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Asus 636N and GPS Jennifer plot paths through the tangled web of the urban jungle

February 12, 2007
Asus 636N and GPS Jennifer plot paths through the tangled web of the urban jungle

Jennifer is her name. She speaks Aussie English and as GPS voices go she sounds friendly. The Asus A636N MyPal GPS Pocket PC allows good adjustment in its maps and settings and is a useful, compact pilot which works when you have no idea where you are in the urban jungle.

The Asus is an exception but GPS buyer beware most dedicated GPS units will only take the maps supplied by the company manufacturing that particular GPS.

Before buying any dedicated GPS or any Residential voice-guidance navigation unit be aware that many popular units are not capable of running any standard map.

Graeme Ussing of Westprint Heritage Maps told GoSeeAustralia that - They will not run ANY maps produced to the World standard map protocol which is a map produced as an ECW digital file.

They will not run any maps produced by Australian Government departments such as Natmap, Lands Department, VicRoads, National Parks and others.

They will not run any maps produced by Westprint or Hema or any specialised maps produced by 4WD Clubs.

These maps, which comprise the greatest bulk of all maps produced, can only be run on navigation programs that operate through a Windows operating system on a home PC, a lap-top computer or a pocket or palm mini PC. MacIntosh computers can run these programs by using a PC emulation program.

Anyone who wants this type of versatility from their GPS should insist on being shown a Westprint, Natmap or Hema map running on the unit before they purchase it.

The Asus is not just a GPS. The small computer has the GPS built-in and runs on a Windows operating system. It will Active Sync with your PC or laptop. This must be loaded before the Asus 636 can be connected. So when it comes to the question of how much? It must be remembered that the Asus can do most of the things available on a PC or Laptop.

Westprint Heritage Maps of 6 Park St., Nhill, Victoria set the unit up to navigate. There are two systems in the Asus. CoPilot is a talk you through urban program with Jennifer guiding to a specific address. CoPilot is not designed for exploration. OziExplorer does that in a navigation program which gets into remote areas like the Simpson Desert, Kimberley and Cape York.

Asus charges from the lighter socket
Asus charges from the lighter socket

After 28 days which included frustrations with Asus mapping mistakes and our own operator errors GoSeeAustralia now finds value in foreign territory. Its greatest stength is to set it for the required destination or town before entering the unknown area. It will see you through.

To see value in the Asus and GPS units in general it should first be understood that like all computers it is just an idiot machine. Like all machines it is as good as the idiot driving it. It will not think for you so the fastest route will always be via major roads.

There are mapping errors. Maps like books are out of date the day they are published. For example sweet Jennifer, the voice of the CoPilot program instructed us to take a left off the main road from Hastings Victoria on route to the Stud Rd turnoff and Ringwood East. It would have been a jarring move as what was a road junction is now a flyover.

And at the end of Springvale Rd on route to beachside Edithvale Jennifer's sweet take first exit at roundabout led to a new court which has come with a new housing development. The actual route is now via the second exit. She is also fond of veer left instructions which are fine provided they are recognised for their road safety value and not as a direction to turn left. It would be a high value to have auto downloads available for map updates on the internet.

The Asus in left-handed landscape mode
The Asus in left-handed landscape mode

But as we got to know the Asus and CoPilot better we keyed in waypoints ( ie: Lilydale/Montrose) to determine the route we wanted. An example is the tough test of Ringwood East to Millgrove in the Yarra Valley.

There are three potential main routes. Two are via Lilydale and the other via Montrose. On the way back CoPilot was determined to bring us home via Silvan and the Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd. It is a left turn away from home and about 30 minutes extra driving.

This is compounded as Most GPS systems have a built in left turn bias anyway for road safety reasons.

We, with local knowledge, just turned right at the T intersection and the Asus CoPilot showed a real benefit. It reconfigured at blinding speed. Jennifer found a new route via Montrose and led us to Ringwood East the short way.

That same ability to reconfigure brought our lost Lisa home from the remote dirt roads and valleys behind Warburton in the Upper Yarra Valley of Victoria. She had gone to a Garage Sale to buy two retro mirrors for our Millgrove mountain retreat.

She got the mirrors and then found herself totally bushed. But she had CoPilot on and Jennifer brought Lisa back to Warburton and Millgrove. Which raises the matter of womens' rights. Our CoPilot version has female pilots. Yes the higher female voice pitch is easier to hear in a moving vehicle. But both GoSeeAustralia's female testers prefer a male voice.

Tap for the destination address
Tap for the destination address

We found the Asus 636 sound level was acceptable in the modern, quiet company Magna station wagon, but we struggled in the GoSeeAustralia retro Sahara diesel.

The 1985 Sahara is a truck. We have added a turbo which pumps in an extra 40Nm and the motor is now about 300hp. It is a tough, brawny beast with a power turbo whistle. I love to use the manual gearbox and we like the sunroof open. Alas the Asus CoPilot directions fade away.

