After testing the terrific Papago! Navigator Z-820, we will never view GPS units the same way again.
I HAVE been peering into a lot of cars lately while stopped at the traffic light.
It’s not because I’ve developed some perverse habit but because I’m starting to notice that a lot of people now have some kind of GPS device installed into their cars.
This has to be a testament to how popular GPS has actually become in a short space of a few years.
While most GPS units on the market today feature variants of the same MapKing software, the rather oddly-named Papago! from Navitech has something quite unusual.
It’s one of the first GPS units I’ve seen that displays 3D buildings, a feature usually found on pricey, high-end units. While this in itself isn’t a good reason to get the Papago!, there are a few other tweaks which makes it an interesting proposition compared with other GPS units.
Bits and bobs
Inside the box you will find the usual complement of accessories — you get a short windscreen suction cup holder, a car charger, a USB cable, a stylus and that’s about it. The unit itself already has 2GB of memory built in so it doesn’t come bundled with a storage card, although the Papago! has a standard SD expansion slot on its side for additional memory if you need it.
The suction cup holder’s arm is pretty short, but on the upside, it’s quite adjustable and there was very little vibration when I was travelling on bumpy roads.
Turn on the Papago! and you’ll be presented with a very bright 4.3in screen with a 480 x 272-pixel resolution. At first glance, the interface isn’t that much different from most GPS units running the MapKing software, but dig a little deeper and you’ll soon find that this isn’t MapKing.
For one thing, the interface is actually a lot easier to use and understand — the menus, icons and on-screen buttons are more logically laid out.
Going into the main navigation menu, you are presented with all the usual POI (points of interest), Roads, Favourites, Home, Office and even a Coordinates section.
The Coordinates section allows you to directly enter a latitude and longitude, say, from Google Earth, into the GPS and it will route you there.
Strangely enough, there’s no obvious Search icon on the main menu for you to find points of interests and roads in the entire database.
Instead, you first have to get into one of the sections (either Roads or POI) and click on All POIs and finally tap on the Keyword button to search.
The virtual keyboard is actually quite smart — as you type, the device will look through the database and then grey out letters which cannot appear after the letter you just typed.
Once you’ve found your destination, you can view it on a scrollable 2D map and then hit Go if you’re satisfied it’s correct, after which the Papago! will switch to the funky 3D interface.
Yes, I know most GPS units have a 3D interface, but this one has a trump card — it displays buildings in 3D.
We’re not just talking about a 3D monochrome representation here — most of the buildings that are prominent landmarks are actually rendered in full-colour 3D, along with any signs that are on the building.
For example the blue-and-white IBM building in Taman Tun Dr Ismail is actually rendered exactly as you see it in real life, in the correct perspective as well.
Having 3D buildings is not just a gimmick — seeing a 3D building rendered as it should look actually helps to easily identify landmarks and confirm your position more quickly compared with just a generic building icon with a place name.
HANDY FEATURE: The Papago! shows you a 3D rendered reprentation of the juntion, making it much easier to identify the correct turning.
Of course, not all the buildings in Malaysia are represented in glorious 3D — I noticed that prominent buildings in Petaling Jaya rendered in 3D were few and far between, but in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, there were a lot more.
According to the information I got from Navitech, more than 60 buildings in Selangor and various Malaysian states are represented in 3D.
The Papago! isn’t a one-trick pony as the GPS actually has a so-called 3D junction view as well.
The 3D junction view comes into play when you approach a fork in the road or a junction.
In most GPS units, the screen will usually pop up a zoomed-in map of the junction to help you see which fork to take, which sometimes isn’t clear enough, especially when there are three or more roads very close together.
On the Papago!, however, a large window will appear showing you a 3D rendered representation of the turning, making identification of the correct turning much easier.
Again, this feature isn’t available at every junction but when it does appear, it really makes figuring out the correct turning that much easier.
I’ve tested quite a number of GPS units through the years, and to be honest, one system is very much like another.
However, the Papago! has proven to be a breath of fresh air as the interface is actually well thought-out and is easier to use than the standard MapKing interface and about as good in terms of ease-of-use as the Garmin Nuvi series.
While it’s sparse on other flashy features like MP3 playback, photo viewing and such but the GPS functions are solid and the 3D buildings and junction feature is actually more useful than I initially thought it would be.
If you’re looking for a very good GPS at a reasonable price, you should take a serious look at the Papago! It’s so good that I wager it won’t be long before other locally sold GPS units will be featuring the same user interface and software.
Pros: Solid GPS features; 3D buildings and junctions feature are surprisingly useful.
Cons: Design could be more attractive
Papago! Navigator Z-820
(Navitech) GPS car navigation unit
GPS chipset: SiRF Star III
Operating System: Windows CE.NET 5.0 Core Version
CPU: Samsung SC2443 400MHz processor
Memory: 2GB flash memory
Storage: SD expansion slot
Display: 4.3in LCD
Battery: 2,200mAh lithium-ion
Dimensions: 90 x 82 x 20mm
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