OnCourse Navigator 4 GPS for Pocket PC Posted January 2005 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
OnCourse Navigator is owned and managed by Easy PocketNAV.com LLC,
a relative newcomer to the GPS space. Their OnCourse Navigator 4
product represents a new way of navigating compared to existing PDA
GPS navigation solutions. You can navigate not only base on existing
destinations such as street addresses, addresses in your Contacts
database or in the Point of Interest (POI) database, but also any
point on the map! This means you can pinpoint a location on the map
with your stylus and the navigation software will route your trip
to or from that point or find POIs, addresses and streets near that
point. This along with a full set of navigation features, support
for many GPS receivers and the bundled NAVTEQ North America map data,
will make OnCourse Navigator 4 a very popular solution for the Pocket
OnCourse Navigator 4 offers bundles with many types of GPS receivers
which will give you the freedom to choose the best hardware GPS solution
for your Pocket PC. These bundles include CF card GPS receiver, CF
+ Memory card GPS receiver, Bluetooth GPS receiver, wired mouse GPS
(you can find a device compatibility list here)
and a bundle with the Mio 168 Pocket PC. An SDIO GPS receiver bundle
is on its way at press time. In North America, BuyGPSNow.com is the
official distributor of OnCourse Navigator 4 and you will find all
the available bundles on BuyGPSNow.com website. We have reviewed
the HAiCOM GPS receivers offered by BuyGPSNow.com previously and
you can find that review by following this link.
We used the Mio 168 Pocket PC bundled with OnCourse Navigator 4
in the review. OnCourse Navigator 4 bundles NAVTEQ map data which
comes on 4 CDs and covers North America including US and Canada.
The US maps include 49 States including Hawaii, but no Alaska. NAVTEQ
has published the map for Alaska only very recently. OnCourse Navigator
4 also offers a Western European map bundle. If you are not familiar
with GPS solutions, check out our GPS
FAQ and our Guide on
how to evaluate a GPS solution that will work with your PDA.
What’s in the Box?
The OnCourse Navigator 4 All in One bundle includes Mio 168 Pocket
PC with built-in GPS receiver and Pocket PC standard software bundle,
a 256MB MMC card pre-loaded with the navigation software and the
maps of 31 top cities, the OnCourse Navigator 4 software and map
on 4 CDs and a printed Quick Start Guide. The accessories bundled
in the package include a USB ActiveSync cable, an AC adapter and
an in-vehicle charger, a windshield suction mounting brace and holster
as well as a PDA protection case.
Some additional information about the Mio 168
The Mio 168, introduced in March of 2004, is the first Pocket PC
with a built in GPS receiver. It features a bright and colorful display,
a very loud speaker (great when using it as a GPS in the car) and
a compact design. We did a very in-depth review including benchmark
test results when the Mio 168 first came out. You can find that review
by following this link.
While the OnCourse Navigator 4 bundles the same Pocket PC device,
there are two major variations in this Mio 168 compared to the one
we used in our first Mio 168 review. One is the firmware update.
Mitac, the manufacturer of the Mio 168, has since released an updated
firmware which has received very positive feedback from their customers.
Mitac worked together with the SiRF, the GPS chipset maker, on this
firmware update and you will see that the Mio 168 bundled with OnCourse
Navigator 4 has the SiRF Xtrac Version 2.0 firmware (as do newer
Mio 168 units sold with the standard Mitac GPS software bundle).
Another major difference is the navigation software. The original
Mio 168 was bundled with Destinator 3 navigation software and the
OnCourse Navigator 4 bundle features its own navigation software.
Map data however is coming from the same source: NAVTEQ.
Since the all in one package comes with a flash
card pre-installed with the navigation software and some major
metro maps, you can just stick the card in your Mio 168 and the
software will be automatically installed from the card to your
Pocket PC. If you don’t have
the bundle with the flash card, you can use the CDs that come with
your GPS to install the software. It’s an easy process to install
the navigation software, desktop software for cutting maps and map
data to your desktop. Once all the software is installed, you can
use the MapExport tool to cut and download maps to your Pocket PC.
One of the best new features in the OnCourse Navigator 4 is the
freedom to customize the maps. The MapExport in OnCourse Navigator
4 provides you with many ways to customize the maps you wish to download.
