Side-by-side comparison of sat-nav systems

Discussion in 'General TomTom Discussion' started by Old Baldy, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. Old Baldy

    Old Baldy

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    Well guys, I returned from a long weekend to Florida and back, from the Detroit area, and thought it would be a great idea to run my various satnav systems back-to-back in the Tundra, to see exactly where each system has advantages/disadvantages.

    I festooned the windscreen with the following systems:

    1. TomTom One New Edition (2GB card with V7.10 maps and latest firmware and running all the verified Mapshare and POI updates)
    2. an old Garmin C330 with latest firmware but original 2-year old maps.
    3. My trusty old PDA based "CoPilot" mapping software V4.5 from http://www.alk.com/copilot/ on my ancient Dell Axim X5 with built-in Deluo Compactflash GPS receiver.
    4. My Windows Mobile V5 smartphone running Wayfinder server based software V6.x and a BT Deluo GPS receiver.

    I checked that all systems were up and receiving GPS and guideance enabled for "Fastest route" with no road restrictions (no toll road/highway restrictions, etc) and programmed our destination to Jacksonville, FL via the stop-over at Six Flags over Georgia in Atlanta.

    ROUTE PLANNING

    GARMIN C330 - Does not provide for multiple stops/via points. You have to program each stop individually as your single destination. This is a bit of a pain, but not a major issue for a long trip with few destinations.

    The Garmin also does not provide for rest stops in its routing ETA calculations and under-estimates the arrival time because of this lack of stops assumption - and was about 1.5 hours too optimistic overall.

    The Copilot PDA/Cellphone software allows you to fully configure the rest stops, such as average duration of each stop and time between stops - much more accurate ETA for a long trip.

    The TT also provides rest stop functionality but not as good as the Copilot.
    At arrival in Jacksonville, the TT gave the closest ETA to the REAL time for me at the speed I was traveling - within 20 minutes of the ETA over the entire trip, with me taking it easy at about 5-8 MPH over the posted limit throughout and leisurely gas stops with some food /toilet breaks for the kids.

    The TT calculated the LONGEST trip route in terms of distance, but as I had the systems programmed for "Fastest" and not "Shortest" trip, this was not an issue going down to Florida (more on this later, about the return trip!)

    The TT clearly tried to keep us on highways, and did not want to route us through any secondary road shortcuts that the Copilot thought was faster in terms of ETA. The Garmin was someway between the Copilot and the TT in terms of highway vs secondary shortcuts.
    The TT was by far the slowest to calculate the route,and again gave the longest route but resulted in actually the most accurate ETA in time.

    I gave up on the server based cellphone Wayfinder satnav loaded on my old AT&T 2125 smartphone because it has a MAJOR flaw like all the server-based routing systems - it cannot determine any route for you UNLESS you are in a cellphone signal area!

    All these server based system such as Wayfinder and the Telenav system on my new AT&T Tilt PDA phone REQUIRE a data connection to the server which determines the actual route and sends that back to the phone. If you are out in some remote area and do not have a cell signal, you are not gonna get any help from your satnav system to find your way!

    I see this as a MAJOR design issue for anyone who may travel in poor or non-existent cell signal areas and I will be canceling my Telenav subscription on my new Tilt phone that I got after this trip, and will be installing a standalone software package with the maps and routing engine installed on the local flash memory SD card on the phone itself - such as the Copilot cellphone system - which do NOT require a cell signal to route and navigate you.

    NAVIGATING and USAGE.

    The TT has the best physical screen/display of all of them. While driving, my eyes were always drawn to the TT screen for updates on where we were, and how far we still had to go.

    The Garmin's screen is more "washed out" looking, with less contrast and the colors and text are not as clear for my old eyes. The Garmin also does not give you some of the very nice information such as current time, remaining trip time, or even an indication icon to tell you which direction to turn next - this is VERY useful on both the TT and the Copilot.

    The Copilot has a very nice ability to switch to a "driver safety" mode and gives VERY large and clear text directions without redundant map detail on the screen, and is the best display for night-time travel, but the Dell Axim PDA screen washes out in the daylight sun and makes the screen more difficult to read. The Copilot also automatically pulls up a zoomed-in map of your immediate area when your speed drops below 7MPH or when you get within 0.7 miles of the next turn - VERY nice feature!

    The Copilot also gives more options for user-defined data on the screen, such as the very useful "closest town / cross-road", current road name (which the TT also doesn, but is not clear on the map screen, for me) and some other fun but less important detail such as current altitude, etc.

    VOICES/AUDIO

    The Copilot has full TTS enabled - something none of the others in this test provide, so it says things like "Turn right on White road in 0.7 miles..." rather than "Turn right in 0.7 miles..." The actual street names is really nice to hear.

    BUT....the digital voice of the Copilot is MUCH elss clear to understand than the incredibly clear "human" voices of the TT (and Garmin), so its a bit of a wash.