But, fortunately the CoPilot graphics go a long way to address this day or night. Despite the compact screen, which can be adjust for light and orientation, the graphics are big, bold, timely and logical.

A click with the stylus on the CoPilot flexible menu options allows adjustment of warning timing for turns and roundabouts. Unlike some other GPS systems GoSeeAustralia has used CoPilot does not prattle at you.

It should be said that Asus is of course not in the same league as the GPS system built into the other company Sahara the modern flagship which leads GoSeeAustralia's three tow vehicles. But it is not in the same price range either. Updated or additional maps for the Toyota system blow serious holes in the wallet. Expect up to $400.

Westprint Maps provide a full set of Great Desert Maps which fit the Outback GPS program OziExplorer on the Asus for about $85. GoSeeAustralia understands that another major map provider askes about $230 for the same maps.

Tap state and then tap next
Tap state and then tap next

The Asus clamps via suction cup and flexible goose-neck to windscreens in both the retro Sahara and the Magna. There is little vibration in either vehicle.

The clever uni-joint in the base of the goose-neck extension arm can be locked tight in the best position for viewing left or right of the steering wheel.

We tried both sides and settled on left of the wheel in both vehicles. Using the stylus to tap in commands is a left hand nuisance, but on balance we managed OK.

The small screen is easier to read further away from the driver's windowand reflected glare can be tuned out by tweaking the screen angle.

The GPS aerial clicks open at the back of the Asus unit with the stylus tip. It folds back and should be horizontal with the ground for best results. Take care when mating the Asus unit with the 26 pin plug in the holder base. Check the seating alignment before pushing it home.

The Asus is compact, quite effective once understood and lodgical to use. As we said earlier it is more than a GPS as it has PC features. Its MyPal abilities include, calendar, alarms, world time, long and lat. owner info. calculator, email messaging, recording, Internet, Bluetooth, pictures and videos, plus edit ability which allows drawing and writing notes which will autoconvert to typed format if required.

Editing involves commands which are new to us like Undo ink. We found time must be spent with the User Manual to get to first base.

Tap Warburton the town centre or  nearest address
Tap Warburton the town centre or nearest address

Within the two GPS programs loaded GoSeeAustralia found CoPilot menu paths lodgical and easy to manage and use.

The menu options are good. The ability to add a stop sets the route when there are optionsand the CoPilot allows a route preview. Open that page and it also allows a click on Itinerary before tapping the stylus on Start Driving.

This gives a visual of streets and turns. Click Itinerary again and the map page comes up.

Click Start Driving and the neat fold-out GPS aerial at back of the Asus goes to work to determine current GPS position. Return to Menu and the options include Quit CoPilot. Close the program and then turn off the unit.

Hold the small silver off button on the left hand end of the Asus 636 unit down for about five seconds. Be firm or the unit will not switch off. It will go into Sleep mode and run the battery flat. You know you have it right when the screen shows Shutdown System. Click Yes with the stylus and slip the Asus into its neat carry case.

Destination locked in so tap finish with the stylus
Destination locked in so tap finish with the stylus

We did not give OziExplorer a practical outback evaluation, but itsprogram seems straight forward for off-road users.

Open the program and load the map required from the files. In OziExplorer the GPS must be switched on by tapping the lightning bolt icon at the bottom of the page with the stylus.

It is essential to tap it again to turn it off before moving to the CoPilot program. If that is not done then CoPilot will report GPS not connected.

Once the operating arrow appears in the middle of the OziExplorer screen and map the unit will find the users position.

Additional map files must be loaded to OziExplorer from a PC via the Active Sync program to the SD card installed in the Pocket PC. They will not load directly to the SD card through a card reader.

The initial set-up includes:

Installations of CoPilot to Asus hardrive and registration of product. Installation, registration and configuration of OziExplorer program - so it knows where to find map images and data and where to store and track waypoint files.

Set up Asus PC with respect to fitting and charging battery, plus info like time zone. Install maps to SD card as required by customers.

Tap to preview the route and then tap to start driving
Tap to preview the route and then tap to start driving

These usually include the Geoscience raster map of all Australia, Westprint's Outback Tracks and Outback Victoria maps.

Other maps can be included at the customers request. Free registered and insured postage to the customers nominated delivery address.

Editor's Note: The Asus 636 package ready to use, delivery to the door is normally $1350.

From2402 2007, the date this article was posted to GoSeeAustralia, any site visitors who orders a Asus 636 within the next four weeks get a special $1250 price.

Full info comes with a pre-programmed Asus package
Full info comes with a pre-programmed Asus package
The stylus slides right into the neat unit which has a  pouch
The stylus slides right into the neat unit which has a pouch
To exit CoPilot tap Quit
To exit CoPilot tap Quit