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Last year, I reviewed Co Pilot Live 5 and found it a very complete GPS package. Now Alk Technologies has upped the antie with CoPilot Live 6. It offers not only the standard features you come to expect but also adds a new twist not found in any other GPS package to-date. The Alk website shows these as new features for 2006:

NEW FEATURES:

  • Enhanced 3D Map Display with Mileage Markers, Moving Maps, and turn arrows that highlight the way ahead.
  • Finger touch menus and options screens mean you never have to use your stylus
  • Supports Portrait, Landscape, Square and VGA displays
  • Customizable Routing Profiles give you complete control over what kind of roads CoPilot prefers (highways, local roads, etc.).
  • Ability to create and share your own voice or download new voice sets as they become available
  • Change Voices on the fly between the included male and female or select from any additional voice sets you have created/downloaded
  • Easier Points of Interest Importing and support for widely available 3rd party OV2 formats
  • Fully compatible with the Windows Mobile 5 operating system
  • Step-by-step Tutorial walks you through GPS receiver setup, entering a destination and popular features
  • RV Routing uses 12’6′ height restrictions on highways and overall routing has been refined based on user feedback.

Is it worth your money? Read on for my thoughts. Set-up and installation:

CoPilot Live was completely effortless to install since it now can be purchased with the entire program and all the maps of North America on an SD card. Why don’t all GPS software programs do this? CoPilot does ship with the CD if, for some reason, this method of install is preferred. I just put the SD card in my Dell Axim x51v and installed the necessary files. Upon completion, my Axim needed to be reset – and I was ready to go. Once installed, I did need to configure the GPS itself. I tried both the included Bluetooth GPS from CoPilot and a powered GPS mount from Arkon. Both setups were fairly straightforward to configure and use. In my tests, I found that a hard-wired GPS mount was a bit quicker and offered a more consistent fix on the satellites.

Navigating with CoPilot Live:

New to this year’s offering from CoPilot are larger, finger operated ‘touch’ buttons. It made it very easy to use the software when driving (although, Alk recommends that all inputting be done when the vehicle is stationary – which makes a lot of sense.)

Navigating with CoPilot Live begins with the menu screen:

Using the menu screen, the user selects ‘address’ or other options and CoPilot Live prompts the user to enter a zip code, city or state. After that, street name and numbers are inputted and you are on your way. One of the options is that once a destination is set, it can be saved as a ‘Favorite’ for easy retrieval in the future.
CoPilot Live offers the option of a very nice female voice (not computer sounding) or male voice to assist you by notifying you of upcoming turns, traffic circles and when it is time to take a U-turn. As you get closer to your turn, the software prompts you more frequently so you don’t miss your turn.

CoPilot offers some nice features for navigation – the most customizable is the way the navigation is displayed on the screen. The user can opt for a ‘safety’ view, a 2D view or a 3D view. One of the interesting features that is really a matter of personal taste if the ‘Safety’ feature. With most GPS software, you can continually follow your position on the map and see the names of all the streets you pass. CoPilot takes a different tact. If you are on a particular road for longer than a mile, the screen only displays a large message like ‘Turn right on X street in 3 miles.’ The philosophy seems to be to make the GPS less intrusive and less likely to take the driver’s eye off the road.

I kind of like to always see where I am going – but I do understand this safety feature. I usually opted for the 3d view and would sometimes zoom in or out as desired.

Options:

CoPilot Live is full of many user defined options to make the program even more useful. Options for routing, guidance, POI alerts and language and speech can all be changed according to the user’s taste.

What makes CoPilot truly unique is the ‘Live’ option. The Live features as listed on the Alk website are:

Live Features:

Powerful navigation features give you the freedom to explore. Real-time Communication gives you the peace of mind that comes with always being connected. Live features are optional and are only usable when you have a wireless internet connection on your Pocket PC.*

* Text Messages sent from home or office to the vehicle include large, customizable, one-touch response buttons to ensure driver safety.
* Real-Time Tracking of your travels by friends, family and loved ones over a secure Internet connection.
* Itinerary Updates including new stops and revised destinations, allow you to coordinate changes to your plans without having to pull over and enter new information.
* Communication now includes Live vehicle tracking via the Internet (live.alk.com)

* To use Live Features you will need a data service plan through your wireless carrier.

So, essentially, if you are connected to the internet you can track your loved one (or your kid) who might be driving using Co-Pilot Live. If you are using a Pocket PC Phone edition with internet connection you can update itinerary and travel options ‘live.’

I only wish that I was able to utilize these features on my set-up to test them. If you own a Treo 700 or other smartphone with Data features, this could be a killer feature of this application.

Conclusions:

CoPilot Live 6 is hands down the best add-on GPS program I have used for Windows Mobile. It takes over the top spot from Arkon’s Mobinavigator. The finger operated touch screen commands were terrific. It was accurate and the voice commands were perfect – very usefull but not intrusive or annoying. Most importantly, after navigating several trips and destinations I can safely say that CoPilot Live 6 got me everywhere I needed to go. Absolutely get the SD card with the entire program and maps – no more loading maps into your handheld – just setup and go.

Final Grade: A

Pros: Intuitive, easy to use, a cinch to set up, nice 3D perspective, speech options and good safety features. ‘Live’ features set it apart from the competition.

Cons: None to speak of

CoPilot Live is available for $199-$399 depending of whether you buy just the software or add a Bluetooth receiver or also include the SD card. CoPilot can be ordered from: www.alk.com

Written by Gary