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Buy standalone GPS or USB GPS & software for laptop?

Hello Forum;

I am new to this forum and have enjoyed reading a number of the postings. I have no current GPS experience, but had a Garmin 210 in my powerboat that worked perfectly for years.

I am trying to decide whether to purchase a Garmin Nuvi model in the $200 price range, or purchase a USB GPS for my Windows Vista laptop and download map software from the internet for about the same dollar value all in.

I have about 20 years hands-on computer experience having written application software and having built my own desktop computers for the last 15 years, so installing and configuring the laptop/internet software is not a major issue for me.

The navigation system will be hard wired into my Class A motor home, and based out of Vancouver Canada, we plan to travel continental North America including Mexico, and will need a map package that covers the whole area.

I am concerned about overall quality, reliability and useability of the navigation system once installed and debugged. Have many others chosen the USB GPS/Laptop combination and regretted the decision only to purchase a standalone unit as a replacement?

I would appreciate any advice or input whatsoever...

Thanks in advance!

JT

Comments

  • Micro$oft Autoroute comes with a GPS option, I'd give that a look.
  • Boyd 1271 Points
    MS Streets and Trips also includes the Navation USB GPS. I picked up the software and hardware together for around $70 awhile ago. Not terribly impressed with the software personally, but I use the USB GPS with some other applications on my netbook. This receiver isn't terribly sensitive due to the small size (I guess). It includes a USB extension cord, and it works OK when I set it on my dashboard, but not very well when just plugged into the netbook directly.

    http://www.navationtech.com/product/gpsLocator.htm

    I am also using Garmin nRoute, mainly because I like the way it displays the topo maps that I make myself. nRoute was discontinued by Garmin awhile ago, but it looks pretty much like Mapsource with GPS tracking and routing built-in. You can download it here:

    http://gawisp.com/perry/nroute/

    To use this software with a non-Garmin unit, you will need GPSGate, which is a cool little program. It can also "split" the GPS output to feed multiple programs running at the same time:

    http://gpsgate.com/index.php?id=73

    nRoute can't use Garmin's NT format maps however. There is a freeware program that can convert them to the old format, but I have never tried. Garmin's newer software is MobilePC, which comes either with or without a GPS receiver:

    https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=139&pID=13484

    It is very popular (I have played with the trial version) and looks pretty much like a Nuvi on your laptop.

    I also use OziExplorer with maps I have made myself. You are pretty much on your own there to make the maps you need:

    http://www.oziexplorer.com/

    I have just been doing all this to play around mainly. I like having the larger, higher resolution screen for exploring the backroads with topo maps and aerial imagery. I don't use the netbook for any serious routing/navigation. Personally, I think dedicated PND's do a better job of this with touchscreens and easy-to-use software in a package that can be easily hidden when you aren't in your vehicle.
  • MS Streets and Trips also includes the Navation USB GPS. I picked up the software and hardware together for around $70 awhile ago. Not terribly impressed with the software personally, but I use the USB GPS with some other applications on my netbook. This receiver isn't terribly sensitive due to the small size (I guess). It includes a USB extension cord, and it works OK when I set it on my dashboard, but not very well when just plugged into the netbook directly.

    http://www.navationtech.com/product/gpsLocator.htm

    I am also using Garmin nRoute, mainly because I like the way it displays the topo maps that I make myself. nRoute was discontinued by Garmin awhile ago, but it looks pretty much like Mapsource with GPS tracking and routing built-in. You can download it here:

    http://gawisp.com/perry/nroute/

    Click on MAPS

    To use this software with a non-Garmin unit, you will need GPSGate, which is a cool little program. It can also "split" the GPS output to feed multiple programs running at the same time:

    http://gpsgate.com/index.php?id=73

    nRoute can't use Garmin's NT format maps however. There is a freeware program that can convert them to the old format, but I have never tried. Garmin's newer software is MobilePC, which comes either with or without a GPS receiver:

    https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=139&pID=13484

    It is very popular (I have played with the trial version) and looks pretty much like a Nuvi on your laptop.

    I also use OziExplorer with maps I have made myself. You are pretty much on your own there to make the maps you need:

    http://www.oziexplorer.com/

    I have just been doing all this to play around mainly. I like having the larger, higher resolution screen for exploring the backroads with topo maps and aerial imagery. I don't use the netbook for any serious routing/navigation. Personally, I think dedicated PND's do a better job of this with touchscreens and easy-to-use software in a package that can be easily hidden when you aren't in your vehicle.
    iPad w/3G seems to have great potential...my wife is getting one to use in a few weeks. We plan on giving it a workout it on our upcoming trip out west.

    http://www.apple.com/ipad/guided-tours/
  • mvtofino 0 Points
    Boyd:

    Thanks for all the useful information and personal knowledge. One of my basic concerns is our tendency to travel the less-beaten path which lead us to years of serious backroading throughout the Province of BC as we worked our way up from the VW Camper Van, the various 4x4s & tent trailers, and then the Class A motorhome. Needless to say, our current unit is not suitable for the type of RVing we used to do, but that adventureous spirit still exists. I have been curious about what mapping options might exist when one gets off the main routes and onto maybe some passable logging roads or whatever. I was thinking one would likely be pretty much on his own, and have to scan paper charts (as one possibility) and focus more on latitude/longitude positioning and waypoint entry in route building than the typical maps and points of interest included in most automotive GPS receivers I have reviewed so far.

