Magellan GPS-315 and DataSend

It's lightweight, accurate and boasts useful features: it can acquire signals from satellites under tree cover or in a vehicle, and records your route whenever it's turned on.

This is high-tech, but don't think of computers just yet. The accuracy and the creative initiative of GPS come from the US Department of Defense (though the Soviets also put up a similar system), but the user interface of the GPS-315 comes straight from the culture of video cassette recorders.

After using the 10-button menu system and mono LCD screen for a while, the prospect of computer connection - naming your custom landmarks with a keyboard, having your menus pull down with a mouse, and backing up your travels to hard drive - is worth good money. Even better would be such a facility on CD supplied as standard with the GPS-315. Instead, Magellan sell four packages: Map'N'Track, Map-Send, DataTrack and DataSend.

Each comes in a variety of regions: ours is Asia and Australia. The functions of these four programs combined are available in OziExplorer, a nice piece of Australian shareware. To communicate with the GPS-315, a ridiculously simple (but costly) serial/power cable is required.

DataSend uploads data from a map database to the GPS-315. On the DataSend CD is a database of Points Of Interest (POIs) - from mountains to post offices. By choosing only a few categories and limiting the area, you can limit the number of selected POIs so they fit into the 19,820 location memory of the handheld unit. This data is the only thing of value on the CD. You do not need the Magellan software to upload data to the GPS unit.

An important thing to understand is that good map data costs money. If you have already invested in paper maps, scanning them in and using software to plan your journey makes sense - but DataSend doesn't allow this. It comes with an extremely sparse background map. Apparently the US version is better, but the local version does little more than slow the program to a crawl, and produce crashes when you try to zoom in too far.

At least Magellan has followed the NMEA standard, allowing third party software to communicate with the unit. I heartily recommend that owners of the GPS-315 check out OziExplorer and the demo version of Fugawi before having anything to do with Magellan's software.

Magellan GPS-315 and DataSend

Price: GPS-315 $497, DataSend Australia $112, serial/power cable $115Supplier: Dick Smith ElectronicsPhone: 1300 366 644URL: www.magellangps.com, www.oziexplorer.com

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