Garmin Dakota 10 Handheld GPS Receiver Reviews
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Garmin Dakota 10 Handheld GPS Receiver

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Excellent GPS hardware + software package, with a few small weaknesses

Aug 18, 2006 (Updated Nov 14, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Excellent integration of hardware with 5 separate robust applications and map database

Cons:Many minor weaknesses in the software feature set

The Bottom Line: Consider buying this as an inexpensive, highly portable alternative to a stand-alone dedicated GPS for your car if you have a Palm or Pocket PC PDA.

I wanted a simple, inexpensive way to add GPS functions to my Palm Treo 650 phone/PDA, and the GPS 10 Bluetooth receiver + Garmin's Que software seemed to fit the bill. For me, this setup was preferable to a stand-alone GPS unit for the car since I almost always have my phone with me, plus stand-alone GPS units are much more expensive that the GPS 10 Deluxe. Thus, my review will focus mainly on the GPS 10 + Palm configuration. Having said that, however, one nice feature of this "Deluxe" package is that you get 1 hardware device (the GPS 10 receiver itself) and the map database (City Navigator North America Version 7) on a DVD-ROM, plus application software that works on Palm OS, Pocket PC and Windows. You can use the hardware and software on as many Palm OS, Pocket PC and Windows devices as you want, but you have to have your original GPS 10 receiver to work with the detailed map database. In other words, the GPS 10 acts as a hardware "key" for the City Navigator maps, but the Palm, PPC and Windows applications are not locked. You can get an "unlock" code from Garmin at no cost to use the detailed map database with one additional Garmin GPS receiver, but beyond that you'll have to start paying for additional licenses.

(Likely point of confusion: Garmin sells its own series of Palm-OS devices called "iQue" that are similar to other Palm OS devices but with the addition of a built-in GPS receiver. The GPS software for these devices is called "Que." A different version of the Que software is used to provide GPS capability on other Palm devices like the Treo using the external GPS 10 receiver.)

I've worked with this device for several months now in Europe and the US, mostly on the Treo 650. I did check out the operation on a Windows computer and seems to work fine but I didn't spend a lot of time with that. On Windows, if you already know about Garmin's MapSource and nRoute programs for Windows, you're done; the GPS 10 receiver is just another GPS unit you can connect to it. I don't have a Pocket PC so I can't comment on the software for that OS.

Hardware-wise, the GPS 10 is straightforward. There is only one button (power on/off), two lights (indicating communication and charging status) and one power connector. All data communication is via Bluetooth. I liked the fact that it has a strong magnet mount and thus can be placed on top of the car. (Especially useful because some cars have something in the safety glass in the windshield that won't let GPS signals in.) It's waterproof so you can keep it on the roof even in the rain. Supposedly the GPS 10 does not have the latest and most sensitive GPS chipset, but it worked fine for me and acquired a position lock in about the same time as my Garmin eTrex Vista C. Usually I can keep the GPS receiver in my pocket or computer bag and still get a good location fix unless I'm next to tall buildings or under a heavy canopy of trees. This is useful for walking or biking in marginal neighborhoods - you appear to be looking at your phone, not at a GPS trying to figure out where the ---- you are.

The Que software is actually 5 applications - QueMap, QueGPS, QueFind, QueRoutes and QueTurns. First you use QueGPS to connect the GPS and Palm together and verify a GPS position fix, then use the other applications as you would expect based on their names. The applications are very well integrated, and once you've started one, you can access the others simply by pressing the right or left sides of the 5-way button on the Treo. (The up and down sides of the 5-way button are used to zoom in and out when you're on the QueMap page.) Installation of the Palm Que software is similar to that of other Palm applications, though a bit more involved since there are more files to be installed (over 100, totaling about 5 MB) plus a "basemap" (that can be installed either on the device or the SD card) and detailed maps (that must be installed to the SD card.) If your Palm device doesn't have an SD card slot, don't buy the GPS 10; if it does, buy the biggest SD card that will work with it! You HotSync the applications and basemap via the USB HotSync cable like any other application. I was able to delete the foreign language files on the Palm (ending in _deDE, _esES, _frFR and _itIT, 36 files total) to save significant space with no ill effects. Transferring detailed maps to the Palm can be accomplished using either MapSource like you do with other Garmin devices, or a separate application called MapInstall. In fact, if you have 1.5 GB of free space on your SD card, you can just download the whole US map set and forget it unless you travel to another country. In principle, you can install different Garmin map sets simultaneously (for example, street maps and topo maps) and select which ones you want to display, but in practice I found this didn't work. Que tended to decide for itself which maps to display independent of what I selected. Plus, you have to go to a separate preference page to check/uncheck which maps to display; on this page you have no way to determine what map corresponds to your current or desired location. In fact, even on the map display page, there is no way to know what map you're currently on. A better approach to switching map sets is (1) install map set #1 (e.g. street maps); (2) rename this file (for example from GMAPSUPP.IMG to GMAPSUPPstreets.IMG); (3) install map set #2 (e.g. topo maps); (4) to switch back to street maps, rename the GMAPSUPP.IMG (that has topo maps) to GMAPSUPPtopos.IMG and rename GMAPSUPPstreets.IMG to GMAPSUPP.IMG, etc.

