Street Pilot III - vehicle (GPS) navigation system.
A review by GPS Nuts, based on a
receiver with software ver. 2.22 and CityNavigator maps ver. 4.00
The Street Pilot III (SP3) is way
too large to stash in a pocket and much too heavy and battery hungry to carry on
an extended hike. It also lacks many of the functions that are common for
outdoors-oriented units. If you are after an outdoorsman-type GPS
receiver, you can stop reading now. If you are looking for a mapping GPS
receiver to use in your car, truck, or on a motorbike, just keep on reading
because the entire receiver is designed with drivers in mind.
For more technical information and
another review of the SP3, follow the links at the bottom of this article. In
this review, we will focus on our subjective experiences with the setup.
The SP3 comes in a package with all
the necessary accessories; mounting base, connecting cables, memory cartridge
and CityNavigator mapping CD are all included. The whole setup is a "no
brainer". It was about an hour from the moment the unit was received to the
moment when it was put into actual use. It
only took a few minutes each to examine the box content, install the software on
the computer, file the request (over the Internet) for the free map region
upload code, coffee break, input the unlock code into the computer, load maps to
the cartridge (via included USB programmer), and slap the cartridge into the
receiver. Two Velcro strips later, the quick disconnect base was mounted on the
dashboard. Then place the power
cable in the cig. socket, the receiver in the base and itís acquiring the
satellites. A few button pushes later, the target address was located,
"route to it" was selected, and on the road we go...
There was no time to read the
manual, no time to play with any customization of the setup or screens. There
was not even time to see which screens the receiver offers. I
had to go to a customer and figuring out the finer details of the SP3 was not a
priority at the moment. Well, as it turned out, I didn't need to. The receiver
was up to the task. It gave perfect
directions all the way. It gave voice instructions where and when to turn.
The SP3 displayed detailed maps of the turning points when needed and was
switching to the overview map when there was no imminent turn. The
busy Toronto area highways are not really a place to be distracted and the SP3
was no distraction at all! In fact it was a great help at that moment. - It
found a faster route than the one I had been driving for the past several years!
It was love from the first use...
download and listen to a few samples of the voice guidance.
should be noted that the latest (free) firmware updates from the GARMINís
website give the receiver the ability to speak in several languages, so now one
can get the directions in French , Italian, Spanish, German and even a choice of
the US or British English.
Turn by turn routing - a real
A typical GPS receiver can create a
route that will lead in a straight line between the points, with total disregard
for existing roads and obstructions. Each of the points in such a route has to
be individually specified by the user. It's a good method if the
receiver is used by an outdoorsman or a boater, but is less than ideal for a
driver. After all, on a normal drive, the car has to stay on the road. The SP3
is the first GARMIN GPS receiver, that offers turn by turn routing. All
that the user needs to do is to find the address (or a waypoint) and command the
receiver to route to it.
That's when the magic begins. After
(typically) several seconds of calculations, the receiver generates the fastest
or the shortest route (as desired) from here to there. For every point where a
change of the driving direction is necessary, the route includes every
intersection and pertinent highway off /on ramps. Because the route actually
follows the roads, accurate distance information for the entire route is
available and the calculated times of arrival / times on route are usually very
close to the actual. Such routing is the ideal tool for automobile / motorcycle
along the route is constantly tracked by the receiver and necessary directions
are given on the screen as well as by voice. The
speaker is built into the cigar lighter plug.
Routes generated by the SP3 can be
viewed on a "turn by turn" screen like in the sample below.
When driving along the route, the
receiver shows an overview map of the route section. The current position is
marked with the black triangle and the route to be followed is highlighted.
For this screenshot the display was set to the "wide map" mode.
is going to be necessary to change directions / roads, the SP3 gives the turn
warnings with sufficient notice.
screen capture below shows one of the typical turn point detail maps that the
receiver automatically displays at just the right moment.
For this screenshot the display was set to "narrow map" mode.
If you miss the turn, don't blame
the pilot; the Street Pilot that is. In
any case, if you didn't change the default automatic re-routing, the receiver
will quickly re-calculate a new route for you. In the meantime, it will keep you
well informed as to your whereabouts.