    Your closing remark summed up what I have long suspected, that being to rely on say a Garmin Nuvi model GPS for my day to day driving and navigating tasks due to its ease of use, size and flexibility. One could always acquire a reasonably priced USB GPS for the laptop, download some internet software and take that package along on a trip as well. We have the space and power capability for both, so why not? We usually have the laptop onboard anyway, so having both options may be the way to go.

    Thanks again for your valuable insight. It has helped me move along the decision making process. Now if I can only sort out all the diffferent Garmin units and choose the right one for me, I'll be laughing. I decided to stay with Garmin both from my personal experience on the boat and from what I have read and seen on the internet. They seem to be the most popular brand with more flexibility and options based on what I've researched so far. Would you agree?

    Best regards,
    JT
  • mvtofino 0 Points
    Boyd;

    Just to follow up our previous messages, I visited a Future Shop today to get a hands-on feeling for the different models they sell. I found the 255W and 1350 both had the basic features I was looking for, but the 1350 was discounted from $239 to $162, so I let value cast the deciding vote. The 255W was listed at $169, so I figure I got the more advanced & feature rich model for $7 less. I hadn't spent much time comparing prices mind you, so I took a bit of a chance buying it without the benefit of more research.

    Although I haven't used the unit in my vehicles as yet, I have done an extensive tour of all the menu screens and tools and very much like what I see so far.

    One last quick question; there is only one mini USB port on the 1350 - I presume this is used for both the cigarette lighter power cord as well as connecting to a laptop. Is that correct?

    Thanks for your help with my questions...

    JT
  • bugeyed 0 Points
    Boyd;

    snip
    One last quick question; there is only one mini USB port on the 1350 - I presume this is used for both the cigarette lighter power cord as well as connecting to a laptop. Is that correct?

    Thanks for your help with my questions...

    JT
    I hope you made the right choice, because I bought the 1350 too. :)
    Yes the mini USB plug is for all connections. Screen brightness & volume (i think) are reduced when connected to a Proper USB cable.

    Enjoy,
    kev
    BTW I have benn meaning to mention something regarding the use of a laptop for GPS. My experience with hard drives & failure analysis shows that head slaps are a very common problem with laptop drives. That's when the read/write heads contact the platters when the unit receives a physical jolt. This is not intended to alarm you about using the laptop in a vehicle, as these drives are very resilient & can tolerate quite a bit of abuse. Just be aware of what your laptop is subjected to & back up your data often. A solid state drive based netbook may be a better choice, if it has the computing power.
  • rschissler 0 Points
    With your computer expertise I would have thought you would want a Nuvi with mulitple point routing capabilty. With your laptop, you could create mulitple routes, with different stopping points along the way, and then transfer that to your Nuvi. The 1350 doesn't do that. For advanced routing, you'd need a 1400 series or 705 series model.
  • Boyd 1271 Points
    The 1350 uses a USB power connection. It will run at full brightness this way. Some of the other nuvi's which use the special powered cradle will not run at full brightness with a USB cord.

    I have a 1350t and it is a nice piece of hardware, but there are some issues. One of them is that it will mangle the display of Garmin topo maps. If you want to use topo's on your Nuvi, it's a poor choice IMO. The 255w would do a better job in this regard, and it also displays more road names and shows the little roads through a larger zoom range than the 1350.

    If you use the GPSGate software I mentioned above, it should allow you to use the Nuvi as a GPS that feeds data to a program running on your laptop. Download the free demo version and see if it works for you.

    A friend recently got an iPad and it's very nice. I have an iPhone and iPod touch, plus a lot of other Apple products.... I don't want an iPad myself at the moment, but it's certainly worth a look.

    I haven't seen any hard drive issues with my netbook in the car, but that is a point worth considering. There are now reaonsably priced SSD kits that include everything you need to swap your laptop/netbook drive for a solid state unit. Have a look at the SSDNow series:

    http://www.kingston.com/ssd/default.asp
  • mvtofino 0 Points
    rschissler:

    Thanks for the reply. The advanced routing is something I didn't think much about, but now that you mention it, it occurs to me that few if any of the auto GPS units I have seen so far focus much on waypoints, routes or the like. Now it could just be my lack of experience with these units, but thinking back to the Garmin 200 that we had installed on the boat 15 years ago, there is a significant difference between the two. I had to build each route from scratch creating waypoints using lat/long or Where Am I input. This is what I had expected to be doing with an automotive GPS, but apparently not.

    That said, I did use the Nuvi 1350 on a driving trip for the first time yesterday and was impressed with its overall performance. Actually, it was a lot of fun and a joy to use. Once again however, in view of my very limited experience it's too new to rate...

    I see myself expanding the use of my laptop in the motorhome and will be looking to purchase a USB GPS and download some internet software, and use this in conjunction with the Nuvi 1350. I'll also check out the solid state hard drive or purchase another external hard drive for dedicated backup use as I do with my home desktop system.

    Thanks again for your assistance...

    JT
  • mvtofino 0 Points
    Boyd;

    Thanks for the additional information. I used the cigarette adapter power cord for the maiden trip yesterday, and had no issue with screen brightness whatsoever. In fact I really enjoyed using the 1350 particularly the verbal sreet name feature which I didn't think I'd care much about until I tried it.

    I have a sizeable inventory of computer parts and cabling and quickly found a standard USB 2.0 to Mini-USB cable in order to connect the 1350 online and upgrade software, maps and so forth. What a nightmare that turned out to be! I had a terrible time trying to update the map software, and still haven't succeeded in doing so. I may have some serious issues to deal with here, so I have started another thread that focuses on the incident rather than bury the details herein.

    Perhaps you might casst some light on what went wrong/what I should do under these very strange and unusual circumstances.

    All the best,
    JT
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