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Navman PiN Pocket PC review
Posted on 24-Jan-2005 23:03 by M Freitas. | Tags Filed under: Reviews.


Not many people know it, but Navman is a New Zealand based company with a big presence in the GPS market. Last year control was transferred to an American company, but the company still works from its Auckland offices. Despite its New Zealand roots, it took several months to release a localised version of its Navman PiN (Personal Interactive Navigation) handheld device, already available in other markets.

The Navman PiN is quite small at 112.8mm x 69.6mm x 24.15mm (4.3 x 2.7 x 0.6) and surprisingly light: 280g (4.8 oz), taking in consideration that it incorporates a full GPS device including an external antenna.

The plastic case provides good grip, and it is nice to touch. The standard Pocket PC buttons in the front of the device provide good feedback when pressed, and the joystick provides good response when used.


Navman PiN: small form factor


Comparison with HP iPAQ h4150

The Navman PiN is actually a rebranded Mitac Mio 168 DigiWalker Pocket PC. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 and comes with all the basic applications provided by this OS, including Pocket Outlook, Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes. As part of the software it also incorporates Microsoft Reader, MSN Messenger, and the Pocket versions of Word and Excel.

A few unique applications are also supplied. These include a MP3 player with a funky user interface and equaliser, a backup/restore application, a settings applet that provides the user with information about the hardware and CPU speed control, plus a Home application that can be used instead of the Today screen as a launcher. This application is better utilised when associated with a hardware button.


MP3 player software with equaliser


Very simple backup/restore software


eMenu: application launcher

The CPU speed control does not specify what speeds are selected, but provides four different positions: Auto, Low Performance, High Performance and Superior Performance. By the description I understand each will give a balance of battery life and overall system speed. A special power manager section gives the user control over features like SD slot power and what event will wake up the device.


Navman PiN: small form factor


Smart battery controls


More power management available

The Pocket PC is based on an Intel PXA255 processor running at 300MHz. It comes with 64MB RAM and 32MB flash, but no permanent storage available to the user. It does have a SD and MMC card slot, with SDIO capabilities. It is certainly not a top of line Pocket PC, but this is a specialised device, and it performs well, as we will see later.

The rechargeable Lithium Ion battery (1350mAh) is not replaceable, but the package comes with an in-car charger, which guarantees continuous use and recharge while inside the car. A USB sync cable is supplied, as well a wall charger, but the cradle is an optional. The device does not support USB charging directly, but the wall charger can be plugged to the USB sync cable and charge the device while it synchronises.

The 240x320 pixels (QVGA) touch screen is a 3.5 TFT LCD, with LED backlight, and capable of showing 65,000 colours. In comparison with other Pocket PC around here the backlight is quite good, and the screen has good colours.

The built-in GPS receiver provides 12 parallel channels with automatic selection. The external antenna folds behind the Navman PiN, and a latch securely keeps it in place. A small rubber cover in the back of the antenna hides a connector for an external antenna (MMCX connector).

The specifications list GPS times as Hot start 8 seconds, Warm start 38 seconds and Cold start 45 seconds. My timings were a little off these marks, but I can blame this on the overcast weather here in Wellington this summer.


The Navman PiN with the external antenna extended


Back of the Navman PiN with external antenna open

The SmartST v3 came preloaded on this device (although the box lists SmartST 2.0), and the New Zealand map comes pre-installed on a MMC card. The software will work with maps stored both in the main memory of an external memory card, but I recommend copying the map to your device and keeping the MMC with the original map in a safe place.

There are maps for a long list of countries, but these are distributed as add-ons on their own MMC cards. I have found all other maps in one local electronics store, readily available, but at a cost that seemed almost 50% of a new Pocket PC. Countries covered include United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and parts of Finland.

The navigation software is very good. During the two weeks I had the Navman PiN with me I was impressed with its easy of use, accuracy of directions, and speed to recalculate routes when I (on purpose) decided to not to follow the directions given.


Easy to understand and detailed maps


GPS status screen

The handheld can be securely affixed to the windscreen by using the included mounting bracket.

Using the joystick we can change views and access the main menu. In this menu we can configure the navigation software, select a route to find and check the GPS status.

Routes can be selected by address or Point of Interest (POI). For example the user can look for a hospital nearby and the software will give the directions. The only thing I can complain is the drop down lists were quite small a few more lines would be good.

The software provides voice directions and on-screen directions. When showing the map the top part will show the next action (on the top left) and a short description (for example LEFT: KENYA ST). The bottom of the screen will show current speed and distance to the next action. The map is in the centre of the screen, and can be shown in a tri-dimensional view.

By flicking the joystick we change the map between 2D and 3D views and a list of actions, where each turn or step is shown in sequence.

Routes can have multiple points and the software will guide the user with clear and precise instructions. Generally 400m before a turn the selected voice will give you instructions. The speaker is located in the front of the device, just below the hardware buttons, with a good and loud sound coming out.


The speaker (lower right in the picture) provides good sound for instructions

Other options include a speed alarm, which sounds when the driver reaches a set speed, and the ability to show or hide points of interest in the map. The user can also select options that will define routes, for example preferences for shortest or quickest routes, use of highways, etc. And we can select different voices (the New Zealand version comes with one female and one male).

To make this a different review, we are making available two downloads. The zip files contain short movies showing the software available and the navigation software. You will need the DivX codec to watch these movies on Windows Media Player or equivalent:

Download pin.zip (applications and SmartST configuration, route creation, 4.88MB, 3:17)
Download gps.zip (SmartST interface 2D/3D, 2.98MB, 2:17)

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Light and small
  • Navigation software
  • Navigation instructions are easy to follow and do not distract
  • Slow CPU provides longer battery life
  • SDIO allows Bluetooth for example

    Cons
  • Only communication option is infrared, limiting other location based service that would require communications (Bluetooth would be ideal)
  • Not the fastest Pocket PC
  • Could have 128MB RAM
  • Additional maps are expensive



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