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