    The Copilot, by virtue of its PDA hardware, provides an external headphone or car cassette interface via the PDA speaker jack, and this is nice if you want to wear a headset or in-ear speakers or for a motorcycle with helmet on. Unfortunately, neither my old Dell Axim with Copilot software or my new AT&T Tilt phone with the built-in GPS and Telenav subscription provides the audo feed through the Bluetooth interface, so yoiu are stuck with the built-in speaker on the Tilt and with either the built-in speaker or wired headset on the Dell Axim PDA. I therefor cannot use the Tilt phone on the motorcycle and expect to hear any instruction audio!

    GPS signal reception

    The Garmin C330 SUCKS at getting a good signal. It does not have the much more sensitive Sirf/Global Locate chip sets of the TT or Deluo BT receivers. We actually lost signal for multiple hours on the trip back to Detroit on the Garmin C330, rendering it absolutely USELESS, in some cloudy weather - while both the TT and the Copilot cell system never missed a beat throughout. The TT dropped a maximum of 1 "bar" on the reception display at times, but never lost a 3D fix at all. This is a MAJOR performance disadvantage for the Garmin, and I would have been pulling out the paper map book at times to check the roads, if not for the TT or Copilot.

    The TT One even picks up a signal INDOORS with blinds closed at my home - pretty damned phenomenal GPS reception, in my book!

    MOUNTS and POWER cables

    The Garmin wins this hands-down! It has by FAR the best standard windscreen mount, with a very strong suction cup enables by a lever to pull the center of the cap back and generate even stronger suction and it does not drop off the windscreen, period! The TT mount positively SUCKS IMO, and falls of the screen on multiple occasions, especially when the weather warms up (such as from a cold morning to a warm sunny day) presumably when the remaining air in the suction cup heats up and expands and reduces vacuum. The Garmin's suction is so strong that this never happens.

    The Garmin's mount is also vastly better designed where the device clipts to the mount, with an easy release catch instead of the fiddly TT slide, AND the garmin's power cable plugs into the MOUNT rather than the device, so you do not have to unplug or touch the power cable every time you remove of replace the device in the car. Come on, TomTom - make a better system on the top selling satnav in the world!

    The Copilot PDA based system is dependant on the PDA or Cell-phone being used - and there is no mount provided with the software. Depends on what you use for your cell and power cable, but it's always going to be more hassle than the Garmin's mount and remote power cable attachment.

    TRAFFIC

    The garmin C330 does not provide traffic data without additional hardware. This is a MAJOR advantage for the TT, IMO - which provides traffic and weather data through my BT cellphone via the TT PLUS service - and this works quite nicely around town in my case. HOWEVER......on the way down South to Florida, I kept getting the weirdest traffic "problems" being reported through the TT Plus service - showing hold-ups when there was absolutely NOTHING! This was especially prevalent in the Atlanta Georgia area, when we left Six Flags....must have received notice of at least 10 different traffic issues up ahead, with the TT advising a different route around the issues. I ignored them to see if anything was "real" and NONE of them was valid. This was very weird because I've found the traffic service very useful in the Detroit area in the commute traffic and the service is generally reliable.

    Regardless, this is not a device issue, so much as potentially a service problem on the server database, where something had not been correctly updated or something. I put it down to a one-off issue that day, and am happy with the TT Plus traffic service overall.

    The newer Copilot software alos has traffic available, but not my old V4.5....so the TT wins this one in terms of functionaility.

    OVERALL

    (See next post)
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2008
    Old Baldy, Mar 30, 2008
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  2. Old Baldy

    Old Baldy

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    OVERALL

    While I find the garmin still provides the most efficient routes around town, the issue of lack of strong GPS reception and the general lack of features makes me swing back towards the TT or the Copilot PDA/Cell system as my current favorites.

    I would never rely on any of the cellphone/PDA systems that rely on a cell signal to connect to a central server to provide the maps and routing guidance, such as the Telenav system on the AT&T Tilt, or the Wayfinder cellphone systems, etc. I DON'T want to be stuck out somewhere ina remote area with no cell signal and ALSO no guidance/maps to help me get home!

    In the end, the old Copilot and the TomTom One were by far the best devices in this little comparison, IMO. The Copilot has some REALLY powerful and nice feautures, but at the expense of a smaller screen and a litle more "fiddly" user interface.

    The TomTom gave the best overall solution for a car out of these systems, IMO, but cannot be used on the bike without a viable audio solution.

    I will be using the TomTom in the car, and an updated Copliot software system on either my Dell Axim PDA OR on the AT&T Tilt phone (if the package provides audo through the Bluetooth interface - which the Telenav system does NOT do!)
     
    Old Baldy, Mar 30, 2008
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  3. Old Baldy

    Old Baldy

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    UPDATE

    Oops! I forgot to mention a fairly important phenomenon with regards ROUTING between the Copilot and the TomTom. On the way back to Detroit, in Ohio, the Copilot presented a trip that was 90 miles SHORTER and about 10 minutes QUICKER than the TomTom. I realized from comparing the routes between the two, that the Copilot was presenting a route that utilized some much straighter, secondary road shortcuts (not all highway) - and so I instructed the TomTom to "find an Alternate route" and it actually found a better (quicker and shorter) route than the original route, even without me entering any via points or other influencing factors....just hit the "Alternate route" button!

