When we reviewed the previous version ofALK's CoPilot Livein March 2007, we were less than impressed. ALK's latest iteration, CoPilot Live 11, is greatly improved with an easier-to-use interface, making this one of the better laptop-based navigation devices.
Get the USB Version
A note of caution before we begin: This was supposed to be a review of the Bluetooth edition of this product. However, we couldn't get the ALK software to recognize the Bluetooth receiver, even though our test notebook's Bluetooth utility could see the CoPilot. ALK representatives told us that many buyers were having that problem and that the Bluetooth configurations on some notebooks prevented the software from accessing the receiver directly. Despite contacting ALK tech support, we were unable to resolve this problem. To avoid these issues entirely, we recommend that buyers look to the USB product.
Testing went much more smoothly after we switched to the wired version. CoPilot Live 11 is a solid and trustworthy laptop GPS solution: it's miles ahead ofMicrosoft Streets and TripsandDeLorme Earthmate, although it lacks the polish ofGarmin Mobile PC. (It also lacks Garmin's much lower $99.99 price tag.
Setup and Interface
The product comes with a magnetic GPS receiver, which you stick to the outside roof of your car, and a long USB cable. The receiver is not weatherproof, however, and a suction cup is included for when things get ugly outdoors. The CoPilot interface is dominated by a large map view, which is simple and clear, but we would have preferred brighter colors for easier viewing. Users can access controls through the Menu button on the bottom left and see route information in a column along the right side. Click the Menu button to enter an address, find a POI, or plan a route.
While the ALK CoPilot 11's controls are never difficult, they don't measure up to the high bar that Garmin Mobile PC sets. The 2D and 3D map views are fine, although the maps are blandly colored. We like the utilization of the large screen; roads are shown with the correct number of lanes, which is handy when you're not sure which lane you should be in.
However, looking through menus takes too many steps, and it's easy to miss the various settings available. For example, you have to go deep into the menus to find even the voice options, and since street pronunciation isn't part of the default voice, you could easily not realize that the product offers it. Entering addresses can be tedious because the software asks you to enter your city before entering a state, so you have to scroll through long lists to find the correct location if the one you're searching for has a common name.
On the Road with CoPilot Live 11
Driving with CoPilot Live 11 was simple but not without the occasional problem. The software offers three American English voice options, but only the heavily computerized one named Samantha pronounces street names; that voice isn't on by default, although it should be. Several times in our testing, as when driving to a local Greek restaurant, the software was one block off. Also, we wish CoPilot would give the street numbers for searched destinations and tell us on which side of the street they were.
We liked the easily customizable map views, which include a safety view that shows only the next turn written in huge type along with a large graphic illustrating the next turn. Rerouting was always quick, at just 3 or 4 seconds. You can even save trips, create multi-stop routes, and preview directions before making a drive.
Points of Interest
While CoPilot Live 11 now lets you break down restaurants by cuisine within a POI search, for example, the results page lists only names, not addresses, which makes it hard to choose one. Also, the POI search behaved strangely and inconsistently in our testing. Sometimes a basic category search, such as restaurants, returned no results, and sometimes it did. Occasionally, even the advanced search returned no results, forcing us to type in the name of the place we were looking for. When the 6 million-POI database returned results correctly, however, they were relevant and up to date.
If your laptop is equipped with a cellular connection, you can receive live traffic data from ALK. You can also employ CoPilot Live 11's tracking capabilities, in which others can track your location remotely via ALK's Web site. We didn't have an opportunity to test these options.
ALK CoPilot Live 11 Verdict
Considering how far it's come in a year and a half, CoPilot Live 11 is a strong choice for those who prefer laptop-based navigation. But while it beats out Microsoft and DeLorme's offerings, it needs a more refined interface--and a much lower price--before it gets our nod over Garmin Mobile PC.