Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Sat Nav Bad. Sat Nav Good.

Way back in 1979, the Boomtown Rats recorded a song called “I don’t like Mondays”. I would like to extend that to “I don’t like Januarys”. It is still depressingly cold here. And wet. The sort of wet that gets right through to your bones. What are you meant to do if getting on your motorbike means becoming wetter than a fish taking a bath and colder than one of Ben and Jerry’s specials?

Clean the bike? Done that.

Take the dog for a walk? Done that – got wet.

Buy a wake board? Done that, but it is too cold to use it.

OK, so a week ago I thought I needed something new to look at. You might have read my post back in December hinting to my dearly beloved that I might need a new Sat Nav for Christmas for my tour of the USA. Well, it worked :) and I sat there on Christmas day surrounded by discarded wrapping paper and with a big smile on my face, holding a box marked Garmin Zumo.

About a week ago, having seen it was raining AGAIN, I opened the box to give it a try. My initial impressions after a couple of hours were “why did I bother - this is a pile of poo”.

However having got over the teething troubles, I soon realised this was just what I needed. The next few days showed to me this would be very good indeed.

OK, before telling you, dear reader, why I like the Garmin so much, here is the scoop on the teething troubles. I opened the box to see there is no manual, which is strange, so I checked the packing list. Guess what? There isn’t meant to be a manual packed in the box! You have to go online to get one. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for saving the planet and not printing stuff unnecessarily (like in 6 languages) but this is pretty silly. They don’t tell you where to find the manual online, you just have to go find it for yourself, then if you are like me and do want a paper copy, you have to print it out yourself. Not a great start.

One of the things that attracted me to the Garmin was the ability to plot routes on your computer in detail and then transfer them to the Sat Nav unit. This means having to load the mapping software onto your computer. OK so far – loading it was a piece of cake. Then you have to unlock the maps. Garmin please listen to this – it was a TOTAL NIGHTMARE to do this. Two calls to their support department (actually very helpful) soon sorted this though, but why make it so difficult in the first place? I understand the need to do this, but why make it so that only people at Garmin can understand how to do this? Dumb, vey dumb.

The next thing to go wrong was in addition to the maps (Europe) that came on the CD in the box, my wife purchased one of the map sets (the USA) on a memory card that you place into the Sat Nav unit, which I did. However, there is no way to transfer those maps back to your computer to make the route planning easier. OK, so I need to exchange this memory card for a CD, so I contacted Amazon which is where my wife purchased the memory card. What came next was a bummer – to prevent people copying software, Amazon and their suppliers do not take back software, so even though I couldn’t copy it, I had to buy the same USA maps on a CD! I now have all of the USA maps twice. Not happy.

So, this all took a few days to resolve and of course when the new CD arrived I had to go through the stupid un-locking process again. Arrrrggghhhhh!

Anyway, now to the good stuff. Planning a route on your computer is so much better than doing it on a sat nav unit. It is so easy – you can see a proper map and enter waypoints with the click of your mouse, join them up to form a route and save them. So easy! This turned me back into a happy little boy. You can even then view your map in Google Earth to see what other highlights there are along your route that you might want to stop and see. I don’t want to sound too gushy over this, but having used this for the past few days, I am a convert. The TomTom system I have is now consigned to a cupboard and the Garmin will rule supreme I am sure.

Having planned a few test routes I went out and tried them on the road. Ok, it was in my car because it was STILL RAINING, but I am sure you will forgive me for that. The unit performed very well on the road – up to the high standard of the TomTom. The Garmin Zumo has a bigger screen, but a comparison of the two sat navs shows them to be about the same on the road.

I have yet to try the Garmin on a motorbike, but I am pretty sure it will be as good as in the car. I have already wired it in to the bikes power source, which was straightforward. I will rig up the very neat Garmin speakers (extra cost) inside my helmet soon and take it out for a test ride.

That is if it stops raining.


Oz said...

I got a Garmin after Christmas. I have experienced some of the same stuff as you, but I have not advanced as far. You gave me some good info.

Good luck and I hope it stops raining on you soon.

Canajun said...

Software is Garmin's weak link on all their products, including their GPS units designed for runners. You need a PhD in artificial intelligence to figure them out. And as for intuitive UIs? Forget it. But the guts of the machines seem very good indeed once you understand how to get access.

Can't muster up too much sympathy for you over the weather. We just had an inch of rain on top of a foot or so of snow, so we're now living in an ice-encrusted world that isn't likely to go away for at least 2 more months. Sigh......

Gary France said...

Oz - It is a shame but Garmin have created a potentially superb product which is lowered by being an OK product, let down only by some things which should be easy to fix.

Canajun - I agree. I am reasonably proficient with technology, but this had me guessing for a while. Despite its start-up shortcomings, it is still a good piece of kit. OK about the rain and sorry about your ice. At least here the temperature is bearable.