You can use your cursor to mark an area in the Basic Map view and
MapExport will tell you how many miles your selected area covers
and the size of the map. You can give a name to this customized map,
then download it to your Pocket PC, save it for later use or open
it the next time you launch MapExport. If you need to create a custom
map based on your travel itinerary, you can create a map with all
the stops on your route and the radius of the areas you will travel
through or stay in. To create a map for this purpose, you will need
to use the Corridor Map view in the MapExport. You can create or
import itineraries from your PC or Pocket PC with all the stops,
POIs and waypoints and load them into the MapExport. The MapExport
will generate a route map based on your itinerary. There are some
additional route options such as Quickest Route, Shortest Route,
Pedestrian Route and options to avoid Interstates, ferries or tolled
roads. There are also vehicle options for you to map the route based
on car speed, truck or motorcycle. You can also set the radius around
the route in mile to download maps surrounding your trip. Once you
are done creating the Corridor map, the MapExport will tell the size
of the map and you can give it a name, then download or save the
In both Basic Map and Corridor Map views, you can zoom in to see
the detailed street level map and to search for POIs. The combination
of these two map customization tools give users the flexibility to
plan their trip easily and to cut the maps they need. They work well
for both door-to-door navigation and cross country navigation. As
mentioned, the US maps include the 48 continental States plus the
map of Hawaii. In addition to the MapExport tool, OnCourse Navigator
4 also provides a SkinEditor tool which allows you to change the
look and feel of the navigation display on your Pocket PC. You can
change the background image of the OnCourse Navigator 4, the colors,
fonts and borders of the buttons, the colors of the pop-up windows
and more. After editing the skin, you can save them and load them
to your Pocket PC.
The built-in GPS uses the SiRF chipset and supports
the standard NMEA protocol. The Baud rate is set at 4800. The updated
firmware ensures the Mio 168 gets a fix quickly and gets its signal
from a large number of satellites. The cold start in our test took
about 15 seconds to get 3 satellites for a 2D fix and about 20
seconds to get 5 satellites for a 3D fix. The Mio 168 receiver
works with 5-7 satellites consistently and often gets 8 or 9 satellites
in the Silicon Valley area and can even get a satellite signal
indoors. Impressive! The warm and hot starts take very little time.
The GPS interface is a simple one in the OnCourse Navigator, but
it does have a nice integration with the navigation tool. When
you get a fix on your position, you can hit the save this location
button to save your position as a destination. You can label this
destination with either text or voice note. Very convenient!
The OnCourse Navigator 4 has an intuitive interface
yet provides full set of options for you to navigation routes
quickly and accurately. There are two options in the start
of the navigation: navigate to a single destination and navigate
to several destinations. There are many ways you can establish
destinations in OnCourse Navigator 4. You can enter new addresses
in the navigation window, use addresses from your Outlook
Contacts database, select Points of Interest from the POI
database, re-use the destinations you’ve recently entered
or saved as favorite, and the one I like above all is any
position on the map can be your destination. This eliminates
the need of having to know the street address when you navigate
your route. You can save your current position or any position
on the map as your destination. The OnCourse Navigator 4
will actually tell you the street details when you select
a point on the map and allows you to navigate to or from
that point, search nearby Points of Interest and save it
as a special location such as where I parked my car or here
is a restaurant I want to check out later. Another use for
this feature is that when you are lost, you can use your
current position to navigate your way out of the maze. One
more useful feature in finding and selecting a destination
is using the voice command. Like many built-in vehicle GPS,
the OnCourse Navigator 4 allows you to enter a destination
by speaking the name of the destination. Tap on the voice
command icon in the navigation main menu and speak the voice
tag (such as David or Fry’s), the navigation software
will select the address associated with that voice tag.
To help customize your routes, the OnCourse Navigator 4
provides you with the usual set of options and then some.
You can select the fastest route, shortest route or pedestrian
route for the navigation and also avoid, permit or forbid
Interstate highways, Ferries or tolled roads. One nice thing
about the OnCourse Navigator 4 is that you can modify these
option in each leg of your journey should you have multiple
destinations in one trip planning. In addition to the route
navigation option, there is also a speed profile option.
You can choose from three speed levels for cars, a truck
speed level and a motorcycle level. This helps the guidance
system monitor the speed limit for you. One thing missing
though is the automatic reverse trip planning that many GPS
users have used and loved.
