Sunday, 25 April 2010

In Praise Of Hardware Series... Cheap Satellite Navigation

A gadget that has become ubiquitous over the last decade is the Satellite Navigation device or Sat Nav. Having reached a price level whereby every car driver in the UK now appears to own one, I'm going to have a quick look at what makes this gadget more useful than just for navigating by car.

Many Sat Navs, even the cheap ones, have a "walking" mode. This is fine if the default set of instsalled maps include all public footpaths but this isn't the case. Note that I'm restricting this discussion to cheap Sat Navs. I'm aware that there are many other GPS enabled devices out there for handling car and on-foot navigation but their cost of ownership, in my opinion, is high enough to make them true luxury devices.

So, the good old cheapo Sat Nav. Ebuyer is a good starting point for value models. If you pick a model carefully, it can be a fairly simple task to then install additional software (after all this is just a computer) and a useful example with OS maps is Memory-Map.

The final part of the jigsaw is an external battery pack. Value Sat Navs have a serious flaw when it comes to being used on foot and that is their battery is not designed for out-of-car use. An external power supply from somebody like Portable Power Supplies will provide a reliable backup. An example of this kind of device is shown in the main picture.

So a value Sat Nav does its job in the car and can easily double-up as an emergency on-foot location finding device. Only time will tell if these simple and cheap GPS devices will be superceded by bloated multi-function devices but until then they are an invaluable asset for the road - and footpath - roaming punter.

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