Yesteryears, maps were a common sight in every adventurous driver's glove compartment for those unpredictable times when the impulse to explore would kick in. For the average car owner, maps were crucial for those times when you find yourself in an unfamiliar place because you missed a turn or tried a new short cut on the way to pick up a date for the evening. But even in dire circumstances such as these, it has never been really cool for a grown man to pull out a map and openly consult it for directions. And being the lucky citizens that we are, let?s not even mention that street maps in the Philippines tend to be outdated less than a month after the latest update, thanks to our dear Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chaps, who seem to regard traffic as an experiment project not unlike playing the simulation game, SimCity.
The good news is that maps have been digitized in the form of sleek, intelligent, and portable navigation systems. Running on GPS (Global Positioning System) software powered by satellites of the US Department of Defense, these modern navigation solutions have replaced the physical map. And now the even better news is they are within reach of Filipino motorists with the launch of the AVT Navigator A800 by the Winterpine Group. The Navigator A800 has been localized for the Philippine market through collaboration with Accu-Map, a company specializing in maps publication in the Philippines.
What's in the box?
The package contents of the AVT Navigator A800 is the unit itself, a 1GB SD card, external GPS antenna, car charger, suction cup windshield mount, stylus and the user's manual. The A800 itself has a 4.3-inch TFT touch screen display powered by a Samsung S3C2440, 400mhz processor with 64MB SDRAM using a SirFstar III GPD module. Package description claims a battery life of 3 hours.
Installation does not require major technical expertise and takes less than 5 minutes. Simply mount the suction on your windshield, attach the A800 to its clips and plug in the external antenna and car charger and you?re ready for the streets. The unit comes with a pre-loaded updated map in the SD card which has to be inserted to a slot on the side. If you?re not using the navigation feature, the unit can also function as a multimedia player.
In terms of usability, the A800 is quite easy to figure out provided you have a basic knowledge with advanced electronics. In any case, read the manual. The AV800 has audio-direction feature in English and Mandarin languages. A female voice instructs you when to make turns, which lane to stay on, and yes, even notifies you of ubiquitous MMDA U-Turn slots that pop up like mushrooms nowadays. The voice prompts are very much audible even with the car radio on at reasonable sound levels.
Navigation is set by area, and surprisingly there is information on areas as far as Basilan. On the other hand that?s probably used by the military to track the Abu Sayyaf. Setting your destination starts broadly by city, or you can proceed with narrowed search by subdivisions, villages, barangays, intersections, and points-of-interest (POI). Waypoints can also be set for multi-destination routes. You can choose between 2D and 3D map display with auto zooming function as you get closer to your destination.
A downside of GPS devices is their susceptibility to signal interferences with the presence of thick clouds and tall buildings. In the case of the AV800, although it gives precise distance calculation, the estimated time of arrival it offers is inaccurate as it discounts traffic. Sensitivity to the speed of the vehicle would solve this problem easily.
Being familiar with the ins and outs of Metro Manila, the author felt little benefit from the product, learning only the names of those oft-taken back roads. Admittedly though, the A800 would be useful for traveling out of town with its complete information from the newest highways to the most obscure streets. It is certainly the best in the market in terms of accuracy, support and coverage. However, all things considered, the product could use some enhancements like a calculator with automotive conversions, Bluetooth connectivity, to name a few. As it is, the product offers the most rudimentary benefits of convenience, confidence and a certain number of cool points expected of owning a GPS gadget.
Pricetag for the AVT Navigator A800 is set at 18,500; it comes with a membership to the AVT website where users will have access to 6 months of free map updates.