Maps for the UK and Ireland are included on a 256MB SD card with 117MB of free formatted space available for use. The software HP has chosen is Via Michelin’s GPS navigation that I first saw on the palm Zire back in November 2004. I didn’t much like the software then and I’m still not a fan. The interface is behind the likes of TomTom of CoPilot. The icons and the arrangement are quite simple and straightforward but there aren’t as many features as there are on competitor devices.
The most striking thing was the lack of detail in the display, with the basic use of colours and textures. This is a far cry from the level of detail available in something like the Mio C710.
Once I’d got a fix from the satellite overhead the first thing I tried to do was search for my home address. I was straight away disappointed that while the letters were large and easy to tap with the stylus, the numbers were on a separate screen, which is annoying. Why not just have the numbers one to ten at the top on the same screen, so it’s easier and quicker to enter information? It can’t be a question of display resolution as TomTom devices manage to offer this layout.
I was then mystified to find that it couldn’t find my postcode for some reason. After repeated attempts I realised that I was entering the full postcode but the software only supports five digit post codes. This is very disappointing. All the GPS navigation devices I’ve reviewed recently have supported seven digit codes, so it didn’t occur to me that it wouldn’t. With only five, you still need to enter a street name and number, which makes finding many places, particularly businesses, much harder.
Once I was driving I was bemused to see that the PDA kept popping up with messages asking me if I wanted to join wireless networks that it was picking up as I drove along, obscuring the screen in the process. I had to turn off wireless at the first opportunity to sort that out.
I found that voice instructions were clear enough, with a decent amount of volume and many will appreciate that they are also available in all the major European languages. I did find the software rather quiet compared to other GPS devices I’ve tested and found that it didn’t say anything for long periods. Most other GPS devices tell you to stay on the motorway when you pass an exit but the Michelin software stayed silent. It’s therefore less reassuring than some, but some may prefer this less intrusive behaviour. Once you’ve planned a route a zooming scroll bar appears at the top and you have it place text driving instructions on the screen at the same time.
I wasn’t entirely convinced by the GPS performance. I found that often the icon of my vehicle was not aligned with the road, which was a little disconcerting; and the update speed was rather jerky. Even worse, I found that the angle of the road in the 3D display was just not right and it was often too hard to see where I was meant to go. At one point I had my TomTom One on the screen for reference and I simply could not work out which exit the HP was telling me to take and only chose the correct one by glancing at the TomTom – not a great advert for the HP.