In our test, the route calculation seems
to be very accurate. Navigation to our destination in Fastest
and Shortest routes yielded correct routing. It is always
a good idea to experiment with all the options to find
the right combination for your area and routes. If you
missed a turn, the OnCourse Navigator 4 will re-route your
course. In our test, the re-calculations didn’t get
as good results as the initial trip planning. The main
issue we experienced in the re-calculation is the delay
in getting you onto the right route. This means you might
need to drive an extra block or two before the OnCourse
Navigator 4 gets you back on the right route. Once your routes
are calculated, you can view an animated simulation, save
the route into a file, view the route map or go to the navigation
view for driving guidance.
The turn-by-turn driving directions view is combined with
the map view. The top part of your Pocket PC displays the
map and the bottom half shows the next turn, distance to
the next turn, the street you are currently on and the next
street after the turn, your current speed as well as estimated
arrival time, estimated remaining time and remaining distance.
There is lots of information available on this screen and
if you wish to turn some of the information on or off, you
can do so easily in the Settings from the Main Menu.
The map can be displayed in either 2D or 3D view and there
is a granular zoom tool that can help you read the map. You
can switch the daytime mode and nighttime mode by accessing
the additional options screen. You will also find icons that
link to GPS status, trip log and Pocket PC Start menu at
the bottom of the guidance window.
The map re-draws quickly when following the moving car.
The voice guidance in the OnCourse Navigator 4 is intuitive
and easy to follow, but has a little delay when your route
is re-calculated by the navigation software. The voice notification
comes on at about 600 feet before a turn and once again at
the turn. After the turn, the voice guidance will tell you
roughly how long you will need to be on driving on this road.
If you followed your route planning, the voice guidance seems
perfect. But if you missed a turn, especially in an area
with many off ramps, the voice guidance has a delay. You
can save some time by just looking at the map which often
re-route your trip quickly and follow the indications on
the map. Otherwise, the voice guidance might confuse you
because of the delay in giving directions.
The Mio 168 has the loudest sound volume of any Pocket PC
and it defaults at 90% volume in the OnCourse Navigator 4.
There is a volume control in the Settings menu in the OnCourse
Navigator 4 for you to change the volume.
About the Map Data
Like many GPS and navigation package bundles, the OnCourse Navigator
4 licensed the NAVTEQ map data for North America and Western Europe.
NAVTEQ map data has one of the most detailed map sources and is
usually updated in 6-12 months. The street-level maps and database
from NAVTEQ include a large number of POIs (Points of Interest).
They not only get the most up-to-date material collected from all
levels of government, planning agencies, police and fire departments
and aerial photographs, but they also collect first-hand data in
real time. NAVTEQ has a large number of field offices staffed with
over 400 analysts and engineers who drive everyday to collect data
and feed it daily to the live database. NAVTEQ uses up to 150 data
attributes in each road segment that may affect the way you get
from one place to another. These road attributes are characteristics
of the roads and include road names, address ranges, turn-restrictions,
one-way Info, time of day restrictions, speed limits, and more.
If you wish to sample the map data, you can use MapQuest.com since
it also uses the map data provided by NAVTEQ or check out NAVTEQ's web
In the Silicon Valley, the NAVTEQ seems very
yet to find a street that I traveled on not in the map and often
learn new businesses and shops in the NAVTEQ POI data in my area.
Note that no map database is 100% accurate, especially for the
areas that have been active development zones and more rural areas.
If you experienced any error in the map, you should let the map
maker know to help them develop more accurate maps.
Pro: Great hardware with accurate positioning info! The Mio 168
with the new firmware update gets signals from large number of
GPS satellites and performs very well in cold and hot starts. The
OnCourse Navigator 4 has one of the best map cutting tools for
trip planning. The route calculations are accurate and reflect
modifications you make based on various types of roads. The guidance
system is easy to use and interface is intuitive, and you can choose
what you wish to see in the directions screen. The map data is
accurate in this area with a large POI database. The GPS receiver
bundle options for the OnCourse Navigator 4 mean every Pocket PC
owner can find a GPS option fit their needs, especially when the
SDIO version comes out.
Con: The initial OnCourse Navigator 4 application launch is a
little slow. The voice guidance on route re-calculation has a delay.
No automatic reserve trip planning.
Price: $549.95. (BuyGPSNow.com sells it for $425.95)