If you’ve been following my GPS reviews at pocketnow.com, you’ll remember that I can’t find my way out a wet paper bag with a fork and a flashlight.? I have a really horrible sense of direction.? Its shameful… it truly is.? But whaddya gonna do? It is what it is.
A little while ago, I got a press release for a brand new GPS receiver, from a company called Axion.? The receiver, the, is a stand alone GPS receiver. Its not a PDA, which is new for me.? I’m used to reviewing devices that have a GPS receiver as a secondary function.? Devices like the ETEN M700 or ETEN G500, are what I’m used to looking at; so this is a first for me. I will tell you this, though:? My expectations were set rather high. Devices like the two ETEN’s I’ve linked to, did GPS well, but their primary function was a phone/PDA combo; and not GPS. With the AxionGeo 632, GPS is the thing; and in my mind, it really needs to be right on with the GPS functionality.? Let’s take a look to see how it did, and whether its the device for you.
Like its competitor, the TomTom Go, the AxionGeo is an all-in-one, stand alone GPS device. Its internal, SiRF III receiver, and the whole schmere are completely self contained. You don’t need any kind of dongle, or Bluetooth add-on, etc. While I like this, the Geo has got a couple of quirks that I want to cover; but before we go there, I want to give you the particulars on the device itself.
- 3.5″ Touch Panel TFT LCD Screen
- CPU: Centrality AT260B 200MHz
- Operation System: WinCE.Net 4.2 Core Version
- Flash Memory: 32MB
- Power: DC in 5V
- Battery: 2700 mHhr Li-ion Approx. 8-10 Hours
- GPS Chipset: SiRF III
- Optional MP3 & JPEG Support
- 2D & 3D Map Orientation
- North America Map Preloaded on SD Card (50 States & Canada)
- Pedestrian Mode for Portable Handheld Use
- Point of Interest Searchable By Proximity
- Routing by Highways, Major Roads or Locations
- Fast Route Time and Re-Route Time for Detour
- SD Expansion Card Slot for Ensuring the Latest Map Updates
- Approximately 1.5 million POls
- Voice Direction Prompts
First things first… The marketing collateral that I received from Axion indicated that the Geo632 ran? WinCE.Net 5.0 Core.? This is NOT the case.? When I brought this up to Axion, they smiled and said that the marketing material I received was in error. Oh great… I wonder how many copies of that material were circulated before the error was brought up to them?? And better yet, when they requested that I send the unit back so that they could get me a unit with the right firmware, they returned the device with just a GPS software update, and not a firmware update. When I contacted them about that, THAT’s when they told me the marketing collateral was in error… This review could have been done a lot quicker, and been posted moons ago if not for the 2-3 weeks I waited for the unit to go out, get updated, and then shipped back to me. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me…
Though about twice as thick as your normal PDA, the device is much shorter .? Its almost square, though not quite; and it fits nicely in the palm of your hand. The screen is big and bright, and is easy to read in almost every situation except direct sunlight. While driving, I found that placing the receiver in the right place is important.? Direct sunlight washes the display out, so placement in your vehicle is important.
Speaking of placement, as you can see in the pictures below, the device comes with a windshield mount. The suction cup on this thing is very, VERY strong. Once you get it on, don’t plan on moving the mount. Its not easy to get off.
The device slides in bottom first and then clicks in place.? The cord you see hanging underneath the mount is the power cable.? The back of the device has a set of AC contacts. The power cable plugs into the back of the mount.? The AC contacts in the mount meet up with contacts on the back of the device. But before I get too ahead of myself, here is the full 360 with the AxionGeo 632.
No buttons or anything on the front of the device.? The power light is near the upper left corner.? It glows red when charging and green when the device has a full charge.
The back of the device.? The oblong stick on the top is the “stylus.”? What a joke that thing is!? While it does the job, its really rather pitiful.
The device has a power switch and an a separate on-off switch. The power switch is on the top of the device. Pressing and holding it until the screen turns white turns the device on. A quick tap turns it off.? The white square directly above the 5 AC contacts on the back of the device is the on-off switch. When the device arrives, its turned off. In order to use it, like the iPAQ 3600 series of old, you have to turn it on.
The left side of the device in the cradle mount. You can see the the power cord in the back of the cradle, and the external antenna and miniUSB connectors.
The right side of the device in the cradle.? The blue slot is the SD card, and the reset button is directly below it. Even though the device has firmware and an internal processor and receiver, the app runs from an SD card. Take the card out of the slot for any reason, and the device will not run at all.? However, it will run the internal JPG viewer and MP3 player.? …And speaking of which…
What’s up with that?!? The screen on this device isn’t THAT great; and the screen has standard QVGA resolution at best. It also has an almost square screen.? Pictures don’t look great on this device, and as far as an MP3 player goes… well let’s just say my iPod’s role in my gear bag is VERY safe. Put bluntly, both the picture viewer and MP3 player stink; using the device for either of those doesn’t get you anything, and honestly, they are a waste of time and space…
Again, the left side of the Geo 632. The gold spot is the external antenna connector. The device also has a miniUSB port.
The right side of the Geo 632 sports the SD slot and soft reset button. You can also see the stylus bulge out from the back of the device at the upper right corner.
