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Author Topic: Offroad Navigation Software  (Read 3797 times)

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Offline Nugget

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Offroad Navigation Software
« on: Thu 29 Jun 12:06 2017 »
This is a beginnerís guide - Part one - what I found when looking to install a navigation system in my 4wd.
Part two will be after using the thing for a while, what I eventually settle on.
It is not all the info or all the details, just what I found while deciding which way to go.

Setting up either on and/or offroad navigation for your vehicle can be a nightmare - there are heaps of program options, some good, some a waste of money - deciding on what to install is not easy. The following are my finding as of June 2017:
Firstly Iíll point out my requirements, others may have different needs.
I wanted something on my dashboard, with a display bigger than my phone, that would help me know where I am offroad, in other words put a cursor on a map where my 4x4 is in the highest resolution I could get. I also wanted it to show sealed roads, dirt tracks and some topographic information of the surrounding terrain.
It would e great if the program had a bit of extra info including free and paid camping options, points of interest in the area and the ability to save a location with some notes for future reference.

Stand Alone Off Road Navigation Devices
There are two main players in stand alone, Ďbuy the boxí type systems - Hema and VMS - they both have everything already configured and working - you plug in power, and enter some basic info, they do the rest.
Hema is probably regarded as the main player - their product, the HX1, is the most expensive at around $600 at this time. I really canít comment on it, I decided it was more than I was prepared to spend so did not look into the features / options but by all reports, it has a lot to offer if money is not an issue.
Hema however, do offer some great apps for your phone / tablet with a lot of comparable features
which Iíll go into in more detail in this report.
VMS are gaining market share as a result of better pricing - I regularly see their top of the line package on sale at less than $300 which is good if you think the product suits your needs.

Tablet as a Navigation Device
The third option is to purchase a mini computer called a tablet, and install apps, which are just software programs.
If you have trouble with computers, software etc, then this is probably not the best option for you unless someone sets up a system for you.
Also, remember that the Hema and VMS units come with a mounting system, you will need to purchase one if you choose to use a tablet, which depending on the type you choose, can range from $10 - $200.

Apps (Software)
There are lots of software packages available, some are standalone systems that come with maps, however some do not come with maps, you need to buy them separately for the app to work or buy extra maps or more detailed maps for the areas you want to travel.
Even if you select a program that comes with maps, most have the ability or option for you to purchase more maps covering a specific location or with greater detail.
This option of using a tablet and apps has other benefits, you can install other apps on the tablet like engine management, cheapest petrol, street navigation, closest free camp sites, points of interest, music, weather, notebook etc etc.
It is basically a computer on your dashboard that can run any program you think would be handy.
One of the biggest issues using the tablet option is that there are so many apps that do almost the same thing, just in a different format, you canít possibly try them all to see which one you prefer.
I decided to go with the tablet option because of the extras I could add to it, however having now set it up, I found most of the apps have everything you could want built in so I donít need to add other apps to it.
For example you can get an app to show you the closest fuel or the cheapest fuel, but some of the navigations apps have this info available as well so you donít need two apps that do the same thing.


Choosing a Tablet
Firstly letís look at the tablet, there are plenty to choose from.
You need a tablet with a built in GPS, you do not need a tablet with phone capabilities.
You also need wifi so you can connect to the Internet to get apps.
Another feature you might want is a magnetic sensor, which is needed for most compass apps.
Itís not needed for GPS navigation apps.
I chose a Samsung over others simply because it is a class leader in electronics. There are plenty of other brands, many Iíve never heard of, that do the same or more for less cost.
You need to choose the size screen you want - I chose seven inch, the smallest available because of limited dashboard space and where I wanted to mount it. Seven inch is still bigger than most Navman / Tom Tom devises and about the same size as the Hema and VMS units.
One thing Iíd recommend is decide where youíre going to mount it before you decide on screen size.
I wouldnít bother getting into specs on screen resolution or processor speed, if youíre using it for navigation then even the most basic unit specs are fine. You could spend a few hundred more to get a more powerful or higher resolution screen but youíll hardly notice the difference for navigation.
What I would recommend is get a tablet with the most built in memory you can afford.
Bottom of the line is 8gb, which is what the Samsung I bought has, but by the time you install apps and maps it is pretty full.
Having a micro SD card slot is some help, but most apps need to run on the inbuilt memory, you canít shift them to the SD card. On some you can store maps and extras on the SD card, but the more built in memory the better, it removes one area of problems.
For the technically inclined, Android Marshmallow allows you to format an external card as internal memory but not many units come with it installed, mine came with Android Lollipop.

