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Review: Garmin Mobile PC
Marvin Hlavac
Garmin Mobile PC has just been launched [April 2008]. The following is a user review and discussion of this new GPS navigation software program for laptop PCs, and other Microsoft Windows based computers.

What's included:

Mobile PC unboxing

There are two packages: Garmin Mobile PC with a GPS receiver, MSRP US$99.99 (on the above pictures), and the GPS navigation software program alone, $59.99, for those who already have a GPS receiver.

Map data:

Map Data

Garmin version 2009 map data is included (today, April 2008). It is based on Navteq 2007 and some Canadian data is by DMTI. Beside the North American version, there is also a version with map data for Europe.

Installation:


I was performing the installation on my mobile computer away from home, and I didn't have the product key with me. I don't even know where the product key is - I will have to look for it when I get home. On the back of the CD case there is a sticker with a serial number, but that is not the product key. I skipped the product key entry by simply clicking the "Connect to Garmin GPS receiver":

Configuring GPS in Garmin Mobile PC

I did have the Garmin USB GPS with me, but it wasn't connected yet. I wanted to see what would happen if I just use a plain non-Garmin USB GPS receiver.


To use a non-Garmin GPS unit, it is necessary to "activate the product. I will activate later. For now I just plugged in the Garmin GPS receiver, and within a minute I was able to use the program.

EDIT [May 29, 2008]: I didn't understand this at the time of writing the review, but the following are the facts about product keys:
  • The version which includes Garmin USB GPS20x receiver does not include a product key. The product key is not needed for Garmin Mobile PC to function with the included GPS receiver.
  • The software-only version of Garmin Mobile PC does include a product key (on the inside of the DVD case, on a big green sticker). The product key enables the program to be used with any 3rd party GPS receiver supporting NMEA standard.
  • Users of Garmin Mobile PC w/GPS20x, who wish to use the software with a 'normal' (NMEA) GPS receiver, would need to obtain a product key to enable non-Garmin GPS receivers to function with the program. The only way (I'm aware of) to obtain a product key is by purchasing the program.
Set your destination:

Set your destination

The user interface is intuitive. Buttons appear large enough to be used even with large fingers on a small UMPC touch-screen. However, my mobile setup doesn't use a touch screen, and my monitor is rather large, so I will be looking forward to reading feedback by users with Ultra-Mobile PCs and Tablet PCs.

For some reason Garmin did not include OSK (on screen keyboard) with its new Garmin Mobile PC program. Could it be because UMPCs and Tablet PCs have their own OSKs? Or is it an oversight due to Garmin thinking only about laptop PC users, but overlooking the needs of others? How do people with touch screens feel about this? The first reaction of CarPC community is a surprise and disappointment.


I love the "Search all cities" function. I would be very hesitant to ever recommend a GPS navigation program to anyone living in and around a large city like Toronto, without the ability to skip entering town in the process of entering destination address. I often may know the street I need to go to, but I may not necessarily know the city. Cross a street around here, and you may be technically in a different city - very confusing .

Enter destination address

Enter street number, street name...

Next step in destination entry

...and you will see your destination. You may zoom-in to see it better.

Destination has been set

I was on a parking lot, so my GPS position is showing as not being on the road yet (as shown above),


...but once I started to move, all started to look very good .

Routing Preferences:


Optimization of multiple stops


Garmin Mobile PC has a built-in feature which can sort stops (vias) to save traveling time.


Note that is it possible to include or exclude the last stop from the route optimization process.

See the route at the following before-&-after pictures:

Route optimization with GMPC

Included GPS receiver:

Garmin GPS20x

GPS20x is a very small USB GPS receiver that is included in the $99 bundle, but it can be also purchased separately. Garmin's website currently lists GPS20x (sensor only) at MSRP $ 69.99 USD. New GPS receivers these days are all of very good sensitivity to weak satellite signals, in comparison to the older technology of only few years ago. I don't plan on doing any comparison with other GPS units, because I think the technology has advanced to a point that any brand new GPS receiver on the market today is more than good enough for on-road GPS navigation. Suffice to say that GPS20x is not a disappointment by any means. As the above screenshot shows, it currently has a fix on 12 satellites - I see as many as 12 satellites simultaneously only very infrequently in my geographical area, and I've used GPS receivers mounted even on the roof of my vehicle. GPS20x is inside of my truck, and it seems to perform very well.

Ease-of-use: touch-screen vs. keyboard:

GMPC User Interface

My mobile setup uses a keyboard, and a screen which has no touch capability. Garmin Mobile PC may compel me to actually consider upgrading to a touch-screen setup. While this program uses several keyboard shortcuts making it fairly easy to use on a laptop PC, it must be even easier to just touch the big buttons right on the screen.

Those of us using our keyboards, notice the F11 and F12 hotkeys on the above screenshots. Most hotkeys are marked right under various buttons, as also shown on some of the screenshots bellow.

