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My big Nuvi: Garmin Mobile PC

Garmin recently discontinued their PC navigation software, but you can still find new copies out there. I have been setting up an HP Slate 500 computer for navigation and mapping (4GB RAM, 64GB flash disk, 9" multi-touch pressure-sensitive screen running Windows 7 Professional) and decided to pick up a copy (about $45 at Amazon). Not a bad deal if you already have the hardware, considering you get full City Navigator maps and the program itself. Unfortunately, the maps cannot be upgraded.

But there's a lot to like here - it actually annoys me that the Nuvi doesn't have many of these features. The user interface is really quite good and the big buttons are easy to hit and very responsive. I can zip through the menu's really quickly, and they are not nested as deeply as the Nuvi either.

Here are some example screenshots (resized to 480x280 from 1024x600). Unfortunately I ended up with the taskbar at the bottom because I didn't seem to use the snipping tool correctly. :?

The main screen looks a lot like the nuvi, but it renders the map in sort of a "retro" way that I like. With detail set to most, you see all the little roads up through the 1.2 mile scale - a nice improvement over the newer nuvi's that only show them through .3 miles. Of course, they tend to blend together the further you zoom out though.


Clicking the browse button takes you to the map broswer, and it has a feature I've *always* wanted on the Nuvi. The yellow button on the top left locks your vehicle in the center of the screen and scrolls the map as you drive. So you can switch from track up or 3d mode to 2d North-up moving map mode in one tap. This gives you more screen real estate for the map, without the navigation bar at the top or data fields at the bottom.


The map settings menu's have a lot more options for what is shown and how it is labelled - almost as good as my old StreetPilot 2620!



And one of the best features of the menu's is kind of obscured by the Windows taskbar in these shots (but not in the actual program). There's a button at the lower left of every menu that looks like a sphere with a road embossed on it. This is a shortcut to return to the main screen (Where To / View Map). Why can't we have that on the Nuvi? Sorry, but pressing and holding the "back button" just doesn't cut it for me. :evil:

Mobile PC has full track management capabilites. It can display tracks that you load and you can set the recording method.


The Route summary screen is also very nice


And it has a great graphical route editor that is invoked with the "shape" button shown above. When you call it up you get this screen: tap anywhere on the map to add a push pin, then tap the add button and repeat. It is much more responsive than the Nuvi, since it's running on a "real" computer, so this seems to work really well in my limited testing


Best of all, since this is a full Windows computer, I can run other navigation programs at the same time using GPSGate, which splits the output of the receiver across as many programs as you want. MobilePC doesn't do such a great job rendering topo maps, so I am using nRoute (even older discontinued Garmin software) for that. I can also run OziExplorer with real USGS topo maps and high resolution satellite imagery.

This gets a little too complicated for driving in traffic, but it's great for exploring the little sand roads near my home in the Pine Barrens where I can drive for a couple hours without passing another car. :)


But getting back to my original theme... it's too bad that Garmin hasn't rolled these Mobile PC features into their standalone nuvi line, and also too bad they have discontinued the product instead of adding new features like lane assist, junction view and user-selectable data fields. There are several new tablets that run Windows 7, and some of them are relatively cheap. If you have one of these, you might want to pick up a copy of Mobile PC while you can still find it.


  • +! Good job boyd :D
  • Well, I actually think there is a market they aren't seeing. I've seen several people driving around with Ipad's strapped to the dashboard being used as sat navs. I've seen the dashboard mounts online. OK it's not everybody that would want to use something so bulky as a satnav, but clearly there are some! I have a small 7" android tabled that I might be tempted to use if software was available.

    It may not be a big market, but their opposition in the form of TomTom are selling their software for Ipad and Android, so they clearly see a market :)
  • Boyd 2002 Points
    Garmin already has the StreetPilot onboard app that will run on the iPad:

    This has been discussed elsewhere, but when Garmin partnered with Asus to market the Android-based GarminFone, they entered into an agreement that forbade them from introducing an Android app.

    I believe that agreement just expired at the end of 2012, and many people expect Garmin to introduce an Android app soon. But only time will tell.
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