Battery life on this device has been pretty decent.? Axion states that you should get anywhere from 8-10 hours of power with the Geo 632; and my experience has been very close to that.? I have to say that I was very impressed with the staying power of the battery. I never really had any trouble with power.? Once I had a full charge, the device worked well with or without AC power connected.? That’s very contrary to any other GPS rig that I’ve used. Most of those have been PDA based, and if you don’t have your device connected to AC power while navigating, you’re going to kill your battery in about 1/3 to 1/2 of its normal battery life.? I only ran into battery life problems once with this thing, and it was because it got accidentally left on, in the car, in my driveway for a couple of hours after going to the store. When I went back to retrieve it, it was already whining about a low battery, and wouldn’t stop.? I turned the display off, but it seemed to pop back on a couple of times to warn me of a low battery back in the house. However, other than that, its been a battery champ.
One of the biggest problems I had with the device is one that most users will never encounter.? The device is a WindowsCE.NET device and not a Pocket PC or Smartphone. As such, I don’t have any screen capture utility for it, so I can’t show anyone any screen shots in this review except for those that I take in device shots with a digital camera, and all of those have been horrible! Its been very frustrating from a reviewer’s stand point.? ?
The AxionGeo 632 uses for navigation. I’ve reviewed three or four different navigation apps over the years and unfortunately, Destinator is NOT one of my favorites. As you can see from the picture below, Destinator does allow you to display some routing information on the screen while you’re navigating.
However, unlike other GPS apps, it doesn’t have a lot of information directly on the main screen.? The blue band across the bottom has a spot on the lower left corner (you can make out a vague white arrow pointing to the right…that the hot spot) that allows you to change from ETA time, to remaining distance to no information. The blue band on the top (hot spot is in the upper right corner) allows you to swap between next navigational maneuver (read next turn), that next 2 turns, and no display.? Honestly, I’m used to seeing a little more information on my screen; and I find the lack of some information very nerve wracking. In order to see the alternate information, you have to tap the screen, requiring you to take your attention off the road, and place it on the Geo 632 to change the display. I much prefer something like iNav’s iGuidance, or Tomtom Navigator 6.
iNav’s iGuidance (on the left) has the current time, the amount of travel time remaining, the distance remaining and the current speed at the bottom of the display.? TomTom Navigator has the time remaining, the current time, the current speed and the distance remaining in in the bottom right, blue box on the display (the graduated bars are satellite signal strength). Having that information available, without having to touch the screen while navigating (and the vehicle is moving) is important.
Using the device is easy enough; but the lack of available images is a bit disconcerting for this review.? I’ve asked Axion twice for images of the different screens, and have yet to get a JPG in the mail; but like I said, entering in an address is easy enough. To enter in a new address, follow the these steps:
- Tap the screen (above the right pointing arrow in the lower left corner of the screen) to bring up the options screen
- Tap the Address button
- Using a T9 style button layout, enter the destination city
- Using a T9 style button layout, enter the destination street
- Using a T9 style button layout, enter the destination address
- Tap the Navigation button in the upper left corner of the Address screens
The biggest problem I’ve had with the Geo 632 is the amount of time that the device takes to get a GPS lock. It can take anywhere from 30 to 120 seconds to get a GPS lock.? After that, navigating is easy enough; but the initial ETA time and distance isn’t always correct. The application remembers your last location, and after getting a GPS lock, the app doesn’t always adjust to your current location until you physically move. At that point, the app announces “route recalculation!”, and adjusts the screen, distance and ETA.
I’ve also noticed that the receiver, though a SiRF III receiver, isn’t as accurate or sensitive as some of the other SiRF III GPS devices I have.? For example, running the AxionGeo 632 and the ETEN M700 simultaneously to the same destination, the M700 performed much better than the Geo 632, especially in the concrete canyons of Downtown Chicago. In fact, at one point, I also had my HP 6945 running as well; and the 6945 did only slightly better than the Geo 632 Downtown.? Out in the open, the device does well; but in the city, where I really would need it, the device is a huge dud.
I tried using the 3D functionality of the software, but honestly, with only a 200mHz processor, performance just stunk.? I decided to stick with the 2D display, and it seems to be working much better for me. I also prefer the night display to the daylight display.? It seemed to work better for me given the way the light hits the device screen in the car.
The device isn’t bad; but wasn’t the home run that I was hoping it would be. For the price (see below) its not a bad buy, especially if you can get it at the lower end price point. Without a doubt, its worth the purchase price and does a decent job when its got a clear satellite signal. If you need to navigate in a city with a lot of sky scrapers, like Chicago or New York City, the AxionGeo 632 may give you a hard time.The AxionGeo 632 is available from vendors like Amazon, Directron, and . Prices range anywhere from $259 to $299.
What I Like: Self contained GPS receiver, large 3.5″ screen, loud voice prompts
What Needs Improvement:? Resetting the device resets the clock back to midnight (00:00:00), the stylus leaves everything to be desired, the processor is very slow, and Destinator isn’t a great navigation app.? The receiver didn’t work well as well as other GPS receivers I have in the concrete canyons of downtown Chicago; and adjusting the volume on the device requires you to quit Destinator and go out to the device’s main configuration screens.