    BUT....as the TomTom revised route was STILL significantly longer than the Copilot's, and as the ETA time was also a few minutes longer, I decided to follow the Copilot route.

    Well, this was probably a mistake! I can't be sure about it, as I had been driving for about 14 hours straight and had asked my wife to drive a couple hours so as she drives at a different speed to me, and is generally more cautious in overtaking, etc - I can't say exactly how much of that influenced the trip duration of the Copilot route, but we ended up driviong for significantly longer than what the Copilot had estimated on its route, and about an hour longer than the TomTom route had estimated on its different route.

    We had to go through a lot of small towns on the secondary road route, with traffic lights, etc and I believe that the Copilot route was indeed around 70-90 miles shorter but that it resulted in a longer overall trip duration than if I had followed the TomTom route.

    ADDITIONAL FEATURES

    The Copilot also provides the user with the option to change the SCALE of the rolling map (for as long as you want. It is not time-bound for a few seconds - so you are not stuck with the very zoomed-in map of the TT or Garmin. This is something I really wish the TT and Garmin provided, as often I like to see the "bigger picture" of where I am in relation to distant towns or larger regions. With the TT you can scale out indefinitely, and it keeps this scale until you change it, and also keeps the map rolling as necessary without user intervention.

    You can also dynamically add or subtract levels of detail - for example you can remove secondary roads, small town names, rivers/lakes, etc when zoomed out to allow you to see the most important stuff when zoomed out and avoid the clutter that can exist from lots of small surrounding roads, etc. This is also very useful.

    TRACKING

    Finally, the Copilot provides a very nifty feature for you to enable your friends or spouse or anyone remote with internet access to actually SEE and TRACK your progress and location - AND to send short messages to you and you can reply to them! This is setup via the cellphone data access to a remote ALK server, and you provide your spouse/friends with a userid and password and they login via normal web browser to the server site and can then track you from home. This is great if you are heading off on some adventure and your wife/husband/significant other wants to see where you are. It does require a cell data package to send your positional data and receive/transmit the short messages, of course, and that you are in a cell signal area to work, but it's automatically connected when in cell range. Pretty nifty!


    With all said and done, I can understand why the TomTom One is the world's best selling satnav system, and have re-assessed my previous preference for the superior Garmin routing engine, due to that device's inferior GPS signal reception and general functionality (although, to be quite fair, the newer Garmins almost certainly don;t have the GPS reception issues and also provide a lot more functionality than my wife's old C330.

    Bottom-line for me, though, was that the TomTom and the Copilot systems were the best of this small bunch by quite a way!

    But you guys already KNEW the TT was good, eh? :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2008
    Old Baldy, Mar 30, 2008
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  4. Old Baldy

    46jimbo

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    Thanks for this!
     
    46jimbo, Mar 30, 2008
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  5. Old Baldy

    Rick F.

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    Thanks for taking the time in posting these comparisons. You should get at least one point for this write-up. ;)
     
    Rick F., Mar 30, 2008
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  6. Old Baldy

    Nextourer

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    What a write-up! Thanks for the comparo!

    I wonder if the Garmin's losses (or cons) are because it has 2-year old maps and the old chip? i.e. what happens if you were to use one of the new nuvis?
     
    Nextourer, Mar 30, 2008
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  7. Old Baldy

    sab

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    Great post. Thanks
     
    sab, Apr 1, 2008
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  8. Old Baldy

    Old Baldy

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    Good question. I'd assume that while the maps were still fine on the old Garmin (I never saw any evidence of missing roads on any of the main roads and suburban roads that we drove on on any of the systems), as the latest Garmins have more sensitive GPS receivers they would not have these problems with reception.

    The Garmins do have some really nice features like importing the cellphone contacts lists from your Outlook contacts, to reduce the need to enter any addresses of your regular contacts, but I've never used any of the new models so can't make any direct personal comparisons with the TT or other devices at this stage.
     
    Old Baldy, Apr 1, 2008
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  9. Old Baldy

    Gilbert

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    Pardon my ignorance but are phone navigational systems based on the position obtained from phone stations or from geo-satellites?
     
    Gilbert, Apr 1, 2008
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  10. Old Baldy

    Smokiewolf

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    Satellites
     
    Smokiewolf, Apr 1, 2008
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  11. Old Baldy

    Sextant

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    My introduction to GPS navigation began with CoPilot on a laptop. It's a very nice program and it has a lot of cool features. I noticed the same routing problem you did though. It will select secondary roads that are shorter because it thinks shorter is faster. I actually had it route me over a mountain on a dirt road that was impassable because that road appears on the map and cut a corner. It thinks like a guy, "I know a shortcut." :D
     
    Sextant, Apr 1, 2008
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