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[aprssig] Cobra NavOne and Magellan Roadmate 760

Mark Fellhauer sparkfel at qwest.net
Sat Oct 1 14:36:02 UTC 2005

I had the chance to demo the new Cobra NavOne 4500 at work yesterday.  What 
an improvement over the older Cobra in-car navigation systems.  It has a 
big bright touch screen (big enough to demand a $6.00 California 
environmental hazard fee - nevermind that most computers and consumer 
electronics can pass an EPA TCLP - Science be darned! we've got legislators 
at work).

I guess the most important feature of this new GPS is an RDS based 
real-time traffic system.  This is provided by a small outboard receiver 
connected with a 4 conductor 1/4 inch headphone type plug.  It looks 
similar to the Garmin GTM-10, which I think is USB based?   Cobra includes 
a free 90 day subscription to the traffic service, but after that, I 
believe it's a 60 buck a year proposition.  It appears that the main map 
screen includes an RDS signal strength meter, which is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the big steel and stucco building I work in blocks GPS and 
most terrestrial radio signals (plus we have the world's biggest Jacob's 
Ladders out front), so I can not tell if this feature is really cool or 
not.  The RDS data should be available in San Marcos, CA, but I am not 
allowed to take a $1000 GPS out of the building unless I buy it.  The 
corporate suits laughed at me for asking for a GPS re-radiator.

If you commute in traffic in any of the major metro areas in the US (or 
Europe) this type of information my be helpful - or in many places it may 
not, since all routes are gridlocked at drive time every day...     And I 
doubt the spontaneous traffic jams that occur here in SoCal would make it 
to the RDS system anyway.    What is it with California drivers slowing 
down to 35 mph on the freeway when they see some "Undocumented Guest 
Worker" putting another donut tire on his Nissan Sentra by the side of the 
road?  Is this something you don't see 5 times a day?     Or how about 
people stopping on I-15 because they can see that a CDF helicopter is 
landing a quarter-mile off the road.  Again have they never seen a 
helicopter before?

"Look Thag!  Big silver bird drop from sky - must slam on brakes.   Me not 
know stop on freeway bad thing.   Me must gawk at silver bird many minutes 
- until cars back up 5 miles behind me... then give finger bird to people 
honking horns behind me..."

I wonder if they have a SigAlert Sofa Icon - denoting an errant couch on 
the freeway.  It would be appropriate.   Why is it there is always a sofa 
in the road on I-10 in West Covina?   But I digress.

I'm just glad I moved 2.5 miles away from work right before the 3 
dollar-a-gallon gas prices hit.   I have not gassed up in about three weeks.

The NavOne 4500 also boasts it has 3-D mapping and terrain display.   The 
GPS marketing people love using the 3-D term, when if fact the more correct 
definition would be an oblique angle view of the map.   Anyhow, enabling 
either 3D or terrain view in the menu made no difference in how the map was 
displayed on the Cobra unit - a standard straight down view.   Perhaps 
there's something else I'm missing (having not read the skimpy manual), or 
Cobra rushed the unit onto the market, without having these features 
working.  Lowrance did the same with the I-Way 500 - opting to address the 
lack of advertised 3-D with a firmware update down the road.

Still the unit is a major improvement over previous Cobra offerings, and 
should give the other players in the in-car nav system business a run for 
their money.

I've also had some time to play with Magellan's Roadmate 760, which just 
improves on the successes of the Roadmate 700.  There are 5 or 6 major 
enhancements to the 760 over the 700 including - multiple address routing, 
speed adaptive volume control, automatic day/night display, and voice 
readout of street names.   There also appears to be dozens of minor 
improvements over the 500/700.

The 760 also offers customized user-based POI's.  This is done with a PC 
based utility that can accept ASCII file formats, GPS exchange file 
formats, Magellan Waypoint file formats, and Garmin PCX5 waypoint file 
formats.   This is something commercial clients have been begging for.

Supposedly the Roadmate 700/760 can accept addresses via IR from a Palm or 
Pocket PC device.   Trying this from my now aged Casio E-200 results in an 
error and no address being transferred.  I'm unsure whether this is a 
Magellan problem, a Casio problem, or a Microsoft problem.  But it doesn't 
work for me.

The street name readout feature is cool.  Instead of a voice prompt that 
tells you to turn at the next intersection or whatever, it now tells you to 
turn at the next intersection and then says the name of the street to turn 
on.  It's kind of funny though since the reading of the street names is 
phonetically based and you can tell when the slick engineered voice prompts 
end and the phonetic readout starts.   It reminds me of watching an R-rated 
movie on broadcast TV where the swear words are obviously dubbed over with 
something less offensive.

Although the 760 touts is can route to multiple addresses, the user 
interface on this really falls apart.   The main selling feature of the 
Roadmate Series of GPS's is ease-of-use and quick drill-downs on address 
finding, but the multiple destination feature is neither easy to setup or 
obvious to find.  Instead of it's own menu - multiple address routing is 
found in the address book and then under a menu called "guide me."   I 
could not find this without consulting the manual.  And some of the key 
Icons are not labelled.  I guess the people at Magellan know that a square 
with what looks like a crinkle cut French Fry in it takes you to the main 
map page, but is this obvious to a 60 year-old lady from San Juan 
Capistrano who's trying to get to the casino for early bird bingo?  C'mon 
guys, how hard would it be to put the letters M A P in or under the box 
with your french fry?  I guess with some practice the multiple destination 
routing would become easier to use, and perhaps they'll change the UI in 
future updates.

The POI database is much improved, especially in the retail shopping 
category.   Type in "Home Depot"  or "Ikea" or the and a list of the 
nearest ones pop up.  I even found some of my favorite "Ma & Pa" operations 
listed.   Nessy Burger is still not there.   But at least now you could 
make a customized POI database featuring the best burger dives of Southern 
California and share it via the web...


The U.S. Roadmates lack any type of real-time traffic monitoring/reporting, 
which seems odd given that Garmin, Tom-Tom Go, and Cobra are all offering 
this feature.   I have read that European Roadmates offer this feature, so 
I assume it's possible.    I wonder what's holding Magellan 
back?   Perhaps, as I have opined, they figure most major US metro areas 
are so gridlocked during drive time everyday, that it's not really a useful 
feature.   Perhaps they don't what to deal with the devil - Clear Channel, 
which provides the RDS service.

The Magellan Roadmates are still my favorite Nav System.   BTW, they are 
coming out with a Roadmate 360, which is an upgraded 300 with all the maps 
preloaded.  I'm not sure if the database is flash memory or hard drive 
based.    And a little secret if you're still reading and paying 
attention:  Fry's Electronics will once again be carrying Garmin brand GPS 
products.  Word has it they will be back on shelves in about two weeks.

Getting to APRS related questions.

I wonder how hard it would be to integrate one of these top-end car 
navigation systems into APRS?

Could it be done through the RDS interface?

Could one take an RDS receiver - like the Garmin GTM-10, and interface it 
to something other than the intended GPS receiver?   Like an in-car PC 
based system.  Could the RDS info be overlayed into 3rd party maps, like 
MapPoint, Streets and Trips, or even Google?



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