HX-1 Review - Maps, Maps and Downloading Maps
HX-1 Review - Part 1 of several...
Maps, Maps and Downloading Maps
The HX-1 has arrived on the scene, and with it a whole bunch of questions. Hema has taken a bit of a leap of technology and style with the HX-1 and with it got people wondering why the change? What was wrong with the HN7? Is change good?
Well, I am going to attempt to answer a few of those questions by stepping through what I consider are the key points of difference in the Hema Navigator (now Hema Explorer) range.
For the sake of covering everything, I will dedicate a few quick sentences to the Drive (on-road street navigation) system.
This is what you expect it to be, and fairly similar to the HN7 and HN6 system, and probably every other brand like Navman and TomTom. It does the job and the beefed up hardware of the HX-1 makes everything much faster and smoother. The menus are far better than the HN7 and more intuitive. There isn't much you can improve with Turn-by-Turn navigation, but the small improvements in the menus, layout, etc are much appreciated.
Overall, the improvements to Drive are what I would have expected - anything less would have been a disappointment. Hema obviously has spent time and energy on this half of the HX1, which ensures this is a genuine hybrid system. In the past, the Street / Drive system did feel a little 'tacked on'.
So, lets move onto the Explorer mode. Unlike Drive, this has seen a complete change in functions, menu and interface. It is this change that is likely causing a few people to question the HX1, as new it is not always better; however in the case of the HX1 - new is better, plus some!
Hema have introduced their Explorer Map into the HX1. The Explorer map is a multi-resolution map, similar to how Google / Bing Maps work. As you zoom in and out, the map renders a tile that is best suited to your scale. The only minor issue here is that if you want to work in a scale that is halfway between the two resolutions, the map can be a bit fuzzy. This is a tiny issue, and no worse then the pixel effect you would get zooming in or out on the HN7 OziExplorer maps.
The Explore Map comes installed as standard, and the unit also comes with several digital version of the "paper map" installed. These paper maps are the same as what we got with the HN7. They are single resolution maps and you turn then on and off by dragging them to the top of the "Layers". Very simple, no fuse methodology.
You can also download additional mapping, which will require a good Wifi connection. On that - the unit has built in Wifi, so no cables required. The Wifi is used for download maps, up-load content to the "cloud" and also do automatic updates to the system - we love that part of it.
So back to the downloading of additional maps: while you have wifi, the maps will download and render on the fly (like on a Google Maps web page) - but if you want to use the maps offline, you will need to have downloaded the area you are interested in (cached into your system). The way of doing this is pretty straight forward, but what we feel is less straight forward is knowing what to download, and how much.
You will always have the Explorer Map available, so that is a good start, along with the Hema paper maps. These are locked in, never to be taken away - but it is the other services, like Satellite Imagery, that you may be tempted to download for your next adventure.
The thing to remember with these services is that there are 3 factors to consider: detail, area, download. When you select and area to download, you can adjust the maximum scale it will cache (15 be the most detailed,1 the least). If you choose a large area, and ask it to download to level 15 (ie: all the tiles from 1 to 15 for the whole area), you will end up with a massive download, which might be more than the system (or your internet can handle). We have tired some pretty big downloads, and so far haven't broken anything - but the system freezes up when you give it a big job to do. It doesn't seem to like a download task and anything else at the same time.
The unit has a lot of memory, and you can squeeze a lot of maps onto the system, but the question should always be "do you need that map". From my point of view, the Hema Explorer map is better than any of the other "downloadable" maps, with the exception of Satellite Imagery, which can offer some good value for people really heading "off road". I honestly doesn't really see the need to download any of the other maps (apart from the Satellite imagery), but different users will have different demands.
Update: You can't import any third party maps in the HX1. So if you have some Rooftop maps for OziExplorer, or anything else, it can't be imported into this system. This is a bit of a failure in our eyes, as there is tonnes of great third party maps out there that would be brilliant in the HX-1, just like they were in the HN7. We have already raised this with Hema, and for the time being we don't expect any change in the near future. If you have a strong opinion on being able to bring third party maps into the HX1, we encourage you to let Hema know - with a enough people asking for the feature, we might get it sooner!
The additional mapping does not have any effect on the routing / interaction you do with the mapping, this will always be using the vector maps and points of interest that are inherent to the HX-1; the map being shown doesn't influence this information. For example, if a road isn't part of the that base vector data (which you can't see, it is just there in the background), the system won't recognise it as something it can "guide" you along, when creating a route. So in that respect the extra downloadable maps are purely for your visible appreciation, they don't increase the "power" of the unit.
So managing your data is going to be important if you do take on this downloading stuff. This was never really an issue with the previous systems, because the maps were all there, on the sd card, and the data you did create driving around was tiny little text files. The best way to know what to download, what to keep and what to delete is just experiment. The functions for managing your data are simply (see my small rant below), and you will just have to get used to the idea of deleting the maps you don't need and downloading the bits you do.
I think the next thing to talk about is what I alluded to above, being the interactions that you can now have with the Explorer Map. In the HN7, using OziExplorer, the map was a plan old "dumb" raster image - just a picture over which your position and track floated.
The HX1 does things differently (sort of). The maps are still just images, but there is some extra fancy stuff going on behind the scenes (base vector data), which makes them appear to be interactive. You can now tap on a Campsite icon, and say "Guide Me" and it will draw a route from A to B, following the actual roads (not necessarily the roads shown on the map you have selected, but the roads that are part of the hidden vector data). It won't tell you turn left, turn right, etc (if you want that, use Drive), but it will at least highlight the route it recommends.
Notice I say "campsite" icon - yes, all the Points of Interest information that Hema has is now accessible in the Explore mode. You used to have to go to Drive to find your campsite, or fuel station, how they are all available as icons in Explorer. You can turn them on and off via the layer menu, and you might want to de-clutter your map a bit, because that is something like 48000 of them!
In terms of usability, there is one thing that keeps annoying me, and that is the location of the keyboard. When you create a new route, way point, etc, there are some boxes available to give it a name, etc. As you would expect, a little keyboard pops up so you can type in the details. The problem is that the keyboard covers the "cancel" and "save" buttons. At first you are a little lost of what to do, and the only way I have figure out how to get out of this menu trap, is the hit enter (little return arrow key icon) until you have "entered" across all the information fields. Then the keyboard disappears to show you the cancel / save button. It is only a small thing, but it is pretty annoying!
The other confusing this is when I try to delete data, be it maps, track, routes, waypoints. It seems 50/50 whether things actually delete when I tell them to. On many occasions I "delete" something, yet it remains visible in the list of items. Maybe this is just a 'refresh' issue, but still a small frustration on an otherwise good unit.
I expect that with a bit of customer feedback, Hema will do a snappy update to improve those small bugs, so we will put our 2 cents worth to them, and encourage other people to do the same. The beauty of the HX1 is that Hema can do updates anytime, and it is only a 10sec download to fix the issue.
If you have a question you want answered, give us a call, or send us an email.