Most of my GPS experience has been with a handheld unit, so I appreciated some of the finer details in the mapping software. One example is what DeLorme calls "GPS Radar Search". I'm used to being able to search for restaurants or gas stations, for example, by distance from my current position, but the DeLorme software checks which direction I'm going and only gives me information about points of interest that I am moving toward – much more useful.
The software includes maps for Pocket PC, Windows Mobile 5.0 and later, and Palm OS devices, but you can’t use the GPS unit with a handheld because it requires a USB connection. You can install a map to an iPod as a photo, but it’s just a picture of the map.
It also supports printing and sharing maps both by e-mail and via DeLorme’s MapShare and Eartha Community Atlas. The software is compatible with UMPCs and netbooks.
I had limited success with the voice recognition feature. I was able to train it to recognize my voice, and several times I was able to get the software to respond to a voice command. Other times, it said it was too noisy or there was too much interference (oddly, these were often when the car ignition was turned off and there was little background noise). It takes some time to train it, and then you have to learn the commands. The commands are specific to which tab is showing at the bottom of the display, and that makes the voice recognition considerably less useful because the tabs are small and trying to click on them would take the driver’s attention from the road.
My main complaint about the software is that it is very slow to load, at least on my laptop. It takes several minutes to start up; during this time, messages at the bottom of the splash screen let the user know what the software is doing, but it doesn’t give any sort of progress bar.
The maps and points of interest are updated annually by DeLorme.
Using a GPS with a laptop certainly provides a lot of powerful features, but it is probably most useful for people who drive RVs or trucks. In my minivan, it took up the entire passenger seat, so either the passengers would have to sit in back or the passenger would have to hold the laptop for the entire trip. Also, the laptop has to be plugged in for any lengthy trip, so a power outlet or adapter is required. Setting up the laptop and connecting the GPS, power cord, and microphone/headset (if you want to use voice instructions) is a big enough production that for me it would only be worth it for a pretty long trip (at least a couple hours or more). It's not something I would use for driving around town.
Personally, I would select DeLorme's BT-20 unit, which appears to be almost the same as the LT-40 except that the GPS device can use either Bluetooth or USB. It could then be used with a laptop or a handheld. At $69.95, the LT-40 is an excellent value for a full-featured GPS solution. The BT-20 comes with the PLUS version of Street Atlas for $99.95.
Pros: Full-featured mapping software, voice directions, fast acquisition of GPS signal.
Cons: Laptop/GPS set-up requires a lot of space, voice recognition not as useful as it sounds, software is slow to start up.
Web site: www.delorme.com
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Chipset: STMicroelectronics new high-sensitivity Teseo chipset
Size: 1 7/8" w x 2 5/8" h x 9/16" thick
Software: Street Atlas USA 2009
In the Box: Earthmate GPS LT-40 receiver with 5' attached GPS cable, Street Atlas USA 2009 DVD.