When this latest beauty came into our hands at Absolute Gadget we just had to test it out. And we thought we'd take a different tack in reviewing this product by taking a leaf out of Top Gear's book and deciding to pit the CoPilot against a bloke with a map and a fast car and then go for a walk in the woods against a ex-boy scout.
We met at the local cafe for the start of the race. My mate Phil navigating with an AA map from 2004 and my other mate Mark driving in his Merc. I took along my friend, who is a computer consultant of some repute and the owner of a TomTom.
We basically had to get to a farm just outside Kirdford which is on the Surrey/Sussex border from a starting point in Buckhurst Hill (just outside Waitrose). The race began in earnest soon after breakfast. Phil and Mark got in the car and decided that the M25 at 10.30am would be a good bet. While I and my consultant friend waited for the CoPilot to start up (which took a few seconds) and I entered in the postcode of the place we were going (which later turned out to be a bit of a mistake).
Another thing that I failed to do with the CoPilot was set it to navigate the quickest route instead of the shortest route. That meant the product wanted us to go through London instead of around it. Basically we semi-ignored it and while our rival map-reading team went off to the M25, we headed to the Blackwall tunnel.
Afterwards, the CoPilot every now and again tried to get us back onto the route it thought we should go. Luckily, it is not nearly as annoying as other GPS systems that will tell you turn around every five seconds to get back onto the route. Our deliberate ignoring of directions meant that the product recalculated the route.
Sometimes, the CoPilot doesn't tell you to turn off a junction until it is too late. Luckily we know the area quite well and turned off in good time but the device didn't pipe up until very late.
While on the M25, the device went very quiet and we decided that it had got the hump and refused to talk to us any more. My consultant friend told me that the directions weren't as clear as his TomTom and said the directions sounded confusing when navigating roundabouts.
There is an option to choose the quickest route over the shortest route and we wished we set that option as the device took us through a busy town about lunchtime and we got stuck in a traffic jam. By that time, we learnt that the rival car had got onto the A29 and was not too far away from the target destination.
One other thing we have learnt about using GPS, and this is probably true of most of the devices on the market, if you are going somewhere in the country, don't enter in a postcode. I did and the device tried to navigate us into the middle of a field. Maybe the device was annoyed at us for ignoring it so many times. Eventually we turned the thing off and tried to navigate with a set of driving instructions given to us before the journey. They weren't much cop and eventually we gave in and phoned Phil in the other car to home us in.
Result: Man with map 1, SatNav 0
Sunday, we decided to blow away the cobwebs and head off for a walk in the Sussex countryside. Walking from Kirdford to Petworth is described in a local book as a pleasant stroll through the greenery. We headed off with the Satnav set to the walking option. Basically this is a purple line on a map of the local area. Data from the GPS gives you a basic idea of the direction in which you are walking. The journey was about 4.5 miles and every now and again you'd see another 0.1 miles come off the distance.
Of course, the ex-boy scout wouldn't be having any of this new-fangled technology and decided that even though the GPS was telling us to go one way he decided that we really should go in the opposite direction believing it to be the right path.
As the the distance to destination started to go back up and 1.9 miles became 2.0, then 2.1 miles I said that maybe we should try a different route. Eventually, the group decided that the GPS was actually telling the truth this time and we got back on track.
This particular version of the product runs on a Nokia N70, not the greatest of phones to display maps as the screen is just not big enough for navigation. Also once you have taken a couple of calls and the phone has hopped from a 3G base station to a 2G base station the battery runs down quickly. The light seems to be on most of the time while in operation, sapping battery power. We had got to 0.7 miles away when the phone ran out of juice completely. Luckily we were quite near a pub so we abandoned the walk and sent for someone to phone back to base and pick us up.
Result SatNav 1, Ex-boy scout 0
Overall this version of the CoPilot software is OK and a better phone would probably show off its abilities much better. We'd definitely like this a lot more if the phone used to display the maps was the much larger E61. The product is available from T-Mobile on a variety of different tariffs.