First Look: Two Sides of GPS

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At a Glance
  • Delorme DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20

Handheld GPS units fall loosely into two categories: those for street navigation and those for use where the pavement ends. Two of the latest examples of this Paris Hilton-Grizzly Adams split are the stylish Pocket Loox N100 from Navigon (codeveloped with Fujitsu Siemens Computers) and DeLorme's rough-and-tumble Earthmate GPS PN-20.

I tested a late preproduction version of the Loox. Silver and white, and roughly the size of a classic iPod, the device looks like a GPS that Apple might produce. Not only can this 4-ounce unit tell you how to get from here to there, but it can simultaneously play digital music to enhance the journey; the occasional voice directions play over your music. With GPS navigation off, the Loox lets you view photos and video or kill time with a couple of included games. You might be wondering: Is this a serious navigator with some multimedia features thrown in, or a multimedia player with GPS added on? Based on my experience, I'd say the former--the Loox has good navigation but is pretty thin as a multimedia player (all of the media has to reside on the included miniSD Card, which holds the map data as well).

As a navigation system, the Loox is about average compared with competing units. It's accurate and includes detailed street maps and points of interest (POI) for the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Digital maps look great on the sharp, 2.8-inch, color touch screen. The main faults of the Loox: The text is too small to read while you're driving, and the screen is difficult to read in bright light. Judging from its performance in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'd say that its points of interest are thin and dated, too.

The touch-screen interface is a mixed bag: Entering an address was quick and easy, but finding a POI involved many menu layers, and I found the clock setting under the Utilities menu instead of Settings. The well-equipped $499 kit includes a secure car-windshield mount, a car power adapter, and a USB cable.

I give the Loox passing grades as a multimedia device: Audio sounded fairly good through the included earbuds, but the audio controls were rudimentary. (I can't comment on how it handles photos and videos, as those capabilities were not enabled on my preproduction unit.) One drawback: You can store multimedia only on the miniSD Card, and even though my test model came with a removable 2GB miniSD Card, 1.6GB of that was occupied by the maps, leaving little room for media.

The Pocket Loox is cute and compact, and functional as a portable photo and video viewer; but unless you need something that can slip into your pocket, you have better GPS options.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Easy to use in all conditions
    • Downloadable USGS Quad maps


    • Satellite photos lack sufficient detail
    • Lacks magnetic compass
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