I bought the Pharos/Ostia Pocket GPS Navigator for my Dell Axim X3i in anticipation of a family vacation trip to the American Southwest. I got it well in advance of the main trip so that I could get familiar with it and give it a little test run. Here are some of my observations on our experiences with Essie, as we affectionately call the female voice that informs you of upcoming route changes.
I found that the voice alerts of coming exits and/or turns very helpful, especially when in traffic in a strange city. I would even say that it improves the safety of your trip through an unknown area since you dont need to take your eyes off of the road or pull over as you would with a map. It was also very reassuring to be able to quickly glance at the screen and see where you are, how far away your next turn is, what the name the next street is and what direction you will need to turn.
That being said, our first real test was a little weekend getaway trip to the mountains of North Carolina. I loaded the maps needed, plugged in the address of my destination and Essie routed it. Ive been to this destination before and I could see that Essie and I had a difference of opinion as to what the fastest route would be, so I verified that my route was indeed faster, shorter and safer. Essie had actually routed the trip past the direct road to our destination, through another town and then down a longer, very windy, dangerous road. I didnt want to take the windy road, especially at night, so I took my route. Essie informed me that You are off route, several times, then recalculated the route and we made it to our destination without any more complaints. I dont know what criteria Ostia was using to conclude that the route it picked was the fastest, but it was wrong.
Before our big trip, I loaded the necessary maps onto my Pocket PC and plugged in the address of the motel where we had reservations. Upon arriving at the airport and getting our rental car, I plugged everything in, called up the saved destination address and had Essie route us there. She got us there flawlessly and in short order which was great because we were in a city we had never been in before, we were tired and we wanted to get to bed.
But, a few more problems did show up during vacation trip that I need to mention, a couple minor, and one that I consider major.
First, the major complaint. We had reservations for a motel in Denver Colorado. I plugged in every combination of the address possible, even the intersection of the two main highways nearby, but Essie just couldnt complete it. I went to a very popular map website and found out where the motel was. With that information, I went back to the Pocket PC map. I was able to find the road that the motel was on. When I tapped on the approximate location of the motel on that road, a balloon popped up with the road name and address number range I had tapped on. That verified that I had indeed entered the address correctly in the map search engine for Ostia. It would even have been nice if I could have clicked on the balloon and told Essie to use that as my destination, or to route me there, but there is no provision in the software for that. I hope future versions will add that feature and/or fix that problem. After all, what good is this software if it cant find the address, much less direct you to your destination? *** see postscript below for update on this issue ***
My second complaint is the address search engine. If you plug in a street name that has multiple instances in the maps you have loaded, you are given a choice of counties that that road name is in. Unless you know the area or have a map, you probably will not know what county that road is in. If the county name also included the Zip Code and/or the city name, that would be much better as you usually have that information with any address, but usually not the county name. *** see postscript below for update on this issue ***
A minor complaint, and Im not sure if its software or hardware related. We were driving through the desert in Arizona, following the route Essie had calculated to the Grand Canyon. Suddenly, she told us, You are off route. There was only one road within miles, and we were on it. Well, we had to listen to that for a few miles before she finally got herself back on track. This happened a couple times on that one stretch of road.
A problem we discovered that is positively hardware related is that the cigarette lighter plug for the antennae/charger has a hard time staying in the cigarette lighter. It seems to be a little too small in diameter, so I basically had to wedge it against the edge of the ashtray to get a good, consistent connection.
All-in-all, Essie made a good traveling companion and I dont think I will ever take much of a trip without a GPS with mapping software again. I would recommend this product with caveats. I hope that these problems/features will be fixed soon, but it looks like the Pharos/Ostia has got a decent product.
This is follow-up with another observation from my life with "Essie."
Referring to my previous complaint about the map searching database and the non-ability to click on the address balloon, I found out by accident (it doesn't appear in any of the documentation I got with the GPS), if you tap the area of your destination, a balloon pops up showing the name of the road and the address range. If this is to your satisfaction, you can double tap on the area again and it pops up a box asking if you want to use this as a destination, origin or multi-stop and whether you want to save it. This feature seems to have appeared since I upgraded to the latest, greatest version of Mapfinder (6.1.300 (Build 0224)).
My next complaint was about presenting you with a list of county names if you have multiple instances of a street name in the maps you have loaded. I'm happy to say that city names are now included and a check box for including zip codes. It made finding my destination addresses much easier than in my previous major trip.
In a recent trip to the L.A. area, Essie worked flawlessly from the airport to the motel, to restaurants and then to the worksite. Once again, being in an unfamiliar area, the safety factor can not be overstated.
However, living with Essie has shown up another problem, similar to one I'll mention later, came on the return to the airport. The route Essie chose was not possible because of an exit ramp closure. I wasn't aware of this until I got to the ramp. Unfortunately, I was right at the edge of the map I had loaded on my Pocket PC. So, I went off the edge of map and beyond Essie's ability to reroute me. It is at this point that the software completely gave up. I was able to take the marked detour, but once I was back on the map, I had to bring up my destination again and ask Essie to route me to my destination. Doing this at 70 mph on a freeway in the L.A. area was not the wisest thing in the world to do and totally negated the safety factor I bragged about earlier. I could have pulled off the side of the freeway, but you always hear of people getting killed while parked on the side of some freeway, so I took my chances. I was also running late for the airport because of the detour, so a stop was not desirable.
I've noticed this same behavior several times at rental car agencies that are in parking decks. I understand about the GPS not being able to pick up signals because of the interference, but the Ostia software totally gives up if it can't get a GPS signal RIGHT NOW. It won't keep your destination in memory until you get a signal. That leaves me praying for a redlight or a traffic jam soon after I leave the parking deck.
I haven't had the opportunity to drive through a tunnel while being routed by the Ostia software, but I have a funny feeling the same thing would happen, which would leave me fumbling for my stored destination and hitting the route button again once I clear the obstruction.
Another annoying fault I've found is rerouting. I was sitting in the backup of a wreck on a four lane highway. I was coming up on an exit and wanted to find an alternate route to get around the wreck. Of course, I was sitting on the fastest route, so I brought up my Route Options and chose "No Highways." I restarted the Ostia software and asked to be routed. Since I was sitting on a highway, Essie, for some reason, couldn't find me. I guess the software ignores Highways completely when you ask for no highways. Like I said, annoying.
Just a couple other things that I think needs to be fixed in near future versions of this software.
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