It will also display locations of
numerous Points Of Interest (POIs). The
POIs can also be searched and located from the look up menu.
The above screen shows the nearest
gas stations, but other types of POIs (the same as MetroGuide) are also
available in the database. The
arrows in the screen shot above indicate the direction you must travel to reach
Another information screen that can
be displayed is also oriented towards drivers.
The only other screen that is
related to the current position is the satellite status:
Since the above screenshot was
taken with the receiver sitting on a desk in the basement, there are no
satellite signal strength bars showing. In
actual use, with the receiver mounted on the dashboard, the reception is very
good and there was never a problem during the entire month of testing.
Naturally, the SP3 is compatible
with GARMIN MapSource, which allows for data and map transfer between the
computer and the receiver. Various (but not all) GARMIN maps can be loaded,
displayed and used with the receiver, however, only the CityNavigator and the
new MapSource MetroGuide USA contain the information necessary for the unit to
generate turn by turn routes. It should be noted that ONLY MapSource can
load GARMIN maps into the receiver and no third party mapping software has maps
that can be loaded into the receiver. Programs like TTQV, Delorme, Fugawi, Ozi
and many others may allow for waypoint, route, and track record data transfer to
/ from the receiver, but they DO NOT transfer the maps to the receiver itself. Such
programs are designed to be used on a computer in conjunction with your
There was no problem
interfacing to G7ToWin software, which was used to obtain the above screen
dumps. The only other software we had time to test for compatibility with the
SP3 was TTQV. The released version 2.0 worked very well for real time tracking
in NMEA and GARMIN modes as well as for data transfer to the receiver. Data
transfer from the receiver to the computer did not work
with the TTQV 2.0, but
everything performed flawlessly with the version TTQV 2.5. This leads us to
believe that the transfer protocol is somewhat different from other GARMIN
receivers and it may be necessary to obtain updates for some 3rd party software
in order to make it fully compatible with the SP3.
is ever perfect...
Just like with every other
receiver, there are a few things that we did not like about the SP3. The
funny thing is that some of the greatest strengths of the SP3 are directly
related to its greatest shortcomings.
- With very few user options, the
receiver is very easy to operate. Unfortunately
it results in limited usability in the areas not covered by the detail of the
- The use of memory cartridges (up
to 128 MEG) allows the pre-loading of maps of vast areas. Routes can be
generated directly on the unit. It allows the user to set off on a long
journey without worrying about the computer access necessary to load the maps
for the next section. OTOH, the computer is necessary to create routes that are
leading through any particular (user selectable) point. Also,
there is only one track record allowed by the receiver and a long trip can fill
up that memory in a hurry, which makes computer access a must, in order to keep
all the records of long trips.
- The quick disconnect base allows
you to remove the receiver from it in a split second which is nice.
Unfortunately, after removing it from (or placing it into) the base, one has to
fumble with separate power and sound connectors. A
much more elegant and practical solution would be a connector integrated into
the base. Also, the size of the sound jack is not a standard one, so forget
about easily hooking up some third party speakers.
- The receiver is splash resistant
and has a good size screen that is very easily readable in all sorts of lighting
conditions - from direct sunlight to night driving. This
is very good for a car or motorcycle.
It would also be excellent for a boat, except for the fact that the SP3 does not
currently support BlueCharts - GARMIN's latest format for marine charts.
All in all, the receiver loaded
with maps proved to be a very valuable and capable car navigation device. If you
are a driver and your budget allows it, and if the areas that you are interested
in are covered by the CityNavigator or the MapSource MetroGuide USA, the SP3 may
be the receiver for you. Certainly, one does not need to be a navigation geek or
a techno wizard in order to use it to it's full potential.
Possibly, the most accurate
summary was given in few words by Andrew's wife. She has seen many
different receivers on the dashboard over the years. She
felt they were either too small, too cumbersome, or too distracting to use by
the uninitiated. She always refused
to use one and preferred a printed map. After
she took a trip with the StreetPilot III leading the way, she simply said:
"Now, this is ONE gps that even I can use and drive with".
Dec 24, 2001
A "Canadian perspective" review of the CityNavigator maps.
SPIII information on Garmin
In depth review of SPIII by Joe