Around-Oz: Living the Dream!

n'Route Speaking Autorouting Software
The Low Cost Way Into Top Quality Navigation

You have to pay at least $1000.00 to get good quality autorouting, turn by turn speaking GPS units using Garmin, Navman and Magellan etc. If you have, even a no frills laptop preferably with a USB port, here is a way to do it for just $528.00 at GPS-OZ - or for $609.00 at The Map Shop! The n'Route software reviewed here is totally free! The catch is it will ONLY work with Garmin GPS units such as the tiny GPS18 etc. using your laptops USB port. The good news is, it works fine with very basic GPS units costing around $200.00, which can often be bought very cheaply on Ebay, if you are a brave consumer or you could try this Ebay Shop as you get the n'Route CD as well. (you also get USA software of no use in Oz!) You can download the complete n'Route program on the Garmin download page (24.95 MB). Alternatively you can buy it on CD from places like Johnny Appleseed for $15.00 posted. You could also try asking your local Garmin dealer - use the GME Australia site to find dealers near you. So in summarising, you need a laptop, a small Garmin GPS, City Navigator Software Version 6 and n'Route. This review is for n'Route Version 2.4 May 11th 2005. For those thinking that n'Route is a weird name - it's pronounced ON Route!! So there!

GPS Units That Work With n'Route
Pictured above is the Garmin GPS 18 "Mouse" GPS. This simply plugs into the USB port of your laptop. If your laptop does not have USB then you will need a USB to Serial adaptor. We have used Belkin on other projects and found them to be much better than the "generics". Please note that just about any Garmin GPS will work with n'Route as long as it has a data cable either serial or GPS. We just plugged our Garmin StreetPilot 2610 into the USB port and the software found it in about 5 seconds - this is excellent! Now if you hate more cables then maybe the GPS 10 is the unit for you, as it is wireless using Bluetooth technology. The screen dump below is the default opening screen for n'Route. You can if you wish make the map full screen.

How All the Screens Work
No matter what anyone tells you, there is a learning curve with all GPS products (unless you are a young bloke). Garmin give you the n'Route program for free and it leaves the navigating bit of City Navigator Version 6 for dead, as it speaks and gives you terrific written instructions. Unlike all portable GPS's it shows the overall journey map (at any scale) plus down the bottom you get the local close up turn map and all at the one time. In this case we are in Casino Village in NSW (screen dump above) and the route shown is the shortest way back to Brissie via Kyogle - not the way we would normally go by the way! It amazes us that Garmin don't stick this program on the City Navigator 6 CD, as there is heaps of room left. You actually only stumble on it by accident, hence why we are doing this how to use it story. The list along the bottom left is a step by step turn list - route instructions. This is repeated in inverse video along the big black bar along the top - very easy to read. A very clever feature here - if you use a cursor key to scroll down this list, it shows you the turn detail on the smaller map. Wonderful for looking ahead and hard to do on a normal dedicated GPS. The large map can be displayed in two ways - at present it is in "Show Route". This lets you see the route from end to end - you can freely alter the scale of this. The other option is to "Show Selection on Map". This gives you an expanded view of what is on the small map at the bottom. It doesn't give the fine detail you get if you did it on say a Garmin 2610 etc. You don't really need more detail though as you are being 100% guided. Now if you want the detail given on the 2610 then go up to "View" and select "Show GPS Detail" and it will look the same as the 2610 etc. Look in the bottom right corner - this tells you if you left now you would arrive at 6.55 PM (shown top right in the black bar). This screen clearly illustrates the huge advantage that a laptop has over a conventional GPS - you get to display just about ALL the information on the screen at once. A really nice feature is the screen colours changing for night use after sunset. It goes to a black background with white lettering - a brilliant idea. You can also import any data saved or created in any Mapsource product. In our case we regularly download all our routes and waypoints from the Garmin 2610.

How it Estimates Arrival Time
This is all calculated using the data you enter into the Preferences Menu shown above. If you tell the truth on this page you can achieve uncanny results on arrival times. It constantly adjusts by the way. If you stop for fish and chips or fuel etc. it will add 30 minutes etc. onto the arrival time. Similarly if you travel a bit faster it readjusts. One of the nicest things about this software is its intelligence. As soon as you turn it on it starts scanning all ports for a GPS. Wonderful stuff! City Navigator can drive you nuts as it "forgets" where the GPS lives and you get situations where it accepts downloads and uploads, but when you ask it to show you the satellites it can't find the GPS - frustrating stuff. We no longer use it now we have discovered n'Route! Please note that you MUST own City Navigator for this system to work as it is the map source. A fantastic feature is the dedicated "Home" button. Press this, and within 5 seconds (NOT a misprint) it will recalculate the route to your home address. One thing it doesn't seem to have is the option to choose "Shortest Distance or Fastest Time". In the screen shot above the best route is really via Bangalow as it is just too hilly for RV's near Mt Lindsey. To force it to do this you have to tell it to go via Bangalow by introducing a Waypoint. To us this is a bit convoluted but here goes! Right click on your "saved route" in the window bottom left. Click on "Route Properties". You will get a menu with route start and end on it. Click on "Insert Waypoint". Now in this case we had already got a Waypoint for the roundabout just before Bangalow so it came up. It gets added to the bottom of the list. This is no good to you as it has to be moved up the list. Just click on it and a little yellow arrow will appear. Click on this and it will move up. Now click on "Recalculate", then click on "Activate" (up the top near OK"). The picture below shows the new route via BANGALOW. Notice how it has put our via point Bangalow in a little white box? Yes, this is heavy going the first time, and yes it could be made more intuitive for older users. However, you can enter as many "via" points as you wish and tailor your route exactly. One thing that really had us tricked for awhile was how to save the new route? Well this is clever - it automatically does it for you! Wonderful stuff! Remember that you can do all your route planning, at home in your lounge room before the trip, as all info is saved for later retrieval. A huge advantage of the laptop system over a dedicated GPS, is the huge storage space you have available. When working at home you can check routes by "simulating satellites". We haven't had a lot of success with this as it's toooooo slow!

Think About How You Will Use It!
Before you race out and buy a laptop etc. please stop and have a little think about the practicalities of actually using it in your vehicles. If you have a bus conversion, then this system will work well, as you have loads of space and can possibly install a small table up the front. We have photographed several coaches with a navigating table - CMCA high profile member Ronnie Penfold springs to mind. If you are in a car, or say a small whiz bang, then it does need lots of thought. You can of course mount an LCD on the roof and leave the laptop somewhere else - we have seen this done (dual monitor). The two photos below show a magnificent way of using a laptop for GPS. Note the older model Garmin StreetPilot 3 working on the left hand side seat. The co-pilot sits there! Just by the way - this is the best computer set up we have ever seen in an any RV in Australia (apart from "Meet the Fokkers"!) The cabinet you can see conceals a roll out printer and scanner. We did a review on this page and the unit will be for sale after the CMCA Maryborough Rally 2005.

Summing Up
The interesting thing is you can now buy quality laptops such as Acer and Presario for under $1000.00, making the total package exactly the same as buying say a Garmin 2610. The huge advantage here of course is you are getting a multiple use product with the laptop - a golden rule of motorhoming. We give n'Route the absolute thumbs up, as it works really well. Some things do need attention for ease of use, like via points, but the work arounds are OK once understood and soon become second nature. You do need to allow a few days to learn how to operate it properly.



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Last updated: March 30, 2006
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