Which App
Ok, so now youíve decided on your tablet, next is what software you want.
Any app you choose needs to be able to work offline - you see this in the specs. Online means it uses cell phone data to get maps, offline means it downloads the maps when installed and uses them so doesnít need cell phone coverage.
Many of the areas I go to in the bush do not have phone service, offline maps are essential.
First I chose a street navigation app - the HEMA and VMS standalone units have this built in but off road navigation apps donít.
There are a million of them to choose from, a few of the most popular offline map apps are, Co-Pilot, Google Maps, Sygic, Tom Tom.
Iím still trying them out, havenít settled on one yet. Iíve played with Sygic, it is ok, works well, I am currently trying Co-Pilot, I like it and it will do everything and more than I will ever need.

Google is the Devil for devices with little memory
A word on Google - it is taking over the world, you donít have a choice.
When you first turn on your new tablet you will need to enter some setup information, one of these is your Google user name and password.
You canít install Google Play apps without a Google account or a lot of fiddling with work-arounds.
If you use Gmail, Google Drive, Google photo or any other Google program it will sync with your account and start downloading every email, photo or text file youíve ever written. It assumes you want all this crap on your tablet. The easiest way around it was to force stop and block those Google apps in the tablets setup.
By now you should be starting to realise what an easy option the Hema and VMS standalone units are - none of this crap.

Next you need to decide which off road navigation app you want.
I looked at a lot, based on some feedback from others I decided to buy Hema Explorer - it was $40.
It comes with just about everything you could want, stuff other apps do but are included with the Hema app including closest 24hr fuel, phone box, bank, toilet, park, boat rampÖ etc etc.
There are quite a few maps supplied with the app, most adequate for my use, although I will probably end up buying some with greater detail of specific areas at some stage.
Iím still playing with it so not going to say too much except that Iím happy with it so far.
The reviews of the Android version are pretty bad (the IOS version has better reviews) but I think they relate to earlier Android versions, so far, other than having to remove audio, video, photos, emails etc that Google downloaded and shift some stuff to the micro SD card to free up space, it is working fine.


Ozi Explorer App
Ozi Explorer is another app that has a great reputation for offroad navigation.
It does not come with any maps, you need to purchase them separately.
Purchasing a map package is a steep learning curve, there are a lot to choose between, they all say they are the best, highest resolution, most features etc etc
All this hype does is make it harder to choose.
Hema maps used with OziExplorer are a popular option however for some reason they are listed as Ďout of stockí on the Ozi website, have been for some time so there may be a licensing issue there, not sure.

Memory Map
Memory Map is a great program and free. It comes with a base map covering all of Australia but it doesnít have much detail, in fact, to be honest, itís useless. Unlike Hema Explorer it does not have all the add ons, like fuel, camp sites etc, itís just mapping software that includes things like current speed, time travelled, distance / time to destination etc etc
You can select, buy and download maps from within the program (proving youíre connected to the Internet by cell or wifi). Most map packages have a three day trial which I find excellent to see if the map suits your application.
Memory map is used by a few other map supply companies, for example if you use QuickCharts marine maps, it offers an app download which is just MemoryMap.
Memory Map is also good for storing and looking at GPS marks. You can purchase nautical maps or there is a free ďAustralia and Adjacent Watersí map that is ok to store and look at aprox position of marks, but not good enough to navigate with.

VMS
Like Hema, VMS that make the standalone unit also make an app but it is only for Iphone and Ipads - Apple products.
I use Apple products but the cost of their Ipad and Ipad mini is too high by comparison to other tablets just as a navigation screen.

There are more - I'm still looking into software.
All this information is not gospel, Iíve only just started the learning curve - just my experience when looking to buy a offroad navigation system for my 4wd.

This is part 1Ö part two will be after using the thing for a while, what I eventually settle on.

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Offline Penno

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Re: Offroad Navigation Software
« Reply #1 on: Mon 23 Oct 14:27 2017 »
Hi Nugget
I did the same digging,and I went back to Hema,I tried the hema maps on iPad,not great,Navman works on the phone.
None of them seem to to have all the features linked together like the HX1 just my opinion.

Offline Nugget

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Re: Offroad Navigation Software
« Reply #2 on: Mon 23 Oct 14:30 2017 »
For on road I use Google Maps offline, just need to remember to download them before I go.
offroad I use the Hema app, but in its standard form is pretty useless, you need to buy extra topo maps.

Offline whynott

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Re: Offroad Navigation Software
« Reply #3 on: Mon 23 Oct 16:01 2017 »
Hi Dave,
I purchased a HEMA HX-1 before we took off to the cape.
Love it.
Heaps of great maps installed.
Very accurate.
Out performed the VMS's that a couple of the other guys had, with the great detail.
Very happy I went that way.
Graham.
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