This review was submitted by a member of our website tflight that I think would be of interest to those of us that use Delorme.
Filed under: DeLorme GPS Reviews, Palm GPS Software, Pocket PC GPS Software on August 22nd @ 8:30 am
DeLorme’s Street Atlas USA Handheld hasn’t always been the most popular piece of software among Palm and Pocket PC GPS users. Complaints of buggy software, and slow routing are common. Nonetheless, for a handheld GPS solution it does do some pretty amazing things. I’ve spend the last two weeks putting the software through my paces and tracks.
I had no problems installing the Street Atlas 2006 Handheld (SA2006HH) software onto my computer. I even installed it on my Mac running Virtual PC (more on that later) and didn’t come across any snags. I chose to install all of the maps on my drive (for faster access).
The software that installs on your PC is basically a stripped down version of Street Atlas USA (non-handheld version). The purpose of this software is to provide an easier platform for generating routes as well as creating the map files that will sync with your desktop.
The software felt a little sluggish, even on my otherwise zippy computer. But that didn’t compromise the software. I wouldn’t say the software is overly intuitive, but once I read through a couple topics of the Help sections things became more clear.
I wish Street Atlas 2006 Handheld could have been a little more intelligent locating addresses. When searching for a specific address in a certain city/state it seemed to want you to enter the data in a very specific format or else it couldn’t locate the address. Better guessing that what you are looking for would be appreciated, especially if you are used to services like Google that are very good at guessing at what you are looking for.
Creating maps based on certain geographical locations was easy, and the software conveniently sets your sync software so the maps are loaded on the next sync. (A word of warning for Apple Mac users running Virtual PC… generating maps and routes will take a very long time… Creating the necessary maps to cover my single state took about four hours on my G4.) Enough about the PC software, let’s get into the handheld software.
Handheld GPS Software
Street Atlas 2006 Handheld connected seamlessly to my Bluetooth GPS as it should have. I highly suggest you make a trip to the ‘Options’ menu and read through both ‘Getting Started’ as well as ‘Help’. While I’m normally a jump right in without reading the directions kind-of guy this was very helpful. Especially if you are used to other vehicle navigation software some of the things in SA2006HH might puzzle you.
I found the maps to be highly accurate. While most mapping applications all seem to use the same underlying data, DeLorme appears to use something that is different than the rest. (And this makes sense given the business of the company.) I’d assume that this could be good or bad. In my case Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, MapQuest, etc all draw my street perpendicular to where it should be. DeLorme’s software was the only one that seems to have it correct. Small rivers and streams and other notable landmarks are all there as they should be.
Finding Addresses, Landmarks
The first time I performed a “find” I tried to lookup my home address. I limited the search to my own zipcode, state, and type of search as “streets/road”. I thought something was wrong with the software or perhaps I didn’t install everything I should have because five minutes later it was still searching for my address. About five minutes later it came up with a close match.
So if you get lost somewhere don’t expect to keep looking around while finding the location on your GPS. Pull over and plan to stop for five to ten minutes waiting for the “find” to find anything. To make matters worse once it did find the location I was looking for I pressed the wrong button and had to find it again. (Not the software’s fault I hit the wrong button.)
The database of landmarks is quite in depth though… it even found a little grass-strip airport near my home I searched for.
Routing was also much slower than even I have the patience for. A route I ran for about 135 miles took about eight minutes and another route I ran for 45 miles took about four minutes. What amazed me was that reversing an existing route seems to take just as long.?.?. The software has all of the intermediate points, what takes so long to reverse the order of the points it already found and still has stored? Oh well.
Most of the times routes were quite accurate. It even found a shortcut through a town I occasionally drive through that I didn’t know about before. On the other hand it also instructed me to get off a state highway and turn onto a dirt road for one mile before going back to the same state highway I was on before.
When the software finally calculates a route and you enable tracking (don’t forget!) following the route on the moving map is easy thanks to the route being well highlighted. What seemed odd was the frequency of trackpoints that were generated. Sometimes there were several within a mile while other times a mile or so would pass without any trackpoints. This was fine except that when the road winds and there are not many trackpoints you are are frequently told you are off course. There is a preference setting where you can specify how many feet triggers the off course alarm although I found that in some instances even when the preference was set as high as 700 feet I would still trigger the alarm.
The software does allow you to have any of the cardinal directions (north, north east, etc.) as the “up” on the maps. It also allows you to have “Track” as up… However this doesn’t work as expected. When the map is initially drawn it takes your current direction of travel and draws the map track up. However it keeps that orientation until you drive off that map. Your location on the map changes instead of keeping yourself in the center and moving the map around you. Therefore if you start off one block south, and then turn west, south will still be at the top of the map until you travel far enough to go off the edge of the map.
This causes further problems while looking ahead on the maps for new turns. Often a turn can be within one mile, but you can’t see it yet on the map. If you were to zoom in our out or pan the map you could see the next turn… but that defeats the purpose. I want my hands on the wheel when a turn is coming up, not fiddling with the map.
Sometimes the maps didn’t draw completely on the screen, a corner wouldn’t be drawn. However you could get around this bug if you really needed to by changing the zoom and then moving it back.
I’ve already mentioned the alarm that triggers when you are off course. If your handheld supports it a voice will actually come out of your handheld’s speaker alerting you that you are off course. Likewise turns are announced with voices that say “Turn left less than one mile”. My handheld’s volume couldn’t be turned up loud enough to make it audible at highway speeds, even with the volume turned off but that isn’t the fault of the software. I’ll turn the volume off while driving in an unfamiliar area anyway.
Perhaps the feature I was most excited about was the ability to change the map colors from default to high-contrast for night driving. Everything is still just as readable however it keeps your vehicle dark so you can concentrate on the road. This is a very welcome feature!
Overall after spending a couple of weeks with the software I really enjoy it. While it does have some shortcomings, you can’t beat the $39.95 price! For $39.95 you certainly get what you have paid for and probably more. Thirty-nine dollars is a bargain for this handheld GPS software.
Street Atlas USA 2006 Handheld
2 Comments »
Though I’d agree with most of what was reported here, but I can’t imagine for the life of me the problems with speed here. I’ve been using Street Atlas since version 2 and have never experienced such problems. I currently run it on a Athlon 1800+ and run 2000-3000+ miles with no problem. I also occasionally run it on my OLD laptop with a 233 mhz processor and only 256 megs of ram with MUCH better results. The only thing I can think of is that he was using it on a Mac through a emulator. I have no experience with a Mac but I can assure you that it run’s MUCH better on a PC.
Street Atlas USA is far from perfect (there’s no such thing) but it’s by far the best that I’v used and it keeps getting better each year. The accuracy can’t be matched by any thing out there.
Comment by Don — 8/23/2005 @ 9:26 am
Thanks for the comments, Don. My speed complaints were not regarding the PC side of the software, but the handheld side of the software. The speed of the software running on the PC (to generate the routes, create maps, etc) was adequate. The speed of routing and locating addresses on the handheld however, took a long time.
Comment by Tim — 8/23/2005 @ 9:34 am