Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator Review

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Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator Review

The Pharos GPS PEZ120 EZ 32 MB Road Pocket Navigator is a lightweight, portable (pocketable), GPS navigation system (click for full image) with an integrated GPS antenna and a color LCD touch screen display. Pharos sent me one of their EZ-Road Pocket Navigators for review. The Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator comes with a cigarette lightor adaptor for keeping the Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator charged as well as a USB adaptor for charging via the USB port modular connector for charging in your vehicle.

Pharos was nice enough to pre-load the Connecticut map, thus upon turning on the device for the first time, I was able to quickly lock onto a few GPS satellites and get a fix on my current location - took only about 45 seconds. The color screen was vibrant, bright, and easy to read, surprisingly even under direct sunlight. Since I often travel out of state, I decided to add portions of NY and portions of MA to the list of available maps. Loading maps is done very easily using their USB cable. The Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator comes with a 32MB SD card and automatically maps as a drive letter when you connect the USB cable. Thus, you can just drag and drop maps to the SD card is so desired. Interestingly enough, Pharos ships a second USB cable which connects to the Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator's charging port, thus using USB's 5V bus power to charge the unit. They also ship a cigarette adaptor which connects to this second USB cable for charging the unit while you are in the car.

Say you decide to install a huge 1GB SD card into the unit and you want to 'slice' one contiguous map onto the Pharos SD card. You can't do it. Unbelievably, you can't 'slice' your own maps. This wouldn't be a major issue as long as the included maps allowed you to navigate across multiple maps. Unfortunately, you can ONLY load one map at a time for navigation even though you can have many maps on the SD card. Thus, although I had the CT map loaded, and portions of NY on the SD card, I could not for instance navigate from Stamford, CT to New York, New York. Ok, I can deal with separate states for map slices, but at least let me load a whole state as one slice, but alas, you cannot do that either. Pharos slices and dices up most states into multiple parts. Oy!

In fact, if you look at how Pharos 'slices' the U.S map you'd wonder if Pharos decided to duplicate U.S. district gerrymandering! I mean look at the color coding in Florida (that bastion of normalcy). There is a pink map in the shape of an arm flexing that hooks from the middle of Florida on the Atlantic Ocean coastline across to the Gulf of Mexico and then it hooks straight north toward the Georgia border. How can this possibly be useful?

Another nuisance with the maps is that they don't move as you drive. Instead your Asteroid-looking triangular cursor moves on the map as you travel. As you reach the edge of the screen the map then refreshes to an entirely new screen with your cursor back at the opposite edge. I much prefer the cursor stay in the middle of the map at all times and the map itself move. This gives you a much better sense of direction and orientation.

Speaker/Audio Quality
The speaker is too small and weak resulting in a tinny sound that is difficult to hear even at full volume. I had trouble hearing the female navigation voice telling me about an impending turn, especially if I had the radio on. If I was driving on the highway, the ambient noise (motor, tires, etc.) combined with the radio and it was damn near impossible to hear the verbal directions.

Any GPS gadget freak will tell you that the two most important features of any GPS navigation system is the accuracy of the navigation routing followed closely by the number of POIs or Points of Interest with a vast number of categories such as airports, restaurants, etc.

I was greatly disappointed when I browsed Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator's POI database. It was sorely lacking. It didn't have a "restaurant" category. How can a GPS navigation system not have restaurant POIs? This is just sacrilege in my option. That's my favorite POI category! It also didn't have a petrol/fuel/gas station category - another important POI category in my opinion. Even the categories it did have seemed quite a bit incomplete as far as the entries contained within them.

Many GPS systems let you choose which POI categories to display on the screen, however on this GPS product, no icons are displayed for the POIs. . Therefore can't click on them to get name, address, and phone number. (Yes, some GPS systems do list phone numbers in their database.)

Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator comes with the following categories:
  • Airport
  • Amusement Park
  • City Center
  • College/University
  • Ferry Terminal
  • Hospital or Polyclinic
  • Important Tourist Attraction
  • Library
  • Monument
  • Park and Recreation Area
  • Police Station
  • Railway Station
  • Scenic/Panoramic View
  • Shopping Center
  • Stadium
  • Theatre
  • Tourist Information Office
  • Zoo
Navigation Routing algorithm
The navigation routing algorithm was pretty accurate and it did recalcualte your route if you went off course. Pharos has a subscription-based service called Smart Navigator - GPS position and navigation data, and information specific to your location are all delivered via wireless communications link directly to your mobile device. According to their Website: With a wireless-enabled Pocket PC, you can access Pharos' Smart Navigator service on the Web and get live, real-time "Smart Traffic" information or lookup points of interest by proximity or keyword using "Smart Finder"

Supposedly the EZ Pocket Navigator supports Smart Navigator, but I don't know how since there is no wireless capability built into the device. Unless traffic signals are now riding on top of the wireless satellite GPS signals. I know there has been talk about GPS vendors doing this, but I don't think this is available yet. I do think I read you can get weather via GPS signals though.

There is one major annoyance with the navigation verbal cues that I need to point out. When I took several test drives, the Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator would only give me one verbal warning before a turn and then when I reached the turn it wouldn't re-state the desired instructions. Instead it played some tones to indicate I need to follow the previous verbal instructions which could have been given a mile back. What if I forgot? The problem is that if you didn't hear the instructions the first time (certainly plausible with the poor speaker), you're out of luck. You have to then try and and figure out which way to go by looking at the LCD display while driving.

Although the Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator features a touch-screen display, you cannot use your stylus to navigate around the map. I use Destinator 3 all the time and I love its ability to move the map around using the stylus. Further, you can't touch a point on the map, hold it there and then either "navigate" to that point or add it to your favorites. I've also used various TomTom products and like Destinator 3 it has a better interface than this one.

Another annoyance is that to enter in a destination you must first enter in the street address, then click 'Next' to see the list of cities with that street address. This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, sometimes you're not sure if it's Main Ave, Main St. Main Dr. or Main Rd. I've also seen streets listed as "2nd ST, N", "2nd ST, S" and even "2nd ST S" without the comma. Thus, you have to pick one at a time and then keep clicking Next and then Back until you finally find the city you're looking for listed. The other reason why I don't like entering an address first is sometimes I just want to navigate to a city and don't care which street - I know my way around once I get to the city. Or, what if i don't remember the address and prefer to enter the city, and then scroll through the streets until I recognize the one i want? With the Pharos GPS unit you are required to enter in a street address.

The map data doesn't seem compressed at all. I was able to open the map data in a text editor and view address and POI information. (I wonder if the GPS data is encrypted? If not, someone can steal their GPS data). Considering the unit ships only with a 32MB card you would think they would compress the data.

The Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator has an MP3 player, as well as a Calendar and a Contacts feature. These add-ons are ok, but surprisingly, you can't navigate to a Contact, which makes the Contacts feature limiting in my opinion.

The product doesn't have any "Avoid Road" or "Roadblock" feature for navigating around a certain area.

Now for some good news... I like that it was lightweight with an integrated GPS antenna. I like the bright easy-to-read screen and I like that it's so small you can fit it into a shirt pocket. I like the Smart Navigator feature which downloads live traffic conditions and then reroutes accordingly. However, I personally would not use Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator as my primary car navigation system and unfortunately I cannot recommend it.

Pharos EZ Road Pocket GPS Navigator retails for $549.95

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