The City Navigator street and "points of interest" (POI) databases aren't perfect. The most serious problem I've found is that some roads that do indeed connect seem to be "broken" in the map data base, thus sometimes the routes generated by QueRoute are very indirect where a much simpler route would work. Adding vias along the way to point QueRoutes in the right direction won't help, because you can't convince QueRoutes to take you down a broken road. Particularly this seems to be an issue in the DC area. Also, some POIs are way out of date - a Chinese restaurant near my home moved down the street and changed its name several years ago, but the POI database still shows the old name and location.

When using the Treo + GPS 10 + Que software, the first thing that amazed me was the fact that the GPS 10 and Treo paired up in a few SECONDS on the first try! After struggling so many times pairing other Bluetooth devices with the Treo, this was a shocker. And it stays paired. Apparently this is because Que doesn't use the Palm Bluetooth manager at all (which really stinks), it pairs directly via its own software. Of course, you have to watch the battery level on the GPS 10, which is provided on the status bar at the top of the Que GPS application screen.

You can use QueFind to search for waypoints or POIs via address, intersection, type of business or attraction, etc., organize the results alphabetically or by distance (from current location or another) and finally generate a route to it. Once you've found a POI (supposedly over 6 million are in that 1.5 GB database), if there is a phone number associated with it, you can dial it directly from Que application. For example, you can search for "Del Taco," find the nearest one, call to find out if they're open, and route to it, all within about a minute - very convenient! Also, on the list of "found" POIs meeting your search criterion, next to each one is a number indicating the distance to it and a small arrow indicating the direction relative to your current direction of travel. The numbers and arrows actually update as you move or even turn a corner!

The QueMap page is easy to read, though limited of course by the small size of most Palm device displays. Also, QueMap offers only an above-looking-straight-down "two-dimensional" view, unlike (for example) TomTom which also has a "three-dimensional" view option, where your point of view is similar to that of an airplane flying above and behind your car.

Creating routes was mostly satisfying, with a few caveats. QueRoutes seems to value distance over time, even when you check "Faster Time" in the routing preferences. I think QueRoutes doesn't recognize that you can't average 50 mph on a city street with a 50 mph posted speed limit because of traffic signals. As a result QueRoutes will often take you down city streets when a slightly longer but much faster freeway route would be better. Always check your route before starting out!

QueTurns gives on-screen turn-by-turn instructions from routes created by QueRoutes and provides voice guidance en route. These voice directions were usually accurate, though sometimes the distances to the next turn were off (e.g. "In 400 feet, turn left" when the distance was actually 200 feet.) Unfortunately, the voice directions are not loud enough even at maximum volume. Also, Que does not do voice synthesis, so it won't say "In 400 feet, turn left at Maple Street." One cool novel but probably not useful feature is that once you've created a route, you can "drive" the route, with QueMap actually moving your vehicle on the map as though you were actually driving, and QueTurns giving voice directions to your virtual vehicle!

The Que applications seem quite fast in terms of map re-drawing, finding POIs and computing routes considering the limited processor speed and memory of the Treo and the fact that Que must access the maps on the SD card via a slow (about 1 MB/sec) interface. QueRoutes requires a few seconds to create a few mile trip, 10 - 15 seconds for a cross-town trip through LA, and 40 seconds for a point-to-point journey clear across the country. (I use PXA Clocker on my Treo, which increases the CPU speed on user-selected applications; using this I can decrease the above times by 40% with no stability problems.) When you think of how slow 2 GHz laptop computers with 1 GB of RAM and 100 GB hard drives are sometimes, its remarkable to think of what Que can do with a 312 MHz processor and about 10 MB of free user-accessible memory on the Treo 650. Another big surprise was how well this resource hog runs in the background yet cooperates with other applications. In fact, I can have both Que navigation and PocketTunes mp3 player running in the background, be working in a 3rd application, get a phone call, and both Que and PocketTunes pause, I take the call, and when its over, Que and PocketTunes continue as if nothing had happened! I don't think I've ever had Que freeze up the Treo or cause a soft reset. In fact, once I dropped the phone and the SD card popped out. QueMaps kept working without the detailed maps, and when I re-inserted the card the maps started working again!

