Home PageFacebookRSS News Feed
Read the current newsletter! Weekly
CoPilot vs Pharos Ostia Date 2003

Review by Kar98


You can't get there from here! Or worse, drive down on old Highway 80, then turn left-ish where the old rubber-boot factory used to be. Mmm-kay, can you show me on the map?...No can do...Freaking figures. That's why adult men don't stop and ask for directions. Experience has shown that "Sending lost strangers on wild goose chases 101" is something found on the curriculum of every pump attendant college in the world. But...we do trust gadgets!


So let's see if gadgets are really ready to lead the way yet. I've tried out a number of programs which, incidentally, all claim to do the best job in the way of GPS-guided road navigation. I'll just focus on two of them for this review. The candidates are Ostia from PharosGPS and CoPilot Live 5 from ALK.


Installation of the programs is similar and has been covered elsewhere. The method of selecting the needed maps however couldn't be more different.


In Pharos' MapFinder, you have to double click on any county you may be driving in, then download it to your memory card. County by county, that is. CoPilot on the other hand, allows you to zoom in on your hometown, draw a circle of any radius around it and download the whole chunk at once.


Click on picture for full image  Click on picture for full image


For ease of use and selection of relevant map data, definitely an advantage for CP.


Well, let's go on a road trip. I'm using the iGPS-360 from Pharos here, also available from Microsoft as part of the Streets and Trips software and a Toshiba e335. The PDA and the GPS receiver are professionally duct-taped to the dashboard and we're ready to go.





In the new version of Ostia (v7) the start-up screen (left) has been updated to include the finger-friendly buttons found in other PDA navigation software. It is alas, still hard to read, cluttered, and not at all intuitive; especially when you compare it to the start-up screen of CoPilot Live (right). As a note of interest, Ostia does not include a single POI, as it comes out of the package. You're supposed to subscribe to the SmartFinder program offered by Pharos. CP on the other hand comes with a huge selection, and many customizable categories, already included.


Both programs start in just about the same time; but CP loads the installed map on start-up, and Ostia wants you to open every single county map manually through the file menu. This can be really annoying: if you don't know in which of the 254 Texas counties your target is, you'd have to open all of them, which is a rather time consuming process and of course the more maps you open, the slower the program runs.


By the way, when it comes to entering the target address, CoPilot Live5 appears to be only program to adhere to the American standard of writing an address; i.e. house number, street name, orientation.




For some strange reason, you're required to go through an extra step to enable the GPS receiver in Ostia, where CP scans for it automatically on start-up. Also, if you just exit the program without disabling the receiver first, Ostia gets all confused and you pretty much have to re-install the driver. None of those steps are necessary with CP, which is pretty odd. After all, one would expect better co-operation between hardware and software when both came from the same manufacturer.




As clearly shown by this pair of screen shots, the CP display wastes less screen real estate, is less cluttered, much easier to read and offers more information at a glance.


Both programs offer a "driver safety mode", where everything but the most essential information is hidden. Guess which program I like better ;)




Both programs exist for the same purpose: to guide you to your destination. Despite having the higher version number, Ostia 7 leaves a lot to be desired. Screens are cluttered, menus convoluted, maps are ancient. POI's and live traffic require a subscription. Maps have to be opened manually. Re-routing takes forever. My biggest gripe however is the fact that the program pretends to lose GPS reception whenever you pass certain spots on the map. Yes, I did in fact drive back and forth to verify this behavior, and sure enough, every time I passed this intersection, or that bridge, Ostia locked up and could only be revived by resetting the Pocket PC. While driving. If Pharos was the only company to offer GPS navigation for PDA's, the concept would still have nothing more than novelty value.


Initially, CoPilot Live 5 has a steeper learning curve. Once you wrap your mind around the different approach though, using the program is quite intuitive. Automatic day and night mode, easy-to-read directions, clutter-free screens are just some of the impressive features. The longer you use the program, the more you appreciate the effort and thought put into it, as you discover little handy details. Should you stray off the calculated route, CP will calculate a new route almost instantly, first in back-on-track mode, after that, a new route will be suggested. Map appears to be a bit more up to date, but not much. In both cases, data seems to be at least 4 years old.

In addition to the application for the Pocket PC., the software packages comes with a full desktop route planner for your home computer. There you can plan long-distance trips, calculate fuel cost, find directions etc and, for instance, export a multiple-state route corridor to your Pocket PC., thus saving you the effort of doing it all on your handheld and preserving the precious memory on your storage card. The "Live" part of the product name refers to live traffic data which can be downloaded through GPRS; and the vehicle-tracking option in the desktop program. Lacking a data plan for my cell phone, I didn't test those.


Overall, I think we have a clear winner here ;) CoPilot 5 Live is a powerful navigation software; loaded with useful features, yet easy to use. System requirements are rather reasonable as well: any PDA that runs Pocket PC 2002 or later is sufficient. I'd give it three stars out of five. It would have gotten five, but occasionally the map data bears only cursory resemblance to the real world. See here for examples.


At other times, it calculated a route from one town to another, I stopped at a store in the first town, chatted with the owner for an hour, came back to the vehicle: CoPilot was still open and the next turn displayed on the screen as expected, but as soon as I moved, the program shut down! In the same town, it attempted to guide me from downtown to the highway and it took a dead-end residential dirt road ending near the highway for an on-ramp. In the second town, it ignored the courthouse that has only been there since 1901 and wanted me to to drive down its lobby, I assume.

Also, CoPilot does lock up on occasion, but not nearly as often as Ostia, and on restarting the program, it will still show your last destination.


Other than that, it would be well worth its money.


Ostia on the other should be given away for free with a purchase of a GPS receiver from Pharos, so users who are new to PDA navigation can learn the basic concept and discover what their actual needs are, and then switch to a more mature package. 2 out of 5. Lock-ups while driving are inexcusable, even more so when the recovery process is as complex as with Ostia.


Between the two of them, CoPilot Live 5 dazzles with features and a superior GUI, but once it's put to some real life usage, it disappoints with very shoddy map data. It will probably get you there, but I'll carry a print-out from Mapquest just the same, thank you ever so much.


Recommended accessories: a memory card with a capacity of at least 512 MB, a card reader for your PC, external speaker for voice guidance.







Manufacturers Website
Review supplier
Pocket GPS Contributor Dave Burrows
Pocket GPS Contributor Website http://www.daveburrows.com
Overall Rating 72.5%
How did we achieve these ratings ? Review Ratings


Comments ?

Have any comments about this review ? Post them here.

CamerAlert Apps

iOS QR Code

Android QR Code

Terms & Privacy

GPS Shopping