Sunday, 5 July 2009

Initial Review - Satmap Active 10

Satmap Active 10
Price: £269.95
Supplier: World of Tents
(no I've never heard of them either - the best price I could find searching via Google - prompt delivery, good first impression)
Active 10 unit
All National Parks (1:50k) SD data card
Standard carry case (main pocket for device, mesh pocket for accessories)
Deluxe carry case (main pocket for device, 2nd pocket for batteries, etc)
3 x Lithium AA batteries
8 x Duracell AA batteries

What it does:
GPS based 'Moving map' display for the walker/cyclist/paddler in a handheld unit similar in size and format to a PDA or mobile phone. It displays a map on the screen, resolution and detail selectable by the user and within the limits of the memory card the unit is fitted with - additional purchases necessary for best resolution mapping.

Look and feel:
In the hand the unit feels like a slightly oversized/overweight PDA. My initial impression is that the unit is slightly bigger than is comfortable to grip, giving the impression of being a small child. I'm sure this is just an initial thing though, probably as we're all used to handling ever smaller mobile phones, as my fingers do fall right on the side-mounted control buttons. Ready to go, my Active 10 weighs in at exactly 300g, including 90g of Vapex 2900mA/Hr batteries and with the lanyard fitted. I will re-weigh the unit when the LiPol rechargeable battery is fitted.

Power Usage:
The Active 10 takes 3 x AA batteries or an optional internal rechargeable LiPol pack.
This is going to be an interesting one to investigate - the unit was supplied with a number of single-use batteries but I immediately put these to one side 'for later' and began using some rechargeable NiMH AAs - essential to avoid regular use of the device becoming really expensive really quickly! I have already ordered the Lithium Polymer battery that can be fitted inside the Active 10 and the unit can then be recharged via it's micro-USB connector - a common standard for electronic devices and the new standard for mobile phone chargers. This can only be a good thing as it means that for anyone out and about the one charger will be suitable for recharging phone, gps, and whatever other portable electronic devices they carry - less weight, less bulk and no risk of bringing 'the wrong one'!
I suspect the supplied single-use Lithium batteries will be dropped into an emergency bag for use when I'm caught short without any juice - this type of battery usually have a 10 year shelf life so will be ideal for such standby use.

Computer hook up:
Satmap do not yet have Mac software available for the Active 10 although this has been promised to be ready sometime real soon for over a year. This is inconvenient, but is not as critical an issue as it was for the Memory Map-equipped Road Angel which had to have the maps downloaded to it from a host computer. The data card can still be backed up to a Mac, although Satmap do warn that the data cannot simply be copied to another card as there is some 'magic' in there to prevent unauthorised map sharing or duplication. Time will tell whether this is a problem when/if a card gets lost or damaged. At the very least carefully assembled collections of POI (points of interest) can be backed up.

Initial Testing:
After a little time fiddling with the options the unit does just what it is supposed to. The quick start guide warned that initial satellite lock might take up to 30 minutes but within a couple of minutes lock was achieved and the displayed map was centred exactly where I expected it to be! On a short 5 mile walk everything behaved just fine - no problems with satellite lock. Map positions shown just as they should be. At one point we passed a style and path we'd not previously used - a quick check on the map to see where it went and we were on a new path! Magic!
So, initial impression - this unit is much better to use than the Road Angel and unless problems are encountered during testing I anticipate this being the navigation kit I'll be taking on my tour.

I will add more detailed reviews and some photos as I put this unit through it's paces.

Initial Impression: 5 out of 5.

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