OnCourse Navigator 4 GPS Navigation Review

OnCourse Navigator 4 by Navigon is a voice navigation solution that runs on your Pocket PC device with an NMEA compatible GPS receiver. It includes 1.95 million points of interest, 5.7 million miles of street and 105,000 named places.

The voice navigation is very impressive, it will provide you with ample time to make your turns and catch any expressway exits. One of the best features is cross-border navigation; you can go from any state or province, even from Canada to USA without having to switch or load new maps. If you are like me and sometimes make extra stops and take detours along the way, heavens forbid even make a wrong turn, the software re-calculates your destination and sets you back on track automatically.

On your desktop

Setting up the software is very simple; pop in CD One, this will install MapExport and SkinEditor, then Disk Two installs the maps, unfortunately you will have to insert CD One again to install the Pocket PC software.

The MapExport software for Windows is an easy to use program, it gives you three simple options;

- Supplied and customized map sections
will allow you to select a province or state and upload it to your Pocket PC. This is the feature I used, with all of Ontario and British Columbia on my 1GB SD card, I only lost 75MB of space.

- Create new map by selecting any rectangle
will allow you to select any size box across the US and Canada and create a map for that area.

- Create new map by selecting a corridor based on a route
will allow you to create a route, save it, then transfer it to your Pocket PC. This would be good if you are very limited in storage space on your device. From New York City to San Francisco would be less than 7MB.

After creating your maps by one of the above methods, they will be loaded to your Pocket PC on your next connection.

The SkinEditor application was a great surprise, it lets people create their own look and feel to the navigation software and upload it to the Pocket PC. I was perfectly happy with the OnCourse_Green skin, it was crisp and easy to read.

If you are driving at night and have problems reading a colourful map you can change to night mode, now your streets and terrain will be yellow and black (night mode is installed by default and is available when clicking the crescent moon from the main menu).

On your Pocket PC

The first thing you have to do is activate the software by visiting OnCourse online, it will generate a hardware ID which you register along with your software key. This seems a bit extreme considering you cannot use your software on another device ever again.

The OnCourse menu system can take a little getting used to, once you search around and figure out where things are, you will be on your way to flawless navigation.

The main menu allows you to choose between “One destination” or “Several destinations”, this is great especially if planning a long road trip with many places to visit. “Show map” mode will bring you to your map and current default location once acquired by satellites, “Select map” will let you load a map from your Pocket PC or expansion card.

The settings allow for many adjustments and tweaks to customize the software to your liking, the most important is the “Route information” setting where you can turn ON or OFF the following options; Distance to final destination, Time to final destination, ETA at final destination, Distance to next destination, Time to next destination and ETA at next destination. These settings just go to show you how much this software is capable of and the vast amount details it can report to you.

Destinations can be entered manually, or via your Outlook contacts list. On your destination screen, tap the contacts button, tap the respective contact’s entry and hold it, then you will get the context menu to select OnCourse Navigator. The 115 page PDF manual explains every single option in detail with photographs, you cannot go wrong.

The map interface has many icons and neat little goodies, you can Zoom, Scroll, switch to 3D map view and center your current position on the map. What I liked most is the Itinerary icon, this will display the current itinerary on the map when you tap the icon.

On the Info bar in the bottom row you have the map scale, current gradient, compass, current height above sea level, and your current speed. These were very handy in the mountains finding out our elevation and for back seat speed monitoring.

The software does have some lag times on slower devices, when zooming in on maps and even on initial start up it can take a bit longer than desired, but running at 312Mhz it loads in about 7 seconds flat. The voice navigation announcements are very loud when compared to your overall volume settings, I suggest turning the volume down in the OnCourse settings, 60% is suitable.

I was very impressed with the accuracy and quality of the voice navigation, if voice navigation with turn-by-turn commands is an important feature to you than you will not be disappointed. The map creation and route generation on-the-fly is very fast and impressive, and the ability it has to recreate a route and set you back on track gives you ease while driving.

OnCourse Navigator 4 North America (Canada & USA) will run you $179.99 with a GPS receiver, if you have your own NMEA compatible GPS receiver than you can pickup the software alone for the bargain price of $99.99.


Pocket PC Requirements

- Pocket PC 2002 or Windows Mobile 2003 (first or second edition)
- 5M – 7M Storage RAM Free
- 6M – 15M Program RAM Free
- CF card required (32 MB minimum) for Pocket PCs with 32 MB device memory
- CF or SD memory card recommended for Pocket PCs with 64 MB memory


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