Instead of using hotkeys such as F1, F2, F3, etc, users may easily navigate between various buttons with ArrowRight, ArrowLeft, ArrowUp, and ArrowDown keys on the keyboard. Select your desired button with an arrow key, and then just hit the Enter-key to press the button.

Destination entry steps

Zoom-in and zoom-out can be performed on a touch-screen by tapping the (+) and (-) areas on the right of the screen. Keyboard users may do the same with a surprising variety of hotkeys: (+) and (-), and (+) and (_), and my most favorite is actually ArrowUp and ArrowDown keys - because the arrow keys are easily accessible on my keyboard. If none of the above is your favorite, you may still use Q-key and P-key to change the zoom level - both Q and P are in the top row of letters on the keyboard - Q is the first, and P is the last, so it may be easy to remember. The programmer who put all these hotkeys in must understand people love to play with zoom ! Did I forget to say you may also mouse-click the (+) and (-) on the right-side of map to zoom in and out?

Garmin Online (TM):

Garmin Online Services

Ducati, a user of Garmin Mobile PC, writes:


One of the best features is the free Garmin Online.

- By tapping "Weather" tab you can check local weather information based on current location or enter another location.

- By tapping "hotels.com" tab you can check hotel/lodging prices based on current location or enter another location. This will show you closest to farthest with direction arrow, distance, and price.

- By tapping "Fuel Prices" you can check current fuel prices based on current location or enter another location. This will show you closest to farthest with direction arrow, distance, and price. You can choose from low, medium, high grade gasoline or diesel. I went around the area to check on listed prices and it was exactly right.

- By tapping "Flight Status" you can get flight info based on current location or enter another location. You can pick from "Check Flight Number", "Departures", or "Arrivals" to get detailed information.

All you need to do is connect via WiFi, Network Card, tethered PDA or Cell Phone.

I tethered an EDGE T-Mobile cell phone and it pulled up information very quickly this is not a slow moving feature. All of these features work very well and display the information clear and easy to read, very cool!
Customization:

It is possible to download free files of vehicles to be used instead of the default arrow icon. Read the following user discussion on the topic: http://www.laptopgpsworld.com/472-changing-your-vehicle-indicator-icon-garmin-mobile-pc

Questions / Comments?
Ken in Regina
Hi Marvin,

Re the DMTI data in City Navigator 2008 and 2009, it's only the postal code point data for postal code searches. There's no DMTI map data, more's the pity.

...ken...
tcassidy
The product key is on the inside cover of the DVD case.
Terry
Ken in Regina
The product key is on the inside cover of the DVD case.
Terry
I can hear the sound of Marvin's hand as it smacks his forehead.

...ken...
tcassidy
Ken,
Are you sure there is no DMTI street data? As I said, it now shows street addresses in Ladysmith.
Terry
Marvin Hlavac
Ken, so the DMTI data is still only for postal codes - not for street names?.

Terry, I don't see my product key on the inside of the DVD case. This is the review package package from Garmin. I really don't need the product key.I will receive another copy that I ordered from TigerGPS (hopefully son), so I will have a product key, if needed.
Marvin Hlavac
Ken,
As I said, it now shows street addresses in Ladysmith.
Terry
We should ask Garmin!
tcassidy
Garmin suggested trying the Bluetooth GPS after updating the software. I now have my laptop up on the 10x. I found I had to NOT have the connection active in Bluetooth and letting the program activate it or it wouldn't work.
BTW the picture I sent showing satellites on the UMPC was actually the 10x GPS. The program had grabbed it without telling me. The built-in GPS can barely find itself indoors.
Terry
tcassidy
Ken,
From my laptop.
Street map of Fernie. It appears to have street address.
Terry
Attached Images
fernie.jpg  
Marvin Hlavac
I guess the question remains if the street names/addresses are there because Navteq now has the data, or the street names/addresses are from DMTI.
tcassidy
The input on a UMPC is by stylus writing only. You have to ensure you start the graphic within the appropriate box on the screen or the program will ignore it. Fortunately is appears to be quite good at figuring out my chicken scratches.

Terry
tcassidy
I guess the question remains if the street names/addresses are there because Navteq now has the data, or the street names/addresses are from DMTI.

From a quick check of the Fernie Map in MG CAN v4, I bet its from DMTI.

Terry
Marvin Hlavac
Terry, could you please compare that area with on-line Google maps? Google uses Navteq (and no DMTI) for the area, AFAIK. And Google now actually uses newer, (c) 2008 Navteq data. So if Google doesn't have street names/numbers for the above mentioned area, that would indeed indicate Garmin gets this additional data from DMTI. If that's the case, we could then quite confidently say that Garmin Mobile PC has the best digital navigable maps of Canada today .
tcassidy
I don't know how to make Google show addresses.
Terry
tcassidy
I looked up an address in Fernie, 1239 5 Ave. and it showed in Google Earth except it said Sparwood. No addresses on numbered streets in MG CAN v4, CNNA NT 2009 or Google Earth.
Definitely could be Navteq. Maybe they use DMTI data.
Terry
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