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2 GPS Reviews, and one sacrifices itself for science!

Jan 10

Written by:
Sunday, January 10, 2010 2:55 PM  RssIcon

GarminTwo GPS units are reviewed (Microsoft Streets and Trips 2009 with GPS and Garmin nuvi 255W), one good, and one not-so-good.  Oh, ya, and the best part, one is TAKEN apart for the sake of science!  (Nope, I'm not admitting I just wanted to take it apart just to see what was inside!  HAHA)  Read on to check it out and see the great pics!

Last year, I bought a great laptop.  It was a refurb unit, the price was right (read that as CHEAP! LOL!) and is a great tool for our family.  Shortly after I bought it I thought I had a great GPS platform!  Big screen, has to have more processing power than those dedicated Tom Tom or Garmin units, access to information quicker due to the keyboard and mouse.  Man, it HAS to be better......right?  Oh boy, was I wrong!  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Microsoft Streets and Trips

I thought having this great platform would be a perfect match for my love of Microsoft and desire to own a GPS unit, so I thought Microsoft Streets and Trips 2009 with GPS unit was a perfect match!  In the box, you got a CD with the Streets and Trips software (2009 ver) with a USB extension wire and the Microsoft rebranded Navation Technology GPS unit.  The software works great for planning trips, I used it on several trips, locating destinations, entertainment, near by hospitals (no emergencies yet, thankfully, this was purely precautionary), but the GPS unit left us VERY frustrated.

On EVERY trip, the GPS unit would take AT LEAST 15m to acquire a satellite and once it DID acquire one, it would proceed to lose it as quickly as it acquired it!  WTF?  Ya, it would go into frequent conniptions of getting, losing, getting, losing signals.  Once we turned it off and relied on memory cause it was so distracting!!!!!!!!!  Another time, when the GPS unit WAS functioning, it continuely thought the vehicle was several metres to the side of the actual road!!!!!!!  Then it would proceed to lose the signal.  DOH!  I even tried some suggestions from the web, but to no avail.  Too bad.

Garmin

 

Several months later, I was very lucky to get a Garmin nuvi 255W from Santa Claus, and maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, I tell ya, what a difference a dedicated GPS unit makes!!!!!!!!!!

Here's a summary of the pros'n'cons of this thing.

Pros Cons
learning how to use this unit is QUICK and painless I can't sem to figure out how to setup multiple way points and save them as one trip.

very easy to use UI

 

boot up time is FAST

 
time from nothing to navigating WITH satellite navigation is measured in seconds, not minutes!  
acts just like another USB drive when plugged into the computer AND it charges via your PC too!  
you can customize a lot of things, including the boot up image   
so easy to use, you will want to use it on EVERY long trip you make, even if you know where you're going, it's awesome for immediate feedback on "where are we now?"  
better answers to "are we there yet?" questions from back seat drivers  
and the best Pro of all, it just works out of the box without fighting with it!  

Garmin nuvi 255W

So, from the above, I'm sure you can see I like my new Garmin nuvi GPS unit.  So.....what to do with the old MS one?  hhhmmmm Some people (KW and MP) like the website called Will it Blend?  And although THAT would be cool, I'm more of a "let's take it apart to see what it's like inside" kind of guy.  So my unit went under the knife!  Let's see what we have.......gentle, [snap]....hhhmmmm careful.........[CRACK] uh oh, back off a bit there....[SNAP!] oh there you did it.....hhhmmmm it's open.  COOL!

As you can see from the pic below, it is indeed Streets and Trips 2009 with the Microsoft USB GPS unit.  If you didn't think I was serious about the SNAPPING above, you can see the two screws with the plastic spacers I snapped off.

Taking the GPS unit apart

Taken apart a bit more, you have this.  Had I known a bit more about the unit, I could have taken off the Microsoft top plate and unscrewed the screws, but that wouldn't have been as much fun. HAHA

Taking the GPS unit apart some more

From what I've learned online, that silver square at the top of the unit is the GPS antenna (below).  The LEDs are hard to spot, but they are the two yellow elongated ellipses in white rectangles below the '7' in the DA1575S18 on the antenna.  Yup, that's them, they're small and they're bright suckers!

 GPS antenna

Curious to see the other side?  I thought so!  There, see the Navationtech plastered on the unit?  That's the proof this is a rebranded piece of hardware.

Reverse side of the GPS unit

And after all this, one last question still remains, are you thinking what I'm thinking?  I hope so?  "Does it stil work?"  You bet!  Well, at least the LEDs still power on.  Something I want to try next is hooking up this disected GPS unit to the Windows 7 Sensor and Location Platform (APIs for GPS).

It still turns on!

GarminSo!  There you go.  If you're going to invest in a GPS unit, do yourself a favour and get a dedicated box!  Garmin, Tom Tom, Magellen, whichever, that's up to you!  What ever tickles your fancy, but getting a dedicated unit is the best way to go IMHO!

Now that you're no longer lost with GPS units!  It's time to get a coffee and get coding!

 

Resources:

Laptop GPS World: Review: u-Blox 5 USB GPS Stick - New GPS 'Locator' for Microsoft Streets and Trips

Channel 9: Windows 7 Sensor and Location Platform - Deep Dive

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