Another plus for the GPS 10 Deluxe package is its ability to work with Macintosh computers. Garmin's apathy towards Mac users is legendary (Garmin claims they are working towards native Mac support... someday) and many USB Garmin units won't communicate with Windows emulators for Mac (Virtual PC, Guest PC, Parallels, ...). BUT - I had no trouble installing the programs and transferring maps to the Palm unit using both Virtual PC on a G4 Mac and Parallels on an Intel Mac. I've never had to resort to a "real" Windows machine for any communication using the Treo + GPS 10 setup.

If you are a Mac user, I recommend NOT HotSyncing on the Virtual PC to upload map data bases to the Palm, because HotSyncing to both Windows and Mac computers causes problems (at least for me.) Instead, after Mapquest finishes creating the map data base, find that file (on my Virtual PC, it's at C:\Program Files\Palm\DP\CardInst\Slot-SD\GMAPSUPP.IMG), then copy it over to the Mac side and HotSync it (to the SD card, of course) on the Mac side. For some reason copying the file directly to the appropriate location on the SD card (in the "GARMIN" folder) doesn't work - QueMap won't recognize it.

Of course, there are some negatives to this system other than the ones I've mentioned above:

1. The one most irritating feature is that you can't create routes or waypoints in MapSource and transfer them to the Palm device. In fact, you can't even save routes you create on the Palm to the memo pad in order to print them out or email them to someone. So the Palm device has to be though of as a stand-alone GPS system in that regard.

2. There is no way to record tracks of where you've been. Most GPS units let you record where you've been, like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs, but not the Que software. (I find the track feature particularly useful with taxi drivers in foreign countries; you can see immediately if you're being taken directly to your destination or driven around in circles.)

3. There is no direct way to create a route except from your current location. You can get around this by using your current location as the starting point, then inserting a "via" as the starting point you're really interested in, then ignoring all route instructions up to the "via." (By the way, the "vias" are a well implemented feature; you can either specify a specific order to make the stops or let QueRoutes pick the best order.)

4. You can't create a waypoint from the address stored in a Palm contact (though you can on Garmin's iQue devices.) You have to enter the address manually in QueFind, then once it's found, chose the "make waypoint" option.

5. On the status bar at the top of the QueMap page, I would like to have user-specified data fields rather than the 4 unchangeable ones Que provides. Particularly I'd like to have "distance to destination" as an option.

6. The Que applications are resource hogs and it's hard to stop them to free up system resources. It would be nice to have one command to clear everything. As it is you have to

a. Select "Disconnect from GPS" from the QueGPS page
b. Select "Stop navigation" from the QueRoutes page
c. Reset the Palm device.

7. Since the Que applications consume a lot of processor cycles, they're a real battery hog! I've never seen any application close to Que in terms of draining the battery. (Though mostly you use this system it in your car, so you can keep the Palm device plugged in.)

8. Que doesn't seem to be compatible with VoiceDial for Treo. VoiceDial will start but pretends to be deaf if Que is running in the background.

9. While using the GPS 10, you can't use any other Bluetooth devices such as wireless headsets.

10. The GPS 10 unit has a tiny, untethered rubber plug for the power connector. I lost it already (forgot it in a rental car...)

11. The City Navigator software works ONLY with Garmin GPS receivers. This is unfortunate but a natural consequence of the fact that the GPS unit itself is the hardware key for the map database. You can, however, still use the GPS + Palm to see where you are on the "basemap," even with an un-registered GPS unit.

Overall the GPS 10 + Que software + City Navigator map data base is an excellent package considering the display, input, memory and processing power limitations of a small, low-power device like the Treo. With just a few improvements in the software it would be an absolute killer. Said improvements seem unlikely, however, since the Que for Palm software hasn't had an update in over a year; apparently Garmin doesn't take Que for Palm very seriously.

UPDATE: Garmin claims that in November 2006 a new product for Palm and PPC OS, the "Garmin Mobile 10," will be available. This product has an improved GPS bluetooth receiver, the same map set(s), and a new application to replace Que called "Mobile XT." According to the preliminary operating manual, Mobile XT will have many of the features lacking in Que: (1) 3D views; (2) create routes starting from a point other than your current location; (3) integration with the Contacts database on the Palm; and (4) tracking. What isn't clear is whether waypoints, routes and tracks can be synced with MapSource on the PC. Since nothing is said about this in the preliminary manual, one would assume not.

Disclaimer #1: parts of this review appear in postings I've made on TreoCentral.com under the same user name.

Disclaimer #2: this review has been edited and expanded several times as I have become more familiar with the device, but the key points have not changed.

Recommend this product? Yes

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