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Appeared on: Monday, September 25, 2006
Palm GPS Navigator - Smartphone Edition


1. Introduction

logoI love being an early adaptor.  I really love the product previews I get to see before launch date. Palm was very generous in giving me one of the first looks at their new GPS Navigator Smartphone Edition which is just being released.

How does this GPS option made especially for the Treo line work?  Is it something to run out and purchase?

Overview:

package

I have been testing this brand new GPS unit and software for about three weeks now.  The GPS is made by Palm and it is a Bluetooth GPS receiver. It comes with a car charger, a very nice window or dash mounted suction cup/holder for the treo and a brand new version of the wonderful TomTom Navigation software.

Palm has always been about simplicity. This GPS package is designed to follow in that tradition. Everything you need is right here. Setup and use (which I will detail below) could not be easier and the documentation is quite extensive if there are any problems.

One of the nice features of this package is that it is truly made for the Treo line. The software is available on a DVD but also pre-loaded on an SD card. For kicks, I tried to install it on my Axim - but to no avail - this only works with Treos.

What’s in the box?

What's in the box

The GPS Navigator package comes with a brand new, very small GPS receiver which has only one button to worry about. There is a manual explaining the GPS and how to pair it to the Treo.

The Receiver connects to a car charger (included) and sits on the dash. The only thing missing was some Velcro or other fastener to keep the GPS receiver from sliding over the dash.

Also in the box is a very well designed suction cup and plastic holder for the Treo. One nice feature is that the power cord has two adapters connected to it - one for the GPS receiver and one for the Treo. Thus, one car jack can power both the Treo and the GPS.

Bundled with the package is brand new version 6 of the TomTom navigator software. This software is both on DVD and on a quick installing SD card and the manuals included were thick and very well written.


2. Setup & Use
gps device

Set up:

The Palm GPS Navigator was hands down the easiest GPS package I have ever set up. The GPS unit paired with the Treo in seconds via Bluetooth. Simply search for the device in the Bluetooth settings of the Treo, follow the instructions and you are ready to go.

The only thing easier was setting up the software. This version of TomTom Navigator software was just a joy to use. Put in the SD card, tell it what GPS unit you are using and your position is acquired in minutes.

From then on, the software was a cinch to use (and will be discussed down below.)

Ease of use:

This will seem like a contradiction, but, this is the beauty and the curse of this package. The problem is the use of Bluetooth and the limitations of the Palm OS. To be fair, I did not get to test this on the Treo 700 W, so I don’t know if the same issue applies to the Windows OS.

Here is the potential problem. Bluetooth on the Palm OS does not allow for multi tasking and a multiplicity of connections. Ideally, you pair your Treo with one device and just keep using it and it works great.

If you do not use a Bluetooth headset or car kit, you will have no problems with this GPS unit at all. It will work flawlessly and beautifully.

If, however, you use your Treo with a Bluetooth Headset or car kit - you will not be able to use the Treo with both simultaneously. If you want to use the GPS, you must disconnect the connection from the headset, connect to the GPS and then turn off your headset.

If you remain connected to your headset, the Treo will not be able to "see" the GPS device. This is just the way it is when trying to use the Treo with more than one Bluetooth device.

I asked the Palm rep I work with why they chose a Bluetooth GPS and not a hardwired GPS that could work through a serial connection and free up the GPS port and he said it was because this unit is designed so the user has the ability to walk around and use it.

I have to think that most GPS users will buy this for driving. I also believe that Palm (and many states) encourage us to use a Bluetooth hands free headset or car kit in order to drive more safely. Herein lies the problem - you have to choose which one to use.

All that being said, once you decide to use the GPS it is so easy to use. Much of that is attributed to the use of the TomTom software.

softwareSoftware

TomTom has long been regarded as one of the leaders in GPS software. This version, tailor made for the Treo, was flawless. Once connected, the display screen shows a beautiful 3D or 2D view and lots of data in big letters and numbers.

So much of the data is user definable - you can see how long until your destination, what time you will arrive, how fast you are going, how long until your next turn, the name of the street you are currently on and more.

I was skeptical that the little screen of the Treo would not be effective for GPS navigating - but I was very wrong. The high resolution of the Treo screen (Palm OS) allowed for bright, clear views of my route. The information I needed was nice and big and navigation through the menus was a joy.

TomTom really worked with Palm to design this software. It is easily operated with one hand and can even be set up for left or right handed use. The navigation buttons are large on the touch screen and the menu button on the Treo and the navigator d-pad can also be used to get around.

One nice feature of this software is that it assumes when you get in that you want to go home. When you first start the software, you input your home address and that is saved. You can also save any other trip and a record is also kept in a "recent trip" file.

If you aren't going home, it is so easy to plug in a new destination. It takes a little longer for the route to be planned than in other GPS programs I have used - but once planned, the trip is seamless.

If you take a wrong turn, don’t worry - the software will re-route you on the fly. You can even tell it to avoid toll roads and highways or visa versa. One very nice feature is that when you plug in your destination, the software asks you if you need to arrive at a particular time - if you need the "quickest" route - it will send you that way.

The POI feature is implemented wonderfully on this program as well. Just navigate to Points of Interest and select what you are looking for - restaurants, movies, museums, airports - whatever. Find the one you want, touch the navigate button and you are re-routed to that point.

This is calculated very quickly and so very useful. Imagine you are on the highway in a strange city and your spouse has a craving for sushi. Just search for "closest Japanese restaurant" and look at the list. Pick one that is near by and TomTom does the rest. Now, there is always the risk that the restaurant may have closed - but I have not encountered this in my testing.

3. Conclusion
logo

Overall Conclusions

This is a very, very impressive package. Everything works as it should. The GPS receiver is very accurate and very easy to set up. The software is the most powerful and easy to use I have ever tested.

The only thorn in the side of this package is that Palm chose to use a Bluetooth GPS receiver which makes using a Bluetooth headset or car kit impossible. I tried the software with a hard wired GPS and was still able to use my Bluetooth car kit for phone calls and it worked great.

I would hope that in future planning, Palm will give the user an option for hard wired or Bluetooth use.

The bottom line is that if you want a Bluetooth GPS receiver and the absolute best software package for the Treo, and you are aware of the limitations of Bluetooth use - buy this package.

If you are a Bluetooth headset or Car kit user and you want to drive with GPS guidance - be forewarned - you will lose your headset/car kit connection if you connect to the GPS receiver.

Pros:

Cons:

The New Palm GPS Navigator with TomTom 6.5 software can be found at www.palm.com for US$349.00.


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