be a wealth of knowledge out there and some good support for the S & T software.

  18. Horknee on September 9th, 2008 9:17 am

    I was looking at spending about $700 on a fancy gps but after reading your article about s&t I purchased the one with locater.
    We will be heading out next week for a period of 6 months going from Alberta Canada down the west coast of Washington,Oregon,California then into Arizona & finally ending up in Mexico.
    This should be a good test for S & T as we also like to travel off the interstates

  19. Fred on September 9th, 2008 11:40 pm

    The MS S&T is a great program and have been using it since ‘06. I actually plan an entire trip, start to finish as preliminary and make changes along the way. On planning it’ll present daily mileage, driving time, approx. cost of fuel consumption, etc.. It’ll also recognize some CG when planning a route, as well as other points of interest.

    The only problem with using the laptop is space to operate it, since I can’t while driving and generally better half is preoccupied with the dog, but that’s another issue. Anyway, great review and great product!

  20. Lug_Nut on September 10th, 2008 3:53 am

    Horknee, That should be a great product test and trip. Best of luck. Enjoy.

  21. Lug_Nut on September 10th, 2008 3:55 am

    Fred, The bulk of the hardware certainly can be an issue. Some people have bought and installed laptop holders. I don’t think I would particularly want one, but for others this might be an option. Thank you for your input.

  22. MS Streets & Trips 2008 GPS Product Review (Part 1) on September 28th, 2008 5:47 am

    [...] To link to Part ii,   CLICK ON THIS  [...]

  23. Rob on November 26th, 2008 7:27 am

    Great article! As co-owner of WiFi In Motion, http://www.wifiinmotion.com, we have taken a look at S&T. Our wireless Internet system integrates with the program quite well. The software is very useful, and more robust than most programs or dash-mount GPS systems. Certainly, S&T isn’t for everyone, but it works great. In fact, we will be offering a free demo from Microsoft with each of our kits starting in 2009.

    The tie-in with our product and S&T is that if you have an active Internet connection while trucking down the highway, S&T integrates with the Entertainment Book. Imagine using S&T, and you are approaching Topeka, Kansas. You want to see if there are any coupons available. Simply click the coupon icon in the toolbar of S&T, and via our Internet connection (while in-motion), the S&T map will populate the screen with relevant coupons. Then, you can hover over each coupon to see the pertinent details, and choose to print the coupon. Very slick feature, and helps you save money!

    Keep the articles coming!

    Rob

  24. Dennis Rudolph on May 17th, 2010 12:39 pm

    I bought S&T w/GPS last year for our trip from Prince George, BC to Yuma, Az. I was delighted with its performance when it worked but it crashed a lot.
    We were using my wife’s Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop with Vista Home Basic…a computer that more than met the minimum reqs.
    More crashes in complex map areas (urban) than rural. Usually happened when zooming (proc-intensive tasks).
    Xmas last year, I upgraded the laptop from a low-end Sempron to the fastest Turion that the board would handle, 512 mb of ram to 2 gb, and a faster, higher-cache hard drive. Still crashed, but much less. I never could get the voice directions to work.
    Could this be a problem with Dell? I have seen other odd problem others have had with Dell compatabliliy. Any ideas?

  25. Lug_Nut on May 18th, 2010 8:04 am

    Dennis Rudolph, I doubt that it is a Dell issue. I would be more suspect of the Vista operating system. There have been many issue that I have heard involving using Vista with some softwares. Thank you for your input.

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