Out of the Box: Not too Impressive
The developers behind Microsoft Streets and Trips must hope that their customers won't realize how much easier and more useful even bargain-priced GPS units are than the company's woeful offering.
Dedicated GPS navigators, for example, work out of the box. They don't require long, multistep installations. Microsoft requires that you activate the software, download an add-on if you want to use the software with Outlook (which requires Microsoft Genuine Advantage), and gives you two different connection cables, depending on whether you're using just the GPS receiver or the combined GPS and Connected Services receiver (which gets you 1 year of free traffic and gas price information, and $59.95 a year after that).
Limited Features, Woeful Interface
Things don't get much easier once you have the software running. Searching the oddly small 1.6 million POI database was a chore, thanks to a kludgy interface that forces you to search by distance to your position, rather than simply in a given city. The database was out of date; it didn't list restaurants that have been in our neighborhood for three years.
The multipanel interface complicates even simple tasks. For example, you need to create a route on one panel, then switch to another for GPS guidance. You search for POIs on yet a third panel. Microsoft needs an interface guru to step in and simplify the whole process.
Streets and Trips offers text-to-speech, but it doesn't pronounce streets names, and is glacially slow at routing. GPS units with 400-MHz processors are far faster than Streets and Trips was on our 1.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo test notebook. Rerouting was equally slow; the system took 10 to 15 seconds to realize we had made a wrong turn, then another 10 to 15 seconds to create a new route.
Streets and Trips began before the current GPS craze, but has been left in the dust by just about every device on the market. While having access to traffic and weather is handy, we prefer the comparative ease of Earthmate GPS.
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